Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward, and Ava Gardner star in Ernest Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”

The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952) is an American drama directed by Henry King and starring Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward, and Ava Garnder. The film is based on a short story of the same name by Ernest Hemingway published in Esquire Magazine in 1936.

The plot centers around Harry Street (Peck) a man who is suffering from an infection he contracted while on safari in Africa. As he is waiting to die, he contemplates his life. His past life with Cynthia Green (Gardner) and his present life with Helen (Hayward) who is determined not to let him die.

A huge commercial and financial success when first released, it was the number two box office hit of 1952, second only to The Greatest Show on Earth that went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Henry King (1886 - 1982) was an American actor and director. He was nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Director and seven films that he directed were nominated for Best Picture including The Song of Bernadette (1943) where he directed Jennifer Jones to a Best Actress Academy Award. While under contract to Twentieth Century-Fox he directed many films starring Tyrone Power and Gregory Peck. Some popular films directed by King include Lloyd's of London (1936), In Old Chicago (1937), Jesse James (1939), Twelve O'Clock High (1949), The Gunfighter (1950), David and Bathsheba (1951), The Sun Also Rises (1957), and The Bravados (1958).

Gregory Peck (1916 – 2002) was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. He had three Best Actor nominations early in his career for The Keys to the Kingdom (1944), The Yearling (1946), Gentleman’s Agreement (1947), and Twelve O’Clock High (1949). He had non-exclusive contracts with David O. Selznick and Twentieth Century-Fox, which gave him great flexibility in the roles he chose to play. Other classic Peck film roles include Roman Holiday (1953), The Big Country (1958), The Guns of Navarone (1961). He finally won a Best Actor Academy Award for his iconic portrayal of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).

Susan Hayward (1917 – 1975) was an Academy Award-winning actress for her role as Barbara Graham in I Want to Live (1958). Hayward worked as a fashion model but traveled to Hollywood in 1937 to try out for the role of Scarlett O’Hara. She didn’t win that coveted role, but she secured a film contract. Hayward’s career took off in the late 1940s when she was nominated for Best Actress for Smash-Up, the Story of a Woman (1947). She received four more Best Actress nominations for My Foolish Heart (1949), With a Song in My Heart (1952), I’ll Cry Tomorrow (1955), and I Want to Live. Later in her career, Hayward replaced Judy Garland as Helen Lawson in Valley of the Dolls (1967).

Ava Gardner (1922 - 1990) was an American actress who signed a film contract with M-G-M in 1941. She played minor roles in a variety of films until her breakout performance in The Killers (1946) on loan to Universal. She hit her stride in the 1950s with films like Mogambo (1953), The Knights of the Round Table (1953), Bhowani Junction (1956), The Sun Also Rises (1957), On the Beach (1959), and 55 Days in Peking (1963). Later in her career, she had a recurring role on the television series Knots Landing (1985). During her prime, Garnder was considered one of the world’s most beautiful women.

The Snows of Kilimanjaro trivia:

  • Gregory Peck threw out his knew while lifting up Ava Gardner during filming. Production was shut down until he recovered. 
  • There was substantial location shooting in Kenya, but most of the main stars filmed their scenes in Hollywood.
  • Actors considered for the role of Harry Street include Humphrey Bogart, Richard Conte, and Marlon Brando.
  • The highest grossing film for Twentieth Century-Fox that year and the third highest overall at the box office.
  • Gene Tierney and Anne Francis were under consideration for the Ava Gardner role.
  • Bullfight footage is from Blood and Sand (1941).

Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward had a hit the year before
with David and Bathsheba.

Why watch this film?

  • The film features the second pairing of Hayward and Peck who scored a previous box office success with David and Bathsheba (1951).
  • It serves as an example of 1950s popular cinema as envisioned by popular studio director Henry King.
  • Besides Peck and Hayward, the film also features the star power of Ava Gardner.
  • The color cinematography is by multiple Academy Award winner Leon Shamroy.
  • The legendary film composer, Bernard Herrmann wrote the film score.

To watch the film on YouTube, click the link below.

To join the discussion on November 29, 2021, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time, click here. Once you RSVP, you will receive an email invitation with a link to join the discussion on Zoom.

Discussion questions:

  1. What did you think of the film overall?
  2. Who had the better chemistry with Peck? Hayward or Gardner?
  3. From what you know of Ernest Hemingway, does this film seem Hemingwayesque?
  4. The was the second time Peck played a Hemingway hero; what did you think of his performance?
  5. Did the film’s flashback narrative work for you?

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