Brothers Geoffrey (Errol Flynn) and Perry Vickers (Patric Knowles) are both British Lancers stationed in India. Geoffrey is engaged to Elsa Campbell (Olivia de Havilland), daughter of Colonel Campbell (Donald Crisp). Unbeknownst to Geoffrey, Elsa and Perry have been seeing each other for a while and have fallen in love with each other. When Perry tries telling Geoffrey about Elsa, Geoffrey refuses to hear any of it. The news drives a wedge between Geoffrey and Perry and they stay estranged even as they are ordered to different outposts.
Geoffrey is sent to Chukoti and Perry goes to Lohara. When Geoffrey’s troops are ordered to Lohara on maneuvers, Col. Campbell disregards warnings about the potential for an attack by Surat Kahn (C. Henry Gordon) and sends most of the soldiers to Lohara anyway. Sure enough, Kahn attacks and it’s a far more brutal attack than anyone could have anticipated. Not only are many soldiers killed, Kahn’s troops also slaughter many of Chukoti’s women and children. Geoffrey and Elsa survive, but Geoffrey finally begins to see that Elsa really does love Perry.
When Kahn joins forces with the Russians, Geoffrey is sent to Crimea, but is given orders not to attack Kahn. However, Geoffrey wants to avenge the attack at Chukoti and re-writes the orders so that he can lead an attack on Kahn. The attack would be a suicide mission and he knows it. In one final act of nobility, he arranges it so that Perry will be away from the action and will live to marry Elsa.
The Charge of the Light Brigade is a first-rate adventure movie. Adventure movies aren’t always my thing, but Charge of the Light Brigade has plenty of thrilling action scenes paired with an intriguing human interest story; a nice balance for my taste. (However, I’m not a fan of the fact that so many horses were hurt or killed during production, Congress had to step in and create laws to protect animals on film sets.) I wish Olivia de Havilland’s role had been more substantial; it wasn’t a particularly interesting role. But it is awfully hard to resist getting to watch Errol Flynn at his peak, doing what Errol Flynn did best. It may not be very historically accurate, but it sure was entertaining.