Trader Horn (1931)

123 mins | Adventure | 23 May 1931

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HISTORY

The following onscreen acknowledgment appears in the film's titles: "M-G-M acknowledges Governors and governmental officials of the Territory of Tanganyika, the Protectorate of Uganda, the Colony of Kenya, the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, [and] the Belgian Congo, whose courtesy and cooperation made this picture possible...and the director offers his thanks for the courageous and efficient services of the White Hunters, Maj. W. V. D. Dickinson, A. S. Waller, Esq., J. H. Barnes, Esq., [and] H. R. Stanton, Esq., who were chiefly responsible for the expedition's ability to traverse 14,000 miles of African velt and jungle." According to a FD news item, following its publication, Trader Horn became one of the best-selling books of its time. The film was the first non-documentary film to be shot almost entirely on location in Africa. A Jan 1930 AC article notes that the film was nearly half completed when the studio informed the crew in Africa that Hollywood was sending a sound crew to meet them. They were told that "the world was demanding its pictures all-talking." According to an Apr 1931 Photo article, M-G-M secretly sent a second unit to Tecate, Mexico, away from American laws that secured the ethical treatment of animals, to film scenes of animals fighting with each other, which they were unable to capture on film in Africa. In Mexico, lions were reportedly starved for several days in order to ensure immediate and particularly vicious attacks on hyenas, monkeys and deer.
       Modern sources relate the following information about the film: Tim McCoy was originally chosen to play the title role; Thelma Todd was tested for ...

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The following onscreen acknowledgment appears in the film's titles: "M-G-M acknowledges Governors and governmental officials of the Territory of Tanganyika, the Protectorate of Uganda, the Colony of Kenya, the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, [and] the Belgian Congo, whose courtesy and cooperation made this picture possible...and the director offers his thanks for the courageous and efficient services of the White Hunters, Maj. W. V. D. Dickinson, A. S. Waller, Esq., J. H. Barnes, Esq., [and] H. R. Stanton, Esq., who were chiefly responsible for the expedition's ability to traverse 14,000 miles of African velt and jungle." According to a FD news item, following its publication, Trader Horn became one of the best-selling books of its time. The film was the first non-documentary film to be shot almost entirely on location in Africa. A Jan 1930 AC article notes that the film was nearly half completed when the studio informed the crew in Africa that Hollywood was sending a sound crew to meet them. They were told that "the world was demanding its pictures all-talking." According to an Apr 1931 Photo article, M-G-M secretly sent a second unit to Tecate, Mexico, away from American laws that secured the ethical treatment of animals, to film scenes of animals fighting with each other, which they were unable to capture on film in Africa. In Mexico, lions were reportedly starved for several days in order to ensure immediate and particularly vicious attacks on hyenas, monkeys and deer.
       Modern sources relate the following information about the film: Tim McCoy was originally chosen to play the title role; Thelma Todd was tested for the part of "Nina" and M-G-M production head Irving Thalberg reportedly considered Jeanette MacDonald for the part. During the filming of a scene in which white hunter Major W. V. D. Dickinson and director W. S. Van Dyke doubled for the leading men, a charging rhino nearly killed Dickinson, who incorrectly thought that the director was in distress and jumped into the rhino's path to protect him. During production, Van Dyke and many of his crew contracted malaria and were treated with quinine. Despite the British authorities' insistence that no one travel to the Murchison Falls, a known sleeping-sickness area, the director took his crew there for filming. The production was marred by at least two fatal disasters. In the first instance, a native crew member fell into a river and was eaten by a crocodile; in the other incident, which was captured on film, a native boy was struck by a charging rhino. Misfortunes of lesser consequence on the African location included flash floods, sunstroke, swarming locusts and tsetse-fly and ant attacks. Despite months of sound filming, almost all of the dialogue sequences in the film were re-shot on M-G-M's Culver City backlot after the troupe returned from Africa because of the poor quality of the location footage. As the script called for speaking scenes involving African natives Mutia Omoolu and Riano Tindama, they were brought back to Hollywood for additional shooting. With all the production activity in Culver City, rumors began circulating in Hollywood that the entire production was filmed on the M-G-M lot and that the African expedition did not take place. For this reason, the studio decided to scrap the backlot footage of Marjorie Rambeau, who had replaced Olive Golden as "Edith Trent." Modern sources add the following credits: Red Golden , Asst dir; Josephine Chippo, Script clerk; John McClain, Press agent and Miss Gordon, Hairdresser. Although modern sources indicate that the film was originally released with a short introduction in which director Cecil B. DeMille discusses the film's authenticity with author Alfred Aloysius Horn, and that the three-minute introduction was deleted from the negative in 1936, when the picture was re-issued, neither the viewed print nor the cutting continuity contain the introduction. The final production cost was pegged at $3,000,000.
       Leading actor Harry Carey was married to actress Olive Golden. According to modern sources, following publicized rumors of an affair between stars Duncan Renaldo and Edwina Booth (formerly Josephine Woodruff) during production, Renaldo's wife, Suzette, filed for divorce and later filed a $50,000 lawsuit against Booth for "alienation of affection." On 17 Jan 1931, Duncan Renaldo was arrested on charges that he entered the United States illegally and was later sentenced to two years in federal prison. After serving less than two years, Renaldo received a pardon from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1936, after which he left the country, re-entered legally and became a U. S. citizen. Booth contracted a rare tropical disease while filming in Africa that affected her nervous system and reportedly forced her to remain confined to a darkened room for the better part of six years.
       Trader Horn was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture of the 1930-31 season, and director W. S. Van Dyke was awarded the Red Cross Medal by the Japanese government for his outstanding achievement in direction.
       In 1932 United Artists released a Mickey Mouse animated short, entitled Trader Mickey, which was a spoof of this film. Other take-offs on Trader Horn include an X-rated 1970 film entitled Trader Hornee (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70; F6.5148), and Trader Hound, a 1931 M-G-M "Dogville Comedy" short subject. M-G-M made another version of Trader Horn in 1973 with Reza S. Badiyi directing and Rod Taylor and Anne Heywood starring.

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
1-Jan-30
---
Film Daily
25 Jan 1931
p. 2
Film Daily
9 Aug 1931
p. 5
Film Daily
11 Oct 1931
p. 5
HF
20 Dec 1930
p. 24
Hollywood Reporter
5 Aug 1931
p. 3
Hollywood Reporter
19 Aug 1932
p. 2
Motion Picture Herald
3 Jan 1931
pp. 63-74
Motion Picture Herald
17 Jan 1931
p. 30
Motion Picture Herald
24 Jan 1931
p. 52
New York Times
4 Feb 1931
p. 21
Photoplay
1-Apr-31
---
Variety
11 Feb 1931
p. 14
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
W. S. Van Dyke II
Dir
PHOTOGRAPHY
Assoc photog
Assoc photog
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod asst
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book Trader Horn by Alfred Aloysius Horn and Ethelreda Lewis (New York, 1927).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHORS
DETAILS
Release Date:
23 May 1931
Premiere Information:
World premiere in New York: 3 Feb 1931
Production Date:
Mar 1929--Dec 1930
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Distributing Corp.
26 March 1931
LP2092
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
123
Length(in reels):
13
Country:
United States
SYNOPSIS

Deep in the heart of Africa, famous hunter, explorer Aloysius Horn, known as Trader Horn due to his bartering skills, tells Peru, the son of his best friend, that he was the first white man to set eyes on the river on which they are sailing. When their boat approaches a small African village that is bustling with activity, the natives welcome the visitors, and Trader asks to be taken to the chief. Though Trader warns Peru of the savage nature of the natives, Peru is nevertheless shocked when he sees a human skeleton displayed on a public cross. The white men's visit is soon interrupted by the ominous sound of a distant drum beat, known as "ju-ju," which the Africans, as well as Trader, know signals the impending attack of the brutal Masai warriors. Trader explains to Peru that when the Masai and the Kukua tribes get together, "the devil is certainly involved," and suggests that they move on. That night, the men, with their African guide, Renchero, set up camp, but they are awakened by the unexpected arrival of the white missionary woman, Edith Trent. Edith, a friend of Trader, whom Trader calls the bravest woman in all of Africa, informs him that she intends to go above the Opanga Falls and into Isorgi country in order to find her missing daughter Nina, who is believed to be living among the Isorgi. Trader warns Edith of the dangers of traveling during ju-ju and offers to accompany her, but she refuses, claiming that the presence of a male with guns will only startle the warriors into violence. Edith consents, however, to ...

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Deep in the heart of Africa, famous hunter, explorer Aloysius Horn, known as Trader Horn due to his bartering skills, tells Peru, the son of his best friend, that he was the first white man to set eyes on the river on which they are sailing. When their boat approaches a small African village that is bustling with activity, the natives welcome the visitors, and Trader asks to be taken to the chief. Though Trader warns Peru of the savage nature of the natives, Peru is nevertheless shocked when he sees a human skeleton displayed on a public cross. The white men's visit is soon interrupted by the ominous sound of a distant drum beat, known as "ju-ju," which the Africans, as well as Trader, know signals the impending attack of the brutal Masai warriors. Trader explains to Peru that when the Masai and the Kukua tribes get together, "the devil is certainly involved," and suggests that they move on. That night, the men, with their African guide, Renchero, set up camp, but they are awakened by the unexpected arrival of the white missionary woman, Edith Trent. Edith, a friend of Trader, whom Trader calls the bravest woman in all of Africa, informs him that she intends to go above the Opanga Falls and into Isorgi country in order to find her missing daughter Nina, who is believed to be living among the Isorgi. Trader warns Edith of the dangers of traveling during ju-ju and offers to accompany her, but she refuses, claiming that the presence of a male with guns will only startle the warriors into violence. Edith consents, however, to allow Trader and his companions to follow her at a distance, on the condition that he continue her search if something should happen to her. Not long after the expedition begins, Trader and Peru discover Edith's body by the river. They proceed to bury it under rocks and mark it for witch doctors, who will later dig it up and make charms out of it. As they promised Edith, Trader and Peru take up her search for Nina, and on the trail find themselves in the company of giraffes, leopards, ostriches, warthogs, zebras and other creatures. After Trader and Peru finally locate Nina, they soon realize that she is the sadistic white goddess of the village in which she lives, and that she plans to sacrifice her new visitors by tying them to crosses and burning them. At the last minute, though, Nina has a change of heart, orders their release, and plans an escape with them from the bushmen, who have turned on her. The goddess escorts the men across the lake, and they brave the perils in their path, including a lion attack. During the course of their journey, Peru and Nina fall in love, and when they kiss, Trader insists that he separate from them for the remainder of the trip. The sound of the enemy tribe's approach sends them scattering, Peru with Nina, and Trader with Renchero. The next morning, Trader discovers that Renchero has sacrificed his life in order to protect him and mourns the loss of his friend. Meanwhile, Peru and Nina are shown to safety by a tribe of pygmies, and they are eventually reunited with Trader. Peru tells Trader that he is taking Nina back to civilization to educate her, and as they sail off, Trader sees an image of Renchero in the clouds on the horizon.

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

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