Elephant Walk

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Adventure/Drama, USA, 1954, 103 min.

Tagline One man claimed the land. Two men claimed the woman who lived there.

Synopsis In Shillingworth-on-Thames, England, book shop clerk Ruth has high hopes for her upcoming marriage to John Wiley, the owner of a Ceylon tea plantation, despite having known him for only two weeks. Upon arriving at Elephant Walk, John's plantation, Ruth is thrilled to discover that John's "bungalow" is an exotic mansion filled with servants, including John's devoted head servant, Appuhamy. Troubling her, however, is the fact that John's father Tom deliberately built the mansion across the path long taken by elephants on their way to the river and constructed a wall to keep them at bay. John's violent hatred of one particular bull elephant surprises Ruth, and she is also startled to learn that Tom is buried in a lavish marble grave behind the house, while John's mother is buried in England, because, according to Appuhamy, she hated Ceylon. Soon after his return, John's friends, fellow English planters and his American overseer, Dick Carver, drop by the house to meet Ruth. The men welcome Ruth, the only white woman in the area, then proceed to get drunk while toasting the greatness of John's father. Dick, who is leaving for Paris the next day, assures Ruth that Tom was more vain than heroic and counsels her not to take his legacy too seriously. Later, Ruth is awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of John and his friends playing polo on bicycles across the mansion's spacious floors. When Ruth tells John she was frightened by the noise, he coldly dismisses her fears as childish. Ruth runs crying back to her bedroom, and suddenly shamed, John follows and apologizes. The next day, Ruth notices Appuhamy praying at the foot of Tom's grave and tours the enormous kitchen with him. Appuhamy shows Ruth the items that were special favorites of "the old master," which are still being purchased, and balks when she offers to plan the menu so as to reduce the amount of waste generated by the plantation. Appuhamy also refuses to give Ruth the key to Tom's old study, piquing Ruth's curiosity. That night, Dick stops by to say farewell and, before going, encourages Ruth to contact him if she needs help. Later, John fractures his leg while drunkenly playing bicycle polo and is confined to his bed. During his convalescence, Ruth tries to sneak into Tom's study but hides when Appuhamy appears. After overhearing Appuhamy declare to a portrait of Tom that Ruth "does not belong" at Elephant Walk, Ruth learns from John's doctor that John's belligerent attitudes are impeding his recovery. Ruth writes to Dick for help, and he quickly returns and resumes his work as overseer. John's mood does not improve, however, as the expected monsoons have not started and the elephants have become agitated over the lack of water. When John yells at her for changing his lunch menu without permission, Ruth rushes to Dick, and while out riding with him, confesses that John is still ruled by his dead father. Dick kisses Ruth, who, despite her attraction, pulls away, protesting that she still loves John. Back at the plantation, John apologizes to Ruth and tries to appease her by announcing a special upcoming celebration. The celebration turns out to be an elaborate birthday party for Tom, and Ruth finally explodes with frustration, ordering John's drunken friends out of the house. The next morning, John condemns Ruth for driving his friends away and, when she insists that he hates Tom as much as she does, slaps her. Stunned, Ruth runs to Dick's quarters and begs him to take her to Paris. At the same time, however, one of John's servants collapses with cholera and the plantation is placed under quarantine. Trapped at Elephant Walk, Ruth and Dick toil long hours to help John curb the epidemic and soothe the terrified workers. When John, who is aware of Ruth's plans to leave him, insists on burying the dead himself, Ruth is impressed by his selfless dedication. Later, after the quarantine is lifted, Ruth tells Dick that she cannot leave John before the rains come, despite Dick's protests that John has not changed. As a final precaution, the workers' huts are set ablaze, and the elephants, agitated by the fire, start to stampede. With no workers available to beat them back, the elephants crash through the plantation wall and storm the house. Appuhamy, who has finally recognized Ruth's true worth, rushes to alert her and is killed by an angry elephant. While crashing through the house, the elephants cause a fire to erupt, and John barely arrives in time to rescue Ruth. Just then, the rain starts, and as Elephant Walk burns to the ground, John and Ruth embrace and pledge to start a new life together.

Directed by William Dieterle  

Starring Elizabeth Taylor, Dana Andrews, Peter Finch, Abraham Sofaer, Abner Biberman, more...

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