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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 »
Aloysius 'Trader' Horn:
They have a telegraph, though - drums. There's a sound that'll crawl up your spine and down to your gizzard. Maybe you'll hear it one of these days.
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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 »
In the heart of Africa gin and quinine gets them through
I don't think any film that managed to finish its shooting schedule and be released ever had as much problems as Trader Horn. So much so that for 20 years no American film company ever went back to Africa for location shooting until The African Queen and King Solomon's Mines. But so much footage survived that MGM was able to stock a series of Tarzan films and not put its players at risk the way Harry Carey, Duncan Renaldo and Edwina Booth were.
The plot is a skimpy one. Carey is your basic white hunter who is taking along a young friend Renaldo into some unexplored country in search of missionary Olive Carey's daughter. When they find her she's now the princess of a savage tribe. But one look at these two, especially Renaldo, makes her realize there are others who look like her. After that it's the three of them plus Carey's gunbearer on the run from the tribe and without weapons in the jungle.
While American companies avoided Africa, colonial powers like Great Britain shot films in Africa and did it because they knew what the hazards were and took precautions. The goring of a young native by a rhinoceros is real and captured on film and frightening. Director Woody Van Dyke kept his cast and crew loaded with gin and quinine. It still did not save Edwina Booth from a rare tropical disease which many thought killed her. I've always believed that was a deliberate publicity stunt by MGM because Ms. Booth was through with show business after this shoot. Who could blame her?
The first half of the film is a travelogue on safari. At the time this was great stuff for the American movie-going public. Still no studio wanted to face the expenses MGM had during Trader Horn's shooting.
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