Films I Love, Unsung Classics

Unsung Classics 9: King Solomon’s Mines (1950)

It’s time to take a look at another unsung classic film. This is one that I love a great deal. It really annoys me that so few people ever discuss, or even seem to know about this one today.

King Solomon’s Mines has a perfect blend of adventure, action, romance and mystery. It was mostly filmed on location. It also features Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr, who were two of the classic film eras biggest stars. There is plenty to enjoy about this film.

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Allan protects Elizabeth and John. Screenshot by me.

I will never forget the first time that I saw this film. I was in High School and in history class we were studying the Suffragettes.

We had an exam coming up in a few weeks, and our teacher said that if any of us wanted to do so, we could borrow a video tape from her to take home for a night to watch.

On the tape there was a documentary about the Suffragette movement. The documentary would help us as a part of our exam revision. I was one of those who borrowed the tape.

I finished watching the documentary and was about to turn the tape off, when the tape cut back to what had originally been recorded on it. It cut to this film. The film was a few minutes in, starting at the scene where Elizabeth first meets Allan at his house. Seeing Deborah Kerr was in it, I carried right on watching. I was very glad that I did. I loved this film. As I had missed the title, I then spent some time checking out Deborah’s film information until I found out that the film I had just seen was King Solomon’s Mines.  

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Stewart Granger as Allan Quatermain. Screenshot by me.

I couldn’t tell you a thing about that Suffragette documentary now, but I can tell you that I was very happy indeed to have found this film on that tape.

 I wasn’t familiar with Stewart Granger at this time and he certainly made quite an impression on me in this film. I have been a fan of his ever since and this is one of my favourite films that he ever made.

I love Stewart’s performance in this as the fearless, experienced, and smouldering adventurer, Allan Quatermain. It was a role he was well suited to playing I think. He’s got the tough guy of very few words persona down perfectly in this. It also doesn’t hurt that Stewart was one of the manliest and sexiest men who ever did live.  😉 

Deborah Kerr does a fantastic job of playing a woman unaccustomed to the struggle and danger of going on their expedition. Allan is convinced that Elizabeth will not last long and will beg him to turn back. She finds the journey difficult to endure, but she stubbornly refuses to give in and put an end to her misery and exhaustion.

Deborah does her best with a role that is essentially nothing more than a damsel in distress, she really tries to put across her characters determination and emotional distress. I think she succeeds quite well at this.

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Deborah Kerr as Elizabeth. Screenshot by me.

For a large part of the film Deborah sadly doesn’t get much to do apart from scream as animals scare her or try to attack her. These sequences lead to lots of moments of Allan rescuing Elizabeth, and at the moment of rescue the pair gaze into each others eyes and their growing bond and desire is ever more evident to us.

Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr have some incredible chemistry going on in this film. The sexual tension between them is the thing I remember the most about this film. It is so evident and adds something extra to the film.

From the way Stewart and Deborah both look at each other (swoon)to their body language, they very clearly convey to us their characters growing feelings for one another.   

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Richard Carlson as John. Screenshot by me.

Richard Carlson (who I love in The Creature From The Black Lagoon)lends good support as Elizabeth’s brother. He can see before his sister can, that she and Allan are falling in love. He also knows the real reason (which we don’t learn until later on)why she is pushing herself so hard to find her husband. Carlson is an actor who I think given the right material could have become a much bigger star, sadly that wasn’t to be. 

The film is directed by Compton Bennett and Andrew Marton. It is based upon the 1885 novel of the same name written by H. Rider Haggard.

This was not the first adaptation of the novel, the story had been filmed before in 1937. That earlier adaptation starred Cedric Hardwicke as Quatermain. Several other adaptions would follow over the decades.

The 1950 film is not an accurate adaption of the novel. In the novel Deborah Kerr’s character doesn’t exist, and the missing man being searched for is the brother of a man in Quatermain’s expedition party.  

Personally I think that adding the character of Elizabeth helped the film as the growing relationship between Elizabeth and Allen is possibly the most memorable part of the film. I also liked seeing how Elizabeth coped in a hostile environment and how she doesn’t want to be seen as weak or helpless by Quatermain and the others. 

Elizabeth Curtis (Deborah Kerr)and her brother, John (Richard Carlson)hire  the experienced hunter and guide, Allan Quatermain (Stewart Granger). They hire him to take them in search of Elizabeth’s missing husband, Mr. Curtis,who was searching for the legendary King Solomon’s Mines, and who hasn’t been seen since setting out on his adventure. 

Allan accepts the job, but he warns the siblings that it will be dangerous, difficult, and it will be unlikely that they will find Mr. Curtis. The trio set out, along with a number of native guides and bearers. Along the way they are joined by the exiled (and very tall)native king Umbopa(Siriaque).

The group encounter danger from tribesmen, from oppressive heatwaves and from some wildlife. Allan and Elizabeth start off disliking each other, but over the weeks that follow they both realise they are developing feelings for one another. 

The film also features one of the best examples of an only in the movies moment that I can think of. Elizabeth’s long hair proves to be a real bother to her during the trek, so she takes the scissors to it and cuts it off. After a quick wash in a rock pool by a waterfall, she emerges to sunbathe on the rocks. The next time we see her, she now has a perfectly styled (and blow dried) new hairdo. See my screenshots below to enjoy this transformation. Ah, the magic of film. 😉

The film is great fun and I highly recommend it. My only issue is that there are several scenes where animals are killed for no reason other than they scared Elizabeth. I can’t stand to see animals killed or hurt, and I really hate people who hunt animals. To see these animals killed (even though the animals may not actually have been harmed for real)really annoys me.

Also the whole thing with Elizabeth screaming every single time she comes across an animal is very annoying. Does she not know that she in these creatures natural habitats, and that she will be very likely to encounter them at some point?

Anyway, I hope I’ve convinced you to give this film a watch if you’ve never seen it before. If you watch it for no other reason, then at least watch it to see Stewart and Deborah’s chemistry. 

Are there any other fans of this one out there? Somebody please tell me I am not alone in my love for this film!

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10 thoughts on “Unsung Classics 9: King Solomon’s Mines (1950)”

  1. Fun classic. Anything with authentic African locations is a Go with me. According to Granger, their chemistry was pretty heated. My late brother-in-law once auditioned for a part in a 1956 Kerr film, “The Proud And The Profane”. He lost out to Dewey Martin, but he said Kerr, then a big star, was very gracious to him (just a brand new kid getting going). Later, in the mid 60s he co-starred in a German western, “Flaming Frontier”, where Granger had the lead. They filmed in Yugoslavia. Both he and my sis said Granger was an absolute charmer. Nice review, Maddy, I do it on my site as well. Cheers,Mark

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Mark. I’m beyond thrilled to find another fan of this one! 🙂

      Yeah, their chemistry is wild in this. So happy to hear that Granger and Kerr came across as nice and charming when your family met them.

      I enjoyed your review too.

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  2. I am always game for anything with Deborah Kerr! That is funny that she had to spent a good part of the film screaming. I remember reading about Fay Wray in King Kong and she commented that she didn’t actually think it was all that realistic that her character screamed all the time; she felt that her reaction to seeing Kong would be stunned silence.

    The addition of Richard Carlson sounds like a definite bonus! Like you, I’ve always enjoyed him in his films. Thanks for the introduction to this film!

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      1. It’s too bad no one ever put that kind of reaction on film…though perhaps it would look too much like comedy…starring and running? I wonder if real life often looks funny on screen. 🙂 Though screaming all the time looks just as funny, sometimes.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. My Mom loved this one so I always knew the film. She got me watching it as a kid when she compared Granger to an Indiana Jones like character. When you mentioned the animals being harmed I think the same thing when I see an old film. Especially the Tarzan films. And yes Heston in The Naked Jungle always a fave since childhood.

    Liked by 1 person

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