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Wednesday, 22 June 2005
King Solomon's Mines
Topic: Films and TV
Today is the anniversary of the birth of the British author, Sir Henry Rider Haggard, who was born in Bradenham, Norfolk, on 22nd June 1856. He wrote a number of first-class adventure novels but his most famous book is probably "King Solomon's Mines", first published in 1885. It was an instant best-seller. H. Rider Haggard lived for some years in Natal, Africa, and is said to have had an affair with an African woman. Certainly, his sympathy for the native population comes through very strongly in his books.

Of course, it wasn't long before the film industry showed an interest in his stories and "King Solomon's Mines" was turned into a film. Actually, at least three films and a TV mini series have been made based on Rider Haggard's famous book. The first film, made in 1937 and largely forgotten, starred Paul Robeson and Sir Cedric Hardwick. The most recent version, made in 1985, starred Richard Chamberlain and Sharon Stone. However, the one I saw (and probably the best out of the three) was the 1950 version starring Stewart Grainger and Deborah Kerr.

I must have been 8-years-old when I was taken to see the film in London. The film tells the story of an adventurer who helps a woman look for her lost husband in Africa. I know I was totally enthralled with the African wildlife and the marvellous scenery. I believe two elephants were actually filmed being shot but I don't remember the carnage! I do remember that I particularly liked Umbopa, the tall black Prince with a snake carved into his stomach. I was very impressed also with the Watutsi, that African tribe of very tall people, and their marvellous dancing and singing. (The Watutsi are also known as the Tutsi, many of whom were slaughtered in their thousands by the Hutu in 1993.)

The film won well deserved Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, Color and Best Film Editing and was also nominated for Best Picture.

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