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The working title of this film was Henry M. Stanley. According to pre-production news items in Hollywood Reporter, Fox intended to produce this film for its 1937-38 schedule, but postponed production in order to allow Osa Johnson time to film backgrounds. Another pre-production news item in Hollywood Reporter adds that Tyrone Power was to play the role of "Gareth Tyce" but scheduling prevented him from doing so. Materials contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Theater Arts Library note that in 1939, Fox bought the rights to David Livingstone, a 1936 British "quota" film produced by James A. Fitzpatrick, to keep it out of the American market and out of competition with this film. According to news items in Hollywood Reporter and Fox publicity materials contained in the Production Files at the AMPAS Library, in 1937, Osa Johnson and Otto Brower led a camera crew through Kenya, Tanganyika and Uganda, following the footsteps of Livingstone. They returned with 100,000 feet of exposed film. Articles in New York Times add that the filming was beseiged by fever, mutiny and attacks from African tribes. Another item in the New York Times notes that six versions of the story were written before Spencer Tracy and the studio approved it. American locations were shot at Sun Valley, ID and Victorville, CA.
Another news item in Hollywood Reporter notes that this picture, budgeted at $2,000,000 with $125,000 allotted for music, had one of the largest music budgets to date. Paul McVey served as a technical advisor for the background jungle music and native chants. An April 1939 item in Hollywood Reporter adds that production on the film was suspended for ten days while a new sequence, budgeted at $100,000, was prepared to expand Spencer Tracy's role. According to a news item in Hollywood Reporter, M-G-M agreed to loan Tracy to Fox for this film after the studio postponed the production of Northwest Passage and Walter Brennan was borrowed from Samuel Goldwyn's company for this picture.
Materials contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library disclose that Ernest Pascal and Edwin Harvey Blum worked on a treatment and continuity and Sheridan Gibney wrote revisions, but their contribution to the final film has not been confirmed. The Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department also at the UCLA Library add that the film credits were to have read "based on the diary and Autobiography of Henry M. Stanley," but this statement was deleted because the studio feared a lawsuit by the owners of the Stanley diaries. Contracts contained in the Legal Files disclose that Blue Washington was to have played the role of Mombay, Darby Jones was to play a man with a scar, and Harry Strang was to play the role of the Captain. Their participation in the final film has not been confirmed. The film was dubbed into Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch. The picture was included in Film Daily's "ten best" list of 1939.