During 1975 Dicky Drew-Smythe became involved with the filming of John Huston's 'The Man Who Would Be King' being made in Morocco. It is believed that somewhere in Morocco he still has a traditional Berber wife 'given' to him at the time - though quite what a more modern 'pc' view on this would be is open to conjecture - either way, the 'marriage' was never consumated and the thought of the young woman still waiting around for him is beyond contemplation.
He made a number of location visits (accompanied by his second wife, Mary, on one occasion) and recognised this film-making experience as one of the highlights of his life making the comment at interview that he would like to become further involved in the film industry; this, however, was not to be.
The dapper, moustachioed, small-knit man sat astride his grey horse, holding a stick in one hand and a plastic cup of tea in the other.
He watched intently as five hundred yelling Bashkai warriors, hurling spears, firing arrows and scything the hot desert air with curved swords, rushed down a dusty hill topped by a picturesque, red sandstone castle, to do bloody battle with another advancing army, also armed with the same kind of weapons, but with the additional advantage of rifles. Shots rang out and a dozen Bashkai fell, mortally wounded. A voice shouted, "Cut cameras 1 and 2!" The dust cleared. The warriors grinned at one another. The man on horseback smiled slightly and took a gentle sip of tea. Another "take" was "in the can" and he approved.
The scene was Morocco, just outside a small village called Tifoultoute, the location for a spectacular film titled "The Man Who Would Be King", and the man on the grey horse was Captain Richard Drew-Smythe, army and battle technical advisor to the movie company. Captain "Dicky" Drew-Smythe was in his element. Ex-Indian Army and Gurkha Battalion, expert on military matters and battles, not to mention horses and mules, was combining an essential and responsible job with enjoyment and flair. Business and pleasure. And he was a happy man.
"I love every minute of it," he said, as he dismounted and strolled across to a tent for another cup of tea. "I find the whole thing absolutely fascinating. Of course, our band of warriors aren't exactly what you might call Sandhurst ... but they're a good, enthusiastic bunch and they're doing what's needed wonderfully well."
Dicky Drew-Smythe couldn't be more English if he donned a crown and ermine-trimmed robe. He has that unmistakable, slightly clipped accent denoting an ex-English Public School, ex-Sandhurst, ex-British Army Officer; a friendly, confident air and, what's more, even sports a monocle from time to time. No doubt he also wears a bowler and carries a brolly when out walking back home in London's Chelsea. But the hot sun and desert sands of Morocco (doubling for 1880s Kafiristan in the film) are not Chelsea and here he wears cavalry-twill trousers, check open-neck shirt and tasteful yellow pull-over.
He's your typical British gent. He's a nice, amiable and amusing British gent into the bargain, which all goes to help when you're dealing, as he is, with such motion picture luminaries as John Huston, Sean Connery and Michael Caine, director and stars of John Foreman's production "The Man Who Would Be King".
Captain Drew-Smythe was born near Bristol, Gloucestershire on July 23rd 1920 and educated at Clifton College and Marlborough, two of England's most famous Public Schools. He first became a student at the Royal Veterinary College in Edinburgh then trained for the Army at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, being commissioned into the Indian Army in 1938.
He was sent to the First Gurkha Regiment, in the North of the Punjab, in the Himalayan foothills and was then posted to a training batallion down in the valley 200 miles away. Later came service on the Manipur Road and through Burma. After suffering a mishap, he became a Staff Captain at Agra but became bored with sitting behind an office desk and subsequently joined the Army Remount Section, still in India. Then it was back into Burma with an Advance Field Remount Depot and three Field Remount Sections, ending up at a large Remount Base at Imphal. The Remount Section supplied all kinds of animal transport, ranging from officers' chargers to transport donkeys, ponies and mules.
Captain Drew-Smythe is an official with the British Horse Society, working for the Riding Establishments Act Committee, as an Inspector of Riding Establishments and Schools throughout the whole of Greater London and the Home Counties which is how he came to be put in touch with the executives of the film.
"I came out to Morocco first with action director, Bob Simmons, and an advance party to recce the area of the battle between the Bashkai and Er-Heb Armies (the latter commanded by Sean Connery, Michael Caine and Saeed Jaffrey as an ex-Gurkha). We worked out a battle plan and then I helped to re-write that portion of the script which covered the battle. Apart from this battle, I'm generally on hand to sort out all kinds of little problems and queries that may crop up from day to day such as appropriate words of command, army drill, general battle routine, handling of weapons, the Indian market and so on."
"There was one particular problem we needed to solve ... what sort of flower would Roxanne (Shakira Caine) give to Dravot (Sean Connery) when she first meets him? In other words, what sort of flower would be applicable to Kafiristan at that period? The answer, I think, would be either a marigold or a jacaranda. I also organised the Grand March of Dravot's Army through the valley. And I'm generally around to clear up any little points that may arise."
Dicky lives in Chelsea but he gets away whenever he can to his small stud farm in West Wales where he has ponies and a few dogs."It's a good life," he says, "but now I've had a taste of the film business I hope to have the opportunity of doing more advisory work like this in the future if I get the chance. It's extremely stimulating and rewarding." And, with that, Captain Dicky Drew-Smythe went back to his horse ... and his tea ...
John Foreman's production of John Huston's "The Man Who Would Be King" stars Sean Connery, Michael Caine, Christopher Plummer and Saeed Jaffrey. The Panavision Colour Film is produced by John Foreman and directed by John Huston from a screenplay by John Huston and Gladys Hill, based on Rudyard Kipling's classic story. James Arnett is Associate Producer and the Director of Photography is Oswald Morris. The Royal Service Company Production is for distribution by Columbia/Allied Artists and is made entirely on location in Morocco. The spectacular and colourful story tells of two tough, shrewd and inseparable ex-British Army sergeants who, in the 1880s, decide to make the hazardous journey from India, through Afghanistan, to the wild and primitive country of Kafiristan and there make their fortunes and set themselves up as kings ...