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The teaming of Rock Hudson and Sidney Poitier made headlines for the film Something of Value (1957). And indeed, it was a historic pairing of two Hollywood greats. They play boyhood friends in Kenya who find themselves on opposite sides of a native uprising against the white colonists.
Getting the film made involved almost as much conflict as the plot. Filmed largely on location in Africa, Poitier was unwelcome in the "white only" restaurants and even the hotel had to be persuaded to let him stay. That's not to mention the subject matter, which was so controversial and close to reality (with European nations trying to maintain their hold in Africa), that the film's release was banned in many countries.
But the controversial subject matter was not the only thing that aroused the interest of moviegoers. Under the direction of Richard Brooks (Elmer Gantry , In Cold Blood ), Something of Value also featured an acclaimed supporting cast including future dame - Wendy Hiller.
Born in Bramhall, Cheshire, England in 1912, Wendy Hiller made her way to the stage by age 18. By twenty-three, Hiller was considered a stage star, appearing in a play called Love On the Dole, which was written by her soon-to-be husband, Ronald Gow. In 1937, Hiller would take Love On the Dole to Broadway. But it was her performance in another play, George Bernard Shaw's St. Joan, that would bring Hiller to the attention of Hollywood.
After casting her in St. Joan, Shaw himself recommended Hiller for the part of Eliza Doolittle in the film adaptation of his Pygmalion (1938). Opposite Shaw's reluctantly approved Leslie Howard as Professor Higgins, Hiller and the film were a great success, earning Hiller her first Oscar nomination. But despite her Hollywood triumph with Pygmalion, Hiller returned to the stage and would make only rare film appearances for the rest of her career.
Something of Value, almost twenty years after Pygmalion was only Hiller's seventh feature film. She took a turn in another Shaw adaptation, playing the title role in Major Barbara in 1941. In later years, she turned to television, starring in everything from The Comedy of Errors to The Elephant Man.
Hiller would receive another Oscar nomination for A Man For All Seasons in 1966, before finally winning the Best Supporting Actress statuette for Separate Tables in 1958. But perhaps her greatest honor came in 1974, when actress Wendy Hiller became Dame Wendy Hiller.
Producer: Pandro S. Berman
Director: Richard Brooks
Screenplay: Richard Brooks, Robert C. Ruark (novel)
Art Direction: Edward C. Carfagno, William A. Horning
Cinematography: Russell Harlan
Costume Design: Helen Rose
Film Editing: Ferris Webster
Original Music: Miklos Rozsa
Cast: Rock Hudson (Peter McKenzie), Dana Wynter (Holly Keith), Sidney Poitier (Kimani), Juano Hernandez (Njogu), William Marshall (Leader)
BW-114m. Closed captioning.
by Stephanie Thames