King Solomon’s Mines(1950)

King Solomon’s Mines is a lot of fun and has a perfect blend of adventure, action, romance and mystery. It was directed at first by Compton Bennett who was replaced in the director’s chair by Andrew Marton after the first few months of shooting. The film is based upon the 1885 novel of the same name written by H. Rider Haggard. The film was mostly shot on location in Africa and marked the first film job of Kenyan film scout, producer and script supervisor, Eve Monley, who would later go on to help directors such as David Lean and Steven Spielberg film on location throughout the continent. She was working as a secretary when she was hired to work as a script supervisor and assistant on the film.

Deborah Kerr was announced as the female lead for the film in July of 1949. MGM originally wanted Errol Flynn to play Allan Quatermain but he chose to take the lead in Kim instead and was replaced by Stewart Granger. I have no doubt that Flynn would have been terrific as it’s the sort of role he could have played in his sleep, but Stewart Granger is so good as Allan that it’s hard now to imagine anyone other than him in the role.

This was the third screen adaptation of the novel. The story had first been filmed as a Silent in 1919, then came the 1937 version starring Cedric Hardwicke as Quatermain. Several other adaptions would follow over the decades.The 1950 film is the best remembered of all the versions. However the 1950 film is not the most accurate adaption of the novel. For example Deborah Kerr’s character doesn’t exist in the novel, the missing man being searched for is the brother of a man in Quatermain’s expedition party, and the role of King Umbopa is also far more significant in the novel than in the film. In the 1937 version the role of Umbopa is more prominent and Paul Robeson received top billing for the role.  The inclusion of the character of Elizabeth helps the film no end in my opinion considering that the growing relationship between Elizabeth and Allen is easily the most memorable part of the film. I also like seeing how Elizabeth copes in an unfamiliar environment and how she doesn’t want to be seen as weak or helpless by Quatermain and the others. 

Allan protects Elizabeth and John.

Elizabeth Curtis (Deborah Kerr)and her brother, John (Richard Carlson)hire  the experienced hunter and guide, Allan Quatermain (Stewart Granger). They hire him to take them in search of Elizabeth’s missing husband, Mr. Curtis,who was searching for the legendary King Solomon’s Mines, and who hasn’t been seen since setting out on his adventure. Allan accepts the job, but he warns the siblings that it will be dangerous, difficult, and it will be unlikely that they will find Mr. Curtis. The trio set out, along with a number of native guides and bearers. Along the way they are joined by the exiled (and very tall)native king Umbopa(Siriaque).

The group encounter danger from tribesmen, from oppressive heatwaves and from some wildlife. Allan and Elizabeth start off disliking each other, but over the weeks that follow they both realise they are developing feelings for one another. Allan is convinced that Elizabeth will not last long on the expedition and will beg him to turn back. She does find the journey difficult to endure, but she stubbornly refuses to give in and put an end to her misery and exhaustion.

I will never forget the first time that I saw this film. I was in High School and in history class we were studying the Suffragettes.We had an exam coming up in a few weeks and our teacher said that if any of us wanted to do so, we could borrow a video tape from her to take home for a night each to watch.On the tape was a documentary about the Suffragette movement. The documentary would help us as a part of our exam revision. I was one of those who borrowed the tape.

I finished watching the documentary and was about to turn the tape off, when it cut back to what had originally been recorded on it. It cut to this film. The film was a few minutes in at the scene where Elizabeth first meets Allan at his house. Seeing Deborah Kerr was in it I carried right on watching. I was very glad that I did because I really enjoyed it. As I had missed the title, I then spent some time afterwards checking out Deborah’s film information until I discovered the film I had just seen was King Solomon’s Mines.  I couldn’t tell you a thing about that Suffragette documentary now, but I can tell you that I’m very happy indeed to have found this film on that tape.

I wasn’t familiar with Stewart Granger at this time and he certainly made quite an impression on me in this film. I have been a fan of his ever since and this will always remain of my favourite films of his.I love Stewart’s performance in this as the fearless, experienced, and smouldering adventurer. It was a role he was well suited to playing I think. He’s got the tough guy with a gentle and soft side underneath down perfectly in this. It also doesn’t hurt that Stewart was one of the sexiest men who ever did live. 

Deborah Kerr does a fantastic job of playing a woman unaccustomed to the struggle and danger of going on their expedition. She does her best with a role that is essentially nothing more than a damsel in distress and tries hard to get across her characters determination and emotional distress though. I think she succeeds quite well at this.

Deborah and Stewart have incredible chemistry.

For a large part of the film Deborah sadly doesn’t get much to do apart from scream as animals scare her or try to attack her. These sequences lead to lots of moments of Allan rescuing Elizabeth, and at the moment of rescue the pair gaze into each others eyes and their growing bond and desire is ever more evident to us. Stewart and Deborah have some incredible chemistry going on in this film. The sexual tension between them is the thing I remember the most about this film. It is so evident and adds something extra to the film.From the way Stewart and Deborah both look at each other to their body language, they very clearly convey to us their characters growing feelings for one another.   

Richard Carlson (who I love in The Creature From The Black Lagoon)lends good support as Elizabeth’s brother. He can see before his sister can that she and Allan are falling in love. He also knows the real reason (which we don’t learn until later on)why she is pushing herself so hard to find her husband. Carlson is an actor who I think given the right material could have become a much bigger star.

The film also features one of the best examples of a moment that can only ever happen in a film. Elizabeth’s long hair proves to be a real bother to her during the trek, so she takes the scissors to it one afternoon and cuts most of it off. After a quick wash in a rock pool by a waterfall, she emerges to sunbathe on the rocks with an immaculately styled brand new hairdo. Ah, the magic of film.

The film is great fun and I highly recommend it. My only issue is that there are several scenes where animals are killed for no reason other than that they scared Elizabeth. I can’t stand to see animals killed or hurt and I really hate people who do that to animals. Also the whole thing with Elizabeth screaming almost every single time she comes across an animal gets annoying very quickly. Does she not know that she in these creatures natural habitats and will very likely encounter them at some point?

Are there any other fans of this one out there? Somebody please tell me I am not alone in my love for this one despite its flaws.

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6 thoughts on “King Solomon’s Mines(1950)

  1. Jambo. You are not alone. It’s a grand oldie, and you can’t go wrong with Kerr in color and Granger with a rifle. I’ve been lucky enough to go to Africa several times and do safari’s (including the wildebeest migration, the greatest show on earth) so I’m up for any movie filmed there. When I win the lottery (I’m past due) I will devote a chunk to saving elephants. Good pick, Maddy Cheers,Mark

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  2. I haven’t seen this film, although I’m sure I’d enjoy it, despite sharing your dislike for seeing animals being killed. Your story of how you first discovered King Solomon’s Mines brought a smile to my face. I do miss those days of finding unexpected recordings on old VHS tapes.

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  3. I first saw Stewart Granger in North to Alaska when I was about 11, and I became increasingly fond of him the more often I rewatched that particular film. I really wanted to see him in other things, but our local video store didn’t have anything else of his, and this was the 1990s, so I couldn’t just stream some of his movies or order copies online. I read in some book or magazine that this was one of his most famous movies, so I made up my mind to see it one day.

    I finally watched it this weekend! And, while I’m happy to say that Stewart Granger did not disappoint me (pretty sure he’s incapable of that), the lack of character development for any of the leads and the barest wisp of a plot means it’s one of those movies I spent 30 years wanting to see, watched once, and will now just move on from. As you say, the growing relationship between Elizabeth and Allen is easily the most memorable part of the film… and that never served to develop the characters, it just kind of happened because of course it did. Oh well, I’m glad I’ve seen it at last and scratched the little itch it always gave me πŸ™‚

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      1. I haven’t seen Caravan yet, but I really enjoyed Scaramouche and want to rewatch it. My favorite new-to-me movies of 2022 was actually Granger’s The Prisoner of Zenda, which I think I ended up watching 4 or 5 times, thanks to my kids loving it too πŸ™‚

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