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The working title of this film was Katie Called Katje. A written statement on the opening onscreen credits reads, "African sequences photographed at Zululand by courtesy of The Natal Parks Board." Voice-over narration by Susan Hayward, as her character "Katie O'Neill Kildare," is heard intermittently throughout the picture. According to studio publicity, South African Helga Moray loosely based her best-selling novel on the life of one of her female ancestors. (Contemporary sources are divided as to whether the story was based on Moray's grandmother or great-grandmother.) Moray originally wrote an outline of the story, sold its screen rights to producer William A. Bacher, then expanded the story into a full-length novel. The film is set before the actual Boer War (1899-1902), during which the Afrikaners, as the descendents of the Dutch settlers in South Africa were known, rebelled against Great Britain, the colonial government of the country at the time.
In April 1953, according to Los Angeles Times, Bacher sold the rights to Bert E. Friedlob, who intended to produce the film independently and release it through Twentieth Century-Fox. In September 1953, Friedlob and Bacher, who had decided to produce the film together, sold the property to Fox and agreed to produce it directly for the studio, according to Hollywood Reporter news items. In December 1953, New York Times reported that Bacher had tried to interest Fox production chief Darryl F. Zanuck in Moray's work when it was first published, but Zanuck rejected it as too expensive to film. Bacher then attempted to sell the rights to M-G-M and Paramount, which also rejected the project for similar reasons. M-G-M did briefly consider the project and submitted the novel for approval to the PCA, but it was rejected, as noted below.
A April 15, 1954 item in Hollywood Reporter's "Rambling Reporter" column speculated that Robert Mitchum would be cast opposite Susan Hayward in the picture. As noted in a June 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item, Tyrone Power's casting in Untamed marked his final film under contract to the studio, for which he had worked for eighteen years. A August 4, 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that Victor Mature had originally been cast as "Kurt Hout" but was put on suspension for refusing the part and was replaced by Richard Egan. Clay Randolph tested for a part, according to Hollywood Reporter, but his appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed. Although August and September 1954 Hollywood Reporter news items include the following actors in the cast: Art LaForest, Don Blackman, Peggy Brooks, Robert Koppany, William Koppany and Elizabeth Audrey, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Untamed marked the screen debut of Brian Corcoran and popular child actor Kevin Corcoran, a cast member of The Mickey Mouse Club television program.
Hollywood Reporter also reported that extensive background sequences were filmed on location in Ireland and various sites in South Africa, including Cape Town, Durban and the Valley of the Thousand Hills section of Natal province, which at the time was a "Zulu preserve," according to studio publicity. Contemporary sources indicate that director Henry King had hoped to shoot the entire picture on location, but according to modern sources, Hayward, who had recently undergone a contentious divorce from husband Jess Barker, would be unable to retain custody of the couple's twin sons if she left the country. As noted in a May 26, 1954 Daily Variety article, "about 2,500 Zulus" were used as extras, although "none of the pic's regular players made the trip." According to September Hollywood Reporter news items, additional exteriors were shot on location at Fox's Century Ranch in Southern California's Santa Monica Mountains.
Information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library reveals that the first studio to submit a synopsis of Moray's novel to the PCA for approval was M-G-M, on February 6, 1950. In response, the PCA pronounced the story unacceptable and called it a "glorification of illicit love." On February 17, 1953, Fox submitted a first draft of its Untamed screenplay and was also informed that the script could not be approved because it was "a story of illicit sex and bastardy, told without the compensating moral values required by the Production Code." After numerous meetings between Fox and the Breen office, the PCA decided that if the film had "an element of tragedy in the ending," such as the death or near-death of "young Paul," as well as a definite "self-marriage" between "Paul" and "Katie," the story could be approved.
The studio and Breen office continued to have conflicts over the story, until finally, on November 23, 1954, a code seal was issued to Fox "on the understanding that the pic released will be as re-reviewed and approved by us on 2 November 1954." On November 24, 1954, however, Fox sent the PCA a letter stating that "in an effort to strengthen the ending of Untamed, we have re-shot the last two scenes." Although the studio stated that the "meaning is the same in both cases and the dialogue is similar," it has not been determined what the exact differences were, or which ending was used in the finished film. The viewed print contained no indication of a "self-marriage" between Paul and Katie. On May 20, 1956, a New York Times article announced that Untamed had been banned in India for "presenting `disparaging' impressions of life in Africa."