King Solomon's Mines
Cast & Crew
In Africa, in 1897, white hunter Allan Quatermain forswears his lifelong search for adventure after losing his native guide in an elephant stampede. His vow is soon broken, however, when he meets Englishwoman Elizabeth Curtis, who persuades him to take her and her brother John Goode on a dangerous expedition into the continent's interior to find her missing husband Henry. As Allan needs money to send to his son in England, he accepts Elizabeth's offer of five thousand English pounds to lead the safari. As his only clue to Henry's whereabouts, Allan is given a crude, four-hundred -year-old map to King Solomon's diamond mines, Henry's destination. From the outset, Allan questions Elizabeth's motives, but his first theory, that she must find Henry's body to claim his inheritance money, proves false when he learns that she is wealthy. The expedition moves slowly toward its first goal, Kalawanna village, an area not visited by a white man in more than five years. When a violent stampede of zebras, giraffes and other wild animals forces the expedition members to take cover, Elizabeth and Allan fall into an accidental embrace. As time passes, a mild but contentious romance between Elizabeth and Allan begins to flourish. Just before approaching Kalawanna, Allan's native escorts encounter a Kalawanna rattle snake, which they know to be a bad omen, and they flee. Elizabeth and John are Allan's only remaining companions until a mysterious and silent native asks to join them. When the four enter the eerie village of Kalawanna, they are immediately taken by the villagers to Kalawanna's only white man, the sinister Smith, who tells them that he met Henry one year earlier. Allan suddenly remembers that Smith is wanted for cannibalistic murder, and realizing that Smith has no intention of letting them get out alive, he quickly overpowers him and forces him to instruct his army of natives to let them leave. Allan takes Smith hostage to ensure their safe passage, and when Smith tries to escape, Allan shoots him. During a brutal desert passage Allan and Elizabeth find the handle of Henry's rifle, and Allan suspects that Henry is dead. Elizabeth then confesses to Allan that she is searching for Henry as a form of penance for not loving her husband enough and running out on him. Later Allan discovers that their mysterious African companion is a Watusi king returning to claim the kingdom that was stolen from him. Upon entering the Watusi village, the reigning king shows Allan, John and Elizabeth the direction of King Solomon's Mines. The rebel king's apparent hospitality is short-lived, however, as some of his men follow Allan and the others and set off a rockslide to trap them. After discovering a human skull in the mines, the three believe the situation to be hopeless until they discover a passageway to freedom. Allan, John and Elizabeth return to the Watusi village in time to witness the rightful king win his kingdom back from the rebels in a battle. They then begin their journey home.
Corp. Munto Anampio
Mrs. Armand Denis
Conrad A. Nervig
Edwin B. Willis
Ralph E. Winters
King Solomon's Mines (1950)
Quartermain was based on Haggard himself, who spent many years in Africa in the late 19th century as a gentleman hunter-explorer. His novel was a great success in a Western world fascinated with the mysterious "Dark Continent." The earliest known film version is a 1919 South African production, but the more famous early version is British studio Gaumont's 1937 take starring Sir Cedric Hardwicke. In 1950, MGM mounted a lavish Technicolor remake, complete with A-level production values, a huge $3.5 million budget, and a popular British star, Stewart Granger, making his American debut opposite Deborah Kerr. (Errol Flynn had been MGM's first choice, but he opted to make Kim instead.) Much of the budget for King Solomon's Mines went toward the location expenses - Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and the Belgian Congo. The result was a thrilling adventure with fantastic footage of landscapes and wildlife including pythons, tigers, rhinos, and crocodiles - not to mention a lengthy, thundering stampede of various animals which is easily the highlight of the picture.
Not unlike The African Queen, which would be made the next year, King Solomon's Mines was a tough and uncomfortable picture to shoot. Filming in Africa was a very rare thing at the time; this was the first Hollywood feature to do so since MGM's Trader Horn (1931), and the logistical requirements were massive. For example, 60,000 pounds of equipment had to be shipped to Mombasa, including seven specially constructed trucks and a snowplow, since some footage was to be shot on 17,000-foot Mt. Kenya. Filmstock was flown from Hollywood to Africa and back in custom-designed, refrigerated cans that kept the film at a constant 50-degree temperature. Re-icing stations were set up along the way in New York, the Azores, Dakar (in Senegal), Leopoldville (in the Belgian Congo), and Johannesburg (in South Africa).
On the set, cast and crew suffered from stifling heat, dysentery, malaria, fever, snakes and tsetse flies. The most bizarre danger, however, came from the indigenous Masai tribal members who were performing in the film. For one sequence, the Masai chiefs lifted the ban on ancient ceremonial dances so the film unit could observe their old war rituals. Five hundred warriors got so wound up chanting, dancing and screaming for two days, that they went berserk and began actually hurling their spears at the westerners. Deborah Kerr scrambled high up a tree for safety. Eventually calmer heads prevailed, but seven spears found their way into the camera case!
King Solomon's Mines carries two directing credits: Compton Bennett and Andrew Marton. According to several accounts, it's fair to say that Bennett began the film, that Marton took over about halfway through, and that the latter is responsible for most of the thrilling action scenes. Co-star Richard Carlson, in an interview years later, matter-of-factly summed up the reason for this: "Compton Bennett was not the right director for an action film. He was a 'drawing-room' director." Stewart Granger agreed. Upon learning from producer Sam Zimbalist that Bennett was directing, he later wrote, "I kept my mouth shut. How could I tell him what I knew, that James Mason and producer Sydney Box had directed The Seventh Veil  and all Bennett had done was to say 'action' and 'cut,' after being given his instructions by those two. Unfortunately for everyone involved, I said nothing."
On the other hand, it was fortunate for everyone involved that the film's 2nd-unit director was the experienced Andrew Marton. After the first couple of weeks' rushes caused concern with studio executives, Marton was entrusted with making sure the wildlife and action scenes were exceptional. Marton did so well that when the crew returned to Hollywood to finish production, he took over the directing reigns completely and officially. He would go on to direct more of his own films but is best remembered today for his further 2nd-unit work on big action films and epics - most famously Ben-Hur (1959), for which he shot the chariot sequence. On King Solomon's Mines, Marton worked so effectively with director of photography Robert Surtees that the cinematographer was rewarded with an Academy Award®. (The movie also won Best Editing and was nominated for Best Picture.) Indeed, while King Solomon's Mines was a solid commercial hit, critics saved their praise solely for the technical aspects: "What makes this a socko piece of escapist entertainment," said Variety, "is the authenticity it gains by being filmed on the actual locale. The camera brings Africa to life in the breathtaking beauty of color. The setting is alive with beauty and menace."
Up to now, Stewart Granger had already achieved success in England, playing romantic leads in a line of melodramas, but this, the actor's first film under his new MGM contract, made him an outright Hollywood star. (Granger took it in stride. "To me, acting is torture," he said.) Deborah Kerr, of course, was another English star who had achieved American stardom and in fact was one of the highest-paid actresses at MGM. Cameraman Surtees said of Kerr, "she acts with her eyes more than anyone else I've worked with." Kerr and Granger created enough romantic sparks here that MGM would pair them again on The Prisoner of Zenda (1952) and Young Bess (1953).
So many miles of film were shot for this production that some footage would be used again in other Africa-set pictures for years to come, starting with Watusi (1959), a cut-rate B-movie imitation produced by Sam Zimbalist's cousin Al. Other "thieves" included Tarzan. the Ape Man (1959), Drums of Africa (1963), Trader Horn (1973 remake) and the disastrous 1985 remake of King Solomon's Mines itself, starring Richard Chamberlain and Sharon Stone. Yet another version of Haggard's famous tale will hit American television as a miniseries in June, 2004, starring Patrick Swayze as Quartermain. It, too, was filmed in Africa.
Producer: Sam Zimbalist
Director: Compton Bennett, Andrew Marton
Screenplay: Helen Deutsch, H. Rider Haggard (novel)
Cinematography: Robert Surtees
Film Editing: Conrad A. Nervig, Ralph E. Winters
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Paul Groesse
Music: Mischa Spoliansky
Cast: Stewart Granger (Allan Quartermain), Deborah Kerr (Elizabeth Curtis), Richard Carlson (John Goode), Hugo Haas (Van Brun), Lowell Gilmore (Eric Masters), Kimursi (Khiva).
C-103m. Closed captioning.
by Jeremy Arnold
King Solomon's Mines (1950)
The onscreen credits at the begining of this film feature the following acknowledgment: "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is grateful beyond measure to the government officials of: Tanganyika, Uganda Protectorate, Kenya Colony and Protectorate [and] Belgian Congo, whose limitless cooperation made this motion picture possible." This picture marked actor Stewart Granger's American film debut. The Variety review notes that the Africans who appeared in the film were natives "recruited on the spot" in Africa. A 1952 New York Times article noted that the picture was the first major film to be shot almost entirely on location in Africa since M-G-M's 1931 film Trader Horn (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.4726). The article also noted that the elephant stampede sequence in the film was reshot in Hollywood using a trained elephant, as the footage of the actual stampede in Africa was lost when the cast and crew of the film fled from the deadly rush of the animals. According to February 1950 New York Times news item, filmmaker and explorer Armand Denis and his wife, who were in Africa acting as technical advisors on the picture, suffered injuries requiring plastic surgery when their car hit a hartebeast.
M-G-M studio publicity material indicates that filming took place at the following locations in Africa: Murchison Falls in Uganda; Astrida, "the land of giant Watusis"; Volcano Country and Stanleyville in Belgian Congo; Tanganyika; and Rumuruti and Machakos in Kenya. The company used Nairobi, Kenya as its location headquarters. A January 1950 Daily Variety news item announced that M-G-M planned to dub the film in twenty-eight different languages. According to a biography of Deborah Kerr, Kerr landed her role in the film almost inadvertently when she expressed her wish to play the part of "Rose" in C. S. Forester's The African Queen to M-G-M production chief Dore Schary. Schary told her that Warner Bros. had the rights to The African Queen, but that he had a starring role for her in another African-set story that M-G-M owned. King Solomon's Mines received Academy Awards in the categories of Cinematography and Film Editing. The picture was also nominated for an Oscar in the Best Picture category.
Other films based on H. Rider Haggard's novel include: the 1936 British film King Solomon's Mines, directed by Robert Stevenson and Geoffrey Barkas and starring Paul Robeson and Cedric Hardwicke. In 1959, M-G-M released a film entitled Watusi, that was loosely based on Haggard's novel. That film was directed by Kurt Neumann and starred George Montgomery, Taina Elg and Rex Ingram. Reviews of the 1959 film indicate that M-G-M used some footage of the earlier film for Watusi. Modern sources indicate that leftover footage from its 1950 film was also used in the 1977 Canadian-British film King Solomon's Treasure. Another film based on Haggard's Allan Quatermain is the 1987 Cannon release Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold, which was filmed concurrently with its 1985 King Solomon's Mines and also starred Chamerlain and Stone. Deborah Kerr and Stewart Granger reprised their film roles for a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast on December 1, 1952.