Elephant Walk (1954)
Before long time studio director William Dieterle returned back home to Germany in the sixties working mainly in television, his Hollywood output had slowed down substantially. One of his final assignments was this love triangle taking place on a tea plantation in exotic Ceylon. The elegance of Ceylon (filmed in Sri Lanka) can’t hold a candle to the stunning beauty of our leading lady Elizabeth Taylor at this point in her career.
When Peter Finch travels to London on a bride finding mission he comes up aces with Elizabeth Taylor. Incredible! Two weeks later he’s taking his new bride back to the tea plantation he farms and overseas as it’s Lord and Master. Thankfully Edith Head was on hand to ensure Liz has plenty of costumes and dresses to flaunt on the natives and the drunken lot that Finch numbers as his friends.
Liz quickly realizes that her new home is nothing like her previous one in London where she worked in a local library. The chief servant of the house isn’t fond of the new Mistress and Finch turns into the stern taskmaster now that he is back running a farming operation. He’ll also have to contend with the wild herds of Elephants that continually attempt to cross the front yard of his estate. Essentially Liz becomes extremely bored with her new life as she is the only white woman for over a hundred miles. She’s strictly a trophy wife. Ahhhhhh but what a trophy.
It seems that Peter’s father has cast a long shadow and Finch is trying to live up to it. His father built the estate and is still revered by the natives like a God. Liz can see that her dead father-in-law has more pull around the home then she does. Thankfully another man is about to enter her life in the form of Dana Andrews. Andrews is the chief foreman who oversees operations when Finch is either out of the country or laid up with a broken leg. Liz and Dana are getting serious and make plans to leave Peter and the elephants behind.
A cholera epidemic quickly changes all traveling plans when a quarantine is blanketed across the land. The wells are running dry and the elephants are rampaging as the wilds of Ceylon converge on our love triangle for a rousing climax with a crescendo of music from Franz Waxman.
This is one big melodramatic affair that plays well with the beauty of Liz and the acting of Dana. I suspect if it were watched with a crowd of people today there would be plenty of unintentional laughs. Dana Andrews is such a natural on camera which is in stark contrast to the ham job Finch dishes out and the always “on” Elizabeth Taylor. I totally understand Liz’s place in film history but to me she was always acting and never underplayed roles to seem more natural. But then she was a “star” and hers shone more brightly then either of her costars.
Neither here nor there. I’ll tune into a classic era Dana Andrews flick over most Liz films any day of the week.