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The Macomber Affair
Alternate Title: The Great White Hunter
Director: Zoltan Korda (Dir)
Release Date:   21 Mar 1947
Production Date:   early Apr--15 Jun 1946 at General Service Studios
Duration (in mins):   88 or 90
Duration (in feet):   8,005
Duration (in reels):   9
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Cast:   Gregory Peck (Robert Wilson)  
    Joan Bennett (Margo Macomber)  
    Robert Preston (Francis Macomber)  
    Reginald Denny (Captain Smollett)  
    Jean Gillie (Aimee)  
    Carl Harbord (Coroner)  
    Earl Smith (Kongoni)  
    Frederic Worlock (Clerk)  
    Vernon Downing (Reporter Logan)  
    Hassan Said (Abdulla)  
    Martin Wilkins (Bartender)  
    Darby Jones (Masai warrior)  

Summary: A plane lands in Nairobi, Africa, carrying Margo Macomber, white hunter Robert Wilson, his African guides, and the dead body of Margo's husband, Francis. Police Captain Smollett asks Robert to fill out a homicide report, even though Robert insists that Francis' death--by a gunshot in the back--was an accident. Robert writes "accident" under Cause of Death in the report, but then throws it away, remembering the day he first met the Macombers: Francis, an excitable, boyish and wealthy American, who is hoping to prove his courage, hires Robert to take him hunting. Margo, whose marriage to Francis has deteriorated, is immediately taken with Robert's manly beauty and courage, and is unrelenting in her criticisms of her husband. The first night in camp, as Margo pretends to sleep, Francis promises her that, although they have quarrelled in the past, he has fallen in love with her again and wants to start over, but she does not respond. In the night, Francis is awakened by the roar of a lion a mile from camp, and in the morning, is determined to kill it. During the hunt, Francis shoots the lion, sending it into the brush to lick its wounds. Although Francis is afraid to complete the kill, Robert insists that a hunter cannot leave an animal to suffer, and leads Francis into the brush. When the lion charges, Francis runs, leaving Robert to kill the lion. Margo, furious at Francis' cowardice, greets him after the hunt with hostility, but kisses Robert on the lips in front of her husband. Later, Francis, feeling sorry for himself, beats an African servant, and Robert must intervene. The incident deepens Margo's animosity toward Francis, and that night, she visits Robert as Francis sleeps. He awakens, however, and finds her missing. The next day, Francis becomes exhilarated before the hunt. Although Margo tells him she hates him, he finds his courage at last and successfully shoots a buffalo. Robert congratulates Francis, then admits he is in love with Margo. After Francis and Robert shake hands, a wounded bull charges out of the brush in Margo's line of fire, and she shoots Francis in the back, killing him. Back in the present, Robert confronts Margo, who is scheduled to appear before a jury. She admits that, after years of tolerating Francis's cowardly brutality toward those weaker than he, she grew to hate him and became callous and cold. After she saw Francis and Robert shaking hands during the hunt, she knew that Francis was through with her. Finally, she confesses that if there is such a thing as "murder in the heart," then she murdered her husband. Robert then admits that he already noted in the police report that Francis' death was an accident, but forced her to confess so that he would know what kind of woman she is. Although Robert offers his support, Margo leaves to face the jury alone. 

Production Company: Award Productions, Inc.  
  Benedict Bogeaus Productions, Inc.  
Distribution Company: United Artists Corp.  
Director: Zoltan Korda (Dir)
  Joseph Depew (Asst dir)
Producer: Benedict Bogeaus (Pres)
  Benedict Bogeaus (Prod)
  Casey Robinson (Prod)
  Carley Harriman (Asst to prod)
Writer: Casey Robinson (Scr)
  Seymour Bennett (Scr)
  Seymour Bennett (Adpt)
  Frank Arnold (Adpt)
Photography: Karl Struss (Cine)
  O. H. Borradaile (African photog through the courtesy of the Kenya Game Department)
  Fred Francis (African photog through the courtesy of the Kenya Game Department)
  John D. Weiler (2d cam)
Art Direction: Erno Metzner (Art dir)
Film Editor: George Feld (Film ed)
  Jack Wheeler (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Fred Widdowson (Set dec)
Costumes: Greta (Women's ward)
  Jerry Bos (Men's ward)
  John Frederics (Joan Bennett's hunting chapeau des)
Music: Miklos Rosza (Mus dir)
Sound: William Lynch (Sd tech)
  Joseph I. Kane (Re-rec and eff mixer)
  William H. Wilmarth (Mus mixer)
Make Up: Otis Malcolm (Makeup artist)
  Meryl Reeves (Miss Bennett's Hairdresser)
Production Misc: Ken Walters (Prod mgr)
  Arthur M. Landau (Prod assoc)
  Charlotte Graham (Research dir)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the short story "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" by Ernest Hemingway in Hearst's International-Cosmopolitan (Sep 1936).
Authors: Ernest Hemingway

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Award Productions, Inc. 21/3/1947 dd/mm/yyyy LP1014 Yes

PCA NO: 11909
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Recording

Genre: Adventure
Subjects (Major): Courage
  Husband murder
  Accidental death
  Romantic rivalry
  Tests of character
Subjects (Minor): Africans
  Gunshot wounds
  Wild animals

Note: The opening title card of the film reads: "Ernest Hemingway's The Macomber Affair ." The film's working titles were The Great White Hunter and The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber . The character portrayed by Gregory Peck was based on real-life hunter Bror Blixen, whose wife, Isak Dinesen (1885-1962), was the author of the autobiographical book Out of Africa . In the 1985 film adaptation of the book, also titled Out of Africa , Blixen's character was portrayed by Klaus Maria Brandauer. In Aug 1941 HR announced that Samuel Goldwyn was planning a film based on Hemingway's short story, which was to be co-directed by Howard Hawks and Victor Fleming and star Gary Cooper. Goldwyn, Hawks, Fleming and Cooper were all to produce the picture, and filming was to be done in Africa. That film was never made, however. Modern sources state that Hemingway received $75,000 from Casey Robinson, one of the writers of the 1947 film, for the screen rights to his story. The film marked Robert Preston's return to the screen after four years in the Army Air Force. According to contemporary sources, wild animal safari scenes in the film were photographed in Kenya, Africa, while location shooting with the cast took place near Tecate, Mexico.
       Many modern sources have called the film one of the most faithful cinematic adaptations of a Hemingway story, despite the fact that the story's ending was significantly altered. In Hemingway's story, "Margo" and "Wilson" do have a sexual affair, but do not fall in love, and Margo remains a less sympathetic character at the end of the novel. According to files in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, after the Breen Office objected to any indication of a happy ending for the "two wrongdoers," Wilson and Margo, a new ending was written in which Margo goes before the coroner's office and awaits a verdict. In the final version of the film, Margo's guilt remains ambiguous, and ads for the film contained the slogan "Murder or Accident?" The Breen office also ordered that the filmmakers "more clearly indicate the seriousness of Wilson's punishment for his part in the adultery." As a result of the PCA order, Wilson is shown losing his license. The NYT review criticized the film for turning Hemingway's story into a romance, stating: "It is plainly a sentimental fixture which has no place in the film and which detracts from an otherwise commendable hate-and-jealousy yarn. If the footage devoted to this tag-end had been used to emphasize the irony of the story--of humans, so-called, slaughtering splendid beasts...--the boys would have had quite a film."
       Before the film was issued a Code Seal, the hunting scenes had to be approved by the American Humane Society. In a letter from Richard C. Craven of the Humane Society to MPAA agent Geoffrey Shurlock, Craven states that, although he personally "abhor[red] hunting," he could not protest the film because the kill was restricted to one lion and two buffalo and was photographed by cameramen from Great Britain, where hunting is accepted "as little to worry about." 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   25 Jan 1947.   
Daily Variety   20 Jan 1947.   
Film Daily   23 Jan 47   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Aug 41   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Apr 46   p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter   31 May 46   p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Jun 46   p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Jun 46   p. 1, 39
Hollywood Reporter   17 Jan 47   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Apr 47   p. 6.
Independent Film Journal   13 Apr 46   p. 27.
Liberty   12 Apr 47   p. 26.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   1 Feb 47   p. 3445.
Variety   22 Jan 47   p. 17.
New York Times   21 Apr 47   p. 21.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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