A veteran white trader in the darkest Africa of the 1870s mentors a younger companion on the mysteries of the Dark Continent. After meeting a missionary, they go in search of Nina, her kidnapped daughter, who was abducted by natives when she was young and now reigns over the savage tribe, regarded by them as a goddess. When the two men are captured and slated for horrible death by her people, she rescues them, and the trio flees the pursuing tribesmen through savage country. Written by
Director W.S. Van Dyke and many of the crew contracted malaria and were treated with quinine. Two fatal mishaps occurred during the African filming: a native crewman fell into the river and was eaten by a crocodile, and a native boy was killed by a charging rhino (which was captured on film and is in the movie). Other misfortunes also plagued the production, including flash floods, sunstroke, swarming locusts, and tse-tse fly and ant attacks. See more »
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is indebted to the governmental officials of The Territory of Tanganyika, The Protectorate of Uganda, The Colony of Kenya, The Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, The Belgian Congo, whose co-operation made this picture possible - and to White Hunters Maj. W.V.D. Dickinson, A.S. Waller, Esq., J.H. Barnes, Esq., H.R. Stanton, Esq., for their courageous services through 14,000 miles of African veldt and jungle. See more »
A big hit in its time, TRADER HORN still warrants a close look
W(oodbridge) S(trong) Van Dyke (1889-1943) directed the MGM motion picture TRADER HORN in 1930 and later wrote a book about the production titled HORNING INTO Africa (1931). This was the first major Hollywood picture to shoot on location in Africa, which in this case meant Kenya and the Belgian Congo. Van Dyke hired professional big game hunters Sydney Waller and Dicker Dickenson to provide both the action footage and the meat required for the film crew's daily rations.
HORN starred Harry Carey, Edwina Booth, Aubrey Smith, and Duncan Renaldo. Miss Booth, who bravely agreed to wear the horrendous makeup required for her character (ultra-realistic when you compare it to later "lost white princesses" like Sheena and the woman in JUNGLE GODDESS) nearly died from a severe case of malarial fever caught while in the Congo. Van Dyke produced so much stock footage of African crocodiles, wildlife, and scenery that it was recycled for years in Hollywood films about the Dark Continent, including the great MGM TARZAN movies starring Johnny Weissmuller and the incomparable Maureen O'Sullivan.
TRADER HORN has been re-mastered and is an amazing document of Old Africa, providing footage of local cultural life and a long-lost wildlife paradise. Much of the natural history information given in the film (the lead character gives his protégé sort of a guided tour of the Serengeti) is more accurate than that contained in most hunting books of the time. There are also some authentic hunting sequences, as well as numerous "staged" battles like that between a pair of leopards and some hyenas.
Incidentally, the crew of TRADER HORN was widely blamed for disrupting the local economy, at least by the colonials and at least as far as visiting photographers and film-makers were concerned. The story goes that the production unit wanted footage of a particularly impressive East African tribal chief, and offered him the sum of £40 pounds for the privilege. That amount was many, many times the going rate, and the local people immediately realized that they had been getting ripped off for years. MGM set the new price; even twenty years later Masai and Samburu warriors were often demanding as much as £1 for a still photo, and the colonials were still complaining about it.
A remake of TRADER HORN was made in 1973. Starring Rod Taylor and Anne Heywood, it was so bad that the studio almost canceled its release. It is particularly remarkable for Taylor's performance as an Englishman; judging from his accent he was born in a quaint English cottage on the South Side of Chicago.
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