The Black Watch
Action / Adventure / Drama / Epic
Directed by John Ford
Written by James Kevin McGuinness, Talbot Mundy and John Stone
Produced by Winfield R. Sheehan
Cinematography by Joseph H. August
Victor McLaglen as Capt. Donald Gordon King
Myrna Loy as Yasmani
David Rollins as Lt. Malcolm King
Lumsden Hare as Colonel of the Black Watch
Roy D'Arcy as Rewa Ghunga
Mitchell Lewis as Mohammed Khan
Cyril Chadwick as Maj. Twynes
Claude King as General in India
Francis Ford as Maj. MacGregor
Walter Long as Harrim Bey
David Torrence as Field Marshal
Frederick Sullivan as General's Aide
Richard Travers as Adjutant
Pat Somerset as O'Connor, Black Watch Officer
David Percy as Soloist, Black Watch Officer
Joseph Diskay as Muezzin
Joyzelle Joyner as Dancer (as Joyzelle)
Harry Allen as Sandy
Frank Baker as a 42nd Highlander
Arthur Clayton as 42nd Highlander
Gregory Gaye as a 42nd Highlander
Mary Gordon as Sandy's Wife
Bob Kortman as a 42nd Highlander
Tom London as a 42nd Highlander
Arthur Metcalfe as a 42nd Highlander
Jack Pennick as a 42nd Highlander
Randolph Scott as a 42nd Highlander
Phillips Smalley as the Doctor
Lupita Tovar in a Bit Part
John Wayne as a 42nd Highlander
Captain Donald Gordon King is in command of a British military unit known as the Black Watch serving in India. When World War 1 breaks out, the Black Watch is called to France. However, King stays behind, and as a result the rest of his squad considers him a coward. In actuality King is on a secret mission to free British POW’s being held in India by a tribe of religious zealots. He discovers an infiltrator in the ranks and pretends to be drunk, inciting a brawl in which he kills the double agent. However, this act strengthens the impression that he is a coward and a traitor himself. King discovers the prisoners being held by the tribe who worship a girl named Yasmani, who is descended from Alexander the Great. King infiltrates the ranks, and convinces Yasmani to assist him, but the zealots are not as obedient to their 'goddess' when she goes against their wishes and they kill her in a climactic final battle.
Although uncredited in his role, this film has 19 year old John Wayne as an extra. In addition to his role, he also performed duties as a stage hand and in the costume department. This was part of the prepping John Ford was doing to eventually make John Wayne a star 10 years later in Wayne’s breakout hit, Stagecoach.
This was the first movie with sound that John Ford directed. As Ford was used to directing silent movies, he was used to shouting commands at the actors as they performed. The inclusion of sound made him unable to do this, and so he had his brother, Francis Ford, act as an extra and whisper Ford’s wishes to the rest of the cast.
The advent of sound really threw both the directors and actors of the time (1929) for a loop. Recording the sound was very new, and actors took deep pauses between lines to avoid talking over each other.
The script was based on the book King of the Khyber Rifles by Talbot Mundy. The story was adapted to the screen again in the movie of the same name in 1953 with Tyrone Powers in the lead.