Cast & Crew
In the African jungle, when a hunting expedition organized by ruthless hunter Martin camps for the night, jungle boy Bomba frees four lions trapped by Martin's men. While tracking the freed lions, native guide Jonas discovers Bomba's tracks and shares the information with lion trapper Forbes and his daughter Jean, who are on their way to meet Martin. Soon after, Bomba comes upon Jean in the jungle and explains that he found a wounded lion cruelly left to die. Although Jean tells him the lions are being sent to zoos for educational purposes, Bomba, a friend to all the animals in the jungle, believes that the animals should not be removed from their homes. Jean then promises to tell her father about Bomba's reservations. The next day Forbes and Jean arrive at the encampment and find Martin has already caged over a dozen lions. Martin is furious when he hears the other lions have been freed, but refuses to believe in the Bomba legend. When Forbes suggests they hunt elsewhere to avoid further difficulties, Martin rejects his proposal.
Later, Bomba finds Jean alone and leads her to the cubs of the murdered lion. Touched by the vunerable cubs, Jean then bravely confronts her father and Martin about their lion hunting, but they ignore her objections. Bomba, who has been eavesdropping from the trees above, heads for the camp. When Martin spots Bomba freeing the last lion, he shoots at the boy, but Jean pushes Martin's gun, spoiling his aim. When Martin's men refuse to go after Bomba, Jonas suggests that Martin approach the nearby Massai Tribe, who keep lions for protection against other tribes. Martin decides to bribe the Massai into helping him. Frustrated by Martin's greed, Jean tries to convince her father to give up the hunt, but Forbes cannot afford to lose the money he has invested in the expedition.
On their way to speak with the Massai, Forbes, Jean and Martin spot Lohu, son of a Massai chief, hunting a lion. When the lion attacks the boy, Martin takes several shots, killing the lion and the boy. In a ruse to secure the Massai lions for himself, Martin takes the boy's body to the chief and claims the lion killed his son. When Martin offers to trap all the lions in the area, the chief naively agrees. After Martin leaves, one of the chief's men reveals that a bullet killed Lohu. When the chief orders his men to kill one of the white people in Martin's group for revenge, Bomba offers to disarm the white men and drive them out of the area in two days.
Meanwhile, Jean sees that Martin has set up a fatal trap for Bomba and she races into the jungle to warn him. Charmed by her good intentions, Bomba expresses his affection for Jean. He then calls to birds and monkeys, who tell the lions to leave the area. Within minutes dozens of lions flee the jungle. Fearing the lions might attack Jean, Bomba escorts her back to the encampment, where Martin shoots at him. As Bomba jumps into the river to escape, Martin follows in a boat. When a crocodile attacks Martin, Bomba kills the animal in a fierce knife battle. Despite Bomba having saved his life, Martin vows to continue trapping. Holding Martin at spear point, Bomba cages him in a lion trap and then calls to his animal friends: chimpanzees, baboons, hyenas, leopards, monkeys and birds, to mock Martin. Jean soon finds Martin and laughs at Bomba's joke.
Meanwhile, the Massai chief, impatient to avenge his son's death, sends his warriors to drive the lions into Martin's encampment, knowing they will soon be disarmed by Bomba. That night while the hunters sleep, Bomba, unaware of the Massai's plans, takes all of their firearms. Early the next morning, Jean finds Bomba in the jungle, where they both hear the Massai warrior drums driving the lions toward the camp. Bomba then rushes to the encampment to save the men. Martin, Jonas and Forbes lock themselves in a hut for protection, but a lion breaks into the hut, attacks and kills Martin. Before the lion can continue his rampage, Bomba kills the beast with his knife, thus saving Forbes and Jonas. When the Massai warriors arrive at the village, Bomba sends them back to their chief and promises that the white man will be gone in two days. Soon after, as agreed, Forbes, Jonas and Jean leave by boat to return home. Bomba, having preserved the jungle life, waves goodbye.
Edward Morey Jr.
Lester A. Sansom
Allen K. Wood
The Lion Hunters
The focus of this story is not Strode's role, of course, but Johnny Sheffield as Bomba. The character was taken from a popular (if blatantly racist) series of boy's adventure books published between 1926 and 1938 and credited to the writer Roy Rockwood, a pseudonym for a number of writers employed by the publishers, Stratemeyer Syndicate. Clearly intended to capitalize on the success of the Tarzan series, the tales followed the exploits of a boy separated from his parents and brought up in the jungle by an aged naturalist. The first ten books of the series take place in South America and often focused on Bomba's search for his true identity. The other ten episodes find an older Bomba having jungle adventures in Africa.
Monogram Pictures, one of the most successful of the so-called Poverty Row studios that cranked out mostly B pictures, programmers, and serials, made the first of its Bomba pictures in 1949 starring Sheffield, who had played Boy in the Tarzan series. The son of actor Reginald Sheffield, Johnny first appeared on stage as a very young boy. When Maureen O'Sullivan wanted out of her recurring role as Tarzan's mate Jane, MGM decided to give the couple an adopted child in Tarzan Finds a Son! (1939). O'Sullivan was supposed to have been killed off at the close of that movie but ended up staying with the series a little longer. As for the character of Boy, he proved popular enough to keep Sheffield employed for a total of eight Tarzan films through 1947 (in addition to small parts in other movies, including an appearance as the young Knute Rockne in the 1940 biopic of the famous college football coach). By 1949, the actor was 18 and getting too old to play Tarzan's kid. When Monogram found out he had been dropped from the series, they snatched him up and built the new Bomba films around him. From that point on, it was the only role he would play for the remainder of his career until his retirement at the age of 24 in 1955.
In The Lion Hunters, Bomba comes into conflict with unscrupulous lion hunters and finds himself attracted to Jean Forbes, the daughter of one of them (an echo of the original Tarzan-Jane courtship). But in the end, having made the jungle safe once again for animals and Massai tribesmen, Bomba bids her goodbye.
The part of Jean was played by Ann Todd, not to be confused with the British actress of the same name best known for Hitchcock's The Paradine Case (1947) and opposite James Mason in The Seventh Veil (1945). The American actress, often credited as Ann E. Todd, was a child star who made her debut at seven years old in George Cukor's Zaza (1938) and also appeared in John Ford's How Green Was My Valley (1941) and as the young Ann Sheridan in Kings Row (1942). The Lion Hunters was her last film. She appeared for a few years in the TV sitcom The Stu Erwin Show (1950-54) before leaving show business. She returned to school, earning a master's degree in music history and teaching for a time. She served as the music librarian at the University of California at Berkeley for twenty-one years and in 1984, founded a music publishing company, Fallen Leaf Press, which operated until her retirement in 2000.
Thanks to the popularity of the Bomba films, the first ten books in the series were reprinted in the 1950s, and in the late 60s, DC Comics released seven comic books based on the character. In 1962, Chicago's WGN television station repackaged the movies as a local hit broadcast series called Zim Bomba. The show was the brainstorm of WGN's program director Fred Silverman, who eventually became head of the CBS network and responsible for such shows as All in the Family, M.A.S.H., Sonny & Cher, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. He later had highly successful careers at ABC, NBC, and as an independent producer.
Monogram entrusted most of the Bomba series to fledgling producer Walter Mirisch, who along with his brothers Marvin and Harold, would become one of Hollywood's most successful producers and a trailblazing independent in the days following the collapse of the old studio system. Among Mirisch's later hits are The Magnificent Seven (1960), West Side Story (1961), In the Heat of the Night (1967), and Same Time, Next Year (1978).
Director: Ford Beebe
Producer: Walter Mirisch
Screenplay: Ford Beebe, based on characters created by "Roy Rockwood"
Cinematography: William Sickner
Editing: Otho Lovering
Art Direction: David Milton
Original Music: Marlin Skiles
Cast: Johnny Sheffield (Bomba), Morris Ankrum (Tom Forbes), Ann Todd (Jean Forbes), Douglas Kennedy (Marty Martin), Woodrow Strode (Walu).
by Rob Nixon
The Lion Hunters
The film's opening title card reads: "Monogram Pictures Corporation presents The Lion Hunters starring Bomba, The Jungle Boy." December 1950 Hollywood Reporter news items add Max Thrower, Dion Muse and William Washington to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. For additional information on the "Bomba" series, please consult the Series Index and see the entry for Bomba, the Jungle Boy in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50.