KING SOLOMON’S MINES—-Real Man bwana Stewart Granger, as ‘Allan Quartermain’, leads the classic safari through ‘Darkest Africa’ in this still enjoyable 1950 adventure. To say that the doings are familiar is no cut, because it’s a comfortable kick-back armchair fantasy: go where few have gone, look good doing it, rescue a lovely maiden, outrun some creatures. Don’t forget the rifle. *
There had been other Africa-set adventures, reaching back to the silents, with the first actually filmed there being 1931’s hazard-plagued Trader Horn. Three years before this, Gregory Peck ventured into Hemingway territory with the enjoyable The Macomber Affair, but it was in black & white, shot in Mexico. This was Technicolor, on location in The Congo, Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika (along with some excusable cheating in New Mexico, Carlsbad Caverns subbing for the mines of the title).
Granger, 37 in his Hollywood debut, incarnates the ‘Great White Hunter’ and Deborah Kerr, 29, is her usual bewitching self. With her screenplay adaptation of H.Rider Haggard’s 1885 novel, Helen Deutsch allowed for some good banter between the stars, whose off-screen fling added some pepper to salt. Not swooned by the thespians? Look to the surroundings: all the wildlife you could wish for, including the famous stampede sequence (copied/honored/swiped for Jurassic Park), still a thrill. Then there’s the wonderful Watusi.
Director Andrew Marton expended $2,258,000 and brought ’em back alive with a hit, the second most popular film of the year (couldn’t spoil things for Cinderella), grossing $9,955,000, winning Robert L. Surtees an Oscar for his Cinematography, and nominations for Best Picture and Film Editing.
102 minutes, with Richard Carlson, Hugo Haas, Lowell Gilmore, Siriaque, Kimursi, Sekaryongo and Baziga. Avoid the abysmal 1985 remake like bilharzia.
Granger: “I made “King Solomon’s Mines” and I became popular because Quartermain was a mysterious man with a leopard skin around his hat. It was Africa romantic. Deborah Kerr and I made love up a tree. I said to Deborah — I had a six month affair with her — that we should never have come down from that tree.”
- * The term “Darkest Africa” originated with Henry Morton Stanley’s melodramatic account of his 1888 marathon through the jungle to rescue Emin Pasha. For a great fictional read on that awful journey, I’d go for “The Last Hero” by Peter Forbath.