|An original "17th Lancers" costume tunic used during the 1939 filming of The Light That Failed which starred Ronald
Colman, Walter Huston and Ida Lupino.
This tunic described here as that of the 17th Lancers although in the film itself the British cavalry unit in questioned is
not named to the best of my knowledge. Watching the film it is clear that the costume designer for the film - in this case
the legendary Edith Head - based the design on that of the 17th Lancers as they appeared in the field during the
Anglo-Zulu War of 1879.
When I first acquired the tunic I was a bit puzzled by the use of gray fabric for the collar, cuffs and plastron on this
costume since a real 17th Lancers tunic would have had these parts made of white fabric. After watching the film it is
clear that gray was used to help compensate for the fact that the film was shot in black and white and historically
correct white would have ended up appearing overexposed in the bright New Mexico desert sun - New Mexico
locations stood in for the Sudan during the filming. In the film the gray portions of these tunics pass quite well a soiled
or dirty white.
I believe that this tunic was originated as part of the dress uniform of the New York National Guard (NYNG) c. 1900.
Another identical tunic used in The Light That Failed still bore the inspection date and property stamp of the NYNG
from that period. It would appear the Western Costume Company who produced these tunics purchase surplus uniforms
from the NYNG and converted them to resemble those of the 17th Lancers. This was and still is a common practice in
movie and theatrical costuming.
Original King's Crown General Service buttons where used on this costume.
Edith Head - Designer
Produced by Western Costume Company
Hollywood, California, United States