Aired Sunday April 20th, 2008 at 8:00 pm
Daniel Radcliffe as Jack and Kim Cattrall as Carrie
Harry Potter's Daniel Radcliffe stars as a young man obsessed with serving his country and escaping from the shadow of his famous father in "My Boy Jack," based on the true story of Rudyard Kipling's only son. The MASTERPIECE CLASSIC drama airs Sunday, April 20, at 8 p.m. on KUED-Channel 7.
Radcliffe plays John "Jack" Kipling. Underage and hopelessly myopic at the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Jack desperately wants to join the fight, which is unfolding with unspeakable horror in France - although this awful truth has not yet sunk in with the patriotic 17-year-old.
Also starring are David Haig (Four Weddings and a Funeral) as Rudyard Kipling, the most beloved English author of the day and a fervent spokesman for the British Empire, and Kim Cattrall ("Sex and the City") as Kipling's American wife, Carrie, who foresees the fate that awaits her son. Carey Mulligan ("Bleak House," "Northanger Abbey") plays Jack's protective older sister, Elsie.
David Haig also wrote the screenplay, which is adapted from his acclaimed play My Boy Jack, which opened in London in 1997.
"It is impossible to overemphasize [Kipling's] status in 1914," Haig wrote recently. "He was the voice of the empire, he had the ear of the king and the prime minister, and was as globally popular (and, incidentally, as wealthy) as J. K. Rowling is today."
A hard-line proponent of the war, Kipling passed on this same sense of unquestioned duty to his son. As events unfold, Jack twice fails his induction eye exam, and Kipling ultimately uses his friendship with a celebrated field marshal to get the boy an officer's commission in the Irish Guards, an infantry unit destined for the front lines. Kipling even gives permission for Jack to go into combat before he's 18.
As it happens, it is shortly after his 18th birthday when Jack and his men go over the top for the first time during an attack billed by their commanders as "the greatest battle in the history of the world." This is the infamous Battle of Loos in the fall of 1915, which costs more than 20,000 British lives and sees no gain on the battlefield.
A few days later, a telegram arrives at the Kipling estate. Jack is missing, presumed injured.
Rudyard and Carrie Kipling try every connection among their influential friends to find out whether Jack is dead or alive. With any luck, he's being held captive by the Germans. However, inquiries are fruitless. It is only through the recollections of shell-shocked survivors from Jack's unit that the story of his fate in the battle emerges.
Kipling never recovered his childlike delight in storytelling. The author of The Jungle Book and Kim turned to more somber works such as this poem, written shortly after Jack's disappearance, which begins:
Have you news of my boy Jack?
Not this tide.
When d'you think that he'll come back?
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
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