Cast & Crew
Upon the murder of a police agent in Tangiers, North Africa, the international police assemble to plan how to break the notorious contraband ring that they hold responsible for the agent's murder and many others. The group approves the suggestion of the United States representative Mr. Farrell to assign the case to a female former OSS agent whose identity will be known only to Farrell. The agent, Joanna "Jo" Dane, arrives in Tangiers, where she is spotted by smuggler Van Logan, who follows her to the Ritz Hotel. After checking in, Jo meets with Farrell, who advises her to frequent Ali Baba's bazaar and Frisco's Bar, where her only contact will be the Moorish doorman. Moments after Jo leaves Farrell, he is murdered and Jo becomes suspicious of Van, who breaks into her room shortly thereafter. When Jo tells Van she is looking for work, he recommends she try Frisco's Bar. Later that evening after secretly telling the Moor about Farrell's murder, Jo is surprised to learn that Frisco is a woman, but impresses the bar owner with her card dealing ability and gets a job. Van arrives at the bar later and admits to Jo that he uses his boat to transport items abroad, but does not consider himself a smuggler. French smuggler Paul Dupont asks Van to introduce him to Jo, but Frisco privately cautions Jo to stay away from Dupont. Later that evening, a confederate of Dupont's, Augie, gets involved in a brief brawl with Van and his assistant Danny until Dupont orders him away. The following day Van, distrustful of Jo, takes her to a scent shop in Ali Baba's bazaar, but the shop's owner and Van's cohort, Mustapha, later reveals he has no information on Jo's identity. Convinced that Dupont could be the lead she needs, Jo flirts with him the next night at Frisco's, and, despite another warning from Frisco, persuades him that she might be helpful in selling smuggled goods on his trip to Spain. The next morning, Van and Danny are surprised and upset when Dupont and Jo arrive at the dock and Dupont insists that Van transport the couple to Malaga on board Van's boat, the Banshee . Mustapha, working for the syndicate head, learns that the Banshee 's shipment from French Morocco has been hijacked by Dupont and orders Augie to pursue him. The Banshee breaks down at sea, allowing Augie and the crew of the Narcissus to catch them. After Augie's men transfer the Banshee 's cargo aboard their boat, Van makes a reckless get-away on the repaired Banshee , taking Jo and Dupont to Port of Spain. Before arriving, Van warns Jo to drop Dupont, but although attracted to Van and worried about Dupont, she refuses. Later with Dupont, Jo feigns displeasure that he no longer has any cargo to sell. Dupont then reveals that he has a key to a box that contains crucial information on the smuggling syndicate and is negotiating with several counties for the sale of the key. Having eavesdropped on the couple, Danny reports this news to Van, who then demands a cut of the sale. After docking, Dupont plants illegal goods on Van, who is stopped at customs, while Dupont and Jo depart unimpeded. Van is interrogated by the local police, but escapes and meets Danny at a prearranged spot, where his partner informs him of Jo and Dupont's location. Dupont decides to drive to Malaga alone to escape possible detection, and when Jo complains that he does not trust her, he gives her the key, but not the location of the box. Before Dupont can leave, however, he is murdered by Augie, who then chases Jo, before she manages to escape. While attempting to flee in Dupont's rented car, Jo is surprised by Van, who demands the key, which Jo pretends not to have. When Van finds the key in her purse and refuses to return it, Jo shoots him and escapes. Wearing a bulletproof vest, Van is soon revived by two British tourists, Pebbles and Potts, who help him return to town. After hastily returning to Tangiers, Jo learns by accident that Dupont's key fits an American Express box, but on her way to their offices, is pursued again by Augie. Jo then heads to Frisco's for sanctuary and passes the key on to the Moor. Once inside the bar, however, Jo realizes that Augie works for Frisco, who is revealed as the head of the contraband syndicate. Meanwhile Van, who is really a police agent, returns from Spain and reports to the police group, who have just received the key from the Moor. Van is shocked to learn that Jo is the other agent on the case and hastens to Frisco's knowing she is in danger. Augie, believing that Jo still has the key, refuses to kill her on Frisco's order and instead shoots the bar owner and kidnaps Jo. Before dying, Frisco manages to tell Van about Augie's hideout. Augie takes Jo to a mountain cave, where they are confronted by the police, including Danny and Van. Danny is killed and Van kills Augie and rescues Jo. Outside the cave, Van is surprised to find Pebbles and Potts, who reveal their identities as British police agents also following Van and Jo, who are now free to express their feelings for each other.
A. S. Bates
M. J. Frankovich
A. H. Rule
Fire Over Africa
When the cameras began rolling on Fire Over Africa in mid-November 1953, Maureen O'Hara was 33 years old, divorced from her second husband and engaged in an ugly custody battle over her 9 year-old daughter. She had come a long way since her days as a £1-a-performance player on Dublin's Radio Éireann. Brought to America at 19 to be Esmeralda to Charles Laughton's The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), O'Hara racked up an impressive resume over the next fifteen years. If she had come to Fire Over Africa with little enthusiasm, the assignment would prove invaluable a few years later. In 1957, the tabloid Confidential ran a story claiming that O'Hara was once caught engaged in sexual shenanigans at Grauman's Chinese Theater during a showing of Ben Hur (1959). O'Hara sued and the subsequent court case became a media circus. The "Queen of Technicolor" was able to prove that she could not have been so engaged on the dates alleged by the scandal sheet because she was in Spain filming Fire Over Africa and had the visa stamps to prove it. O'Hara's victory, court fines and libel suits totaling $28,000,000 put Confidential to bed permanently by February of 1958.
Fire Over Africa producer Frankovich was the adopted son of wide-mouthed comic Joe E. Brown. An All-American quarterback in his days at UCLA, he later entered the entertainment business post-college as a radio commentator and producer. By 1930, Frankovich was making himself useful in Hollywood as a technical advisor on sports films, in addition to working as an editor, a production manager and an assistant director. He played bits in films (Buck Privates , Meet John Doe ), often as radio and sports announcers. Frankovich got his start as a film producer with Republic Pictures. His wartime experience as a pilot with the Army Air Corps in Europe would serve him well in his postwar career as an independent film producer abroad. As he had on the literary costumer Decameron Nights (1953), Frankovich split principal photography of Fire Over Africa between Spain and London.
Growing up in New York, Richard Sale, the film's director, had set his heart on becoming a writer and sold his first magazine story at the tender age of 12. As a pulp writer-for-hire, Sale banged out hundreds of novels and short stories that he sold to magazines such as Argosy and Detective Tales. He began contributing to the Hollywood screenplay mill by the mid-1930s. In 1940, his novel Not Too Narrow, Not Too Deep was adapted for the Republic production Strange Cargo, starring Clark Gable and Joan Crawford. During World War II, he served as a Navy correspondent for The Saturday Evening Post. While Sale's film scripts were mostly dramas and thrillers most notably Suddenly (1954) with Frank Sinatra and Abandon Ship! (aka Seven Waves Away, 1957) with Tyrone Power his métier as a director was light entertainment. Sale took on Fire Over Africa between the frothy Fox musicals The Girl Next Door (1953) and Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (1955). Sale is also infamous as the author of the trashy bestseller, The Oscar, which became a legendary bad movie classic.
As for Fire Over Africa's screenwriter Robert Westerby, he specialized in tales of intrigue on the Dark Continent. Cairo Road (1950) followed Egyptian cops Eric Portman and Laurence Harvey on their mission to ankle narcotics traffickers while South of Algiers (1953) pitted archeologist Van Heflin against plunderers in the hunt for a priceless ceremonial mask.
Producer: M.J. Frankovich, Colin Lesslie
Director: Richard Sale
Screenplay: Robert Westerby
Cinematography: Christopher Challis
Film Editing: Bert Bates
Art Direction: Vincent Korda, Wilfred Shingleton
Music: Benjamin Frankel
Cast: Maureen O'Hara (Joanna Dana), Macdonald Carey (Van Logan), Binnie Barnes (Frisco), Guy Middleton (Soames Howard), Hugh McDermott (Richard Farrell), James O'Hara (Danny Boy).
by Richard Harland Smith
'Tis Herself: An Autobiography by Maureen O'Hara with John Nicoletti
The Pulp Jungle by Philip Gruber
The Film Encyclopedia by Ephraim Katz
Time, "The High Price of Virtue," May 1958
Fire Over Africa
The working titles of this film were Port of Spain and Malaga. According to a September 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item, Tony Bartley and Philip Yordan were to write the screenplay, but their contribution to the final film, if any, has not been determined. The same item also notes that Errol Flynn and Indian actress Nimmi were considered for starring roles in the film, which was to be shot in Morocco and Kenya. The film was actually shot on location in England and Spain. An October 1954 Variety item indicates the film has "authentic background settings of Tangiers," but there is no other indication that any part of the film was shot there. Hollywood Reporter production charts list Kieron Moore and Meinhart Maur in the cast, but their participation in the finished film has not been confirmed. The same source lists Colin Lesslie and Montagu Marks as producing with M. J. Frankovich, but the extent of their participation in the film has not been determined. Actor James Lilburn was listed as "James" in the opening credits, but "Jim" in the closing credits.
Released in United States Fall October 1954
Released in United States Fall October 1954