Cast & Crew
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.
Charles R. Keane
John J. Akar
Robert [r.] Benton
Pandro S. Berman
William A. Horning
Dr. Wesley C. Miller
Edwin B. Willis
Something of Value
Getting the film made involved almost as much conflict as the plot. Filmed largely on location in Africa, Poitier was unwelcome in the "white only" restaurants and even the hotel had to be persuaded to let him stay. That's not to mention the subject matter, which was so controversial and close to reality (with European nations trying to maintain their hold in Africa), that the film's release was banned in many countries.
But the controversial subject matter was not the only thing that aroused the interest of moviegoers. Under the direction of Richard Brooks (Elmer Gantry , In Cold Blood ), Something of Value also featured an acclaimed supporting cast including future dame - Wendy Hiller.
Born in Bramhall, Cheshire, England in 1912, Wendy Hiller made her way to the stage by age 18. By twenty-three, Hiller was considered a stage star, appearing in a play called Love On the Dole, which was written by her soon-to-be husband, Ronald Gow. In 1937, Hiller would take Love On the Dole to Broadway. But it was her performance in another play, George Bernard Shaw's St. Joan, that would bring Hiller to the attention of Hollywood.
After casting her in St. Joan, Shaw himself recommended Hiller for the part of Eliza Doolittle in the film adaptation of his Pygmalion (1938). Opposite Shaw's reluctantly approved Leslie Howard as Professor Higgins, Hiller and the film were a great success, earning Hiller her first Oscar nomination. But despite her Hollywood triumph with Pygmalion, Hiller returned to the stage and would make only rare film appearances for the rest of her career.
Something of Value, almost twenty years after Pygmalion was only Hiller's seventh feature film. She took a turn in another Shaw adaptation, playing the title role in Major Barbara in 1941. In later years, she turned to television, starring in everything from The Comedy of Errors to The Elephant Man.
Hiller would receive another Oscar nomination for A Man For All Seasons in 1966, before finally winning the Best Supporting Actress statuette for Separate Tables in 1958. But perhaps her greatest honor came in 1974, when actress Wendy Hiller became Dame Wendy Hiller.
Producer: Pandro S. Berman
Director: Richard Brooks
Screenplay: Richard Brooks, Robert C. Ruark (novel)
Art Direction: Edward C. Carfagno, William A. Horning
Cinematography: Russell Harlan
Costume Design: Helen Rose
Film Editing: Ferris Webster
Original Music: Miklos Rozsa
Cast: Rock Hudson (Peter McKenzie), Dana Wynter (Holly Keith), Sidney Poitier (Kimani), Juano Hernandez (Njogu), William Marshall (Leader)
BW-114m. Closed captioning.
by Stephanie Thames
Something of Value
Wendy Hiller, 1912-2003
Wendy Hiller was born on August 15, 1912, in Bramhall, and raised in Manchester, where her father was a cotton-cloth manufacturer. Educated at Winceby House, a girl's school in Sussex, Hiller found herself drawn to the theater, and after completing secondary school, Wendy joined the Manchester Repertory Theater, where she was a bit player and later an assistant stage manager. In 1934, she earned critical acclaim and stardom when Manchester Rep cast her as the lead in the popular drama, Love on the Dole, written by her future husband, Ronald Gow. The play was such a hit, that Hiller would repeat her role in London and triumphed on Broadway.
Back on the London stage, she was playing the lead in George Bernard Shaw's St. Joan, when she caught the eye of the playwright himself. He cast her as the beloved cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion (contemporary audiences will no doubt be aware of the musical version - My Fair Lady) on stage in 1936 and in Anthony Asquith's screen adaptation two years later co-starring Leslie Howard. The film was a smash, and Hiller earned an Academy Award nomination for her striking and original Eliza. Shaw would cast her again as an heiress turned Salvation Army worker in the classic Major Barbara for both stage and the 1941 film version.
The ensuing years could very well have been Hiller's time for screen stardom, yet despite her blazing acting ability, regal presence and distinctive voice, her film forays were too few, as she concentrated on the stage and spending time with her husband Gow and two children. Still, when she did make a film appearance, it was often memorable: a materialist turned romantic in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's glorious, I Know Where I'm Going! (1945); a lonely hotelkeeper in Delbert Mann's Separate Tables (1958), which earned her an Academy Award as best supporting actress; an obsessive mother in Jack Cardiff's Sons and Lovers (1960); a unfaltering wife to Sir Thomas More in Fred Zinneman's brilliant A Man for All Seasons (1966); and as a compassionate nurse who cares for the deformed David Merrick in David Lynch's The Elephant Man (1980).
Ill health became an issue for Hiller in her later years, but she made one elegant return to the camera when she was cast as a former society beauty who is interviewed 50 years after her fame in Moira Armstrong's The Countess Alice (1992). In a performance that was touching, but never maudlin, Wendy Hiller proved that few could match her for presence, integrity and dignity. Her contribution to her craft did not go unnoticed, as she was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1975. She is survived by her son, Anthony, and daughter, Ann.
by Michael T. Toole
Wendy Hiller, 1912-2003
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 January 5, 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item, author Robert C. Ruark was to serve as technical advisor for the film. A September 28, 1955 Hollywood Reporter 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 August 10, 1956 Hollywood Reporter 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.
Winner of the San Giogio Prize at the 1957 Venice Film Festival.
Released in United States 1957
Released in United States Summer June 1957
Shown at the 1957 Venice Film Festival.
Released in United States 1957 (Shown at the 1957 Venice Film Festival.)
Released in United States Summer June 1957