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Africa Screams

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Africa Screams
Original theatrical release lobby card
Directed byCharles Barton
Written byEarl Baldwin
Screenplay byMartin Ragaway
Leonard B. Stern
Produced byHuntington Hartford
Edward Nassour
StarringBud Abbott
Lou Costello
Clyde Beatty
Frank Buck
Max Baer
Buddy Baer
Shemp Howard
Joe Besser
CinematographyCharles Van Enger
Edited byFrank Gross
Music byWalter Schumann
Huntington Hartford Productions
Nassour Studios
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • May 4, 1949 (1949-05-04) (New York City, New York)
  • May 27, 1949 (1949-05-27) (United States)
Running time
79 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1.5 million[2]
The film before restoration

Africa Screams is a 1949 American adventure comedy film directed by Charles Barton and starring Abbott and Costello. It parodies the safari genre. The title is a play on the title of the 1930 documentary Africa Speaks! The supporting cast features Clyde Beatty, Frank Buck, Hillary Brooke, Max Baer, Buddy Baer, Shemp Howard, and Joe Besser. The film entered the public domain in 1977.


Diana Emerson visits the book section of Klopper's Department store seeking a copy of Dark Safari by the famed explorer Cuddleford. She tells the clerk, Buzz Johnson, that she will pay $2,500 for a map that is inside the book. Buzz's friend and co-worker, Stanley Livington, an armchair explorer, has read the book and says he is familiar with a map in it. Buzz brings Stanley to Diana's home to draw the map, but when he overhears Diana offer Clyde Beatty $20,000 to lead an expedition to capture a legendary giant ape, Buzz realizes that the map is worth considerably more. Buzz negotiates for more money and for he and Stanley to join the safari.

They travel to the Congo with Diana's team of explorers, including Harry, 'Boots' Wilson, 'Grappler' McCoy and Gunner, a nearsighted professional hunter. When he learns that the expedition's true goal is not the giant ape but a fortune in diamonds, Buzz renegotiates their deal again. However, it turns out that the map in the book that Stanley is familiar with is a map he drew himself of the route to his job at Klopper's. But Stanley's memory of details in the book bring the party to the region Diana is interested in. There they run across famed animal collector Frank Buck.

A cannibal tribe sets a trail of diamonds to lure Buzz and Stanley and capture them. The boys are rescued by a grateful gorilla who Stanley had inadvertently rescued from one of Frank Buck's traps. The cannibal chief offers Diana diamonds in exchange for Stanley ("Chief have sweet tooth for little fat man," explains his translator). Stanley flees, while Buzz recovers the diamonds and hides them. While pursuing Stanley, the expeditionary team and the cannibals are frightened away by the giant ape whose existence had been dismissed as myth. The friendly gorilla, meanwhile, recovers the diamonds before Buzz can. Distraught over the loss of his treasure, Buzz abandons Stanley in the jungle.

Some time later, back in the United States, Stanley appears prosperous and owns his own skyscraper, and Buzz works as the elevator operator. It turns out that Stanley's partner is the gorilla who had recovered the diamonds.[1]


Production and history

Africa Screams was filmed from November 10 through December 22, 1948, at the Nassour Studios in Los Angeles.[1] The film was produced by A&P heir Huntington Hartford. The film was the second of the independently financed productions Abbott and Costello made while they were under contract with Universal, and it was released by United Artists.[1]Clyde Beatty provided his own animals for the film.[3]

The subplot regarding the affectionate gorilla originally presented a female simian pursuing Costello. However, the Breen Office censors that enforced the Production Code in Hollywood demanded that the gorilla's gender be changed because they felt a female gorilla's pursuit of a man would be on par with bestiality.[1]

Africa Screams marked the first time that Abbott and Costello worked with Hillary Brooke and Joe Besser; both actors would later become part of the ensemble cast for the duo's television series The Abbott and Costello Show.[1] The film also marked the only time that Shemp Howard and Joe Besser appeared together in a film; Besser would replace Howard as one of the Three Stooges following the latter's death in 1955.[1]

The film was purchased in 1953 by Robert Haggiag, an independent distributor in New York. Haggiag failed to renew the copyright because he lost interest in the film, and it fell into the public domain in 1977. Author and film historian Bob Furmanek contacted Haggiag in the late 1980s and obtained the original nitrate stock. Most of the original camera negative had decomposed, but the nitrate fine grain was still serviceable and he had it transferred to 35mm for preservation.[4]

Home media

This film is in the public domain and has been released multiple times on VHS and DVD by several companies. A Kickstarter to restore the film for Blu-ray was launched by Bob Furmanek on December 1, 2019, and reached its original $7,500 goal in about 29 hours. The Blu-ray was released in June 2020.[5]

Historical references

The main character's name, Stanley Livington, is suggestive of the surnames of British explorers Henry Morton Stanley and David Livingstone who had a famous meeting in 1871. It is not known whether the change from Livingstone to Livington is the result of a typist's error or a deliberate obfuscation.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Furmanek, Bob; Palumbo, Ron (1991). Abbott and Costello in Hollywood. New York: Perigee Books. ISBN 0-399-51605-0 p 187
  2. ^ "Top Grossers of 1949". Variety. 4 January 1950. p. 59.
  3. ^ p. 35 Hobbies magazine, Volume 53, Issues 7-12Lightner Pub. Co., 1948
  4. ^ Bob Furmanek (February 6, 2004). "8 Abbott & Costello Films Coming!". Archived from the original on 2019-02-13. Retrieved February 13, 2019.
  5. ^ "Save Abbott and Costello's AFRICA SCREAMS!". Kickstarter. Retrieved 2 December 2019.

External links

This page was last edited on 26 July 2021, at 16:46
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