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|The Four Feathers|
|Based on||The Four Feathers|
by A. E. W. Mason
|Written by||Gerald Di Pego|
|Directed by||Don Sharp|
|Music by||Allyn Ferguson|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|Executive producer||Robert D. Cardona|
Bruce Sharman (associate producer)
|Production locations||Wiltshire, England|
|Running time||100 minutes|
|Production companies||Norman Rosemont Productions|
|Original release||January 1, 1978 (US TV)|
February 1978 (UK cinemas)
The Four Feathers is a 1978 British television film adaptation of the classic 1902 novel The Four Feathers by novelist A. E. W. Mason. Directed by Don Sharp, this version starred Beau Bridges, Robert Powell, Simon Ward and Jane Seymour, and was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award. It follows the novel almost exactly, and response to the film was very positive.
Lieutenant Harry Faversham (Beau Bridges) is the latest scion of a prominent military family. A deeply sensitive boy, he is much traumatised by the early death of his kind-hearted mother. Though he never wants to be a soldier, he feels obliged to join the army. Though no coward (as he will later show), he has no interest in an army career. Having met and become engaged to Ethne, he decides to resign his commission. The fact that war in the Sudan is coming is irrelevant to this decision. During their engagement ball on the final day of his army career, Faversham receives telegrammes summoning him and three of his brother officers (Durrance, Willoughby and Trench) back to the regiment prior to being sent to the Sudan. As determined as ever to leave the army, Faversham burns the telegrammes so that he can pretend not to have been summoned back to the regiment before his commission expires. Willoughby sees him burning papers and notices that he is embarrassed to have been taken by surprise in doing so. On later realising that Faversham was burning the telegrammes from the army, Willoughby assumes that Faversham has done so because he is afraid of going to the Sudan. Durrance, Willoughby and Trench then send Faversham three white feathers, betokening cowardice, and turn their backs on him. When Faversham tries to explain to Ethne what has happened, she also reaches the same mistaken conclusion and gives him a fourth white feather. Following his regiment's deployment, Faversham realizes he has made a grave mistake and, having toyed with suicide, finally resolves to redeem his honour.
Disguising himself as an Arab, Faversham makes his way to the Sudan determined to perform three acts of courage that will persuade each of his former comrades to take back their white feathers. He learns of an impending attack on the regiment, and tries to make it in time to save them. During the battle, his closest friend Captain Jack Durrance (Powell) becomes engaged in close combat, during which he is blinded when a black-powder rifle goes off next to his face. Faversham attacks the Arabs who surround Durrance, and rescues him as he staggers blindly. In the end, Faversham is able to help his regiment, and redeem his honour.
- Beau Bridges as Harry Faversham
- Robert Powell as Jack Durrance
- Simon Ward as William Trench
- Jane Seymour as Ethne Eustace
- Harry Andrews as Gen. Faversham
- Richard Johnson as Abou Fatma
- David Robb as Thomas Willoughby
- Richard Beale as Wembol (valet)
- Robin Bailey as Col. Eustace
- John Hallam as Sergeant Major
- Julian Barnes as Lt. Bradley
- Mary Maude as Mrs. Faversham
- Frank Gatliff as Old major
- Robert Flemyng as Old colonel
- Robert James as John (the butler)
The film was produced by Norman Rosemont, who specialised in making adaptations of classic tales for television. He had recently made The Man in the Iron Mask, Captains Courageous and The Count of Monte Cristo. The films would be made for over $1 million which was more than US networks would pay for them, but they could be released theatrically overseas. "The great classic authors wrote good stories with strong plots about people you could care for", said Rosemont. "And filming them at length – usually three hours – you can get most of the plot in."
Norman Rosemont normally filmed works in the public domain but he had to pay London Films $150,000 for the rights to Four Feathers.
Part of the money was provided by Trident Films, an off-shot of Trident Television, a Leeds-based regional television group.
Filming started in August 1977 and took place in England and Spain. The Duke of Wellington's estate was used for English scenes. The desert sequences were shot in Almería, Spain over three weeks. During the Spanish part of filming, Powell referred to occasions when the unit was affected by sandstorms, saying, "Everyone wore surgical masks and goggles and was covered from head to foot, except the bloody actors".
The Los Angeles Times praised it as "a large, sumptuous movie in the grand, romantic tradition... staged with fine sweep and power by Don Sharp from a meticulous adaptation". The Christian Science Monitor called it "rollicking entertainment."
A New York Times reviewer wrote: "Mr. Bridges is quite effective as the bearded adventurer, and the action scenes are jolly good, if you will. 'Four Feathers' may possibly be the bloodiest pacifist lesson ever devised, but its grand posturing and silly sentiments work nicely."
The Monthly Film Bulletin called it "a museum piece, brought up from the vaults, dusted down and carefully mounted."
It was the 28th highest rated show of the week on American television.
- "TRAILER: Theatre". The Guardian. 25 February 1978. p. 13.
- DAVID LEWIN (23 November 1980). "Why Norman Rosemont Likes to Film the Classics: Norman Rosemont's TV Films". New York Times. p. D35.
- Smith, Cecil (31 July 1977). "The Rosemont Special: Classic Tales for TV". Los Angeles Times. p. o53.
- "Advertising sales at Trident boosts profit". The Irish Times. Dublin, Ireland. 18 January 1978. p. 12.
- Vagg, Stephen (27 July 2019). "Unsung Aussie Filmmakers: Don Sharp – A Top 25". Filmink.
- Margulies, Lee (22 July 1977). "INSIDE TV: A Laundering for ABC's Soap". Los Angeles Times. p. 32.
- Buck, Jerry (30 December 1977). "Tube Talk: Beau Bridges at the Four Feathers Remake". The Lewiston Daily Sun. p. 10.
- Cecil Smith (1 January 1978). "Robert Powell: From Christ To Cad". Los Angeles Times.
- Cecil Smith (2 January 1978). "TV Review: 'Four Feathers' in Grand Tradition". Los Angeles Times.
- "New Year's specials: an uneven lineup". The Christian Science Monitor. 30 December 1977. p. 22.
- John J. O'Connor (30 December 1977). "TV: Celebrating New Year's, 'Sheba' Comes Back, Other Dramas". New York Times. p. A22.
- "FOUR FEATHERS, The". Monthly Film Bulletin. 45 (528). London. 1 January 1978. p. 46.
- "CBS Gets a Win in the Nielsen Bowl". Los Angeles Times. 5 January 1978. p. f18.
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