Something of Value (1957)

113 or 115 mins | Drama | June 1957

Director:

Richard Brooks

Writer:

Richard Brooks

Producer:

Pandro S. Berman

Cinematographer:

Russell Harlan

Editor:

Ferris Webster

Production Designers:

William A. Horning, Edward Carfagno

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

The following written prologue precedes the onscreen credits: "When we take away from a man his traditional way of life, his customs, his religion, we had better make certain to replace them with Something of Value ." Although a principal actor in the film, Sidney Poitier’s name is last in the opening cast. Prior to the beginning of the film's action, six of the main white characters are introduced by written names and brief character descriptions. The film concludes with the following quote credited onscreen to Sir Winston Churchill: "The problems of East Africa are the problems of the world."
       As noted by several reviews, Something of Value was the first motion picture produced in Hollywood that attempted to describe the events of the Mau Mau insurrection in Kenya, then a British colony. According to historical sources, the Mau Mau was a militant African nationalist movement that originated in the early 1950s among the Kikuyu people of Kenya. The Mau Mau, which advocated violent resistance to British domination, was particularly associated with the ritual oaths employed by leaders of the Kikuyu Central Association despite that fact that Kikuyu custom prohibited the administering of oaths by force or to women. As the Mau Mau grew in number, their oaths grew in brutality. The rebellion ended by 1960, and Kenya became an independent nation in 1963. For more information about the Mau Mau see the entry above for the 1955 documentary Mau Mau .
       According to a 5 Jan 1955 HR news item, author Robert C. Ruark was to serve as technical advisor for the film. A 28 Sep 1955 HR news ... More Less

The following written prologue precedes the onscreen credits: "When we take away from a man his traditional way of life, his customs, his religion, we had better make certain to replace them with Something of Value ." Although a principal actor in the film, Sidney Poitier’s name is last in the opening cast. Prior to the beginning of the film's action, six of the main white characters are introduced by written names and brief character descriptions. The film concludes with the following quote credited onscreen to Sir Winston Churchill: "The problems of East Africa are the problems of the world."
       As noted by several reviews, Something of Value was the first motion picture produced in Hollywood that attempted to describe the events of the Mau Mau insurrection in Kenya, then a British colony. According to historical sources, the Mau Mau was a militant African nationalist movement that originated in the early 1950s among the Kikuyu people of Kenya. The Mau Mau, which advocated violent resistance to British domination, was particularly associated with the ritual oaths employed by leaders of the Kikuyu Central Association despite that fact that Kikuyu custom prohibited the administering of oaths by force or to women. As the Mau Mau grew in number, their oaths grew in brutality. The rebellion ended by 1960, and Kenya became an independent nation in 1963. For more information about the Mau Mau see the entry above for the 1955 documentary Mau Mau .
       According to a 5 Jan 1955 HR news item, author Robert C. Ruark was to serve as technical advisor for the film. A 28 Sep 1955 HR news item states that Ruark was initially considered to direct the film, but was later replaced by Richard Brooks. Portions of the film were shot on location in Kenya, Africa with studio work taking place on the M-G-M lot in Culver City, CA. A 10 Aug 1956 HR news item claims that the Kikuyu tribe ceremonial dance included in the picture had not been photographed previously.
       According to a biography of Rock Hudson, during filming in Africa, Poitier had to contend with most establishments, including hotel and restaurants, refusing to serve him because he was black. The book also noted that the film was banned in many countries; however, censor reports contained in the film on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library indicate otherwise. British and Australian territories requested certain violent scenes be cut from the film, but do not appear to have banned it. No censorship information was found for other countries. According to modern sources, the film was reissued under the title Africa Ablaze .
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
4 May 1957.
---
Cue
11 May 1957.
---
Daily Variety
29 Apr 1957
p. 3.
Film Daily
30 Apr 1957
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jan 1955.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Sep 1955.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jun 1956
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jul 1956
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Aug 1956
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Aug 1956
p. 6, 18.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Aug 1956
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Oct 1956
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Apr 1957
p. 3.
Life
22 Jul 1957.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
4 May 1957
p. 361.
New York Times
11 May 1957
p. 24.
New Yorker
18 May 1957.
---
Newsweek
13 May 1957.
---
Saturday Review
18 May 1957.
---
Time
20 May 1957.
---
Variety
1 May 1957
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Ward
MUSIC
SOUND
MAKEUP
Hair styles
Makeup created by
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Something of Value by Robert C. Ruark (New York, 1955).
DETAILS
Release Date:
June 1957
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 10 May 1957
Production Date:
18 July--2 August 1957 in Kenya, Africa
15 August--mid October in Culver City, CA
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
28 February 1957
Copyright Number:
LP7731
Physical Properties:
Sound
Perspecta Sound; Westrex Recording System
Black and White
Widescreen/ratio
1.85:1
Duration(in mins):
113 or 115
Length(in feet):
10,195
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1940s British-ruled Kenya, members of the Kikuyu tribe work peacefully for considerate white settler Henry McKenzie, abiding by colonial laws, as well as their own religious beliefs, which forbid any violence against the settlers. Both in their early twenties, Henry’s son Peter and black worker Kimani are close friends, having been raised together as brothers since the death of Henry’s wife. One day, when Kimani asks to use a rifle during a lion hunt, Peter’s brother-in-law, Jeff Newton, slaps the black man and reminds him that he cannot have the gun nor can he continue his friendship with Peter. A humiliated Kimani disappears from the camp, but, after being injured when his foot is caught in a trap, is rescued by Peter, who carries him home on his back. Kimani suggests that they must assume the roles of master and serf, but Peter refuses to change their relationship. Back at the black settlement, Kimani’s father Karanja orders the murder of one of the tribe’s newborns, which was born feet first, a condition the tribe believes to be a curse. After Karanja is arrested and sentenced to jail, Henry argues with the Crown consul that if the whites continue to take away the tribal elders’ authority, the tribe children will begin to disrespect their own way of the life and, he warns, disrespect the colonial Christian God. When Henry, Peter and Kimani visit the elderly man in jail, Karanja gives Henry his sacred stone. Karanja then encourages Kimani to assume his position as headman at the farm, but Kimani refuses to spend his life working as a white man’s slave. One night, moved by moral outrage at the injustices ... +


In 1940s British-ruled Kenya, members of the Kikuyu tribe work peacefully for considerate white settler Henry McKenzie, abiding by colonial laws, as well as their own religious beliefs, which forbid any violence against the settlers. Both in their early twenties, Henry’s son Peter and black worker Kimani are close friends, having been raised together as brothers since the death of Henry’s wife. One day, when Kimani asks to use a rifle during a lion hunt, Peter’s brother-in-law, Jeff Newton, slaps the black man and reminds him that he cannot have the gun nor can he continue his friendship with Peter. A humiliated Kimani disappears from the camp, but, after being injured when his foot is caught in a trap, is rescued by Peter, who carries him home on his back. Kimani suggests that they must assume the roles of master and serf, but Peter refuses to change their relationship. Back at the black settlement, Kimani’s father Karanja orders the murder of one of the tribe’s newborns, which was born feet first, a condition the tribe believes to be a curse. After Karanja is arrested and sentenced to jail, Henry argues with the Crown consul that if the whites continue to take away the tribal elders’ authority, the tribe children will begin to disrespect their own way of the life and, he warns, disrespect the colonial Christian God. When Henry, Peter and Kimani visit the elderly man in jail, Karanja gives Henry his sacred stone. Karanja then encourages Kimani to assume his position as headman at the farm, but Kimani refuses to spend his life working as a white man’s slave. One night, moved by moral outrage at the injustices against his father, Kimani attends a secret meeting of the Mau Mau, a group of black men planning an insurrection. He is asked by leader Njogu to prove his fidelity by stealing rifles. After one of the Mau Mau kills a black houseboy during the robbery, Kimani, troubled by their methods of achieving freedom, threatens to leave. Njogu tells Kimani he must remain with them because the police will now connect him to the crime. Years later, in 1952, Peter, who now leads safaris to supplement the farm’s dwindling income, welcomes Holly Keith, his betrothed, home after her years of studying abroad. As Kenya becomes increasingly tension-filled, Henry and other white settlers question the workers’ wives about the sudden disappearance of many of their mates, but the frightened women do not respond. Meanwhile, Kimani submits to a Mau Mau oath in which he receives seven gashes to the arm, drinks sheep’s blood and swears to drive the Europeans from Kenya no matter what the cost. When Kimani comments that Njogu has not taken the oath himself, the leader claims he is too old to change his faith in his gods who forbid him to perform many of the oath’s tenements. Kimani then asks permission from Njogu to marry his daughter Wanjiru, who is carrying Kimani’s child. The leader refuses to perform the Christian ceremony. Later, while Peter and Holly are celebrating their wedding night camping on the safari, the Mau Mau pillage the McKenzie farmhouse and murder Jeff and his two children. Kimani, torn between respect for the McKenzies and allegiance to Mau Mau, cannot follow through with killing Jeff’s wife Elizabeth, and leaves her wounded. After a state of emergency is declared by the ruling British, Peter and neighbor Joe Matson track down a Mau Mau camp and bomb it with a grenade. The Mau Mau surrender and are forced into an internment camp where they are tortured for information. Peter subsequently returns home exhausted and unable to express his feelings to Holly because of moral torment he suffers from the events. Holly begs him to leave the country, but Peter will not leave his land. When Henry and Peter return to the camp, they find Joe cruelly torturing Njogu for information. Henry, knowing that killing Njogu will only make him a martyr, produces Naranja’s sacred stone and asks Njogu if his gods would ask him to make the Mau Mau kill innocent children. Njogu, fearing that the wrath of his god symbolized in a violent thunderstorm passing above, admits that if his gods cannot accept Mau Mau, then the Mau Mau cannot lead his people. He then names Kimani, now a Mau Mau general, as the leader of the attack on the McKenzie home. As ruling British capture many Mau Mau followers, Peter and black worker Lathela search for Kimani. One night at the McKenzie home, Holly is forced to bravely fight when the Mau Mau attack again. Henry then sends Holly and Elizabeth, who is pregnant with Jeff’s child, to Nairobi for protection. Meanwhile, Peter and Lathela find Kimani and his followers in the jungle. Speaking to Kimani alone, Peter asks him to surrender. Kimani, who has never abandoned his doubts about the Mau Mau methods, agrees to meet at a hidden spring to discuss the terms of an agreement. Kimani then explains to his followers that they must negotiate with the whites, telling them “it is your own hatred that you see in others.” In Nairobi, Peter joins Holly at the hospital where Elizabeth’s child is born. When he suggests to Holly that they leave the country for a while, she tells him she loves Africa and wants to return home. Later, Peter discovers that Joe has already left for the spring with many armed men. He races to the spring to prevent any conflict, but when Kimani and the remaining Mau Mau arrive, Joe and his men shoot at the men, women and children. Kimani escapes with his infant son into the jungle, where Peter finds him in a cave and explains that they were both betrayed. When his old friend flees with a rifle, Peter pushes Kimani, causing the gun to slip from his hand. Setting the child down, Kimani threatens Peter with a large knife, but Peter grabs it and, holding to Kimani’s throat, begs him to surrender to enable them both to start over again. Kimani insists he must kill Peter and, while grabbing for a gun, slides into a Mau Mau pit trap, where bamboo spikes pierce him. Kimani begs Peter to throw the child to him to die in the pit as well, but Peter keeps the child, carrying it home to be raised together with Elizabeth’s newborn, in hopes that a new generation might resolve the inequities of East Africa.


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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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