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 Lost Classics: Zulu - Behind the Scenes. by George Smith

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impi

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PostSubject: Lost Classics: Zulu - Behind the Scenes. by George Smith   Fri Aug 05, 2011 1:30 pm

This article was written in 1994 and originally published in Movie Collector. It is reprinted here by kind permission of the Author. George works at the Imperial War Museum in London, and was formerly a film editor at Thames T.V. He is one of the world's foremost authorities on the films Zulu and Zulu Dawn.


" One November morning in 1963 four people sat in a chilly viewing theatre. Stanley Baker and Cy Endfield were the star/co-producer and producer/director respectively of a film they had just completed called Zulu. Esther Harris was the producer for National Screen Service, a company specialising in the making of cinema trailers and also stills, posters and all the other material essential for the promotion of feature films. Doug McCallum was the top editor for NSS, with a lifetime of experience in the film business.

The lights dimmed and onto the screen was projected a scratched and patched black and white work print. Just discernible were shots of columns of Zulu warriors, advancing to the attack in the dawn's early light. Over the pounding of assegais on shields a voice was heard: Damn funny, like a train in the distance. Suddenly another voice boomed out...


Dwarfing the Mightiest! Towering over the Greatest!

For the next three minutes images of charging Zulus, British Redcoats fighting hand-to-hand, a thundering cattle stampede and a spectacular wedding ceremony between 200 Zulu warriors and 200 Zulu maidens filled the screen As the trailer came to a thunderous conclusion, Stanley Baker jumped to his feet and shouted excitedly Is that our film, Cy?! Is that our film?.

This was the final part in the complex process needed to put a feature film onto the cinema screen.

It had been a long hard slog - over three years since Endfield had first read an article in a British magazine by John Prebble about the Battle of Rorke's Drift in the Zulu War of 1879. He showed the article to his friend Baker, who was taken by the story as soon as he read it. Being a Welshman himself, the actor was attracted to the story of how, led by an officer of Engineers with no combat experience, a small group of the 24th regiment of Foot, which contained a large proportion of Welshmen, held a lonely mission station against a force of 4000 Zulu warriors for 12 hours. Both men thought it would make a tremendous film and decided to make it themselves, having worked together previously on A Child in the House, Sea Fury and Hell Drivers.

Endfield contacted John Prebble, who agreed to work on the screenplay while Baker went to South Africa to scout locations for the film. There he found that they could not film on the site of the original battle. None of the original buildings had survived - a modern school and monuments to the battle had been erected over the mission and battlefield. But the greatest obstacle to filming there was that the missionary society who had bought the land from Jim Rorke's widow still owned it. They would in now way allow a film to be made on their property that, in their eyes, glorified war.

Baker made three trips to find suitable locations. After many searches it was decided to shoot the picture in the beautiful Royal Natal National Park. A replica of the mission station was built, as was a village needed to house the 250 Zulus needed every day throughout the three months of location filming. The remainder of the 3,000 warriors travelled to the location on the days they were needed.

The Paramount Chief of the Zulu Nation was approached and was temendously enthusiastic about the project. The Battle of Rorke's Drift plays an important part in Zulu history and the chief was eager to co-operate. Chief Buthelezi (now His Excellency Dr. Mangosuthu G. Buthelezi, Chief Minister of KwaZulu) was persuaded to play the part of his ancestor King Cetewayo. Further help and advice were obtained from local chiefs, all of whom knew well the story of the battle and wished to add their services to the film.

South Africa's apartheid laws also made their presence felt. When the cast got off the plane they were handed leaflets warning of the dire legal consequences of inter-racial sexual relations - imprisonment and a lashing. Baker reputedly walked up to one of those handing out the leaflets and asked wether, if he were caught, he could have the lashing first. It went down like a lead balloon.

Pantechnicons, 3-ton trucks, station wagons, jeeps, helicopters and bulldozers were all part of the transport fleet as the film makers set up shop in the shadow of the picturesque Drakensberg Mountains, soaring 10,000 feet above sea level. There they completely recreated the mission station at Rorke's drift, including its hospital, church, stores, stables and cattle kraal - all of which featured prominently in the bloody battle.

In the course of reconstructing Rorke's drift, they discovered the Tugela River was not flowing as strongly as the Buffalo River at the actual Rorke's Drift was in January 1879 and decided to increase its force by altering its course and damming it. This required a battery of bulldozers and a vast force of native labourers to shift some 400 tons of earth. The river subsequently surged beneath a floating bridge past "Rorke's Drift" just as the film makers imagined it had 84 years before. When filming was completed, however, the company was obliged to put the 400 tons of earth back where they had found it, remove the dam and return the river to its original course.

The Zulu Royal Kraal was also created on location, just over the mountain from the Rorke's Drift set, but most ambitious of all were the three villages that were never seen on film: living quarters for cast and crew, stores and mess facilities - and, of course, the administration blocks.

The latter included more than a dozen backroom departments with wardrobe rooms, make-up and hairdressing rooms, two fully equipped property sheds and the vast armoury containing rifles, pistols, swords, assegais and shields. Also built were special compounds to hold the 100 oxen and 80 horses used during the production.

As well as established stars Stanley Baker and Jack Hawkins, the film offered great dramatic scope to the then-newcomers Michael Caine and James Booth. Great attention was given to casting the other roles in the film as Baker wanted new faces plus acting ability. The fine featured cast included Nigel Green, Ivor Emmanuel, Paul Daneman, Glynn Edwards, Neil McCarthy, David Kernan and Richard Davies. The only female role in the picture - that of a missionary's daughter - went to Ulla Jacobsen, a young Swedish actress. The South African actor Gert Van Den Bergh was cast in the role of Lieutenant Adendorff of the Natal Native Contingent and was given some of the best lines in the picture.

Adendorff's part in the defence of Rorke's Drift is shrouded in controversy to this day. In the commanding officer Chard's report, Adendorff is mentioned as participating in the defence, but in other accounts left by survivors of the battle Adendorff rode to Helpmaker after warning the post that a Zulu impi, 4000 strong, was on its way to attack them. There is also reason to believe he left the British camp at Isandlwana before the Zulus broke the british line of defence.

When Baker first saw his Zulu 'warriors', who had been bussed from their kraals in Zululand, his heart sank:-

They looked absolutely nothing. Even those who normally wore blankets in their kraals had bought or borrowed trousers because, I learned later, they didn't want us to think them primitive, he later recalled. But when we gave them leopard skins and assegais, they were suddenly transformed. They began leaping about and dancing like Dervishes. Most of them had never held a real spear before and they were ecstatic.

Only one of them had seen a film before, so we sent for one to show them. It was an old Gene Autry western and they loved it. They stamped and shouted and whistled, and when it was over they couldn't wait to get before the cameras.

The early days of filming were not without difficulties. When props men began to hand out rifles to some of the Zulus, they became nervous, thinking it was some form of trap. Baker soon eased their minds explaining what they were for, and to prove they were loaded with blanks he had a prop man shoot him in the chest.

To play the part of B Company, 24th Foot, the men who held Rorke's Drift, a company of young South African National Servicemen were loaned to the picture. When they came to shoot the first battle, where the script demanded the Zulus be held at the wall and pushed back, the soldiers lacked the zeal the Zulus seemed to have and the Zulus won. So, quickly, the soldiers were given training in the old style of fighting with bayonet by their officers.

For the final spectacular destruction of the mission hospital, director Cy Endfield used three cameras to record the fiery blaze as it consumed the burning building as Baker, Caine and the rest of the cast played out their roles in the eerie flickering light. It was a fitting climax to the long weeks of location shooting in whick nearly 350,000 feet of film had passed through the cameras.

When this climactic scene was finished and the cast had left, a special demolition crew remained behind to clear the site of the office buildings, the dam across the Tugela River and the mission station set until all that remained was what nature originally contributed - the wild splendour of the towering Drakensberg Mountains that ring the natural plateau in the heart of Natal.

Back in England, at London's Twickenham Studios in St. Margarets, the scenes of the interiors of the hospital and the storehouse were being shot.

At this point, James Booth, playing private Henry Hook in an almost completely fictionalised portrayal of his part in the battle, and Patrick Magee, in the role of Surgeon Major Reynolds, joined the cast. Neither set one foot in Africa, all of their scenes being shot entirely in the studio, leading to a lot of good-humoured teasing by those members of the cast who had been on location.

Studio filming was also not without its problems. At one point during the filming of the burning of the hospital interiors the flames got out of control, nearly burning down the soundstage. The local Fire Brigade were not amused.

With filming finished, the process of editing, soundtrack laying and music scoring, plus the planning of the publicity campaign, went ahead. John Barry was given his first chance to score a major feature film, and his sparse but stirring score is still one of his best.

Zulu was premiered at the Plaza, Lower Regent Street in London on January 22nd 1964, 85 years to the day after the real events. It opened to rave reviews from the press and was a huge box-office hit in the UK, but although it did very well in other parts of the world it flopped in America. With the rise of the black civil rights movement in the States at that time, a film like Zulu, glorifying imperialist conquest over blacks, did not go down well. It is ironic that since those days Zulu has become one of the most popular films on American TV, with frequent showings on many stations.

30 years on Zulu is still a very good film and is now regarded as one of the finest adventure films ever made, a fact that would have made the late Sir Stanley Baker very proud.

Looking at the film today, its only drawback is the attitude of Chard and Bromhead at the carnage towards the end of the film and the outburst by surgeon Reynolds (Magee) to Chard, calling him a "butcher". These are the sentiments of the sixties; both Chard and Bromhead, and for that matter Reynolds, were professional soldiers, and it is doubtful that they felt the way of their film counterparts. A sense of relief? Of course. A feeling of pride at holding out for twelve hours against 4,000 wariors? Certainly. A healthy respect for the Zulu enemy?, Possibly. But "sick and ashamed"? Never!.

Of the original cast, sadly, Stanley Baker, Jack Hawkins, Nigel Green, Patrick Magee, Ulla Jacobsen have all passed away. James Booth went to America, where he now lives and sometimes appears in TV shows. Ivor Emmanuel (Private Owen) disappeared into obscurity, Glynn Edwards (Corporal Allen) became famous in British TV's Minder. David Kernan (Hitch) and Gary Bond (Cole) appeared in West End Musicals. Richard Davies appeared in TV comedies, most notably Please Sir!. Gerd Van Den Bergh appeared in a few b-pictures and had a small role in Cornel Wilde's The Naked Prey. That leaves Michael Caine. No need to relate his rise to fame!.

For Caine, Zulu left only painful memories of his time on location. He states in his autobiography "What's It All About" that all he saw of Africa was through a knothole in the toilet door, due to various bouts of "Cetewayo's Revenge". But even Caine would probably admit that his part in Zulu and the film itself is something to be proud of."
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PostSubject: Re: Lost Classics: Zulu - Behind the Scenes. by George Smith   Fri Aug 05, 2011 2:22 pm

Great Read Thanks Impi. Idea
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PostSubject: Lost Classics - Zulu ; Behind The Scenes By G.Smith .   Fri Aug 05, 2011 3:27 pm

Hi Impi.
A very good read . Idea . Thanks .
cheers 90th.
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PostSubject: Re: Lost Classics: Zulu - Behind the Scenes. by George Smith   Sat Aug 23, 2014 4:50 pm

Just to add to impi's post in this 50th year..



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PostSubject: Re: Lost Classics: Zulu - Behind the Scenes. by George Smith   Sat Aug 23, 2014 4:52 pm

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PostSubject: Re: Lost Classics: Zulu - Behind the Scenes. by George Smith   Sat Aug 23, 2014 5:01 pm

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PostSubject: Re: Lost Classics: Zulu - Behind the Scenes. by George Smith   Sat Aug 23, 2014 5:10 pm

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PostSubject: Re: Lost Classics: Zulu - Behind the Scenes. by George Smith   Sat Aug 23, 2014 6:16 pm

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PostSubject: Re: Lost Classics: Zulu - Behind the Scenes. by George Smith   Sat Aug 23, 2014 6:19 pm

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PostSubject: Re: Lost Classics: Zulu - Behind the Scenes. by George Smith   Sun Aug 24, 2014 3:31 pm

Les
that was really was fascinating reading, thank you for sharing. Inspired me so much the movies going on again tonight.

Cheers Mate
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PostSubject: Re: Lost Classics: Zulu - Behind the Scenes. by George Smith   Sun Aug 24, 2014 3:50 pm

Thanks Frank, with all the negativity i have had, that
one positive has made my day!
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PostSubject: Re: Lost Classics: Zulu - Behind the Scenes. by George Smith   Sun Aug 24, 2014 3:59 pm

Hi Les
Theres a wonderful Afrikaans saying that's good to use when people annoy you.;
Jou ma naai vir stene, sodat sy kan 'n hoer huis bou

And that without a doubt going to get me into some serious trouble.  Salute 
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PostSubject: Re: Lost Classics: Zulu - Behind the Scenes. by George Smith   Sun Aug 24, 2014 4:06 pm

love it Frank, ta mate yeah there ma's... Very Happy 
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PostSubject: Re: Lost Classics: Zulu - Behind the Scenes. by George Smith   Sun Aug 24, 2014 7:04 pm

xhosa2000 wrote:
Thanks Frank, with all the negativity i have had, that
one positive has made my day!

 Sad Sad Sad  Didums
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PostSubject: Re: Lost Classics: Zulu - Behind the Scenes. by George Smith   Sun Aug 24, 2014 7:46 pm

yep, translate the african,see what i really think of ya!
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PostSubject: Re: Lost Classics: Zulu - Behind the Scenes. by George Smith   Sun Aug 24, 2014 8:11 pm

Deleted, Can you two stop with the stupid comments. Last warning!!!! Please re-read the forum rules.
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PostSubject: Re: Lost Classics: Zulu - Behind the Scenes. by George Smith   Sun Aug 24, 2014 9:00 pm

Point taken.  Salute 
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PostSubject: Re: Lost Classics: Zulu - Behind the Scenes. by George Smith   Sun Aug 24, 2014 9:00 pm

as said i'm more than willing to!, nice to
see you step in, personally..at last.

Don't send PM's of a nature that is a offensive.
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