Cast & Crew
In East Africa, British deputy Andrew Barnes and his assistant Eli are visited by hunter Pat Gilroy, who asks Andy to bring him to the nearest village where he can hire native guides. Their discussion is interrupted by a radio message from the Commissioner in Nairobi, informing Andy that the last hunting expedition, consisting of Professor Catesby, two Americans and Pedro Sebastian, a native guide, has been missing for days. Meanwhile, Bomba, a young white man who has been reared in the jungle, is saving Pedro's daughter Lita and her servant from a lion attack. After he wrestles the lion to the ground, Lita thanks him and explains that they are searching for her father. Bomba decides to accompany them and has his chimp friend, Kimbbo, send a message throughout the jungle asking for information. He then hears a drum message from Eli, who is also looking for more information about the missing men. Bomba drums back that he is bringing Lita to Chief Nomgola's village to look for clues, but when they reach the village, they find only the dead bodies of Professor Catesby, Nomgola and several natives. Just as the chimps return to inform Bomba that they have located the hunting party, one of the Americans, Greg, spots Bomba and Lita. After Greg grabs Lita and shoots her servant, Bomba escapes into the river. He then drums a quick S.O.S signal to Andy and Eli and follows Greg and Lita. While Eli translates the signal, Andy finds a wanted poster that reveals that Gilroy is actually notorious diamond smuggler Roy de Haven. De Haven, seeing the poster, immediately forces Andy to sail him to Nomgola, and although Andy lies to Eli that everything is fine, Eli deduces something is wrong and follows the pair. In the jungle, Bomba rescues Lita, who leads him to a nearby crater where her father recently discovered diamonds. There, they see that Greg and the other American, Hardy, have enslaved Pedro and Nomgola's tribe and are forcing them to mine the crater for diamonds. They watch as Greg returns to the site and informs Hardy that they must leave because an indestructible jungle boy is after them, but Hardy refuses to go until de Haven meets them, as planned, to help smuggle the diamonds. Although Greg guards the mouth to the crater, Bomba slips inside via a secret underwater entrance. As soon as he dives into the water, however, Greg captures Lita and brings her to Pedro. Later that night, when Hardy finally allows his slaves to rest in the cave, Bomba attacks him, and although Kimbbo throws rocks at Greg to keep him at bay, Hardy overpowers and imprisons Bomba. In the morning, Bomba frees himself and the others, but just as he escapes, Greg and Hardy deliberately start a landslide which traps everyone else in the cave. While Pedro leads the slaves in an attempt to dig their way through the cave wall, Bomba watches Greg and Hardy race into the jungle. By swinging on vines and swimming through river short cuts, Bomba overcomes the two Americans just as they find a motor boat on the riverbank. He jumps on board and struggles with Hardy. At the same time, Andy and de Haven appear around the bend of the river, followed by Eli. Eli attacks de Haven, allowing Andy to shoot Greg. After Bomba knocks out Hardy, the three smugglers are rounded up on one boat, to be brought to the Commissioner. Pedro and Lita, safely out of the cave, join the party, but when Lita turns to thank Bomba, she finds that he has already slipped back to the jungle.
Robert "smoki" Whitfield
Woodrow Wilson Strode
Edward Morey Jr.
Lester A. Sansom
Allen K. Wood
Born on April 11, 1931, and winner of a national contest to find a surrogate son for Tarzan, child actor Johnny Sheffield aged from 7 to 16 while playing "Boy" to Johnny Weissmuller's King of the Apes. (Sheffield's audition entailed a swim test with "Big John" in the pool of the Hollywood Athletic Club.) In 1949, Sheffield was invited to the "Poverty Row" offices of the Monogram Picture Corporation at the behest of fledgling film producer Walter Mirisch, who had acquired the rights to the Bomba novels, and studio head Samuel "Steve" Broidy, who okayed Sheffield to play Bomba (Swahili for "small package"). The shift of the Tarzan series from MGM to RKO had entailed an appreciable loss of prestige and wherewithal for those involved and it would be another step down in quality for the Bomba films, which were conceived around existing stock footage. Nonetheless, the series proved successful enough to spawn eleven sequels to Bomba, the Jungle Boy (1949), the last of them released in 1955.
Produced mid-series, African Treasure (1952) finds Bomba protecting his white and native friends from a gang of gem smugglers. Par for the course for the budget-conscious series, interiors were filmed on cramped Monogram soundstages, with location footage captured at Hollywood's Bronson Canyon and on the Iverson Ranch in nearby Chatsworth. African Treasure was written and directed by Ford Beebe, who stayed with the series from beginning to end. Director and star worked well together through six years of continuous production, with Beebe crediting Sheffield's professionalism by bestowing upon him the nickname "One Take Johnny."
Appearing briefly in African Treasure is Woody Strode, then a former decathlete and UCLA All American. (At UCLA, Strode attended classes with the niece of Douglas Fairbanks and played ball alongside Jackie Robinson.) Born Woodrow Wilson Woolwine Strode in 1914, Strode is credited with helping to break the "color line" of the National Football League when he was signed by the Los Angeles Rams in 1946. Strode later played for the Canadian Football League and was a professional wrestler before his entry into films. (Strode alleged that the Rams had forced his abdication to the Calgary Stampeders by dumping him after a season due to his interracial marriage to Luana Kalaeloa, a Hawaiian princess.) Of African and Native American decent, Strode's impressive, 6'5" physique and Blackfoot cheekbones won him bits in Hollywood films as African chieftains and imposing domestics. He was pushing 40 when Ford Beebe cast him as a "Native Mail Boy" in African Treasure, a role that provided little more than a paycheck. The LA native's fortunes changed via his association with director John Ford, who cast him as Sergeant Rutledge (1960) and slotted Strode into three more pictures. Strode enjoyed a diverse European career as well, beginning with an immortal cameo in Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). Woody Strode published his memoirs in 1990, four years before his death from lung cancer, at age 80, on New Year's Eve, 1994.
Producer: Walter Mirisch
Director: Ford Beebe
Screenplay: Ford Beebe (screenplay and story); Roy Rockwood (based upon his "Bomba Books")
Cinematography: Harry Neumann
Art Direction: Martin Obzina
Music: Raoul Kraushaar
Film Editing: Bruce Schoengarth
Cast: Johnny Sheffield (Bomba), Laurette Luez (Lita Sebastian), Leonard Mudie (Andy Barnes), Arthur Space (Greg), Lane Bradford (Hardy), Martin Garralaga (Pedro Sebastian), Lyle Talbot (Roy DeHaven, alias Pat Gilroy), Robert 'Smoki' Whitfield (Eli), Kimbbo the Chimp (Bomba's Chimp).
by Richard Harland Smith
"Bomba Speaks: An Interview with Johnny Sheffield," by Matt Winans (1997), www.tarzanmovieguide.com
Print the Legend: The Life and Times of John Ford by Scott Eyman (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001)
Goal Dust: The Warm and Candid Memoirs of a Pioneer Black Athlete and Actor by Woody Strode with Sam Young (Madison Books, 1993)
The opening title card reads: "African Treasure, starring Bomba, the Jungle Boy." According to a February 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item, the film was shot on location in Bronson Canyon in Hollywood and at the Iverson Ranch in Chatsworth, CA. For more information on the Bomba series, please consult the Series Index and see the entry for Bomba, the Jungle Boy in the AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50.