Mandingo (1975)

R | 127 mins | Drama | 7 May 1975

Writer:

Norman Wexler

Producer:

Dino De Laurentiis

Cinematographer:

Richard Kline

Editor:

Frank Bracht

Production Designer:

Boris Leven

Production Company:

Dino De Laurentiis Corp.
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HISTORY

Originally published in 1957 by Richmond, VA, based Denlinger’s Publishing, and issued in paperback in 1958 as a Fawcett Crest Giant, Mandingo is the first of fifteen novels in the Falconhurst series initially written by Kyle Onstott (1887-1966), and later by Onstett in anonymous collaboration with Lance Horner. Horner was credited as co-author on Falconhurst Fancy, the fourth entry in the series, and after Onstett’s death, Horner officially took over the series with the fifth entry, The Mustee, published in 1967. The final seven novels, beginning with Taproots of Falconhurst, were written by Ashley Carter (pseudonym for Harry Whittington), with the final entry, Falconhurst Fugitive, appearing in 1988.        According to a 6 Apr 1975 LAT article, 4.5 million copies of Mandingo had been sold by that date and the novel had gone into 38 printings. It was turned into a play by Jack Kirkland and produced at the Lyceum Theatre in New York City, running a mere eight performances from 22 May1961 to 27 May 1961.
       The title Mandingo refers to a group of people from the upper Niger valley in western Africa, also known as the Mandinka, Malinke, or Mandinko. An article in the 22 Jan 1969 Var inaccurately described the Mandingo as a Bedouin people from Sudan.
       Actor Ken Norton is better known as the World Heavy Weight Champion boxer who, on 31 Mar 1973, beat Muhammad Ali to win the North American Boxing Federation title. Mandingo was Norton’s first credited screen role, but he had already appeared uncredited in ... More Less

Originally published in 1957 by Richmond, VA, based Denlinger’s Publishing, and issued in paperback in 1958 as a Fawcett Crest Giant, Mandingo is the first of fifteen novels in the Falconhurst series initially written by Kyle Onstott (1887-1966), and later by Onstett in anonymous collaboration with Lance Horner. Horner was credited as co-author on Falconhurst Fancy, the fourth entry in the series, and after Onstett’s death, Horner officially took over the series with the fifth entry, The Mustee, published in 1967. The final seven novels, beginning with Taproots of Falconhurst, were written by Ashley Carter (pseudonym for Harry Whittington), with the final entry, Falconhurst Fugitive, appearing in 1988.        According to a 6 Apr 1975 LAT article, 4.5 million copies of Mandingo had been sold by that date and the novel had gone into 38 printings. It was turned into a play by Jack Kirkland and produced at the Lyceum Theatre in New York City, running a mere eight performances from 22 May1961 to 27 May 1961.
       The title Mandingo refers to a group of people from the upper Niger valley in western Africa, also known as the Mandinka, Malinke, or Mandinko. An article in the 22 Jan 1969 Var inaccurately described the Mandingo as a Bedouin people from Sudan.
       Actor Ken Norton is better known as the World Heavy Weight Champion boxer who, on 31 Mar 1973, beat Muhammad Ali to win the North American Boxing Federation title. Mandingo was Norton’s first credited screen role, but he had already appeared uncredited in both Top of the Heap (1972, see entry) and The All-American Boy (1973, see entry).
       An article appearing in the 22 Jan 1969 Var reported that actor James Cagney was offered the role of “Warren Maxwell” and that Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) had declined the role of “Mede.” Although the article stated that actor Lionel Stander had been cast, he does not appear in the completed film. A 6 Apr 1975 LAT article reported that Charlton Heston had turned down the role of “Warren Maxwell,” and Jeff Bridges, his brother Beau Bridges, and Jan-Michael Vincent had all declined the role of “Hammond.”
       Producer Maleno Malenotti acquired screen rights to all of Onstott’s novels, with principal photography on Mandingo scheduled for a mid-Mar 1969 start in Brazil, with a few scenes to be shot in New Orleans, LA. The film was to be released late 1969 or early 1970. Author Lance Horner was hired as technical advisor on the film. A news brief in the 7 May 1969 Var listed Damiano Damani as director, and stated that Alberto Lattuada would direct Master of Falconhurst, which was set to follow Mandingo into production. Damani’s name does not appear in Mandingo credits, and Master of Falconhurst was never produced.
       A 22 Dec 1969 HR news brief reported that Malenotti, Dino DeLaurentiis, and the Italian company Cram Film Corp. had enlisted Bill Pierce to negotiate a co-production deal for the projects with major studios and stars to produce Drum (1976, see entry) with Mandingo to be filmed second.
       According to the 6 Apr 1975 LAT article, De Laurentiis purchased screen rights to Mandingo and four other of the Falconhurst novels from Malenotti, who was no longer involved with the project.
       As reported in a 20 May 1974 HR, Paramount Pictures president Frank Yablans announced that Paramount would distribute Mandingo in the United States and Canada. Richard Fleischer would direct, with Ralph Serpe serving as executive producer. Location shooting was now scheduled for Louisiana only. The slave auction scene was shot in front of the Old New Orleans Mint according to 6 Apr 1975 LAT.
       The LAT article also reported that Fleischer had turned down Mandingo after reading the original screenplay, but changed his mind when his eighty-year-old mother convinced him to read the book. Although Fleischer thought the book was worse than the screenplay, he was convinced that it had the potential to present the subject of American slavery realistically, arguing against the “misconception that blacks didn’t mind being slaves.”
       A 30 June 1975 New York article claimed De Laurentiis told Charles Glen, the vice-president of marketing for Paramount that Mandingo was the new Gone with the Wind (1939, see entry). This inspired Glen to find Symeon Shimin to design the Mandingo poster based on the one Shimin created for Gone with the Wind.
       Mandingo received mostly scathing reviews for its sensational depiction of the antebellum South. An article in 9 May 1975 DV reported that the Catholic Church condemned the film for “nudity, graphic sex, violence and sadism laid on with a cynical disregard for the demands of morality and art.” A review in the 21 May 1975 LAHExam stated that the film’s presentation of plantation life was “rabidly melodramatic.” However, the film was a box office success. The 19 May 1975 Box reported that the film grossed $20,717.00 opening day at the Criterion and RKO 86th Street theaters, setting house records.
       As reported in a 12 Mar 1975 DV article, William Baxter of the Steinman-Baxter distribution operation filed a lawsuit against De Laurentiis and his company with the New York State Supreme Court, claiming that as co-producer of the 1961 theatrical play he had sole screen rights to Mandingo. Baxter alleged that, in 1966, he and playwright Jack Kirkland with Donald Feitel, editorial director of Metropolitan Sunday Newspapers, had written a screen treatment but were unable to raise funds to produce the movie. However he claimed to be entitled to a percentage of the profits from any film based on Mandingo. DeLaurentiis had completed and sneak previewed his version of Mandingo two weeks earlier, and the outcome of the suit has not been determined.
       Drum, the sequel to Mandingo was released in 1976. Ken Norton appeared in both films, although he played different roles in each.
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BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
19 May 1975
p. 4782.
Daily Variety
9 May 1975.
---
Daily Variety
12 Mar 1975.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 Dec 1969.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 May 1974.
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 Aug 1974
p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Nov 1974
p. 25.
Hollywood Reporter
2 May 1975
p. 6.
LAHeExam
21 May 1975.
---
Los Angeles Times
6 Apr 1975.
---
Los Angeles Times
22 May 1975
p. 16.
New York Times
8 May 1975
p. 19.
New York Times
30 Jun 1975.
---
Variety
22 Jan 1969.
---
Variety
7 May 1975
p. 48.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Dino De Laurentiis Presents
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Gaffer
Head grip
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
Mus ed
SOUND
Sd eff ed
Prod sd
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles & opt eff
MAKEUP
Hair stylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Post prod supv
Casting
Asst to prod
Scr supv
Loc contact
Loc auditor
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Mandingo by Kyle Onstott (Richmond, 1957) and the play of the same name by Jack Kirkland (New York, 22 May 1961).
SONGS
"Born In This Time," performed by Muddy Waters, music by Maurice Jarre, lyrics by Hi Tide Harris.
DETAILS
Release Date:
7 May 1975
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 7 May 1975
Los Angeles opening: 21 May 1975
Production Date:
began Julyy 1974 in Louisiana
Copyright Claimant:
Dino DeLaurentiis Corporation
Copyright Date:
21 March 1975
Copyright Number:
LP44318
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
127
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

Warren Maxwell, a slave breeder, sells three slaves, including Cicero, a big man with a “R” branded on his shoulder, to the slave trader Brownlee. After the transaction concludes, Maxwell’s adult son, Hammond, tells his father that a fourteen year-old slave girl, Big Pearl, is sick. Maxwell and Brownlee go to the slave quarters where Doc Redfield pronounces the girl has fever because she is still a virgin and orders Hammond to have sex with her. Later, the men gather about the table and argue about the possibility of slaves having souls, while elder slaves Lucrezia Borgia and Agamemnon serve them. After Hammond leaves, Maxwell explains that his son is shy due to a limp he acquired when a pony stepped on his knee. That night, Hammond stumbles upon Cicero teaching Agamemnon to read. Hammond informs Maxwell, who wants to blind Agamemnon in one eye, but Hammond convinces his father to beat the slave instead. The next day, Hammond stands outside the barn as another slave hangs a naked Agamemnon upside down and lashes him with a wood paddle. A white man appears, and takes the paddle to show how to properly beat a slave. Hammond rushes in, demanding to know what right the man has to touch one of his slaves. The man introduces himself as Hammond’s cousin Charles Woodford. Later, Maxwell discloses he has agreed to give Charles’s father a loan, on condition that Charles’s sister, Blanche marries Hammond. Maxwell dismisses Hammond’s protests that he is shy with white women, insisting that they need an heir for the Falconhurst plantation. That afternoon, ... +


Warren Maxwell, a slave breeder, sells three slaves, including Cicero, a big man with a “R” branded on his shoulder, to the slave trader Brownlee. After the transaction concludes, Maxwell’s adult son, Hammond, tells his father that a fourteen year-old slave girl, Big Pearl, is sick. Maxwell and Brownlee go to the slave quarters where Doc Redfield pronounces the girl has fever because she is still a virgin and orders Hammond to have sex with her. Later, the men gather about the table and argue about the possibility of slaves having souls, while elder slaves Lucrezia Borgia and Agamemnon serve them. After Hammond leaves, Maxwell explains that his son is shy due to a limp he acquired when a pony stepped on his knee. That night, Hammond stumbles upon Cicero teaching Agamemnon to read. Hammond informs Maxwell, who wants to blind Agamemnon in one eye, but Hammond convinces his father to beat the slave instead. The next day, Hammond stands outside the barn as another slave hangs a naked Agamemnon upside down and lashes him with a wood paddle. A white man appears, and takes the paddle to show how to properly beat a slave. Hammond rushes in, demanding to know what right the man has to touch one of his slaves. The man introduces himself as Hammond’s cousin Charles Woodford. Later, Maxwell discloses he has agreed to give Charles’s father a loan, on condition that Charles’s sister, Blanche marries Hammond. Maxwell dismisses Hammond’s protests that he is shy with white women, insisting that they need an heir for the Falconhurst plantation. That afternoon, Hammond and Charles visit a neighboring plantation to acquire a Mandingo male for breeding stock, but the owner explains that the Mandingo died. The two men are invited to stay overnight and supplied with slave women for their beds. Hammond is distraught when Charles beats his slave with a belt to get sexually excited. When Hammond takes his slave, Helen, into an adjacent room, she remarks how strange it is for a white man to care what happens to a black woman. After Helen turns down a chance to leave, Hammond gently takes her to bed. The next day, at a slave auction, Hammond buys Mede, a powerfully built Mandingo. Later, when Hammond visits the Woodford family to meet Blanche, Charles blurts out the condition attached to the loan, and a humiliated Blanche runs to her room. Charles follows and threatens to reveal their incestuous relationship if Blanche marries Hammond. Blanche counters that their father would disown him, and then goes into the garden where Hammond proposes. The newlyweds honeymoon in New Orleans, but Blanche’s passionate lovemaking convinces Hammond she is not a virgin. Hammond takes Mede to a bordello, where Mede gets into a fight with another slave. As the two men battle it out, De Veve, another patron, yells that he will pay a thousand dollars to the owner of the winner. Mede wins and De Veve offers to buy him. Hammond refuses, but accepts a challenge for Mede to fight De Veve’s slave in two months. Hammond uses his winnings to buy Helen. Later, Hammond, Blanche and the two slaves return home, where Maxwell is more impressed by Mede than Blanche. Maxwell declares he will breed Big Pearl with Mede, but Hammond produces the pedigree papers proving that Mede and Pearl are siblings. Maxwell reasons that because the two do not know, it will do no harm. He further explains that if the child is deformed, Maxwell will have it killed. For months, Hammond refuses to be with Blanche, spending his time sleeping with Helen and training Mede to be a fighter. One night, Helen confesses she is pregnant and makes Hammond promise to free the child when it grows up. The next day, a posse appears reporting that Hammond’s ex-slave, Cicero, has started an uprising; killing his new master and family. Hammond and Mede join the men and corner Cicero in a barn. A gunfight ensues, and a wounded Cicero runs into the woods. Unable to follow Cicero on foot, Hammond sends Mede after the renegade slave. Mede tackles Cicero, but lets him go, whereupon the white men appear and capture the slave. Before being hanged, Cicero yells that he is happy to die as a man, not a slave. A few weeks later, Maxwell and Hammond take Mede to New Orleans for his fight. Once the men are gone, Blanche learns Helen is pregnant and beats her. When Helen tries to escape, Blanche throws her downstairs, causing her to lose the baby. Meanwhile, Mede faces his opponent, Topaz, champion of Jamaica. At first Mede is brutally beaten, but when Hammond screams he will yield, Mede comes back with a vengeance. Topaz chews a piece out of Mede’s leg and Mede kills Topaz by biting his jugular vein. De Veve offers Hammond $10,000 for Mede, but Hammond refuses, promising he will never allow Mede to fight again. On the way home, Maxwell displays a ruby necklace and earrings and orders Hammond to give them to Blanche. Upon arriving, Lucrezia tells Maxwell about Helen and he threatens to sell her if she tells Hammond what happened. After Helen tells Hammond she fell downstairs, Hammond gives her the ruby earrings. Later, Maxwell locks Hammond and Blanche into a room, declaring he will not let them out until they make him a grandson. Hammond gives Blanche the ruby necklace and they make love. Later, Helen serves dinner wearing the ruby earrings, causing Blanche to run from the room. Hammond follows and, in the ensuing argument, Blanche admits she lost her virginity to her brother. Days later, while Hammond takes a group of slaves to be sold at auction, Blanche orders Mede to her room and threatens to accuse him of raping her if he refuses to have sex with her. Weeks later, Big Pearl gives birth to Mede’s baby and a radiant Blanche announces she is pregnant. Months pass and Blanche gives birth. When the doctor realizes the baby is black, he kills it, then tells Hammond it was a stillbirth. Hammond rushes into the room, sees the black child, then goes downstairs and asks for the poison the doctor uses on slaves who are too old to work. After interrogating Lucrezia, Hammond gives Blanche a glass of poisoned wine, then grabs his rifle and goes after Mede. Helen tries to intercede, but Hammond screams that although Helen shares his bed, she is still a slave. At gunpoint, Hammond makes Mede boil a large cauldron of water, then orders him to climb in. Mede tries to explain what happened, but Hammond shoots him in the shoulder. Mede declares he thought Hammond was better than a white man, but now sees Hammond is “just white.” Hammond shoots again, toppling Mede into the cauldron. As Mede screams, Hammond attacks him with a pitchfork. Agamemnon picks up the rifle and begs Hammond to stop. Maxwell curses Agamemnon who shoots Maxwell before running away. A stunned Hammond, slumps against a pillar. +

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

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