Untamed


1h 51m 1955

Brief Synopsis

When the great potato famine hits Ireland, the diaspora begins as thousands emigrate. Among those leaving the Emerald Isle is Katie O'Neill and her husband, who decide that the promised land is South Africa and make their way there. Once there, they discover the hardships that are the reality of the homesteader experience. To complicate matters, Katie meets up with the love of her life, Paul van Riebeck. Will there be betrayal on the veldt?

Film Details

Also Known As
Katie Called Katje
Release Date
Mar 1955
Premiere Information
World premiere in Miami, FL: 1 Mar 1955; New York opening: 11 Mar 1955
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Cape Town,South Africa; Durban,South Africa; Santa Monica Mountains--Century Ranch, California, United States; Valley of the Thousand Hills, Natal Province, South Africa; Ireland
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Untamed by Helga Moray (New York, 1950).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 51m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.55 : 1
Film Length
9,959ft (14 reels)

Synopsis

In 1847, South African Paul Van Riebeck travels to County Limerick, Ireland to buy horses from Squire O'Neill for his commando group that is fighting to establish a Dutch Free State in land controlled by the fierce Zulus. Paul is immediately attracted to O'Neill's fiery daughter Katie, who returns his affections, despite the fact that both are stubborn and proud. Katie is annoyed, however, that Paul, who calls her by the South African diminutive Katje, talks only about his duties toward his country. After a ball hosted by the O'Neills, Paul embraces Katie, and his passionate kisses make her believe that he will stay. The next day, Paul announces his intention to return to South Africa alone, and although Katie pleads with him to take her along, Paul maintains that she is too refined to survive the rough life he endures in the untamed environment of South Africa. After Paul departs, O'Neill dies and the potato blight sweeps through the country, impoverishing everyone. Katie marries her good-hearted neighbor, Shawn Kildare, and, remembering Paul's advice to find "a more merciful land," convinces Shawn to start a new life in South Africa. Their son Terrance is born during the long sea voyage to Cape Town, and upon their arrival, they learn that the other settlers are making an 800-mile trek to the Hoffen Valley, a burgeoning farming community. Katie is especially pleased to hear that Paul's commandos are to escort the travelers through the dangerous Zulu country, and persuades Shawn to join the trek. The leaders of the group, Oom Simon Hout and his son Kurt, are wary of Shawn's inexperience, but Kurt, who desires Katie, helps them. Upon arriving at the river where they are to meet Paul, Kurt is puzzled by Paul's absence, and grows concerned when every Zulu village they pass is inhabited only by women and children. Soon after, one of the scouts reports the nearby presence of a massive Zulu war party, and the settlers prepare for battle. Although they are equipped only with spears, the warriors greatly outnumber the settlers and claim many lives, including Shawn. Just when it appears that they are doomed, the group is rescued by the arrival of Paul and his commandos, whose ferocious fighting overwhelms the Zulus. Paul is surprised to see Katie, but over the next few weeks, as the wagon train continues its journey, keeps his distance because he believes that Kurt is courting her. Katie ignores Kurt's overtures, however, and one evening, plainly tells Paul that she has always loved him. Kurt grimly keeps watch, waiting for the couple to emerge from the forest, and the next morning, accuses them both of lying to him. Paul tries to reason with his friend but is forced to fight him in a duel with bullwhips. Paul wins and soon settles with Katie in the Hoffen Valley, where they blissfully build a house and begin farming. After three months, however, Christian, Paul's lieutenant, tells him that his men need him, and Paul leaves, infuriating and wounding Katie. Knowing that she cannot manage alone, Katie flirts with Kurt, inducing him to help her work the farm with promises that someday they will be together. Kurt labors diligently, although he knows that Katie still loves Paul, and one stormy evening, attempts to rape her when she refuses to allow him to cut down a tree that symbolizes her union with Paul. Lightning splits the tree in two, pinning Kurt to the ground and crushing his leg, which then must be amputated. Despite the destruction of her farm, Katie continues and soon bears Paul's child, a son she names Paul. Katie begins selling her furnishings to local natives in exchange for gold nuggets, and strikes it rich when one brings her a fist-sized diamond. Moving to Cape Town, Katie and her sons buy Abend Bloem, Paul's grand, ancestral home, although her wealth does not prevent Katie from being lonely. It does buy her influence, however, and two years later, when the Dutch are finally granted their free state by the British government, Paul comes to Cape Town to petition the governor to allow them representation on the national assembly. The governor refuses to see Paul until they "accidentally" meet at a ball hosted by Katie, and the cunning Irishwoman persuades the governor to agree to meet with Paul the next day. Following the meeting, Paul visits Katie at Abend Bloem, and after spending an idyllic day with her, learns that young Paul is his son. Upset that Katie did not tell him sooner, Paul lashes out at her and, after the couple quarrel, storms away. Katie gradually loses her fortune and is forced to pack up her sons and join the search for gold in the rough towns of the frontier. She heads for Kolesburg, despite warnings that it has been taken over by outlaws, and is distraught to find that Kurt has become the outlaws' leader and is ruthlessly destroying town after town. Kurt taunts Katie, telling her that he at least would have married her and kept her "decent" if she had been truthful with him, then locks her and the children in a house while he awaits the arrival of soldiers coming to avenge the mayor's death. The men are led by Paul, and Kurt looks forward to killing his rival. Paul's commandos outwit and outfight the outlaws, however, and soon Kurt is reduced to taking young Paul hostage. Unable to harm Katie's child, Kurt returns the boy to her, and is about to shoot the now-unarmed Paul when Paul's faithful servant, Tschaka, kills him with a spear. Paul then tells Katie that he had come to Cape Town not only to see the governor but to marry her, and after he slips a wedding band on her finger, the couple vows to start a new life in the Hoffen Valley.

Film Details

Also Known As
Katie Called Katje
Release Date
Mar 1955
Premiere Information
World premiere in Miami, FL: 1 Mar 1955; New York opening: 11 Mar 1955
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Cape Town,South Africa; Durban,South Africa; Santa Monica Mountains--Century Ranch, California, United States; Valley of the Thousand Hills, Natal Province, South Africa; Ireland
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Untamed by Helga Moray (New York, 1950).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 51m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.55 : 1
Film Length
9,959ft (14 reels)

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

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."

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Spring March 1955

CinemaScope

Released in United States Spring March 1955