Navigation – Plan du site

AccueilNuméros18.12. Another Vision of Empire. Henr...I/ Haggard’s projections of colon...King Solomon’s Mines on film: mod...

2. Another Vision of Empire. Henry Rider Haggard’s Modernity and Legacy
I/ Haggard’s projections of colonial space

King Solomon’s Mines on film: modernity in reverse?

Stephen COAN

Résumés

À ce jour, quatre longs métrages ayant pour titre King Solomon’s Mines ont été réalisés et chacun d’eux s’inspirent directement du roman d’aventure victorien écrit par Haggard en 1885. Plusieurs autres films portant des titres différents se sont également ouvertement réclamés de ce roman ou bien de sa suite Allan Quatermain. Même si la fidélité au texte d’origine ne devrait pas être l’unique critère pour évaluer le mérite d’un film, il est intéressant de constater que seule la première version de King Solomon’s Mines tournée en Afrique du Sud en 1918 a retenu l’histoire d’amour interraciale qui figure dans le roman de Haggard. Les versions suivantes ont ajouté un personnage féminin inventé de toute pièce pour en faire l’intérêt romantique majeur du héros du roman, Allan Quatermain ou bien de son compagnon d’aventures Sir Henry Curtis. Ceci est également vrai pour la dernière version sortie en 2004 avec Patrick Swayze et Alison Doody dans les rôles principaux. Le fait que le roman de Haggard (ainsi que le premier film tiré de cet ouvrage trente-trois ans plus tard) comporte une histoire d’amour entre un homme blanc et une femme noire pourrait sans doute sembler surprenant si l’on considère les préjugés raciaux de l’époque. Mais une telle histoire d’amour devrait paraître moins problématique de nos jours. Or, il n’en est rien, même dans la première décade du 21e siècle, ce roman nous soumet un exemple étonnant de modernité inversée. Cet article s’interroge sur l’étrange trajectoire des différentes adaptations des King Solomon’s Mines de Haggard.

Haut de page

Entrées d’index

Haut de page

Texte intégral

1How have film makers responded to H. Rider Haggard’s novel King Solomon’s Mines? Four of the films bearing this title were either entirely or partially shot in southern Africa and consequently have a place in the cinema history of the sub-continent. Though the films and the methods of their making utilise ‘the visual technology of modernity’ (Tomaselli 1) what they depict is not necessarily ‘modern’ either in intent or content. In the words of film scholar Keyan Tomaselli, South Africa has experienced “a historically fitful, often brutal and chequered entry into modernity” (Tomaselli 1) and in his study Encountering Modernity: Twentieth Century South African Cinemas he cautions that prevailing notions of screen theory and modernity “do not automatically apply … as a feature of modernity in Africa, where the boundaries between pre-modern, modern and postmodern are often indecipherable” (Tomaselli 1). This paper takes a historical-biographical approach to the film versions of Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines in illustrating that statement.

  • 1 The high income of the years 1887 to 1894 coincides with Haggard’s period of greatest creativity. N (...)

2Between 1887 and 1894, Rider Haggard was “perhaps [Britain’s] best-paid writer, when his earnings exceeded £10,000 annually”, according to Philip Waller. “Between 1905 and 1909 these had fallen to a third” (Waller 12).1 Though Haggard still derived a substantial income from his writing, his public service on various Royal Commissions and assorted government committees largely went unpaid apart from expenses and were a considerable drain on his private purse. Consequently, Haggard was always on the qui vive for other potential revenue streams. Initially he thought theatrical adaptations of his books might be the answer. Several of Haggard’s books had been successfully dramatised, including Dawn (as Devil Caresfoot), She, Cleopatra and Jess, but the writers of these adaptations had been the main box office beneficiaries. Why not try his hand at the drama himself? In March 1910 Haggard was in Ireland on his last tour of duty with the Royal Commission on Coast Erosion and Afforestation when his Egyptian romance Morning Star was published. Haggard thought the book “should prove something a little out of the common run” (Addy 19) and while in Ireland he began “amusing myself dramatising Morning Star” (Addy 19). Haggard made no secret that his motives for doing so were mercenary rather than artistic, telling his wife Mariana Louisa nicknamed Louie: “I really wish I could make some money out of it” (Haggard letter 2).

  • 2 For the background to Haggard’s playwriting see Mameena and other plays, The complete dramatic work (...)

3The script of the adaptation, re-titled The Star of Egypt, and the script of To Hell or Connaught (an original play by Haggard set during the Cromwellian occupation of Ireland in the 17th century) were offered to W.B. Yeats for performance at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. Both were rejected.2

  • 3 Asche would recoup his losses with the musical Chu Chin Chow for which he wrote the book and lyrics (...)

4In February 1913 Haggard was in Melbourne, Australia, as a member of the Royal Dominions Commission, when he met the actor-manager Oscar Asche who expressed interest in staging a Zulu play. The outcome was a collaboration on a stage version of Haggard’s novel Child of Storm, retitled Mameena (the Zulu heroine of the tale) which opened in London on 30 September 1914. Britain had been at war with Germany since 12 August. Reviews of Mameena were mixed, though all the critics agreed the innovative visual effects made for an enjoyable spectacle. War-time London with a full blackout was not the best of times to open a new play (Haggard had requested the run be cancelled) and audiences were low in numbers. The run ended on 14 January by when the actors were on half pay and Asche “lost about £8 000” (Asche 159).3

  • 4 A film of Mr. Meeson’s Will, retitled The Grasp of Greed, was made in the United States in 1916. Wh (...)

5The theatre had not proved the money-spinner Haggard hoped for but by the end of World War One his income had “bounced back” (Waller 12): he was receiving £9000 per annum from cinema royalties. The relatively new medium of cinema had come to his rescue. In 1915, H. Lisle Lucoque, an Englishman, the French name notwithstanding, set up Lucoque Films with offices in Wardour Street, Soho. Lucoque negotiated with Haggard’s literary agent Alexander P. Watt to buy the film rights to six of Haggard’s novels over seven years. Lucoque first co-produced and co-directed She (1916) starring French actor Alice Delysia (who made a career in English musical theatre) followed by Dawn in 1917. Haggard’s “comforts thereafter derived as much from this source as his book sales” (Waller 12).4

6In October 1916 Lucoque set a up co-production deal with Isadore William Schlesinger of African Film Productions in Johannesburg to come to South Africa and make films of King Solomon’s Mines and Allan Quatermain “with massive casts and grandiose sets worthy of Italian and recent Hollywood epics” (Parsons 136) - namely Giovanni Pastrone’s ground-breaking epic silent film Cabiria (1914), featuring “gigantic sets” which “established a benchmark for epic filmmaking in the years to come” (Cousins 48) and was a key influence on D.W. Griffith’s Babylonian sets for Intolerance (1916) as well as those to be built in South Africa for King Solomon’s Mines and Allan Quatermain.

  • 5 The first custom-made cinema in South Africa was built by Electric Theatres Limited in Durban on 29 (...)

7Despite the South African cinema being “one of the oldest in the world” (Botha 21) as Neil Parsons’s observes, “cinema histories usually omit all mention of drama or fiction films … made in Africa during the silent era” (Parsons ix). Projected films were first shown in South Africa in March 1896 at the Empire Palace of Varieties in Johannesburg managed by Edgar Hyman who went on to shoot short non-fiction films for the Warwick Trading Company of London and was later involved in the making of pro-British propaganda films during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902).5 In 1910, the year the Union of South Africa came into being, uniting the former British colonies of Natal and the Cape with the Afrikaner republics of the Transvaal and Orange Free State, also marks the release of the first feature film made in South Africa, The Great Kimberley Diamond Robbery - two years before Rainey’s African Hunt (1912) “often cited as the first American feature film” (Parsons 13).

  • 6 Stage and Cinema, 21 August 1915, p.12. Quoted in Parsons, p.40.
  • 7 From 1903 onwards Schlesinger’s African Realty Trust developed the new Johannesburg suburbs of Oran (...)
  • 8 Killarney Film Studios were demolished in 1972 by John Schlesinger, Isadore Schlesinger’s son, and (...)

8In 1913 Schlesinger, an American long involved in business in South Africa with interests in insurance, banking, and property, created African Film Productions to produce films “locally on a hitherto undreamt of scale” (Parsons 40).6 Schlesinger built a film studio complex at Killarney, a leafy suburb on the northern periphery of Johannesburg,7 which included “a substantial stonewalled office block, with room for film-processing in its basement, plus open-air studio sets and tented accommodation” (Parsons 41).8 There, Schlesinger began producing feature films, “some of them epic in scope” (Botha 23) such as De Voortrekkers/Winning a Continent (1916) and Symbol of Sacrifice (1918), in the process establishing South Africa as a film making country. Between 1910 and 1925 “as many as 43 features were shot in South Africa” (Botha 23). Film scholar Keyan Tomaselli has described the years between 1916 and 1923 as a “short lived golden age” (Parsons ix) for southern African movie production.

9Lucoque would add to African Film Productions title list, shooting back-to-back productions of King Solomon’s Mines (1918) and Allan Quatermain (1919). English touring actors then performing on the Johannesburg stage were cast in the main roles: Albert Lawrence as Allan Quatermain, Holford Hamlin as Sir Henry Curtis, and Ray Brown as Captain John Good R.N. South African actors Vivien Talleur played Gagool (in heavy makeup and black face) and Bertie Solomon (also in black face) appeared as Foulata. A South African black actor named as Umpikayiboni played King Twala and an unidentified black actor was cast as Umbopa.

10Lucoque was determined on authenticity and apart from shooting on the opulent sets built at Killarney he also went filming on location; later claiming he had travelled 35 000 miles in ‘securing the vital colouring’ (Parsons 123) for the two films. Locations included Victoria Falls, the stone walled ruins of Khami near Bulawayo in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe); Kalkfontein in South West Africa (now Namibia); Durban and Mafeking (now Makaleng) in South Africa, and possibly Swaziland. The elephant hunt sequence (from chapter four of Haggard’s novel) filmed at the Maputo forest in Portuguese East Africa (now Mozambique) was an especially commissioned hunt with a real kill.

  • 9 Haggard named the character Foulata after a servant at Haggard’s South African farm Hilldrop in 188 (...)

11King Solomon’s Mines premiered at the Johannesburg Empire on Christmas Day 1918. Unfortunately the writer of the film’s screenplay is unknown, but of all the film versions of King Solomon’s Mines, this anonymous screenwriter’s is the most faithful to Haggard’s book and particularly notable for including the inter-racial romance between Foulata and Captain John Good which plays out as per the book with Foulata dying in Good’s arms after being stabbed by Gagool in the treasure chamber of the fabled mines (in Haggard’s text telling “her lord that ‘I love him, and that I am glad to die because I know that he cannot cumber his life with such as me, for the sun cannot mate with the darkness, nor the white with the black”’) (Haggard 1992 281).9

12In the book and the film, Foulata’s death is a convenient solution to the racial policies and prejudices of the period and, as such, easy to condemn but given the context of the time that Haggard was writing King Solomon’s Mines – in 1885 – that he was even prepared to countenance, and relate with some sympathy, an inter-racial romance was a daring departure from the norm. All the later film adaptations of King Solomon’s Mines have omitted the Good/Foulata love story by substituting a white woman, usually blonde, as the romantic interest.

13An addition to Haggard’s story in Lucoque’s version was a prologue depicting the visit of King Solomon to the Queen of Sheba. As can be seen in illustrations 1 and 2, the visual inspiration for this scene and its elaborate set was the painting by Royal Academician Edward John Poynter, ‘The visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon’, first exhibited in 1890 and the best known of Poynter’s large scale historical and biblical paintings.

Illustration 1

Illustration 1

‘The visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon’ by Sir Edward John Poynter (1836 - 1919). The scene in this painting (executed in 1890) was recreated in a prologue for the 1918 film of King Solomon’s Mines

Art Gallery of New South Wales, Commons Wikipedia

Illustration 2

Illustration 2

A scene from the prologue of King Solomon’s Mines (1918) based on the painting ‘The visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon’ by Sir Edward John Poynter (1836 - 1919)

Author’s collection

14Haggard first viewed King Solomon’s Mines at the trade screening held in London on 12 May 1919 at the Alhambra cinema in Leicester Square. The cinema was crowded and Haggard was later told by African Films Production staffer, Charles Holder Nesse,

that it was the most successful trade show that had ever been held in London. He said that during the whole performance only two people went out, which is the great criterion, and they had told him before that they must do so owing to an engagement. Nearly thirty-five years have gone by since the story was written by me and it is remarkable that it should still have so great a hold upon the imagination of the world. My belief is that it will live. (Haggard 1980 167)

15According to the London Evening News Haggard “seemed very restless” (Parsons 142) before the showing. He had been shown to box with a bad view of the screen and moved to a balcony or circle seat. He appeared to enjoy the film and happily joined in the applause at various scenes.

  • 10 Parsons p.143, quoting the Times, 19 May 1919.

16The film opened with a screen title card declaring the film was dedicated to “all big and little boys, in the hope it may instil in them the love for adventure which has helped to make the British Empire what it is today.”10 A statement derided by the left-wing Daily Herald as old fashioned imperial jingoism preceding a film portraying Englishmen “equipped with oxen and negroes” interfering in the dynastic troubles of “ultra-savage” natives (143).

17According to W.G. Faulkner, writing in the Evening News, the “first two reels held everybody tightly. The ox-waggons, the crossing of the river, the South African scenes charmed us in spite of the fact that two principal players wore property beards, which the screen mercilessly exposed.” After that Faulkner thought the film “seemed, as far as the interest goes, to ‘drop off.’ The journey to the mines dragged while the producer was popping round this and that corner to get … pictures. The result was that we could never tell exactly where the explorers were” (142).

18The African scenery was widely praised and Kinematograph Weekly considered the cinematography in the “brilliant South African sunshine is as good as can be, and indicates future rivalry with the famed Californian studios” (143). The Cinema agreed, adding: “It is a remarkable picture, full of interest, and presenting scenes and action that are rarely depicted upon the screen” (143). In the Bioscope’s assessment King Solomon’s Mines struck “a new note in film productions” and was mounted “on a scale approached hitherto only by the Italian and American film spectacles, the picture possesses distinctive characteristics as a pure African production’ and the film ‘a thorough novelty, as refreshing as it is interesting” (144).

19Whatever the critics had to say by November the Evening News reported King Solomon’s Mines was “received everywhere with enthusiasm by exhibitors, and has been sold everywhere in Europe – including Germany – but excepting Russia” (144). The film broke box office records at the New Gallery Kinema in London’s West End.

20The following year on 6 April 1920 Haggard opened “The South African Week” exhibition at the Albert Hall in London. At the luncheon prior to the formal opening Haggard gave a speech in which he “touched on the great responsibilities of the producers of films which have such an enormous influence upon the young. Many of these films, especially those that come from America, I am convinced do much harm” (Haggard 1980 191). The opening ceremony was followed by a showing of King Solomon’s Mines, “so far as I could see the Albert Hall must have been two thirds full, and after it was over the people poured out by the thousand. As the film has already been screened in various parts of London, this is remarkable and suggests that it must have considerable popularity” (191).

21Back at the Killarney Studios in Johannesburg in November 1918 when filming ended on King Solomon’s Mines work began on Allan Quatermain once again (as can be seen in illustrations 3, 4, and 5) starring Albert Lawrence as Quatermain, Holford Hamlin as Sir Henry Curtis, Albert Lawrence as Allan Quatermain and Ray Brown as Captain John Good R.N. Umpikayiboni, the slain Twala, rose again to play Umslopogaas; Mabel May, Schlesinger’s wife, played Queen Nyleptha, Elise Hamilton Queen Sorais and Abie Barker was Alphonse. Haggard attending a private viewing of the film in London on 29 October 1919 recording his verdict in his diary on the same day: “It is not at all bad, but it might be a great deal better. I wonder if the cinema business will ever be adequately handled in this country. It has great possibilities but it ought to be in the hands of artists and strictly upright men.” (178).

Illustration 3

Illustration 3

A production still on the front cover photograph of the supplement to the South African Pictorial of 22 March 1919 showing Albert Lawrence as Allan Quatermain in the film based on Haggard’s novel Allan Quatermain

Author’s collection

Illustration 4

Illustration 4

A scene from Allan Quatermain (1919). From left to right: Holford Hamlin as Sir Henry Curtis, Albert Lawrence as Allan Quatermain and Ray Brown as Captain John Good R.N.

Author’s Collection

Illustration 5

Illustration 5

In a scene from Allan Quatermain (1919) Queen Nyleptha (centre left) and Queen Sorais (Elise Hamilton) welcome (to the left of the photograph and from left to right) Captain John Good (Ray Brown), Allan Quatermain (Albert Lawrence), Alphonse (Abie Barker), and Sir Henry Curtis (Holford Hamlin) to Zu-Vendis

Author’s collection

22In 1921 Lucoque, now operating under the banner of Reciprocity Films, formed another partnership with African Film Productions to make a film of Haggard’s novel Swallow: A Tale of the Great Trek (1899). The film, which departed completely from the original story, was directed by Leander de Cordova, a colleague of Lucoque’s, and released in 1921.

King Solomon’s Mines – the musical

23The release of The Jazz Singer in 1927 with a synchronised sound track including dialogue and songs marked the end of the silent era. Several key scenes in The Jazz Singer involved its star Al Jolson singing in black face, a common device of the period on stage and screen now considered racist. Ten years later the first sound version of King Solomon’s Mines, a Gaumont-British production, released in 1937 starred the African American actor and singer Paul Robeson. The casting of a black actor in the leading role had a knock-on effect – supporting roles of colour, as well as the many extras, also had to be cast with black performers in conformity with the star.

24Paul Robeson was “the most popular black actor the cinema had hitherto produced” (Davis 16). Between 1935 and 1940 Robeson starred in six British feature films and received top billing in all of them. “On four occasions he had solo billing above the title” (Bourne 13) and in King Solomon’s Mines his name appeared on the same pre-title credit above the names of Cedric Hardwicke and Roland Young, who played Allan Quatermain and Captain Good respectively.

25Hardwicke, a stage and film actor who enjoyed careers in Britain and Hollywood, had performed alongside Robeson in the 1928 London stage production of the musical Showboat. Young, a character actor “remembered for a gallery of whimsical or ineffectual types” (Halliwell 1995 646) also had a successful trans-Atlantic career; similarly John Loder, cast as Sir Henry Curtis, a conventional leading man who also appeared in French and German films.

  • 11 In 1939 Lee and Stevenson moved to Hollywood where Stevenson later joined the Walt Disney stable ma (...)

26In a major departure from Haggard’s novel the production introduced a new character: the daughter of a luckless Irish adventurer, Kathy O’Brien, played by Anna Lee, then married to the film’s director, Robert Stevenson.11 Her character was introduced according to the unwritten rule of cinema that a popular film must have an attractive female lead to provide a romantic interest for the male hero and to enhance a film’s appeal to a female audience.

  • 12 Robin Gibson, quoted in Bourne, p.14.

27Despite being an American citizen Paul Robeson’s “principal cinematic achievements were made in (Great Britain)”12 but, as Steven Bourne comments, despite being one of the most popular stars of 1930s Robeson “probably suffered more disappointments than any other screen artist of his generation” (Bourne 14).

28Primarily a stage performer, Robeson made only eleven films. Initially he had high hopes for the medium, believing the film industry could be used “to break the stereotype Negro usually portrayed and to present the Negro as a human being” (Schlosser 72). Unfortunately, the film industry appeared to be only interested in the stereotypes: “the Negro of Poor Old Joe and Swanee Ribber” (Schlosser 72). After his success in the film version of Eugene O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones (1933) Robeson hoped producers would see the “potential in the number of films that could be filmed starring a Negro - films that could use an African setting. Among the characters in which Robeson saw potential were the Negro Emperors Menelik and Shaka: and Rider Haggard’s Zulu King, Umbopa, from King Solomon’s Mines (72).

  • 13 Interview in The Observer, 29 July 1934, quoted in Bourne, p.15. Jomo Kenyatta (c.1897-1978), while (...)

29After The Emperor Jones Robeson made Sanders of the River (1935), based on the novel by Edgar Wallace, playing Bosambo, a Nigerian African chief and ally of Sanders, a British District Commissioner. Robeson embarked on the film with high expectations confident it would “bring African culture to the screen [and] also establish a more dignified image of the Negro, one that would be far removed from the old stereotypes.” (75). Robeson was clearly excited by the role which gave him top billing. “For the first time since I began acting, I feel that I’ve found my place in the world, that there is something out of my own culture which I can express and perhaps help to preserve.”13

30Robeson’s enthusiasm was misplaced. Additional scenes shot during post-production “glorifying the British Empire and colonialism” were added to the final cut “without Robeson’s knowledge or approval” (Bourne 15). These scenes appear to have been the title and intertitle texts, for example one introducing the film thus: “Africa … Tens of millions of natives under British rule, each tribe with its own chieftain, governed and protected by a handful of white men whose everyday work is an unsung saga of courage and efficiency.” Robeson claimed the “imperialist plot had been placed in the plot during the last days five days of shooting” (Duberman 1989). He subsequently disowned the film.

  • 14 My Song Goes Forth was later released in a shorter version, Africa Sings and Africa Looks Up (1936)

31Robeson vowed he would never do another film reinforcing racial stereotypes and began making amends by narrating the prologue and singing the theme song for a documentary film about South Africa, My Song Goes Forth (1936) directed by Joseph Best, the first South African documentary dealing with the lives of all races in the country.14

32In his next film, Showboat (1936), Robeson recreated his stage character Joe, singing what would become his signature song, Ol’ Man River. Then came The Song of Freedom (1936) in which he played John Zinga, a London dockworker, whose wonderful bass voice launches him on a spectacular career during the course of which he discovers he is the king of an African kingdom. Zinga then tums his back on success to serve his people in Africa. The film was made for Gaumont-British, who then cast Robeson for the starring role in King Solomon’s Mines as Umbopa.

33Shot in black-and-white, this was the first sound version based on Haggard’s novel. The resulting film, much of it shot in South Africa, is a curious hybrid, part-adventure, part-musical; in all his films Robeson ‘was expected to sing, even if the plots did not necessarily require him to do so’ and here he sings four (Bourne 42). Robeson as Umbopa, accompanied by Quatermain, Good, Curtis and Kathy O’Brien head off into the African interior in search of her father, last seen en route to King Solomon’s fabled mines. Quite apart from the insertion of Kathy O’Brien and her father only the bare bones of Haggard’s narrative survive. Once at the site of the mines the adventurers encounter the evil Twala, upstart king of the Kukuana and when Umbopa is revealed as the true heir to the Kukuana throne, he is helped by his white companions to overthrow Twala; the cue for a spectacular battle sequence during which Curtis defeats Twala in a fight to the death with axes. Thereafter the adventurers head for the mines – in the interior of a bubbling volcano - where they find Kathy’s father and after being trapped inside by Gagool (played by an uncredited actor) escape in the nick of time as the volcano erupts.

  • 15 Geoffrey Barkas (1896-1979). His documentary Wings over Everest (co-directed with Ivor Montague) ch (...)

34Robeson is the undoubted star of the film but neither he nor any of the credited cast (with one exception) came to South Africa. All their scenes, including interiors and some exteriors with painted backdrops, were shot at Lime Grove Studios, Shepherd’s Bush, in London. Filming the stars under controlled conditions in the studio and sending out second units to shoot more problematic and time-consuming location material was a standard practice of the time. In the completed film Robeson can be seen striding confidently across South African landscapes leading a team of oxen drawing a wagon, all the while robustly singing “there’ll be a waterhole soon, we’ll come to the waterhole soon”. Robeson’s close-ups were shot in England against a background of studio sky so they could be intercut with the location footage without causing continuity problems. In long shot, where his face is not visible, a double was used. A front title credit: “African Exteriors directed by Geoffrey Barkas / Photographed by Cyril Knowles” acknowledges the key members of the film unit who came to South Africa.15

35The major part of the location footage was shot around the Natal provincial capital, Pietermaritzburg; other material was shot in the Drakensberg or uKhahlamba range of mountains in the same province and in the Cape Province.

  • 16 Haggard stayed at the same hotel in March 1914 when touring South Africa as a member of the Royal D (...)

36The first crew members arrived in Pietermaritzburg in November 1936 and stayed at the Imperial Hotel.16 Doubles for the main cast members were to fly in later. The unit was led by Barkas and his wife Natalie, who was both production secretary and in charge of continuity. A bedroom at the hotel was quickly turned into a “business-like office” (Natal Witness 18) where Natalie Barkas used a Movieola, an editing machine, to match exteriors to the studio material. “In it copies of the studio scenes are run off and it is thus possible to check up on them, avoiding any discrepancies which might otherwise creep in” (18).

  • 17 Geoffrey Unsworth (1914-1978) went on to become a celebrated cinematographer, winning Oscars for hi (...)

37Other members of the crew included the production manager T. D. Connochie and cameraman Cyril Knowles with his assistant Geoffrey Unsworth.17 They were joined at the Imperial Hotel by E.C. Travail, a Johannesburg architect employed as construction engineer and art director who was responsible for building the huge exterior set shown of Twala’s royal homestead, featuring traditional Zulu beehive dwellings constructed with a frame of bent saplings thatched over with reed and grass as can be seen in illustration 6. The set was built below Otto’s Bluff (in Zulu kwela, meaning “high up”), a prominent local geographical feature a few kilometres outside Pietermaritzburg. Near this location tented accommodation was built for around 4000 Zulu extras managed by the Natal Native Affairs Department. Filming was scheduled to take place at Otto’s Bluff and in the Umgeni valley until the end of February.

Illustration 6

Illustration 6

The set of King Twala’s homestead built below Otto’s Bluff near Pietermaritzburg for the first sound version of King Solomon’s Mines (1937).

38The stand-ins flown in from London were Sam Lee, doubling for Cedric Hardwicke – “born a Cockney, [he] had travelled all over the continent and England, making films and mainly performing death-defying stunts” (Slosberg 254). Constance Barritt was the double for Anna Lee. The names of the stand-ins for John Loder and Roland Young are not known. Lee and Barritt can be seen on location in illustration 7 with the film’s South African publicist Bertha Slosberg and Robert Adams who played Twala and was the only key actor in the 1937 production to come to South Africa. In illustration 8 the doubles can be seen in costume on set at Otto’s Bluff

Illustration 7

Illustration 7

On location: (from left to right) Unknown person, probably the double for John Loder, Constance Barritt (double for Anna Lee), Bertha Slosberg, Sam Lee (double for Cedric Hardwicke) and Robert Adams who played Twala and was the only key actor in the 1937 production to come to South Africa. From Slosberg’s autobiography Pagan Tapestry facing p.250).

Illustration 8

Illustration 8

On set at Otto’s Bluff: doubles stand in (from left to right) Allan Quatermain, Captain John Good, Kathy O’Brien and Sir Henry Curtis in the 1937 production of King Solomon’s Mines while awaiting an audience with King Twala. Quatermain was doubled by Sam Lee and Kathy O’Brien by Constance Barritt. The other doubles are unknown.

Author’s collection

  • 18 Adams previously appeared with Robeson on stage in Stevedore in 1935 and in 1936, C.L.R. James’s To (...)
  • 19 Adams in letter to Mr Greenridge, 28 November 1948, quoted in Bourne, p.88.

39Robert Adams was born in British Guiana and trained as a teacher in Jamaica later becoming a principal in government training schools in British Guiana where he produced and acted in amateur theatre productions. Adams went to Britain hoping to become a professional actor (to support himself he turned professional wrestler “The Black Eagle” and won the title of Heavyweight Champion of the British Empire). Adams was also a black civil rights activist and, in 1931, a founder member of Dr Harold Moody’s League of Coloured Peoples. His film career began in the mid-1930s and he had small roles alongside Paul Robeson in Sanders of the River and Song of Freedom before being cast as Twala in King Solomon’s Mines.18 In the “late 1930s and throughout the 1940s” (Bourne 89). Adams was recognised as Britain’s leading black actor after Robeson returned to America in 1939. Adams’ career tailed off in the 1950s by when he had qualified as a barrister, albeit one with ambitions to create a cultural centre with a theatre and a drama school embodying “the centralisation of Negro and coloured talent – dramatically – both of the West Indies and Africa in this country.”19 This ambition was never realised and Adams left Britain in the early 1960s to take up a post as school principal in British Guiana where he died in 1965.

40In 1936, Adams

  • 20 Bantu – at the time a word referring to negroid people in South Africa. A signature word of the apa (...)

agreed to take the trip to South Africa, although he had been warned of conditions there. It was the most depressing aspect of the unit’s stay in Natal to find how the colour bar was put into operation. Adams had a room in the hotel - in itself an unheard-of departure - but he could not join the others for meals in the dining room. He wisely stacked his room with books on Bantu law, and the history of the Union, and made the most of his enforced confinement. (Slosberg 255)20

41The task of finding a stand-in for Paul Robeson was given to Bertha Slosberg, a young woman from Johannesburg with dreams of working in film and theatre. She first worked as a journalist, tried her hand at a novel, and was hired by Joseph Best to write a scenario for the film that ultimately saw the light of day as My Song Goes Forth for which, as noted earlier, Robeson narrated the prologue and sang the theme song. In an attempt to finance a trip to Britain she went diamond digging in Kimberley. The claim proved worthless - plus her first novel was rejected - when an uncle offered to take her to London. There she threw herself into the world of showbiz, interviewing film stars for South African magazines while scouting for job opportunities but unable to land a job and homesick for South Africa she decided to return; but by now she had a mission: “to create an African theatre with African actors” (192).

42In Johannesburg Slosberg teamed up with the Mtetwa Lucky Stars Troupe of Zulu Players and, in her own words, became “the first white woman impresario to represent African native artistes in Africa” (193). She subsequently negotiated a European tour for the troupe and duly sent off applications for passports. These were refused and a theatre production staged at the Bantu Centre was nearly prevented on the grounds “white women were forbidden to enter this place” (223). Despite rave reviews the owners of the centre declared that after the show’s short run “they could not allow me to use the hall for further productions” (266). Another attempt to stage a production fell victim to a snowstorm, the first in Johannesburg for 25 years, which kept audiences away. Slosberg was at her lowest ebb when a letter arrived from Geoffrey Barkas in London asking her to find a double for Paul Robeson in King Solomon's Mines. “To find a Robeson double, even in a city as full of big black men as Johannesburg, proved a difficult task,” recalled Slosberg in her autobiography Pagan Tapestry (246). “I scoured locations, mine compounds, eating-houses, and factory yards. Armed with a tape measure, photographs, and studio information as to the exact size of the Robeson neck, head, chest and height, and his weight.” During her search she found “the Bantu held Paul Robeson in almost holy reverence. He was a symbol of a black man’s ability to overcome oppression and prejudice, and achieve universal acclaim ... the idea of even doubling for Paul Robeson was tinged with supernatural significance” (247).

43Slosberg found the double for Robeson in the person of Joseph Benjamin Kubeka. Six feet, two inches in height and weighing in at 16 stone (101.60 in kilograms) he came from Sophiatown, Johannesburg. Kubeka was of royal Swazi descent and the brother-in-law of Arthur Edward Mshiyeni Ka Dinuzulu, Regent Chief of the Zulus, a brother of the late King Solomon Ka Dinuzulu. Kubeka was reluctant to leave his job as an insurance salesman and also not sure that acting in a film would be something approved of by his august brother-in-law. Only after Slosberg persuaded Kubeka that film acting was an honourable form of work and obtained an assurance from his employers that he would be re-engaged on completion of filming did he agree.

44Once the set was complete and all the stand-ins and extras had arrived, filming commenced at Otto’s Bluff in February 1937. This choice of location was fortuitous as, coincidentally, it has a connection with Haggard himself. There is a tradition in the Otto family (after whom the bluff is named) that the young Haggard stayed with them as an apprentice-farmer. According to this story Haggard was hopeless at farming, preferring instead to spend his time thinking up his African romances while resting in the shade of a particular rock. A nice story, but that's all it is. Though Haggard lived in Pietermaritzburg for a couple of years in the mid-1870s when on the staff of the Lieutenant-Governor of Natal, Sir Henry Bulwer. Haggard certainly knew the Ottos socially, and probably went hunting on their land, but he never farmed there, though he did farm outside Newcastle for about six months in 1881 before returning to England to find fame as an author and later as a respected farmer and agricultural authority.

45On the film’s release Robeson’s biographer Martin Duberman records that the New York Amsterdam News aimed at a black readership “expressed its gratitude that the film ‘at least doesn’t reek with the imperialistic theory of British superiority’” (Duberman 207) but the Pittsburgh Courier was wholly negative: Robeson “is made to sing childish lyrics to dreary tunes in the most unlikely circumstances” (207).

46Another contemporary reviewer was Graham Greene:

  • 21 The quoted line is from Haggard, King Solomon’s Mines, p.9.

King Solomon’s Mines must be a disappointment to anyone who like myself values Haggard’s book a good deal higher than Treasure Island. Many of the famous characters are sadly translated … where is Sir Henry Curtis’s great golden beard … Mr Loder’s desert stubble is a poor substitute. Umbopa has become a stout professional singer (Mr Robeson in fact) with a repertoire of sentimental lyrics, as un-African as is his figure … Worst crime of all to those who remember Quartermain’s [sic] boast – ‘I can safely say there is not a petticoat in the whole history’ – is the introduction of an Irish blonde who has somehow become the cause of the whole expedition and will finish as Lady Curtis. (Greene 212-213)21

47Nevertheless Greene considered King Solomon’s Mines a

  • 22 Quatermain was misspelt in the credits as Quartermain in the 1937 and 2004 film versions of King So (...)
  • 23 The quoted line is from Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines, p.13.

‘seeable’ picture. Sir Cedric Hardwicke gives us the genuine Quartermain [sic],22 and Mr Roland Young, as far as the monocle and the white legs are concerned, is Captain Good to the life, though I missed the false teeth, “of which he had two beautiful pairs, that, my own being none of the best, have often caused me to break the tenth commandment” (what a good writer Haggard was).23 The one-eyed black king Twala is admirable, the direction of Robert Stevenson well above the English average, the dovetailing of Mr Barkas’s African exteriors with the studio sets better than usual, but I look back to the old silent picture which was faithful to Haggard’s story: I even seem to remember the golden beard. (Greene 213)

King Solomon’s Mines – ‘Technicolor Thrill Show’

48Barring its title, Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer’s Technicolor production of King Solomon’s Mines (1950) bears little relation to Haggard’s original novel and Leslie Halliwell’s verdict that it “is largely travelogue with the merest trimmings of story” (Halliwell 1989 562) can be taken as accurate. Nonetheless, it should be acknowledged this “travelogue” was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Picture and won the Oscar for Best Cinematography in colour for Robert Surtees, while Ralph E. Winters and Conrad A. Nervig shared the Oscar for Best Film Editing.

49This version of King Solomon’s Mines was directed by Compton Bennett and Andrew Marton and shot on location in British East Africa (now Kenya), the Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Uganda, and New Mexico in the United States. The production took advantage of an elephant cull in a Kenyan reserve for the hunting sequence; as in the silent version, featuring a real kill.

50The film stars Deborah Kerr (as Elizabeth Curtis), Stewart Granger (as Quatermain) and Richard Carlson as the brother of Elizabeth Curtis, Captain John Goode. The names alone indicate the departures from Haggard’s text. Deborah Kerr (the “Lady with the Fire Hair” according to the trailer (IDMB) and her brother Captain John Good have come to Africa to seek her husband who has disappeared on his way to find King Solomon’s mines. Quatermain is hired to take them there. What follows is a stroll through African scenery during which, in a familiar film trope, the initially mutually antagonistic Curtis and Quatermain fall in love. Umbopa is reduced to a minor character played by a Kenya actor, patronisingly credited simply as Siraque; similarly with the actors playing Twala - Baziga - and Gagool – Sekaryongo.

51The film is a time capsule of American and European attitudes to Africa prevailing at this period. A whole continent is relegated to a fantasy pre-modern era as exemplified by the film’s trailer commentary which speaks of Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer sending a motion picture company on safari “into the strange and wild interior of darkest Africa … where no white woman had been before” to film “the story of primitive savagery, of incredible danger” (IMDB).

52In the film’s trailer captions Haggard’s original text is described as a “CLASSIC STORY of LOVE and INTRIGUE” set “In the PERILOUS JUNGLES OF THE DARK CONTINENT”. Referred to in the trailer as a “Technicolor Thrill SHOW!”, thrills on offer include the “THE SACRED DANCE OF THE GIANT WATUSI!”, “CHARGE OF THE ROGUE ELEPHANTS!”, “BATTLE CANOES OF THE FIGHTING MASAI!”, and an “ACTUAL DEATH FIGHT OF THE PAGAN KINGS!” (IDMB).

King Solomon’s Mines manqué

  • 24 Haggard, Allan Quatermain, p.7. James Clavell, the writer of Watusi, and its director, Kurt Neumann (...)

53Until 1985 no films made direct use of the title King Solomon’s Mines nevertheless Haggard’s novel and his name was summoned up in the credits, if not the content, of three films. Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer made liberal use of unused location material as well as actual scenes from their 1950 production of King Solomon’s Mines in Watusi (1959) starring George Montgomery as Allan Quatermain’s son Harry who retraces his late father’s footsteps to King Solomon’s mines with his friend Rick Cobb, played by English actor David Farrar. Scripted by James Clavell as being based on Haggard’s novel, any resemblance is slight. Quatermain’s son Harry died in his youth as we learn at the beginning of Allan Quatermain.24 On their journey to the mines Quatermain and Cobb rescue Erica Neuler, daughter of a German missionary killed by African tribesmen (played by Finnish actress Taina Elg as a Deborah Kerr look-alike). Here the mutual antagonism that turns to love is provoked by Erica’s nationality: Harry’s mother having been killed during World War One by Germans.

  • 25 This assumption is made from a partial viewing of the film on YouTube two years ago, since when the (...)

54Mr Universe title holder, Reg Park, hero and mentor of Arnold Schwarzenegger, starred in Maciste in King Solomon’s Mines (Maciste nelle miniere de re Salmone) (1964), one of an Italian series of films featuring Maciste, a Hercules-like hero first seen in the silent epic Cabiria mentioned earlier. Park replaced Steve Reeves as Hercules and subsequently starred in five peplum or Italian sword-and-sandal films from 1961 to 1965, including Maciste in King Solomon's Mines. Some of the location material appears to have been shot in South Africa where Park settled with his family in 1958.25

55King Solomon’s Treasure (1979), a low budget British Canadian production directed by Alvin Rakoff is based on Haggard’s Allan Quatermain according to the front title credits. A mash-up of King Solomon’s Mines and Allan Quatermain starring John Colicos as Quatermain, David McCallum as Sir Henry Curtis, Patrick MacNee as Captain Good and Britt Ekland as Queen Nyleptha, plus a host of well-known South African actors, including Ken Gampu as Umslopogaas. Filmed in Swaziland (and Montreal, Canada) with shining white polystyrene sets and ludicrous special effects it “makes its predecessors look like classics” (Halliwell 1995 347).

King Solomon’s Mines in Zimbabwe and beyond

  • 26 Lee-Thompson’s previous credits include Ice Cold in Alex (1960), The Guns of Navarone (1961) and Ca (...)
  • 27 From a review in the Sunday Mail, quoted in Halliwell’s Film Guide, p.563.

56The Cannon Group (then under Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus) produced King Solomon’s Mines (1985) directed by J. Lee Thompson towards the end of his career, starring Richard Chamberlain and Sharon Stone, and shot back to back with Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold (1986) in Zimbabwe.26 Ken Gampu pops up again in the first film as Umbopa and James Earl Jones plays Umslopogaas in the sequel. Both films are comedy adventures in the vein of Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), starring Harrison Ford, with a dash of another Indiana Jones derivative, Romancing the Stone (1984) starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. The “cinema’s equivalent to junk food” was the general verdict.27 Cannon had originally planned a trilogy, the third instalment of which was to be an adaptation of She and Allan but thanks to the poor reception of the first two films together with financial scandals involving the production company it failed to materialise.

57Sean Connery starred as Allan Quatermain in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), based on the first of the steampunk graphic novel series written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Kevin O’Neill. In order to prevent a world war, Quatermain teams up with assorted fictional nineteenth century characters, including Captain Nemo, Tom Sawyer, Dorian Gray, Henry Jekyll and Professor James Moriarty. Shot in a variety of countries including Austria, Hungary, Malta and Morocco, the film had a troubled production history and the final result was poorly received by audiences and critics alike; it failed to generate a hoped for franchise and both original author and illustrator distanced themselves from the film. Connery was undeniably ‘a charismatic Quatermain’ (Maltin 803) and left this viewer for one lamenting a missed opportunity: a film adaptation of King Solomon’s Mines with Connery as Quatermain. Alas, The League of Extraordinary Gentleman was Connery’s final screen appearance and reportedly the reason for his retirement.

‘What are the Russians doing here?’28

  • 28 Line of dialogue from King Solomon’s Mines (2004).
  • 29 Though made for television this version of King Solomon’s Mines is considered to be a film adaptati (...)

58A Hallmark two-part made for television miniseries King Solomon’s Mines (2004), stars Patrick Swayze as Allan QuatermainAlison Doody (Harrison Ford’s partner in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) as Elizabeth Maitland, Roy Marsden as Captain Good, and veteran South African Ian Roberts as a Scottish Sir Henry Curtis. Umbopa is played by Kenyan actor Sidede Onyulo and Twala by Nigerian actor Hakeem Kae-Kazim.29 The production was filmed entirely on location in South Africa in the Western Cape, the Karoo, Stellenbosch and Cape Town. Quatermain is hired by Maitland to find her father, a friend of Quatermain’s, who went in search of King Solomon’s mines. The main obstacle in their path are a handful of Russian agents tasked with bringing the famed treasure back to the Czar. In the stand-off between Umbopa and Twala they select champions to wrestle to the death on their behalf. Umbopa chooses Quatermain while Twala chooses an unknown white actor who is digitally black faced. So much for modernity.

Conclusion

  • 30 Haggard’s underlining. Haggard did not live to see the film. He died in May 1925. The film was shot (...)

59Haggard “earned large sums from the film industry in his final years” (Higgins 239). In 1924 he sold the film rights of She to H. Lisle Lucoque, the maker of King Solomon’s Mines and Allan Quatermain. In January 1925 Haggard was sent the screenplay for comment. He detailed his objections scene by scene and returned the script on the basis he was “willing to pass the scenario as it now leaves me. For the rest, I would earnestly beg you and your colleagues to stick to the book (which I trust all the actors will read for themselves) as closely as possible.” Otherwise he wished “every success to the venture” (Haggard letter 1).30

60Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines has been poorly served by the cinema. The silent version shot in 1918 and the first sound version shot in 1937 remain the most interesting films in terms of cinematic history: the first for its sumptuous sets and location photography; the second for its location work and the casting of an African-American, Paul Robeson, as its star. Thereafter the film versions are unsatisfying as entertainments and defiantly pre-modern both in their approach to Haggard’s text and their exotic portrayals of African culture. Ironically, by being faithful to the book and including its inter-racial love story, the silent version is the most modern and by virtue of its foundational text that modernity can be traced directly to Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines written and published in 1885.

Haut de page

Bibliographie

Books

Addy, Shirley. Rider Haggard and Egypt. Accrington, Lancashire, Kessingland, Suffolk, AL Publications, 1998.

Asche, Oscar. His Life. London, Hurst and Blackett, 1929.

Botha, Martin. South African Cinema 1896-2010. Bristol, United Kingdom, Intellect, 2012.

Branford, Jean, with Branford, William. A Dictionary of South African English. Cape Town Oxford University Press, 1991.

Bourne, Stephen. Black in the British Frame, London, Cassell, 1998.

Cohen, Morten. Rider Haggard: his life and works. London, Hutchinson, 1960.

Cousins, Mark. The Story of Film. London, Pavilion Books, 2004.

Davis, Peter. Darkest Hollywood, Exploring the jungles of cinema’s South Africa. Johannesburg, Ohio University Press, Athens, Ravan Press, 1996.

Duberman, Martin Bauml. Paul Robeson. London, Bodley Head, 1989.

Ellis, Peter Berresford. Rider Haggard: A Voice from the Infinite. London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978.

Greene, Graham. Night and Day. 12 August 1937, from Mornings in the Dark, The Graham Greene Film Reader, David Parkinson (ed.), London, Penguin, 1995, pp. 212-213.

Haggard, H. Rider. Allan Quatermain. [1887] Edited with an introduction by Denis Butts. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1995.

Haggard, H. Rider. King Solomon’s Mines. [1885] Edited with an introduction by Dennis Butt. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1992.

Haggard, H. Rider. Mameena and other plays, The complete dramatic works of H. Rider Haggard. Edited by Stephen Coan and Alfred Tella. Petermaritzburg, University of KwaZulu Press, 2007.

Haggard, H. Rider. The Private Diaries of Sir H. Rider Haggard. D.S. Higgins (ed.). London, Cassell, 1980.

Higgins, D.S. Rider Haggard: The Great Storyteller. London, Cassell, 1981.

Halliwell, Leslie. Halliwell’s Filmgoer’s Companion. 11th edition, John Walker (ed.). New York, Harper Collins, 1995.

Halliwell, Leslie. Halliwell’s Film Guide. Seventh edition. London, Paladin Grafton Books, 1989.

Maitland, Jacqueline. South African National Cinema. London and New York Routledge, 2007.

Parsons, Neil. Black and White Bioscope, Making Movies in Africa 1899 to 1925. Bristol, Intellect, 2018.

Slosberg, Bertha. Pagan Tapestry. London, Rich & Cowan, 1939.

Stroud, Rick. The Phantom Army of Alamein, The Men who Hoodwinked the Nazi Generals. London, Bloomsbury, 2013.

Tomaselli, Keyan G.. Encountering Modernity: Twentieth Century South African Cinemas. Amsterdam, Rozenberg and Pretoria, Unisa Press, 2006.

Waller, Philip. Writers, Readers, and Reputations, Literary Life in Britain 1870-1918. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2008.

Chapter from a book

Schlosser, Anatol. I. “Paul Robeson in Film: An Iconoclast's Quest for a Role”. Paul Robeson: The Great Forerunner. New York , International Publishers, 1978, pp.72-86.

Article In Paper Format

Coan, Stephen. “King Solomon’s Mines at Otto’s Bluff”. Natalia 30, Pietermaritzburg, 2000, pp.17-23.

Newspapers

Natal Witness. 25 November 1936.

Coan, Stephen. “On set at Otto’s Bluff”. Natal Witness, 30 December 1998, p.9.

Coan, Stephen. “The dramatic life of Bertha Slosberg”. Witness, 16 January 2007, p.9.

Films

King Solomon’s Mines (1918). 35 mm print (minus the prologue) held by the South African National Film, Video and Sound Archives, Pretoria.

King Solomon’s Mines (1937). DVD, Universal, 2006.

King Solomon’s Mines (1950). VHS, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Warner, 1998.

King Solomon’s Mines (1985). DVD, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2004.

King Solomon’s Mines (2004) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3scBi6E6TE Accessed on 14 August 2020.

King Solomon’s Treasure (1959). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWSSY2anIys Accessed on 18 August 2020.

The League of Extraordinary Gentleman (2003). Viewed on South African cinema release date, 3 October 2003.

She (1925), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7a5W3X69vxc&t=122s Accessed 23 August 2020.

Watusi (1959) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhNVolFS-kM&t=32s Accessed on 17 August 2020.

Collections

Letter from Haggard to H. Lisle Lucoque, 14 January 1925. Huntington Collection, San Marino California, HM 433500.

Letter from Haggard to Louisa Haggard, 12 May 1910. Norfolk Records Office, MC 32/39/24.

Internet

IMDB, Internet Movie Data Base:

Trailer for King Solomon’s Mines (1950).

https://www.imdb.com/video/vi1902641177?playlistId=tt0042646&ref_=tt_ov_vi Accessed 21 August 2020.

Haut de page

Notes

1 The high income of the years 1887 to 1894 coincides with Haggard’s period of greatest creativity. Novels written during this time include King Solomon’s Mines (1885), She (1887), Allan Quatermain (1887), Eric Brighteyes (1891), Nada the Lily (1892) and Montezuma’s Daughter (1893).

2 For the background to Haggard’s playwriting see Mameena and other plays, The complete dramatic works of H. Rider Haggard, eds. Stephen Coan and Alfred Tella, University of KwaZulu Press, 2007, pp.7-13.

3 Asche would recoup his losses with the musical Chu Chin Chow for which he wrote the book and lyrics. It opened at His Majesty’s Theatre, London on 3 August 1916 and broke all records, running for five years.

4 A film of Mr. Meeson’s Will, retitled The Grasp of Greed, was made in the United States in 1916. Whether Haggard derived any income from this production is uncertain.

5 The first custom-made cinema in South Africa was built by Electric Theatres Limited in Durban on 29 July 1909; it was for white audiences only. In December 1909, another cinema was opened for “non-white” audiences. Cinemas in South Africa remained racially segregated until 1985.

6 Stage and Cinema, 21 August 1915, p.12. Quoted in Parsons, p.40.

7 From 1903 onwards Schlesinger’s African Realty Trust developed the new Johannesburg suburbs of Orange Grove, Houghton and Killarney. See Parsons, p.27.

8 Killarney Film Studios were demolished in 1972 by John Schlesinger, Isadore Schlesinger’s son, and replaced with Johannesburg's first shopping mall, the Killarney Mall.

9 Haggard named the character Foulata after a servant at Haggard’s South African farm Hilldrop in 1881.

10 Parsons p.143, quoting the Times, 19 May 1919.

11 In 1939 Lee and Stevenson moved to Hollywood where Stevenson later joined the Walt Disney stable making nineteen films, including Mary Poppins (1964). Lee featured in several films made by the director John Ford, including How Green was My Valley (1941). In 1982, she was paralysed from the waist down in a car accident. At the time she was playing a character named Lila Quartermaine in the ABC soap opera General Hospital. Thereafter she continued to perform the role in a wheel chair for over 20 years, retiring a year before her death in 2004.

12 Robin Gibson, quoted in Bourne, p.14.

13 Interview in The Observer, 29 July 1934, quoted in Bourne, p.15. Jomo Kenyatta (c.1897-1978), while studying in Britain played an uncredited role in Sanders of the River as a chief. He later became the first president of an independent Kenya. See Bourne, p.48.

14 My Song Goes Forth was later released in a shorter version, Africa Sings and Africa Looks Up (1936).

15 Geoffrey Barkas (1896-1979). His documentary Wings over Everest (co-directed with Ivor Montague) chronicling a 1933 single-engine plane flight over the famous mountain won an Oscar in 1936 for Best Short Subject. During World War Two he was Director of Camouflage, Middle East Operations, and was involved in the deception operation prior to the battle of Alamein. This and other such operations are described in The Camouflage Story (1952) written by Barkas and his wife Natalie.

16 Haggard stayed at the same hotel in March 1914 when touring South Africa as a member of the Royal Dominions Commission.

17 Geoffrey Unsworth (1914-1978) went on to become a celebrated cinematographer, winning Oscars for his work on Cabaret (1972) and Tess (1979) (shared with Ghislain Coquet). His other credits include 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Superman (1978).

18 Adams previously appeared with Robeson on stage in Stevedore in 1935 and in 1936, C.L.R. James’s Toussaint L’Ouverture.

19 Adams in letter to Mr Greenridge, 28 November 1948, quoted in Bourne, p.88.

20 Bantu – at the time a word referring to negroid people in South Africa. A signature word of the apartheid system it has now become an offensive term in South Africa.

21 The quoted line is from Haggard, King Solomon’s Mines, p.9.

22 Quatermain was misspelt in the credits as Quartermain in the 1937 and 2004 film versions of King Solomon’s Mines as well as in Watusi (1959) and King Solomon’s Treasure (1979). I have silently corrected this misspelling unless otherwise indicated.

23 The quoted line is from Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines, p.13.

24 Haggard, Allan Quatermain, p.7. James Clavell, the writer of Watusi, and its director, Kurt Neumann, were fresh from making The Fly (1958).

25 This assumption is made from a partial viewing of the film on YouTube two years ago, since when the film has been withdrawn.

26 Lee-Thompson’s previous credits include Ice Cold in Alex (1960), The Guns of Navarone (1961) and Cape Fear (1961). Gary Nelson directed Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold.

27 From a review in the Sunday Mail, quoted in Halliwell’s Film Guide, p.563.

28 Line of dialogue from King Solomon’s Mines (2004).

29 Though made for television this version of King Solomon’s Mines is considered to be a film adaptation.

30 Haggard’s underlining. Haggard did not live to see the film. He died in May 1925. The film was shot in Berlin during 1925 as a British-German co-production starring Betty Blythe. A title credit reads: “The sub-titles [inter-titles] for this production were specially written by the late Sir Rider Haggard” (YouTube). Lucoque committed suicide in November when his company went into bankruptcy.

Haut de page

Table des illustrations

Titre Illustration 1
Légende ‘The visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon’ by Sir Edward John Poynter (1836 - 1919). The scene in this painting (executed in 1890) was recreated in a prologue for the 1918 film of King Solomon’s Mines
Crédits Art Gallery of New South Wales, Commons Wikipedia
URL http://journals.openedition.org/erea/docannexe/image/10648/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 769k
Titre Illustration 2
Légende A scene from the prologue of King Solomon’s Mines (1918) based on the painting ‘The visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon’ by Sir Edward John Poynter (1836 - 1919)
Crédits Author’s collection
URL http://journals.openedition.org/erea/docannexe/image/10648/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 455k
Titre Illustration 3
Légende A production still on the front cover photograph of the supplement to the South African Pictorial of 22 March 1919 showing Albert Lawrence as Allan Quatermain in the film based on Haggard’s novel Allan Quatermain
Crédits Author’s collection
URL http://journals.openedition.org/erea/docannexe/image/10648/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 420k
Titre Illustration 4
Légende A scene from Allan Quatermain (1919). From left to right: Holford Hamlin as Sir Henry Curtis, Albert Lawrence as Allan Quatermain and Ray Brown as Captain John Good R.N.
Crédits Author’s Collection
URL http://journals.openedition.org/erea/docannexe/image/10648/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 347k
Titre Illustration 5
Légende In a scene from Allan Quatermain (1919) Queen Nyleptha (centre left) and Queen Sorais (Elise Hamilton) welcome (to the left of the photograph and from left to right) Captain John Good (Ray Brown), Allan Quatermain (Albert Lawrence), Alphonse (Abie Barker), and Sir Henry Curtis (Holford Hamlin) to Zu-Vendis
Crédits Author’s collection
URL http://journals.openedition.org/erea/docannexe/image/10648/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 455k
Titre Illustration 6
Légende The set of King Twala’s homestead built below Otto’s Bluff near Pietermaritzburg for the first sound version of King Solomon’s Mines (1937).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/erea/docannexe/image/10648/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 476k
Titre Illustration 7
Légende On location: (from left to right) Unknown person, probably the double for John Loder, Constance Barritt (double for Anna Lee), Bertha Slosberg, Sam Lee (double for Cedric Hardwicke) and Robert Adams who played Twala and was the only key actor in the 1937 production to come to South Africa. From Slosberg’s autobiography Pagan Tapestry facing p.250).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/erea/docannexe/image/10648/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 563k
Titre Illustration 8
Légende On set at Otto’s Bluff: doubles stand in (from left to right) Allan Quatermain, Captain John Good, Kathy O’Brien and Sir Henry Curtis in the 1937 production of King Solomon’s Mines while awaiting an audience with King Twala. Quatermain was doubled by Sam Lee and Kathy O’Brien by Constance Barritt. The other doubles are unknown.
Crédits Author’s collection
URL http://journals.openedition.org/erea/docannexe/image/10648/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 179k
Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Stephen COAN, « King Solomon’s Mines on film: modernity in reverse? », E-rea [En ligne], 18.1 | 2020, mis en ligne le 15 décembre 2020, consulté le 26 janvier 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/erea/10648 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/erea.10648

Haut de page

Auteur

Stephen COAN

Independent scholar and journalist
Stephencoan1@gmail.com
Stephen Coan is a film-maker and journalist. As an independent scholar he has edited two previously unpublished manuscripts of H. Rider Haggard’s work, Diary of an African Journey (2000) and Mameena and other plays (2007, co-edited with Alfred Tella). He is currently working on a biography of Haggard.

Haut de page
  • Logo Laboratoire d’Études et de Recherche sur le Monde Anglophone
  • Logo DOAJ - Directory of Open Access Journals
  • OpenEdition Journals
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search