MGM secretly sent a second unit crew to Tecate, Mexico to avoid the American laws about ethical treatment of animals. Animals were shot fighting each other, and lions were reportedly starved to promote vicious attacks on hyenas, monkeys and deer.
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.
Halfway through filming, MGM sent a sound crew to Africa because of the public's desire for all-talking sound pictures. However, the sound quality was so poor almost all the dialogue sequences were reshot at MGM's Culver City Studio. African natives Mutia Omoolu and Riano Tindama were brought back to Hollywood for some additional filming. When this activity caused rumors to circulate that the entire production was filmed on the back lot, MGM scrapped much of the new footage, including scenes with Marjorie Rambeau, who was replaced by Olive Carey as Edith Trent.
This film received its initial television broadcast in New York City Tuesday 9 April 1957 on WCBS (Channel 2), followed by Chicago 18 April 1957 on WBBM (Channel 2), by Memphis 24 May 1957 on WHBQ (Channel 13), by Los Angeles 4 June 1957 on KTTV (Channel 11), by New Haven CT 6 June 1957 on WHCT (Channel 18), by Honolulu 2 August 1957 on KHVH (Channel 13), by Philadelphia 2 September 1957 on WFIL (Channel 6) and by New Haven CT 16 September 1957 on WNHC (Channel 8); in San Francisco it was first telecast 8 March 1958 on KGO (Channel 7).
Lead actress Edwine Booth contracted African sleeping sickness on the set and sued MGM for a million bucks. She won a settlement. Meanwhile Irving Thalberg was ordering more footage to be shot in Hollywood and Mexico.