On location in KZN

2008-03-17 00:00

Since the early decades of the 20th century film makers have been shooting feature films in KwaZulu-Natal, some of them South African productions, others overseas features, both British and American. This is the first of three articles attempting to list them all — and to identify where in the province they were filmed.

Not all the films mentioned were shot here in their entirety; sometimes just a few sequences were filmed and in one or two cases maybe they were not shot here at all. You’ll find a number of such question marks as you go through the list. Similarly, while location areas have been identified, in some cases this hasn’t been possible. Can you fill in the gaps? If you can, or if you can correct any mistakes and omissions, please contact me at 033 355 1111 or via e-mail at feature1@witness.co.za

De Voortrekkers: (director Harold Shaw, 1916). Story of the Great Trek, culminating in the battle of Blood River. Stars Dick Cruickshanks, Caroline Frances Cook, Edna Flugrath and Zulu actor Goba as Dingaan.

The Symbol of Sacrifice: (director Dick Cruickshanks, 1918). Stars Mabel May, Jack Montgomery. Drama set during Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. Natal Witness editor F. Horace Rose is one of the credited writers.

Bond and Word: (director unknown). Written by Natal Witness editor F. Horace Rose and produced by Dick Cruickshanks with Edward Donnelly in the lead. Described as “an original detective drama in four acts”.

The Voice of the Waters: (director Joseph Albrecht, 1918). Stars Mabel May, Edward Vincent and Martha Rowson and written by Natal Witness editor F. Horace Rose. One of the earliest feature films shot in KwaZulu-Natal. According to film historian Thelma Gutsche in her book The History and Social Significance of Motion Pictures in South Africa 1895 - 1940, “this drama was set among the scenery surrounding the Howick Falls ... Most of the action took place in a room overlooking the falls, the scenes being so set that the falls themselves were constantly seen through a window.” No print of the film has survived — all that remains are two stills. The idea of using a scenic feature around which to build a story was used again in The Bridge (1918) starring Edward Vincent and directed by Dick Cruickshanks, which was shot on and around the Blaauwkrantz Bridge over the Kowie River in the Eastern Cape. No print of this film survives either.

King Solomon’s Mines: (director H. Lisle Lucoque, 1918). Faithful adaptation of the classic novel by H. Rider Haggard, even to the inter-racial romance ignored by all subsequent versions. Stars Ray Brown, Albert Lawrence and H. J. Hamlyn.

Allan Quatermain: (director H. Lisle Lucoque, 1919). Adaptation of H. Rider Haggard’s sequel to King Solomon’s Mines. Stars Ray Brown, Albert Lawrence and H. J. Hamlyn.

Siliva the Zulu: (director Attilio Gatti, 1927). Dramatised ethnic documentary made by an Italian team that included the famous anthropologist Lidio Cipriani. Eshowe area.

King Solomon’s Mines: (director Robert Stevenson 1937). First sound version of the H. Rider Haggard classic. Stars Paul Robeson, Cedric Hardwicke, Roland Young, John Loder and Anna Lee. However, none of them travelled beyond the London studios where their scenes were shot. Stand-ins were used on location in Natal where footage was shot in the Drakensberg and at Otto’s Bluff just outside Pietermaritzburg.

They Built a Nation (aka Die Bou van ’n Nasie): (director Joseph Albrecht, 1938). The story of white settlement in southern Africa. Scenes involving Voortrekkers and Zulus were shot on the farm Saxony at Otto’s Bluff.

Cry, the Beloved Country: (director Zoltan Korda, 1951). Adaptation of Alan Paton’s novel. Stars Canada Lee, Charles Carson and Sidney Poitier. Ixopo area.

The Adventurers: (director David MacDonald, 1951). Towards the end of the Anglo-Boer War a Boer guerilla finds some diamonds on a body and then hides them to retrieve later. Three years later he assembles a questionable bunch to find the cache. Stars Jack Hawkins, Peter Hammond, Dennis Price and Siobhan McKenna. Much of this film was shot in the Amphitheatre area of the Drakensberg on the same location as the later Zulu.

Untamed: (director Henry King, 1952). An attempt at an African Gone with the Wind incorporating the Great Trek, based on the novel by Helga Moray. Stars Tyrone Power, Susan Hayward and Richard Egan, none of whom came to this country. Much of the location material was shot near Cato Ridge and Inchanga.

Nor the Moon by Night aka Elephant Gun: (director Ken Annakin, 1958). British woman marries African game warden and finds life in the bush a revelation — not always pleasant. Based on the novel by Joy Packer. Stars Belinda Lee, Michael Craig, Patrick McGoohan, Lionel Ngakane and Joan Brickhill. Shot in the Amphitheatre area of the Drakensberg on the same location as the later Zulu.

• This filmography was created with assistance from Trevor Moses, researcher, National Film, Video and Sound Archives, Pretoria.

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