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White Witch Doctor (1953)

 -  Adventure  -  1 July 1953 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.1/10 from 287 users  
Reviews: 15 user | 2 critic

Ellen Burton arrives in Africa to join Dr. Mary as her nurse, bringing modern medicine to the native peoples. Lonni Douglas, an animal wrangler and fortune hunter, agrees to take her ... See full summary »


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Title: White Witch Doctor (1953)

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Cast overview:
Ellen Burton
John 'Lonni' Douglas
Walter Slezak ...
Mashood Ajala ...
Joseph C. Narcisse ...
Elzie Emanuel ...
Otis Greene ...
Bakuba boy


Ellen Burton arrives in Africa to join Dr. Mary as her nurse, bringing modern medicine to the native peoples. Lonni Douglas, an animal wrangler and fortune hunter, agrees to take her upriver, despite his misgivings about her suitability for Africa. They battle escaped gorillas, hostile natives, infected lion wounds, and hostile witch doctors to reach their destination and on the way, they fall in love. Will their contrasting interests doom their romance? Written by James Callan <>

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Plot Keywords:

native | nurse | hunter | superstition | bishop | See more »




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Release Date:

1 July 1953 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

White Witch Doctor  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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User Reviews

WHITE WITCH DOCTOR (Henry Hathaway, 1953) **1/2
26 June 2008 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

This is one of several adventure films produced by Hollywood and set in the African jungle made in the wake of KING SOLOMON’S MINES (1950). The narrative offers no surprises whatsoever – but the end result is nonetheless watchable thanks to the soft color, the star combo of Susan Hayward and Robert Mitchum (with Walter Slezak in support), and a notable score from the ever-reliable Bernard Herrmann.

Hayward was married to a doctor who died before embarking on a mission in Africa; so, being a qualified nurse in her own right, she determines to make his wish come true by going over there herself. When she arrives, the woman discovers that the current (female) medic had succumbed to an epidemic and, so, has to take over all by herself. An American guide/hunter (Mitchum) who also operates there as procurer of animals for international zoos - paving the way for the film's most exciting sequence when a gorilla springs out of its cage - is skeptical about whether she’ll be able to cope…but, naturally, Hayward’s a lot tougher than she at first appears – soon enough, ‘converting’ even the natives when her medicine proves more effective than the potions concocted by the local witch doctors (hence the title)! At one point, she’s called in to treat a chieftain’s son (after he’s attacked by a lion during his rite of passage) whose tribe had been the sworn enemy of the white people!

The latter emerges to be true once again when Slezak – for years involved in an undercover search for a lost treasure, which partner Mitchum is also aware of – and his men kill members of the tribe who try to oppose their path to the gold; Mitchum, no longer interested in the booty, faces off with Slezak while Hayward is held hostage by the tribe. It goes without saying that the happy ending sees the couple re-united and the chief’s son cured – with the tribe showing their gratitude at this by putting on an impromptu dance. Incidentally, there’s an excess of local color and native chatter – with which interpreter Mitchum seems uncomfortable – throughout the film…but, I guess, both these elements go with the territory!

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