Memorabilia of Foreign Theatrical Movies Filmed In The East Africa Region (1931–1975)

Kenya has always been a destination of choice for foreign production companies looking for magical sceneries and wildlife for movies set in Africa, and subsequently many renowned celebrities came to visit Kenya in the Golden Age of cinema (1927–1969); some actors even settled in the country, such as William Holden, co-founder of Mount Kenya Game Ranch, the William Holden Wildlife Foundation and Mount Kenya Safari Club.

The classics amongst old movies filmed in Kenya are King Solomon’s Mines (1950) (Ill. 2) starring Deborah Kerr, the second MGM movie filmed in Africa; 19 years after Trader Horn (1931) (Ill. 1); The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952) (Ill. 3) with Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner ; Mogambo (1954) (Ill. 4) starring Clark Gable, Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly; Hatari! (1962) (Ill. 5) starring John Wayne ; Born Free (1966) (Ill. 6) and much later, in modern times, Out of Africa (1981).

Throughout my research, I uncovered many forgotten facts. For instance, the Kenyan actor Mutia Omoolu starring in the first theatrical movie ever filmed in Africa, Trader Horn (1931) (Ill. 1), gave his name to the fictional homeplace of Tarzan, the Mutia escarpment, in Tarzan the Ape Man (1932) and all other Tarzan sequels… Or that an unknown actor named Sean Connery playing his first second-role in Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure (1959) (Ill. 7) met Albert R Broccoli – who was directing the Killers of the Kilimanjaro (1959) (Ill. 8) – in Kenya.

But aside from the box office classics and their stars, many other movies from different countries were filmed partly or entirely in Kenya. Amongst the big-budget or successful movies, we can mention the Japanese movie Safari 5000 (1969) covering the WRC Safari Rally; My Love (1970) starring Shashi Kapoor, the first Hindi film to be filmed in East Africa; the German musical hit Munchhausen in Africa (1958) or the French movie Live for Life (1967) starring Yves Montand. Often forgotten but prolific, Italian cinema produced many low-budget movies, from Tarzan mockups such as Karzan, Jungle Lord (1972) to typical “commedia all’italiana” as Will Our Heroes Be Able to Find Their Friend Who Has Mysteriously Disappeared in Africa? (1960) starring Alberto Sordi. The most successful Italian movies shot in Kenya are from the erotic franchise Black Emanuelle (1975) and the faux documentaries Women of the World (1963) and Africa Addio (1966) featuring never-seen footage from 1964’s Jamhuri day, both directed by Gualtiero Jacopetti, the creator of the mondo exploitation genre.

The historical context and especially the history of cinema is also of interest when collecting posters. In the late 40s, the Motion Picture Association of America prohibited US companies to export their movies to the UK, forcing the British to have their own funding agency and distribution. Many British movie production companies were provided tax incentives, loans, etc. under strict rules (Eady Levy) and often these movies were soft-propaganda movies, including the three movies filmed by Warwick Films in Kenya: Safari (1956) (Ill. 9) starring Victor Mature and Janet Leigh; Odongo (1956) (Ill. 10) with Rhonda Fleming; and Killers of the Kilimanjaro (1959) (Ill. 8). The most notorious British propaganda movie being Simba (1955) (Ill. 11) starring Dirk Bogarde.

Another characteristic of British movies was the depiction of white game-rangers protecting the wildlife and empowering Kenyan people by fighting the slave and ivory traders, usually traders from the coastal Arabic communities; this is notable in Where No Vultures Fly (1951) with Anthony Steel and West of Zanzibar (1954) (Ill. 12), both inspired by the life of the conservationist Mervyn Cowie.

In all, British movies released in the 50s/60s were seen as too focused for entertainment and had bad reviews abroad, especially in the US. Of note, the British-run Kenya Board Film Censor (KBFC) banned the sequel West of Zanzibar (Ill. 12) in Kenya in 1954 for being too ‘prejudicial to good race relations in the colony’. Meanwhile, US companies continued to release movies with better storylines and plots, such as Something of Value (1959) (Ill. 13) based on a Richard Brooks novel and starring Rock Hudson and the young Sidney Poitier; The Lion (1962) (Ill. 14) based on Joseph Kessel’s novel and starring William Holden; or Mister Moses (1962) (Ill. 15) in which Robert Mitchum plays a missionary blackmailing and conning local communities to move to safer ground to steal their land and resources near lake Naivasha.

Back to the movie posters, it is worth noting that each poster has its own size, title, graphic, design and slogan depending on the country of distribution and comparing movie posters of the same title but from different countries is captivating. But almost all movie posters of that time are portrayals of the old-time bigotry and inclination; using stereotypes and exotic myths, emphasized by the overused ‘dark’, ‘savages’ and ‘fearless’ and dubious slogans as ‘baby-snatcher gorillas’ or ‘flesh-eating tribes’.

I had the opportunity to showcase part of my collection in an exhibition in 2019 at the Alliance Française of Nairobi, showing over 50 posters of movies filmed in Kenya, from Trader Horn (1931) (Ill. 1) to The Wilby Conspiracy (1975) (Ill. 16), one of the first anti-Apartheid movie filmed in Africa that marked the return of Sidney Poitier in Kenya.

Introduction to Films

“Trader Horn” (1931)
Directed by W.S. Van Dyke and produced by Irving Thalberg (uncredited)
Based on Trader Horn by Alfred Aloysius Horn
Starring Harry Carey, Edwina Booth, Duncan Renaldo, Mutia Omoolu, Riano Tindama (uncredited)
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date: May 23, 1931 (United States)
Running time: 122 mins
Budget/Box office: $1.3 million/$4.2 million

This Pre-Code American adventure is the first non-documentary film shot on location in Africa; four years before “Sander of Rivers” in which Jomo Kenyatta is acting next to the great Paul Robeson. “Trader Horn” depicts the real life of ivory trader Alfred Aloysius, author of the book of the same name, with a fictional part involving the discovery of a jungle queen. Edwina Booth, the female lead, contracted a career-ending illness while shooting the movie in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania over a period of seven months, she sued MGM for inadequate protection – a first in USA – and the case was settled out of court. Booth won a large sum of money but her acting career never recovered from this debacle. The two Kenyan actors Mutia Omoolu and Riano Tindama travelled to New York to reshoot scenes of the movie because of poor original sound quality and to promote the movie.  The Mutia Escarpment, Tarzan’s fictional jungle domain, was named after Kenyan actor Mutia Omoolu. “Trader Horn” was a success and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1931.

Trader Horn, reissue R-1953, US Window card

“King Solomon’s Mines” (1950)
Directed by Compton Bennett and Andrew Marton, and produced by Sam Zimbalist
Based on King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard
Starring: Deborah Kerr, Stewart Granger, Richard Carlson, Kimursi (credited as Kimursi of the Kipsigi Tribe); Siriaque; Sekaryongo; Baziga (respectively credited as Baziga of the  Watusi Tribe)Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date: November 24, 1950 (USA)
Running time: 103 mins
Budget/Box office $2.3 million/$15.1 million

This second adaptation of the 1885 Allan Quatermain’s novel – the first novel of African adventure published in English – was given most of MGM’s budget allocated for movies filmed abroad – usually two to three films per year – and the result is a thrilling adventure with a lengthy, thundering stampede of various animals being the main highlight of the film. Shooting in Africa took place at the following locations: Murchison Falls (Uganda.); Astrida, “the land of giant Watusis”; Volcano Country and Stanleyville (Belgian Congo); Tanganyika (Tanzania); and Rumuruti and Machakos (Kenya). The film was nominated for Best Picture and won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing. It was the third most popular film at the British box office in 1951 and the MGM most successful film of 1950 with a gross earning of $5,047,000 in the US.

King Solomon’s Mines, 1950, Australian 1 sheet

“The Snows of Kilimanjaro” (1952)
Directed by Harry King and produced by Darryl F. Zanuck
Starring: Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Susan Hayward
Music by Bernard Herrmann
Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox
Release date: September 17, 1952 (USA)
Running time: 117 mins
Country United States
Box office: $6.5–$12.5 million

“The Snows of Kilimanjaro” is a 1952 American Technicolor film based on the short story of the same name by Ernest Hemingway which was first published in Esquire magazine in 1936 and considered by many as Hemingway’s finest stories. The film version of the short story was directed by Henry King and starred Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward and Ava Gardner for which a character was specially invented for the film; during the shooting, Peck wrenched his knee carrying Gardner for a scene in the film. Despite having an impressive budget and second unit work brought to Kenya, most of the scenes showing main actors were shot in Hollywood. The film was nominated for two Oscars and it has snow fallen into public domain. Because the film’s ending does not mirror the story’s ending, Hemingway disliked it and even said in an interview that a hyena was the best performer in the picture, which he called “The Snows of Zanuck”.

The Snows of Kilimanjaro, 1952, US insert

“Mogambo” (1954)
Directed by John Ford
Produced by Sam Zimbalist
Screenplay by John Lee Mahin
Based on Red Dust, a 1928 play by Wilson Collison
Starring: Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, Donald Sinden.
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date: October 9, 1953
Running time: 115 mins
Country: United States
Budget/Box office: $3.1 million / $8.3 million

“Mogambo” is a 1953 American Technicolor adventure/romantic drama film shot in Eastern Africa and starring no less than Clark Gable, Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly. The picture is a remake of the pre-code movie “Red Dust” (1932) set in Indonesia, which also stars Clark Gable in the same role. Despite the high budget, most of the movie was filmed in the studio in Hollywood and MGM-British Studio. On location, it was filmed in Okelataka (Congo); Mount Kenya, Fourteen Falls, Mt Longonot and Lake Naivasha, Kenyan Rift Valley (Kenya); Kagera River (Tanzania); and Uganda. During much of the shooting in Kenya, John Ford and the stars stayed in hotels in Nairobi and flew to and from the location and MGM hired armed guards to protect the cast and crew in the event of an attack by Mau Mau. It was rumored that the studio made a secret payment of $50,000 to leader Jomo Kenyatta for protection. Frank Sinatra, who accompanied his wife Ava Gardner, has been allowed to stay on site during the all filming and their relations have been heated as the last white hunter, second gun of Finch Hatton and lover of Karen Blixen, Bunny Allen, who was actually appointed to shoot elephants for Gable, caused a scandal by having an affair with Gardner which resulted in few tantrums at their hotel. Also, Ava Gardner was pregnant at the start of filming and really suffered from the heat; she was then hospitalised in UK for anemia, she would admit a few years later that she had suffered from a miscarriage, but she later admitted that she aborted due to her bad relationship with Frank Sinatra. The film was a massive hit and it made $4,576,000 in the US and Canada and $3,692,000 elsewhere according to MGM records; its musical soundtrack is entirely made of African tribal music recorded in the Congo

Mogambo, 1954, German program

“Hatari!” (1962)
Directed and produced by Howard Hawks
Screenplay by Leigh Brackett
Story by Harry Kurnitz
Starring: John Wayne, Elsa Martinelli, Hardy Krüger, Red Buttons
Music by Henry Mancini
Cinematography Russell Harlan
Edited by Stuart Gilmore
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date: June 19, 1962
Running time: 157 mins
Country: United States
Box office: $12,923,077

“Hatari!” is a 1962 American action/adventure romantic comedy film directed by Howard Hawks and starring John Wayne. It portrays a group of professional game catchers in Africa. The film includes dramatic wildlife chases and the scenic backdrop of Mount Meru, a dormant volcano and was filmed on location in northern Tanzania, with Ngorongoro farm, owned by Hardy Kruger from 1960 to 1973, serving as the movie’s setting. “Hatari!” has a loose script and rely mostly around live scenes of chasing wild as Hawks wanted to produce a movie with exciting scenes about the profession of people catching animals in Africa for zoos. Because Director and producer Hawks increased his knowledge from the work of the famous South African animal conservationist, Dr. Ian Player who launch a project to save the White Rhino in South Africa in 1952. Government-licensed animal catcher Willy de Beer was hired by Hawks; all the animal captures in the picture were performed by the actors, including the rhino who really did escape, while much of the action sequence audio had to be re-dubbed due to John Wayne’s cursing. “Hatari!” introduced the memorable Henry Mancini tune “Baby Elephant Walk”; another memorable musical moment is a duet of Stephen Foster’s “Old Folks at Home” (Swanee River) with Dallas playing the piano, and Pockets playing the harmonica. “Hatari!” grossed $12,923,077 at the box office, earning $7 million in US theatrical and it was the 8th highest-grossing film of 1962 in the US.

Hatari!, 1962, US 3 sheets

“Born Free” (1966)
Directed by James Hill
Produced by Sam Jaffe, Paul Radin
Screenplay by Lester Cole
Based on Born Free by Joy Adamson
Starring: Virginia McKenna, Bill Travers
Music by John Barry
Production company: Shepperton Studios
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date: 14 March 1966 (UK), 22 June 1966 (US)
Running time: 95 mins
Country: United Kingdom
Budget: $2 millions

“Born Free” is a 1966 British drama film about Joy and George Adamson, a real-life couple who raised Elsa the Lioness, an orphaned lion cub, to adulthood to release her into wilderness in Kenya. The film was produced by Open Road Films Ltd. and Columbia Pictures. The screenplay is based upon Joy Adamson’s 1960 non-fiction book Born Free. The film reunited the real-life couple Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna who became animal rights activists and were instrumental in creating the Born Free Foundation; George Adamson served as chief technical advisor on the film and discusses his involvement in his first autobiography, Bwana Game (UK, 1968). “Born Free” received critical acclaims and its scores by John Barry won many prizes; it was one of the most popular movies at the box-office in Britain during 1966. The book Born Free (1960) was followed by two other books, Living Free (1961) and Forever Free (1963). In 1972, a film sequel entitled “Living Free” was released. After the filming, George Adamson started a lion reserve, Kora Reserve to specifically to help rehabilitate the lions used in the film. A documentary, “The Lions Are Free” (1967), was made about him and his lions Boy, Girl, Ugas, Mara, Henrietta, and Little Elsa, and other lions that appeared in the first film, in Meru National Park, where Elsa’s grave is located. 

Born Free, 1966, Danish poster

“Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure” (1959)
Directed by John Guillermin and produced by Sy Weintraub, Harvey Hayutin
Based on characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Starring: Gordon Scott, Anthony Quayle, Sara Shane, Sean Connery, Al Mulock, Scilla Gabel, Niall MacGinnis
Production company: Solar Films
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date: July 8, 1959 (USA)
Running time: 88 mins
Country: United States

“Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure” is a 1959 Eastmancolor adventure film produced by Sy Weintraud, a television producer who took over the Tarzan franchise in 1958 from a veteran Hollywood producer for $2 million. Weintraud decided to change the ape-man’s image into something closer to Edgar Rice Burrough’s conception. He noted the recent success of “Tarzan and the Lost Safari” (1957) shot in Kenya with British technicians. Consequently, he employed a British director, actors and staff to shoot 60% the film in Kenya and northern Tanzania while the rest was completed in London. Both shot in Kenya, “Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure” (1959) and its follow-up, “Tarzan the Magnificent” (1960), feature a lone and well-spoken Tarzan portrayed by actor Gordon Scott. The character of Jane has been dropped and the movie focuses more on suspense and action. It is also noticeable for being the first second-role of the young British actor Sean Connery, who met British producer Albert R. Broccoli during his stay; the later was producing his third movie, “Killers of Kilimanjaro”, shot in the region (Moshi (Tz)) for Warwick Film.

Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure, 1959, US 1 sheet

“Killers of Kilimanjaro” (1959)
Produced by Irving Allen, Albert R. Broccoli
Based from book African Bush Adventures by J.A. Hunter
Starring: Robert Taylor, Anthony Newley
Production company: Warwick Films
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date: 1959
Running time: 91 mins
Country: United Kingdom

“Killers of Kilimanjaro” is a 1959 British CinemaScope adventure film produced by Warwick Film, the British film company founded by film producers Irving Allen and Albert R. Broccoli in London. Warwick Film had made two films in Africa in 1956, “Safari” and “Odongo”. This movie, announced in 1956 under the name and originally known as “Adamson of Africa”, is inspired by the story of the Tsavo man-eaters in the 1955 book by J.A. Hunter and the screenplay was originally by Peter Viertel, who had worked on The African Queen. Filming took place on location in Moshi (Tanzania), the same location used for “Mogambo” (1953) and “Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure” (1959). The film’s title was changed to “Killers of Kilimanjaro”; this upset Chief Thomas Marealle (1915-2017) of the Chagga tribe and politicians, on whose lands the film was shot, and he made an official complaint through diplomatic channels.

Killers of Kilimanjaro, 1959, US title lobby card

“Safari” (1956)
Directed by Terence Young and produced by Irving Allen and Albert R. Broccoli
Starring: Victor Mature, Janet Leigh, John Justin, Roland Culver, Earl Cameron, Juma, Lionel Ngakane, Harry Quashie, Bartholomew Sketch
Production company: Warwick Films
Distributed by Columbia Pictures (UK)
Release date: 6 April 1956
Running time: 90 minutes
Country: United Kingdom
Box office: $1.4 million (US rentals)

Sixth film of Warwick Films, a film company founded by American film producers Irving Allen and Albert R. Broccoli in London in 1951 to benefit from British tax cuts and more relaxed filming conditions, it is set in Kenya and was filmed at the same time than Odongo, to save cost and take advantage of British grants given in the 50s to film shot in nations of the British Commonwealth. Actress Rhonda Fleming was originally announced for the female lead, but she got the female leading role in “Odongo”; as for the male leading role, the producers were hoping to get Humphrey Bogart but because Victor Mature had just signed a two-picture contract with Warwick Films, he was assigned to the main role. Zanzibar-born actor Juma as well as two Kenyan actors are playing in both films. This typical drama revenge film set during the Mau Mau uprising received some bad critics in the US for having an American casting promoting British Empire narrative, for its political incorrectness and for shooting wild animals. In an interview, Janet Leigh told that the film’s second unit was attacked by the Mau Mau.

Safari, 1956, US insert

“Odongo” (1956)
Directed by John Gilling and produced by Irving Allen, Albert R. Broccoli
Starring: Rhonda Fleming, Juma, Macdonald Carey, Earl Cameron, Lionel Ngakane, Bartholomew Sketch
Production company: Warwick Films
Distributed by Columbia Pictures (UK)
Release date: 1956
Running time: 85 minutes
Country: United Kingdom

Filmed at the same time than “Safari”, “Odongo” is a 1956 British African adventure drama film directed by John Gilling and produced by Warwick Films’s directors Irving Allen and Albert R. Broccoli. The screenplay concerns a white hunter and trader of exotic animals who falls in love with his new female veterinarian and subsequently having to deal with his disgruntled local mentor. The film stars the “Queen of Technicolor” Rhonda Fleming, Macdonald Carey and the Zanzibar-born Juma, a little boy who plays the leading role of Odongo in the movie. Actors Juma, Lionel Ngakane and Bartholomew Sketch are also playing in another Warwick Films production called “Safari”. And just like “Safari”, it is a film by Warwick Films, a company founded by American producers Irving Allen and Albert R. Broccoli and based in London in 1951 to benefit from British tax cuts, in particular British grants given in the 50s to films shot in nations of the British Commonwealth, and more relaxed filming conditions.

Odongo, 1956, Australian 1 sheet

“Simba” (1955)
Directed by Brian Desmond Hurst and produced by Peter De Sarigny
Written by John Baines, Robin Estridge, Anthony Perry (story)
Starring Dirk Bogarde, Virginia McKenna, Donald Sinden
Production company: Rank Organisation
Distributed by General Film Distributors
Release date: 25 January 1955
Country: United Kingdom

“Simba” is a 1955 British drama film about a British family living in East Africa who become embroiled in the Mau Mau uprising. The box-office success of “The Planter’s Wife” (1952) set in British Malaysia convinced the production company of the interest of making films about other contemporary Imperial stories and someone in the production unit suggested a story during the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya. Anthony Perry produced a first draft which had to be approved by war and colonial offices and was sent to Kenya, where his advisers included the Charles Njonjo, nicknamed the “The Duke of Kabeteshire” for his English mannerisms. The film, starring the renown Dirk Bogarde, UK most popular celebrity for several years in the 50s with 63 films in his career and twice BAFTA winner, was shot at Pinewood Studios, with a second unit based in Kenya for local scenes as well as sceneries which were used as projection backgrounds in UK studios. It was one of the top ten British money-makers of 1955 in the United Kingdom. The movie has average reviews and noticeable for its imperialist and colonialist tones typical of the colonial era.

Simba, 1955, US 3 sheet

“West of Zanzibar” (1954)
Directed by Harry Watt and produced by Leslie Norman
Starring Anthony Steel, Sheila Sim, William Simons, David Osieli, Bethlehem Sketch, Juma, Joanna Kitau, Fatuma
Production company: Ealing Studios
Distributed by General Film Distributors
Release date: March 1954 (UK)
Country: United Kingdom

“West of Zanzibar” is a sequel of the most popular British movie of 1951 called “Where No Vultures Fly” (UK) / “Ivory Hunter” (US). Produced by one of the oldest London film studios – Ealing Studios – and designed to capitalise on the success of its heroic game warden, Bob Payton, the director Harry Watt decided to add a humanitarian element into the story – the displacement of population of Galana area to Mombasa following a drought and their participation in ivory poaching by smuggling ivory into Zanzibar through the Arab cartels. Despite showing good causes (e.g. fighting poaching, preservation of local customs and rural culture vs urban economic exploitation, fight crime, etc.), the film was considered too paternalistic, moralist and tendentious, and banned by the KBFC in August 1954 as “prejudicial to good race relations in the colony”.  It was also listed amongst eight movies – with “African Queen”, “Snows of Kilimanjaro”, “Below the Sahara”, “Mogambo”, “Tanganyika”, “Africa Adventure” and “Untamed” – banned by the government of India following the protest of African students in India in 1956. A popular Swahili folk music sang during the shooting was “Jambo Sigara Baridi”, the filmmakers liked it so much they decided to produce an English version of the song with Anthony Steel singing lead vocals which reached #11 in the 1954 British charts.

West of Zanzibar, 1954, US ½ sheet

“Something of Value” (1959)
Directed by Richard Brooks and produced by Pandro S. Berman
Written by Richard Brooks
Based on novel by Robert Ruark
Starring Rock Hudson, Dana Wynter, Sidney Poitier, Wendy Hiller
Distributed by MGM
Release date: May 10, 1957 (U.S.)
Running time: 113 mins
Country: United States
Budget: $2,553,000

“Something of Value” is a 1957 drama based on the book of the same name by Robert Ruark portraying internal human conflict during the colonial times and at the uprising of freedom movements, such as the Mau Mau. It stars two young men, a Kenyan native and the son of a British colon who grew up together in a farm in Kikuyu, almost like brothers, but have drifted apart at maturity until the Mau Mau uprising. MGM bought the film rights to the novel for $300,000 in January 1955. Filming began in July 1956, Sidney Poitier plays the role of Kimani and Rock Hudson would be borrowed from Universal to play the lead. Despite being the sole American entry at the Venice Film Festival, the movie made no profit according to MGM. Ruark published a sequel to his original novel in 1962 called Uhuru; no film resulted but “Something of value” was re-released in 1962 with the title “Africa Ablaze”.

Something of Value, 1959, Danish 1 sheet

“The Lion” (1962)
Directed by Jack Cardiff and produced by Samuel G. Engel
Based on Le lion (1958) novel by Joseph Kessel
Starring: William Holden, Trevor Howard, Capucine, Pamela Franklin, Christopher Agunda as Elder of Masai (uncredited), Ralph Helfer as Masai Warrior (uncredited), Paul Oduor as Orlunga (uncredited), Makara Kwaiha Ramadhani as Bogo (uncredited), Samuel Obiero Romboh as Kihero (uncredited), Zakee as Ol’ Kalu (uncredited) and the lion Zamba
Music by Malcolm Arnold
Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Release date: 26 July 1962 (World Premiere, London)
Running time: 96 mins
Country: United States

“The Lion” is a 1962 film based on Joseph Kessel’s melodramatic novel, “Le Lion”, which is about a divorced American lawyer summoned to go to Kenya by his ex-wife now married to a park ranger in Amboseli and bring back her young daughter to modern civilisation, who has befriended with a lion and living amongst maasais. Because William Holden was spending much of his time working for wildlife conservation in Kenya as
co-founder of Mount Kenya Game Ranch, the William Holden Wildlife Foundation and Mount Kenya Safari Club in Nanyuki, the movie is filmed mostly in Kenya and in Uganda. Stars of the movie are the little 12 years old actress, Pamela Franklin, and the fully-grown lion Zamba who arrived in Africa with trainer Ralph Helfer. Despite its exotic locale, great quality and for being of high production with a genuinely entertaining storyline, The Lion was not received with open arms due to the acting and its bad adaptation, “this picture abounds in handsome foliage, in color, of wild animals in Kenya…but the drama concocted for the movie is a distressing lot of twaddle that considerably gets in the way of the naturalist theme of the novel and the love affair of the youngster with the lion.”

The Lion, 1962, US ½ sheet

“Mister Moses” (1962)
Directed by Ronald Neame and produced by Frank Ross
Written by Charles Beaumont, Monja Danischewsky
Based on Mister Moses by Max Catto
Starring: Robert Mitchum, Carroll Baker, Ian Bannen, Alexander Knox, Raymond St. Jacques, Orlando Martins, Reginald Beckwith
Music by John Barry
Distributed by United Artists
Release date: May 12, 1965
Running time: 113 mins (US)
Country: United States
Box office: $1,250,000

“Mister Moses” is a 1965 American adventure film about an American snake-oil salesman, diamond smuggler and con man called Joe Moses who gets tossed out of one village and arrives to a village which needs to be evacuated due to impending flood; but the villagers refuse to leave their homes. Moses is found by the authority and blackmailed by the District Officer to do his magic tricks in order to convince the population he is Moses and lead them to safer ground. The movie, based on seventh Max Catto’s novels sold to the movies industry, was filmed on location in Kenya, at Lake Naivasha and Amboseli National Park. The movie is also notable also for its 007-like entertaining scores by John Barry. It is of one the rare United Artists movie never released on DVD.

Mister Moses, 1965, US ½ sheet

“The Wilby Conspiracy” (1975)
Directed by Ralph Nelson and produced by Martin Baum, Paul M. Heller, Helmut Dantine
Written by Rodney Amateau, Harold Nebenzal
Based on 1972 novel by Peter Driscoll
Starring Michael Caine, Sidney Poitier, Nicol Williamson, Prunella Gee, Saeed Jaffrey, Persis Khambatta, Rijk de Gooyer, Rutger Hauer, Patrick Allen, Joe De Graft, Archie Duncan, Helmut Dantine
Music by Stanley Myers
Production company: Baum/Dantine Productions, Optimus Productions Ltd.
Distributed by United Artists
Release date: August 1975 (UK)
Running time: 102 mins
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English/Afrikaans

“The Wilby Conspiracy” is a 1975 thriller film directed by Ralph Nelson and filmed in Kenya. It was written by Rodney Amateau, based on the 1972 novel by Peter Driscoll. It had a limited release in the US. This is the third film teaming Sidney Poitier with director Ralph Nelson – the first time they worked together was in 1963 on “Lilies of the Field”, the film for which Poitier received an Academy Award. The movie tells the story of a black anti-Apartheid activist (Sidney Poitier) and a British engineer (Michael Caine) forced to run from South African Secret Police after battling corrupt government officials in South Africa. The film introduced Dutch actor Rutger Hauer and Indian actress Persis Khambatta – who would appear later in “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and with Rutger Hauer in Nighthawks – to the English-speaking audiences. It is the second times that Poitier returned to Kenya as he starred eighteen years earlier in “Something of Value” (1957) alongside Rock Hudson; Poitier received a presidential invitation at State House by Jomo Kenyatta during his stay in Nairobi during his stay in Nairobi in 1975.

The Wilby Conspiracy, 1975, US 1 sheet


  • A French national living in Nairobi since 1997. Art lover and collector, he runs several web pages online sharing Kenyan art and images of old Kenya under the nickname of "Fuko Uchi" (the kiswahili translation of the naked mole rat, a magical mammal endemic to Kenya). He started collecting movie posters in the early 2000s with a grand vision to unite a unique collection of memorabilia of foreign movies filmed in East Africa and organised a never-seen before exhibition at Alliance Français in 2019 entitled "Memorabilia of films shot in Kenya (1931 - 1975)".

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