Where No Vultures Fly

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Where No Vultures Fly
Where No Vultures Fly.jpg
Original British Film poster
Directed by Harry Watt
Written by W. P. Lipscomb
Leslie Norman
Ralph Smart
Based onstory by Harry Watt
Produced by Michael Balcon
Starring Anthony Steel
Dinah Sheridan
Cinematography Paul Beeson
Geoffrey Unsworth
Edited by Jack Harris
Gordon Stone
Music by Alan Rawsthorne
Ealing Studios
African Film Productions
Distributed by General Film Distributors
Release dates
  • 5 November 1951 (1951-11-05)(Royal Command Film Performance)
  • 6 November 1951 (1951-11-06)(United Kingdom)
  • August 18, 1952 (1952-08-18)(United States)
Running time
107 minutes
CountriesUnited Kingdom
South Africa
Box office£152,000 [1]

Where No Vultures Fly is a 1951 British adventure film directed by Harry Watt and starring Anthony Steel and Dinah Sheridan. It was released under the title Ivory Hunter in the United States. [2] The film was inspired by the work of the conservationist Mervyn Cowie. [3] The film's opening credits state that "the characters in this film are imaginary, but the story is based on the recent struggle of Mervyn Cowie to form the National Parks of Kenya." [4] [5] The title Where No Vultures Fly denotes areas where there are no dead animals. [2]


The film had a sequel, West of Zanzibar . [6]


The film is set in East Africa near the boundary between Kenya and Tanzania. The story follows the early days of game warden Bob Payton (Anthony Steel) in his establishment of a 1000 square mile wildlife reserve. He is horrified by the destruction of wild animals by ivory hunters. He establishes a wildlife sanctuary. He is attacked by wild animals and must contend with a villainous ivory poacher (Harold Warrender). [2] [3]

When he confronts the ivory poacher in a remote area one night the poacher's native accomplices spear him in the leg and run off. As a leopard is about to attack the injured Payton one of his own native helpers comes to his rescue. The poacher meets a fatal end when his jeep is chased over a cliff by a rhinoceros.

Anthony Steel Bob Payton
Dinah Sheridan Mary Payton
Harold Warrender Mannering
Meredith Edwards Gwyl
William Simons Tim Payton
Orlando Martins M'Kwongi



Where No Vultures Fly was one of a series of "expeditionary films" Harry Watt made, like The Overlanders, where he would find the story from visiting a location. "These expeditionary films are really journalistic jobs", he wrote later. "You get sent out to a country by the studio, stay as long as you can without being fired and a story generally crops up." [7]

Watt got the idea of the film after a chance remark from a game warden in Tanganyika. He was shooting zebras and when Watt wondered if it was necessary, the warden remarked that Watt "talk like Mervyn Cowie". This prompted the director to track down Cowie in Nairobi, who inspired the story. [7]

W. P. Lipscomb wrote the script based on Harry Watt's original idea. Ralph Smart worked on it. According to Leslie Norman "the script was turned down generally, so I went in and added a bit which made them accept it." [8]

The film was a co-production between Ealing and South Africa's African Films, with half the financing coming from South Africa. (Africa Films was a South African theatre chain.) [9] [10]


Dinah Sheridan flew to Kenya at the end of November 1950 for a four month shoot. [11] Watt took a full unit to Africa and based it at Amboseli, south of Nairobi. They built a complete village of huts for the crew to live in. [7]

Anthony Steel contracted malaria during filming on location in Kenya. [12]


The film was selected for the 1951 Royal Command Performance, over other contenders such as A Place in the Sun and Outcast of the Islands , becoming the last one during the reign of George VI. [13] [14]


Variety praised the photography but felt the film had been given "false value by the Command selection". [15]

Box office

It was the second most popular film at the British box office in 1952. [16] [17] It also made $800,000 in the US, which was considered strong at the time for a British film. [18] It made Anthony Steel a star of British cinema. [19]

In 1957, the film and its sequel were listed among the seventeen most popular films the Rank organisation ever released in the US. [20]

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  1. Harper, Sue; Porter, Vincent (2003). British Cinema of The 1950s The Decline of Deference. Oxford University Press USA. p. 285.
  2. 1 2 3 Ivory Hunter (1951), New York Times, 1952-08-19.
  3. 1 2 The New Pictures, Time, 1952-08-25.
  4. Where No Vultures Fly, British Film Institute.
  5. John Allan May. The (4 April 1952). "Come What May: In Lightest Africa ...". Christian Science Monitor. p. 13.
  6. "BFI Screenonline: Where No Vultures Fly (1951)". www.screenonline.org.uk.
  7. 1 2 3 "Film circus goes on safari". The News . Adelaide. 16 February 1952. p. 6. Retrieved 13 January 2015 via National Library of Australia.
  8. Brian McFarlane, An Autobiography of British Cinema, Metheun 1997 p440
  9. J. A. BROWN (13 April 1952). "A REPORT ON FILM PRODUCTION IN SOUTH AFRICA: Exports Bolster Dark Continent's Small But Hopeful Industry". New York Times. p. X5.
  10. Our Financial Staff (14 July 1953). "U.S. CONCERN SELLS ODEON SHARES: South African Buyer". The Manchester Guardian. Manchester (UK). p. 2.
  11. Dinah Will Be Four Months in Jungle Author: Cecil Wilson Date: Friday, Nov. 17, 1950 Publication: Daily Mail (London, England) Issue p 3
  12. "Stars glitter for Royalty". The Australian Women's Weekly . 28 November 1951. p. 33. Retrieved 7 May 2012 via National Library of Australia.
  13. "Surprise choice for command screening". The Mail . Adelaide. 27 October 1951. p. 7 Supplement: SUNDAY MAGAZINE. Retrieved 13 January 2015 via National Library of Australia.
  14. "COMMAND FILM GLAMOUR NIGHT". The Mercury . Hobart, Tasmania. 7 November 1951. p. 12. Retrieved 13 January 2015 via National Library of Australia.
  15. "Where No Vultures Fly". Variety. 21 November 1951. p. 13.
  16. "COMEDIAN TOPS FILM POLL". The Sunday Herald . Sydney. 28 December 1952. p. 4. Retrieved 24 April 2012 via National Library of Australia.
  17. Thumim, Janet. "The popular cash and culture in the postwar British cinema industry". Screen. Vol. 32, no. 3. p. 259.
  18. "Rank's Rebel Yell". Variety. 6 March 1957. p. 10.
  19. Vagg, Stephen (23 September 2020). "The Emasculation of Anthony Steel: A Cold Streak Saga". Filmink.