White Hunter Black Heart
Release Year: 1990
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writers: Burt Kennedy (screenplay), James Bridges (screenplay), Peter Viertel (screenplay based on his 1953 novel White Hunter Black Heart)
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Jeff Fahey, George Dzundza, Alun Armstrong, Charlotte Cromwell, Timothy Spall, Geoffrey Hutchins, Clive Mantle, Mel Martin, Christopher Fairbank, Marisa Berenson, Richard Vanstone, Alex Norton, Martin Jacobs
Rating: Nominated for a Palme d’ Or.
In the 1950s, a legendary and headstrong film director insists that his next picture has to be shot in Africa so he can fulfill his desire to hunt large game, much to the frustration of the crew and producers.
Eastwood’s White Hunter Black Heart is a thinly veiled fictionalization of director John Huston’s elephant hunt during the filming of The African Queen (1951). Based on the novel by Peter Viertel, in the film called Peter Verrill, who did uncredited screenwriting on the film, the film doesn’t really know whether it wants to be inspired by the event or simply retell it. Eastwood has the mannerisms of Huston but still feels very much like typical Eastwood, and Berenson and Vanstone obviously imitates Hepburn and Bogart, so why bother changing the names of the characters? Eastwood’s direction and Viertel’s self-applauding screenplay fails to lift the film up to the fascinating and great portrayal of one of the most legendary Hollywood directors of the golden age. Still, Huston stand-in John Wilson is a fun and entertaining character that one cannot help liking despite his antics, his irresponsible behaviour, and his, by our standards, unethical thirst for elephant killing.
Although based on the recollections of a crew member, actress Katharine Hepburn, star of The African Queen (1951) disputed the film’s accuracy.
Picture Copyright: Warner Bros.