The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952 film)

Last updated
The Snows of Kilimanjaro
The Snows of Kilimanjaro.jpg
Lobby Card
Directed by Henry King
Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck
Screenplay by Casey Robinson
Based on"The Snows of Kilimanjaro"
1936 story
by Ernest Hemingway
Starring Gregory Peck
Ava Gardner
Susan Hayward
Music by Bernard Herrmann
Cinematography Leon Shamroy
Edited by Barbara McLean
Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox
Release date
  • September 17, 1952 (1952-09-17)(New York) [1]
  • October 23, 1952 (1952-10-23)(US)
Running time
117 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3,000,000 [2]
Box office$6.5–$12.5 million [3] [4]
The Snows of Kilimanjaro

The Snows of Kilimanjaro is a 1952 American Technicolor film based on the 1936 short story of the same name by Ernest Hemingway. It is directed by Henry King, written by Casey Robinson, and starred Gregory Peck as Harry Street, Susan Hayward as Helen, and Ava Gardner as Cynthia Green (a character invented for the film). The film's ending does not mirror the story's ending. [5]


Considered by Hemingway to be one of his finest stories, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" was first published in Esquire magazine in 1936 and then republished in The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories (1938).

The Snows of Kilimanjaro was a critical and commercial success upon its release and became the second highest-grossing film of 1952, second only to The Greatest Show on Earth . It was nominated for two Oscars at the 25th Academy Awards, for Best Cinematography, Color and Best Art Direction, Color (Lyle R. Wheeler, John DeCuir, Thomas Little, Paul S. Fox).

The film has entered the public domain. [6]


Peck recalls his memories from what he thinks is his deathbed in Africa Thesnowsofkilimanjaro-Peck.jpg
Peck recalls his memories from what he thinks is his deathbed in Africa

The film begins with the opening words of Hemingway's story: "Kilimanjaro is a snow-covered mountain 19,710 feet high, and is said to be the highest mountain in Africa. Its western summit is called the Masai 'Ngje Ngi,' the House of God. Close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude." [5]

The story centers on the memories of disillusioned writer, Harry Street, who is on safari in Africa. He has a severely infected wound from a thorn prick, and lies outside his tent awaiting a slow death, though in the film it is pointed out he may have acquired the infection from leaping into a muddy river to rescue one of the safari's porters from a hippo after he falls in the river. His female companion, Helen, nurses Harry and hunts game for the larder.

The loss of mobility brings self-reflection. In an often delirious state he remembers his past relationship with Cynthia Green, whom he met in Paris as members of the "Lost Generation." Upon the sale of Harry's first novel, rather than rent a nicer home, Harry wishes to go on safari to Africa. There he has his happiest moments, including bagging a rhino. Cynthia is pregnant, but worries about sharing this news with Harry, who is passionate about his travels and work as a journalist and author. Harry only learns about the pregnancy after her miscarriage. Suffering depression and sinking into alcoholism, she eventually leaves Harry for a flamenco dancer when she believes Harry is off for a job as a war correspondent.

Harry later becomes engaged to the wealthy and socially connected Countess Elizabeth, whom he meets on the Cote d'Azur; however, he still remains loyal to the memory of Cynthia. On the eve of their wedding, a jealous Elizabeth confronts Harry with a letter to Harry sent from Cynthia, who is now in Madrid. Elizabeth destroys the letter in front of Harry who stalks off to go to Spain. Unable to find Cynthia at the Madrid address on the envelope, he enlists to fight in the Spanish Civil War. During a battle he meets Cynthia, who is now an ambulance driver. Cynthia is mortally wounded, and Harry is shot and wounded when he deserts the battle to try to bring the dying Cynthia to a doctor.

Harry returns to Paris. While he is standing on the bridge watching the river, he meets Helen, who reminds him of Cynthia. After the death of his beloved mentor Uncle Bill, Harry receives as a bequest a letter from his uncle that gives him the riddle of the leopard. Harry's bartender suggests that the leopard ended up there as he was on a false scent and became lost, but Harry takes Helen on a safari to Kenya to learn the answer of the riddle. He is injured and develops an infection. As Harry nears death, the protective Helen fights off a witch doctor. Following the directions in an emergency first aid manual, she opens Harry's wound to release the infection. At the dawn a medical party arrives by airplane. The vultures and hyena who have been awaiting Harry's death leave and never return. Harry realizes his love for Helen.


Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner meet Ava Gardner Snows.jpg
Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner meet


Peck and Susan Hayward Snows kilimanjaro.jpg
Peck and Susan Hayward

Twentieth Century-Fox bought the rights to the story in June 1948, paying $125,000. [5]


Humphrey Bogart, Richard Conte and Marlon Brando were all reported to be under consideration for the male lead, as was Dale Robertson. [5]


The film was shot on location in Nairobi, Kenya, Cairo, Egypt, and the French Riviera, and studio work was done at Stage 14 in 20th Century Fox Studios. During production, on April 8, 1952, when Peck was carrying Gardner for a scene in the film, Peck wrenched his knee and production had to be postponed for 10 days while he recovered in his Pacific Palisades home, and Hildegard Knef came down with influenza in the studios. [4] [7] She was able though to sing two Cole Porter tunes in the film. [8] Jazz musician Benny Carter performs early on in the film. [9]

The bullfight sequences were archive footage, taken from Fox's 1941 film Blood and Sand . [5]


On studio set "location" for Kenya Thesnowsofkilimanjaro19bd9.jpg
On studio set “location“ for Kenya

Helped by a star-studded cast, the film was one of the most successful films of the early 1950s and earned $12.5 million at the box office, very high for that period. [4] The film was much acclaimed by critics, although some vary in their opinion of it, ranging from "simply plodding" to "much-maligned". [10] [11] The cinematography was highly acclaimed in particular, and even the sophisticated interiors were praised. [12] [13] Bosley Crowther of The New York Times described the cinematography as "magnificent and exciting" and said that the "overall production in wonderful color is full of brilliant detail and surprise and the mood of nostalgia and wistful sadness that is built up in the story has its spell." [12] He praised Peck's character for his "burning temper and melancholy moods", although he said that Ava Gardner was "pliant and impulsive" in a role "as soggy and ambiguous as any in the film". [12] Variety praised the film as "an often engrossing dramatic mixture of high adventure, romance and symbolism," adding that "the color coating used to display the story's varied locales is beautiful," and "Miss Gardner has never been better." [14] Harrison's Reports called it "at once absorbing, exciting, and fascinating." [15] The Monthly Film Bulletin , however, wrote that Hemingway's dialogue sounded "stilted and a little dated" on the screen, and that "any real seriousness that the film might have retained is nullified by the ending. Letting Harry survive makes of the film a naive kind of spiritual success story with a conventional boy-meets-lots-of-girls plot." [16] Variety commented "the script broadens the short story considerably without losing the Hemingway penchant for the mysticism behind his virile characters and lusty situations. [17]

Craig Butler of AllMovie opines, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro has not aged well over the years...The screenplay (is) in a bit of a no man's land, not really Hemingway, but not quite the real world either. Visually, however, Kilimanjaro is a feast, with the camera capturing the full beauty of its often-stunning locations and also finding emotion in the 'character' scenes. The art direction is lovely...Gardner and Peck create the appropriate romantic chemistry...the direction is uneven...there's still enough here to engage most fans of romance movies." [18]

A more recent appraisal in Bowker's Directory described it as having "plenty of action & romance" and stated that it was "the popular 'celebrity film' of its time". [19] Hemingway, who disliked the typical Hollywood happy ending, accepted the money for the film, but he could not bring himself to view it, according to one report. [12] However, in a 1954 article for Look magazine, Hemingway said a hyena (voiced by Director King from behind the camera) [20] was the best performer in the picture, which the writer called The Snows of Zanuck. [21]

The film was nominated for two Academy Awards; for Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction (Lyle R. Wheeler, John DeCuir, Thomas Little, Paul S. Fox). [22]

Home media

20th Century Fox released the film on DVD in March 2007, separately and as part of five-disc collection entitled "The Ernest Hemingway Film Collection", where it was packaged with Under My Skin , The Sun Also Rises , A Farewell to Arms , and Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man . [6]

Related Research Articles

Ava Gardner American actress and singer

Ava Lavinia Gardner was an American actress and singer. She first signed a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1941 and appeared mainly in small roles until she drew critics' attention in 1946 with her performance in Robert Siodmak's film noir The Killers. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1953 for her performance in John Ford's Mogambo, and in 1964 for best actress for both a Golden Globe Award and BAFTA Award for her performance in John Huston's The Night of the Iguana.

Gregory Peck American actor

Eldred Gregory Peck was an American actor. He was one of the most popular film stars from the 1940s to the 1960s. In 1999, the American Film Institute named Peck among 25 Greatest Male Stars of Classic Hollywood Cinema, ranking him at No. 12.

Susan Hayward American actress

Susan Hayward was an American actress and model. She was best known for her film portrayals of women that were based on true stories.

Safari Journey with the aim to hunt safari animals or to observe or photograph them

A safari is an overland journey to hunt or observe wild animals, especially in east or southern Africa. The so-called Big Five game animals of Africa – lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo – particularly form an important part of the safari market, both for wildlife viewing and big-game hunting.

The Snows of Kilimanjaro (short story) Short story by Ernest Hemingway

"The Snows of Kilimanjaro" is a short story by American author Ernest Hemingway first published in August, 1936, in Esquire magazine. It was republished in The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories in 1938, The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories in 1961, and is included in The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vigía Edition (1987).

"The Killers" is a short story by Ernest Hemingway, published in Scribner's Magazine in 1927. After its appearance in Scribner's, the story was published in Men Without Women,Snows of Kilimanjaro, and The Nick Adams Stories. The writer's depiction of the human experience, his use of satire, and the everlasting themes of death, friendship, and the purpose of life have contributed to make "The Killers" one of Hemingway's most famous and frequently anthologized short stories.

<i>True at First Light</i> Book by Ernest Hemingway

True at First Light is a book by American novelist Ernest Hemingway about his 1953–54 East African safari with his fourth wife Mary, released posthumously in his centennial year in 1999. The book received mostly negative or lukewarm reviews from the popular press and sparked a literary controversy regarding how, and whether, an author's work should be reworked and published after his death. Unlike critics in the popular press, Hemingway scholars generally consider True at First Light to be complex and a worthy addition to his canon of later fiction.

<i>The Snows of Kilimanjaro</i> (short story collection)

The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories is a collection of short stories by Ernest Hemingway, published in 1961. All the stories were earlier published in The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories in 1938.

<i>The Gunfighter</i> 1950 film by Henry King

The Gunfighter is a 1950 American Western film directed by Henry King and starring Gregory Peck, Helen Westcott, Millard Mitchell and Karl Malden. It was written by screenwriters William Bowers and William Sellers, with an uncredited rewrite by writer and producer Nunnally Johnson, from a story by Bowers and screenwriter and director Andre DeToth. The film was the second of King's six collaborations with Peck.

White hunter

White hunter is a literary term used for professional big game hunters of European or North American backgrounds who plied their trade in Africa, especially during the first half of the 20th century. The activity continues in the dozen African countries which still permit big-game hunting. White hunters derived their income from organizing and leading safaris for paying clients, or from the sale of ivory.

<i>David and Bathsheba</i> (film) 1951 film by Henry King

David and Bathsheba is a 1951 historical Technicolor epic film about King David made by 20th Century Fox. It was directed by Henry King, produced by Darryl F. Zanuck, from a screenplay by Philip Dunne. The cinematography was by Leon Shamroy. Gregory Peck stars as King David and the film follows King David's life as he adjusts to ruling as a King, and about his relationship with Uriah's wife Bathsheba, played by Susan Hayward. Goliath of Gath was portrayed by 203 cm-tall (6'8") Lithuanian wrestler Walter Talun.

<i>Untamed</i> (1955 film) 1955 film by Henry King

Untamed is a 1955 CinemaScope adventure film directed by Henry King and starring Tyrone Power, Susan Hayward and Richard Egan, with Agnes Moorehead, Rita Moreno and Hope Emerson. It was made by Twentieth Century-Fox in DeLuxe Color. The screenplay was by William A. Bacher, Michael Blankfort, Frank Fenton and Talbot Jennings from a 1950 novel by Helga Moray. The music score was by Franz Waxman and the cinematography by Leo Tover.

<i>White Witch Doctor</i> 1953 Technicolor adventure film directed by Henry Hathaway

White Witch Doctor is a 1953 Technicolor adventure film directed by Henry Hathaway and starring Susan Hayward, Robert Mitchum, and Walter Slezak. Made by 20th Century Fox, it was produced by Otto Lang from a screenplay by Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts, based on the 1950 novel by Louise A. Stinetorf. The music score was by Bernard Herrmann, and the cinematography by Leon Shamroy.

<i>Id Climb the Highest Mountain</i> 1951 film

I'd Climb the Highest Mountain is a 1951 Technicolor religious drama film made by Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation. It was directed by Henry King and produced by Lamar Trotti from a screenplay by King and Trotti. The story is based on a 1910 novel by Corra Harris about a minister and his wife in southern Appalachia in the early 20th century. The music score was by Sol Kaplan and the cinematography by Edward Cronjager.

<i>The Sun Also Rises</i> (1957 film) 1957 film by Henry King

The Sun Also Rises is a 1957 film adaptation of the 1926 Ernest Hemingway novel of the same name directed by Henry King. The screenplay was written by Peter Viertel and it starred Tyrone Power, Ava Gardner, Mel Ferrer, and Errol Flynn. Much of it was filmed on location in France and Spain in Cinemascope and color by Deluxe. A highlight of the film is the famous "running of the bulls" in Pamplona, Spain and two bullfights.

<i>The Macomber Affair</i> 1947 film by Zoltan Korda

The Macomber Affair is a 1947 movie set in British East Africa concerning a fatal triangle involving a frustrated wife, a weak husband, and the professional hunter who comes between them. The film was distributed by United Artists and directed by Zoltan Korda, and features Gregory Peck, Joan Bennett, and Robert Preston.

<i>The Great Sinner</i> 1949 film by Robert Siodmak

The Great Sinner is a 1949 American drama film directed by Robert Siodmak. Based on the 1866 short novel The Gambler written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the film stars Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Frank Morgan, Ethel Barrymore, Walter Huston, Agnes Moorehead and Melvyn Douglas.

Donald Ker

Donald Ker was a famous Kenyan white hunter, safari guide and conservationist of British descent. As a young man he teamed up with Sydney Downey to create Ker and Downey Safaris Ltd., one of the first guide companies to transition from hunting to photographic safaris. He is also known for leading two long expeditions with Edgar Monsanto Queeny for the American Museum of Natural History which resulted in the production of several nature documentaries and in Ker's own dedication to conservation.

Belmond Khwai River Lodge is a safari lodge situated in Moremi Game Reserve, part of the Okavango Delta in Botswana. The lodge is one of three that comprise Belmond Safaris, the others being Belmond Eagle Island Lodge and Belmond Savute Elephant Lodge. All three are reached from Maun, Botswana.

Stanley Hotel, Nairobi

The Stanley Hotel is a five-star hotel in Nairobi, Kenya. It is the oldest hotel in the city, having been established in 1902 by English businesswoman Mayence Bent, when the city was a railway halt. It is named after Sir Henry Morton Stanley, a Welsh explorer who is best known for his explorations of central Africa and his successful search for missionary and explorer David Livingstone.


  1. "The Snows of Kilimanjaro". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
  2. "'Gregory Peck: A Biography', by Gary Fishgall"
  3. 'Top Box-Office Hits of 1952', Variety, January 7, 1953
  4. 1 2 3 Holston, Kim R. (11 July 2015). Susan Hayward: Her Films and Life. McFarland. p. 91. ISBN   978-0-7864-8088-3 . Retrieved 23 May 2013.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 "Notes - The Snows of Kilimanjaro". AFI Catalog. Turner Classic Movies . Retrieved 2013-06-16.
  6. 1 2 Hicks, Chris (March 8, 2007). "DVD reviews: Oldies make their DVD debut". Deseret News . Retrieved 2013-06-16. The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952, color) has injured writer Gregory Peck going over his past to see if his life has meaning, with Ava Gardner and Susan Hayward. This one has been on many public-domain labels, but this is a pristine print and looks gorgeous.
  7. Molyneaux, Gerard (1995). Gregory Peck: A Bio-bibliography. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 113. ISBN   978-0-313-28668-1 . Retrieved 23 May 2013.
  8. Reimer, Robert C.; Reimer, Carol J. (1 April 2010). The A to Z of German Cinema. Scarecrow Press. p. 176. ISBN   978-1-4617-3186-3 . Retrieved 23 May 2013.
  9. Cooke, Mervyn; Horn, David (9 January 2003). The Cambridge Companion to Jazz. Cambridge Companions to Music. Cambridge University Press. p. 343. ISBN   978-0-521-66388-5 . Retrieved 23 May 2013.
  10. Irwin, John T (2006). Unless the Threat of Death is Behind Them: Hard-boiled Fiction and Film Noir. JHU Press. p. 205. ISBN   978-0-8018-8435-1 . Retrieved 23 May 2013.
  11. Films and Filming. Hansom Books. 1971. p. 44. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
  12. 1 2 3 4 Crowther, Bosley (19 September 1952). "THE SCREEN IN REVIEW; ' Snow of Kiliminjaro,' Based on Hemingway's Story, Is New Feature at Rivoli". The New York Times . Retrieved 23 May 2013.
  13. Whitlock, Cathy (5 February 2013). Designs on Film: A Century of Hollywood Art Direction. HarperCollins. p. 149. ISBN   978-0-06-224160-3 . Retrieved 23 May 2013.
  14. "The Snows of Kilimanjaro". Variety : 6. September 24, 1952.
  15. "'The Snows of Kilimanjaro' with Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward and Ava Gardner". Harrison's Reports : 151. September 20, 1952.
  16. "The Snows of Kilimanjaro". The Monthly Film Bulletin . 19 (226): 155. November 1952.
  17. "The Snows of Kilimanjaro". Variety. January 1, 1952.
  18. "The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952) - Henry King | Review". AllMovie.
  19. Bowker's Complete Video Directory. R R Bowker Publishing. 1993. p. 1339. ISBN   9780835245692 . Retrieved 23 May 2013.
  20. Eduardo Moreno, The Films of Susan Hayward, Citadel Press, Secaucus, NJ, 1979, p.178.
  21. Hemingway, Ernest, and White, William (ed.). By-Line: Ernest Hemingway. p. 429. Charles Scribner's Sons. New York, NY. 1967
  22. "The Snows of Kilimanjaro". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times . Baseline & All Movie Guide. 2009. Archived from the original on 6 August 2009. Retrieved 21 December 2008.