Kim (1950 film)

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Kim - Poster.jpg
1950 Theatrical Poster
Directed by Victor Saville
Produced by Leon Gordon
Written byHelen Deutsch
Leon Gordon
Richard Schayer
Based on Kim
1901 novel
by Rudyard Kipling
Starring Errol Flynn
Dean Stockwell
Paul Lukas
Music by André Previn
Cinematography William V. Skall
Edited by George Boemler
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • December 7, 1950 (1950-12-07)
Running time
113 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$2,049,000 [1]
Box office$5,348,000 [1]

Kim is a 1950 adventure film made in Technicolor by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. [2] [3] It was directed by Victor Saville and produced by Leon Gordon from a screenplay by Helen Deutsch, Leon Gordon and Richard Schayer, based on the classic 1901 novel of the same name by Rudyard Kipling.


The film starred Errol Flynn, Dean Stockwell, and Paul Lukas. The music score was by André Previn. The film was shot on location in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, India, as well as the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, California, due to its resemblance to the Khyber Pass. Of particular interest is the location filming at La Martiniere College in Lucknow.


Kim (Dean Stockwell), an orphan boy in 1885 India during the British Raj, works at times for his friend Mahbub Ali (Errol Flynn), a roguish horse trader who is also a secret agent for the British. Mahbub Ali becomes aware of a Russian-backed plot to instigate a rebellion.

Meanwhile, Kim encounters an elderly Buddhist lama (Paul Lukas) from Tibet, who is on a quest to find the "River of the Arrow", whose waters will cleanse him spiritually. Mahbub Ali has the young boy become the kindly priest's "chela" or disciple so that he can deliver a message to Colonel Creighton (Robert Douglas), Mahbub Ali's superior. On the journey along the Grand Trunk Road, the two travelers grow to love each other. Kim learns to beg passersby for coins.

One day, British soldiers set up camp. Kim notices that their regimental flag depicts a red bull on a green field, which matches a prophecy left him by his now-deceased father, so he sneaks into the encampment and is accosted by a sentry. During a scuffle, his captors discover documents Kim possesses which show that he is actually the son of Kimball O'Hara, an Irish soldier who had served in the regiment. The lama decides that Kim should live among his own kind to be educated (despite the boy's resistance) and pays for his tuition at the finest boarding school in India. The boy chafes at the school's many restrictions, but eventually settles down.

Mahbub Ali convinces Colonel Creighton, that the boy has the potential to become a wonderful spy; to that end, Kim receives extra training from the shopkeeper Lurgan (Arnold Moss) during the first part of his summer vacation in how to disguise himself as a native Buddhist chela, make careful observations, and remember coded messages.

While traveling in disguise, Kim overhears a plot to assassinate Mahbub Ali and warns him, saving his life. He is then reunited with his lama and sent to help Hurree Chunder (Cecil Kellaway) keep an eye on two Russian spies posing as surveyors. When he finds Chunder murdered, Kim continues the mission by persuading the Russians to hire him as their servant. He is eventually unmasked and the lama is beaten up. When news of Chunder's death reaches the British, Mahbub Ali is sent to take his place. He rescues Kim and takes charge of the interlopers' papers, but when a Russian expeditionary force approaches, the spies attempt to overpower him and he is forced to kill them; then he and Kim start a rockslide which buries the Russian force. In the end, the injured lama finds his river (at least in his own mind), stumbles to it, and dies contentedly, after which Kim and Mahbub Ali ride off together.



Earlier proposed versions

MGM originally announced the film in 1938 as a vehicle for Freddie Bartholomew and Robert Taylor but World War II saw this put on hold.

In 1942 it was reactivated to star Mickey Rooney, Conrad Veidt (as Red Lama) and Basil Rathbone, from a script by Leon Gordon and produced by Victor Saville. [4] However this was postponed out of fear of offending Indians and also war-time allies the Russians, who were the villains. [5]


In 1948 the Indian government approved the film and the Cold War meant it was permissible to have Russian villains. In January 1949 the project was reactivated as a vehicle for MGM's child star Dean Stockwell. Errol Flynn was signed in September. [6]

Paul Lukas and Flynn went to India but all scenes involving Dean Stockwell were shot in Hollywood. [7] Flynn left for India in November after attending a Royal screening of That Forsyte Woman in London. [8]


Locations used in the film included La Martiniere Lucknow (depicted as St. Xavier's College) in Lucknow, the horse market at the Kashmir Gates, Sirala, and the Himalayan foothills and the Khyber Pass. Doubles were used for Dean Stockwell and the characters of Huree Babu, Creighton Sahib and Lurgan Sahib (these hadn't been cast at the time of filming). [5]

The unit returned to MGM in January 1950 to shoot the rest of the movie on the backlot.


Box office

The movie was successful at the box office: according to MGM records the movie earned $2,896,000 in the US and Canada and $2,465,000 overseas, making it one of the studio's most popular films of the year. [1] It was one of the most popular films at the French box office in 1951, with admissions of 2,514,860. [9] According to Filmink magazine this was "the biggest gross of any Flynn movie during its initial release (not counting for inflation). Clearly in the right role and the right movie he remained a potent box office draw. " [10]

It made an overall profit of $1,064,000. [1]

Radio adaptation

Kim was presented on Lux Radio Theatre on February 18, 1952. The one-hour adaptation featured Errol Flynn and Dean Stockwell in their roles from the film. [11]

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  1. 1 2 3 4 The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. Variety film review; December 6, 1950, page 15.
  3. Harrison's Reports film review; December 9, 1950, page 195.
  4. "SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD: Remake of George M. Cohan's 'Little Johnny Jones' Is Scheduled by Metro MELODRAMA AT CRITERION ' Mayor of 44th Street' Opens Today -- True to the Army' Will Arrive Saturday". New York Times. June 10, 1942. p. 25.
  5. 1 2 THOMAS F. BRADY (Dec 11, 1949). "'KIM' IN INDIA: Metro's Cameras Turn on Kipling Story -- Summary of the Week in Hollywood". New York Times. p. X5.
  6. Schallert, Edwin (Sep 19, 1949). "Deal for James Stewart as 'Harvey' Star on Foot; Shearer Return Pending". Los Angeles Times. p. 31.
  7. Tony Thomas, Rudy Behlmer & Clifford McCarty, The Films of Errol Flynn, Citadel Press, 1969 p 172-173
  8. Mendonca, Clare (27 Nov 1949). "Errol Flynn Flying Out To Delhi: New Indian Films". The Times of India. New Delhi. p. 14.
  9. 1951 French box office information at Box Office Story
  10. Vagg, Stephen (November 24, 2019). "The Films of Errol Flynn: Part 4 – Going to Seed". Filmink.
  11. Kirby, Walter (February 17, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 40. Retrieved June 1, 2015 via Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg