|Directed by|| Robert J. Flaherty |
|Written by||Rudyard Kipling|
|Screenplay by|| John Collier |
Marcia De Silva
|Based on||“Toomai of the Elephants”, from The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling|
|Produced by||Alexander Korda|
|Starring|| Sabu |
|Edited by||Charles Crichton|
|Music by||John Greenwood|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|5 April 1937 (US)|
9 April 1937 (UK)
|Box office||$2 million (U.S. and Canada rentals) |
Elephant Boy is a 1937 British adventure film starring Sabu in his film debut.  Documentary filmmaker Robert J. Flaherty, who produced some of the Indian footage, and supervising director Zoltan Korda, who completed the film, won the Best Director Award at the Venice Film Festival. The film was made at the London Films studios at Denham, and in Mysore, India, and is based on the story "Toomai of the Elephants" from Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book (1894). 
Toomai (Sabu), a young boy growing up in India, longs to become a hunter. In the meantime, he helps his mahout (elephant driver) father with Kala Nag, a large elephant that has been in their family for four generations.
Petersen (Walter Hudd) hires the father and Kala Nag, among others, for a large annual government roundup of wild elephants to be tamed and put to work. Amused by Toomai and learning that he has no one but his father to look after him, Petersen allows the boy to come too.
Strangely, no elephants have been seen in the region in a while, so Petersen has staked his reputation on a guess that they will be found further north. However, six weeks of hunting prove fruitless. He is ready to give up, but his right-hand man, Machua Appa (Allan Jeayes), persuades him to keep hunting for another month. When the other hired natives learn of Toomai's ambition, they mock him, telling him that he will become a hunter only when he sees the elephants dance (a myth).
One night, Toomai's father spots a tiger prowling near the camp and wakes Petersen. When the two go out to shoot the beast, Toomai's father is killed. Kala Nag's grief becomes so intense, he rampages through the camp, only stopping when Toomai calms him down.
Petersen decides to assign cruel Rham Lahl (Bruce Gordon) to Kala Nag, as Toomai is too young for the job. When Rham Lahl beats the elephant, however, Kala Nag injures his tormenter. The mahout insists that Kala Nag be destroyed, as is the law. Petersen manages to get him to change his mind and accept 100 rupees instead by threatening to have him removed from the safety of the camp.
Unaware of this reprieve, Toomai takes Kala Nag and runs away into the jungle. There, they stumble upon the missing wild elephants, and Toomai sees them dancing. He leads Petersen to them. The other natives are awed, and hail him as "Toomai of the Elephants". Machua Appa offers to train the boy to become a hunter, a plan Petersen approves of.
In a contemporary review, The New York Times found the film "one of the most likable of the jungle pictures. Having a simple story at its heart, it has had the wisdom and the good taste to tell it simply and without recourse to synthetic sensationalism. Sabu, its 12-year-old hero, never once is chased by a tiger, embraced by a python or dropped into a swirl of crocodiles," and concluded, "Sabu, the Indian boy, is a sunny-faced, manly little youngster, whose naturalness beneath the camera's scrutiny should bring blushes to the faces of the precocious wonder-children of Hollywood. He's a much better actor than the British players Mr. Flaherty tried to disguise behind frizzed beards and Indian names".  Other critics were less kind. Writing for The Spectator in 1937, Graham Greene gave the film a poor review, characterizing it as a "faltering and repetitive picture" and noting that the "disappointing diminutive achievement" was caused directly by "enormous advance publicity, [the] director [being] out of touch with the Press for months, [and] rumours". Greene criticized director Flahery as having released a film with "bad cutting,  dreadful studio work, [and a] pedestrian adaptation [of] Kipling's story", and specified that Flaherty's biggest "positive crime" in the film was its story construction. 
More recently, Time Out thought the film "Amiable but dated," and specifically, "Fiction and documentary footage rub shoulders uneasily, but the latter (shot by Flaherty in India) is vividly watchable." 
Robert Joseph Flaherty, was an American filmmaker who directed and produced the first commercially successful feature-length documentary film, Nanook of the North (1922). The film made his reputation and nothing in his later life fully equaled its success, although he continued the development of this new genre of narrative documentary with Moana (1926), set in the South Seas, and Man of Aran (1934), filmed in Ireland's Aran Islands. Flaherty is considered the "father" of both the documentary and the ethnographic film.
Sir Alexander Korda was a Hungarian–born British film director, producer and screenwriter, who founded his own film production studios and film distribution company.
The Jungle Book (1894) is a collection of stories by the English author Rudyard Kipling. Most of the characters are animals such as Shere Khan the tiger and Baloo the bear, though a principal character is the boy or "man-cub" Mowgli, who is raised in the jungle by wolves. The stories are set in a forest in India; one place mentioned repeatedly is "Seonee" (Seoni), in the central state of Madhya Pradesh.
George Peress Sanderson was a British naturalist who worked in the public works department in the princely state of Mysore. He began a system for capturing wild elephants that were destructive to agriculture so as to use them in captivity. He was known in the popular press as the "Elephant King" and wrote a book on his life in the forests of India. Rudyard Kipling is believed to have modelled the character "Petersen Sahib" in his Toomai of the elephants after him.
Sabu Dastagir was an Indian actor who later gained United States citizenship. Throughout his career he was credited under the name Sabu and is primarily known for his work in films during the 1930s–1940s in Britain and the United States. He was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.
Jungle Book is a 1942 independent Technicolor action-adventure film by the Korda brothers, loosely adapted from Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book (1894). The story centers on Mowgli, a feral young man who is kidnapped by villagers who are cruel to the jungle animals as they attempt to steal a dead king's cursed treasure. The film was directed by Zoltán Korda and produced by his brother Alexander, with the art direction done by their younger brother Vincent. The screenplay was written by Laurence Stallings. The film stars Sabu as Mowgli.
Elephant Boy may refer to:
Zoltan Korda was a Hungarian-born motion picture screenwriter, director and producer. He made his first film in Hungary in 1918, and worked with his brother Alexander Korda on film-making there and in London. They both moved to the United States in 1940 to Hollywood and the American film industry.
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Allan John Jeayes was an English stage and film actor.
Toomai of the Elephants is a short story by Rudyard Kipling about a young elephant-handler. It was first published in the December 1893 issue of St. Nicholas magazine and reprinted in the collection of Kipling short stories, The Jungle Book (1894). The character Petersen Sahib is thought to be modelled on India-born English naturalist George P. Sanderson (1848–1892).
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