Africa Screams

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Africa Screams
Original theatrical release lobby card
Directed by Charles Barton
Produced by Huntington Hartford
Edward Nassour
Written by Earl Baldwin
Screenplay by Martin Ragaway
Leonard B. Stern
Starring Bud Abbott
Lou Costello
Clyde Beatty
Frank Buck
Max Baer
Buddy Baer
Shemp Howard
Joe Besser
Music by Walter Schumann
Cinematography Charles Van Enger
Edited by Frank Gross
Huntington Hartford Productions
Nassour Studios
Distributed by United 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
Country United States
Language English
Budget $500,000[1]
Box office $1.5 million[2]
The film.

Africa Screams is a 1949 American adventure comedy film starring Abbott and Costello and directed by Charles Barton that parodied 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, Max Baer, Buddy Baer, Shemp Howard, and Joe Besser. The film entered the public domain in 1977.


Diana Emerson (Hillary Brooke) is in the book department of Klopper's Department store looking for a copy of the book Dark Safari, written by the famed explorer Cuddleford. Buzz Johnson (Bud Abbott) overhears Diana saying that she will pay $2,500 for a map that is inside that book. He devises a plan to pass off his friend Stanley Livington (Lou Costello) as a great explorer who accompanied Cuddleford on the expedition described in the book. With claims that he can reproduce the map, the two men go to Diana's home that very night. They agree to accompany her on an African expedition, and when Buzz overhears that Clyde Beatty has been offered $20,000 to lead the expedition, he feels that the map is worth considerably more than $2,500.

They travel to Africa, along with Diana's team of explorers, including Harry (Joe Besser), 'Boots' Wilson (Buddy Baer), 'Grappler' McCoy (Max Baer) and Gunner (Shemp Howard), a nearsighted professional hunter. The boys learn that the true expedition is for diamonds rather than exploration, and Buzz plans to renegotiate the deal. Stanley cannot reproduce the map, as he has never seen it, and the two attempt to bluff their way around the jungle.

Eventually Buzz and Stanley find a trail of diamonds, which lead straight to a cannibal village, where the residents intend to roast the two. They are rescued by a gorilla who has taken a liking to Stanley after he rescues it from a trapper's pit.

The next day the cannibal tribe meets with the rest of the expeditionary team, where the chief offers several diamonds in exchange for Stanley ("Chief have sweet tooth," explains his translator.). They start to chase Stanley all over the place while Buzz buries the diamonds. The expeditionary team, along with the tribal warriors, are finally frightened away by a giant gorilla (Charles Gemora), whose existence had been dismissed as a myth earlier in the film. Stanley rushes to find Buzz, only to discover that Buzz, having lost the diamonds, has had enough and is abandoning his friend. Meanwhile, the friendly gorilla from before digs up the diamonds that Buzz has hidden and gives them to Stanley offscreen.

Some time after returning to the United States, Stanley owns the department store, along with the gorilla, and Buzz works for them as the elevator operator.[3]


Production and history

Africa Screams was filmed from November 10 through December 22, 1948, at the Nassour Studios in Los Angeles.[4] The film was produced by A&P heir Huntington Hartford. The film was the first one of the independently financed productions that Abbott and Costello made while they were under contract with Universal, and it was released by United Artists.[3] Clyde Beatty provided his own animals for the film.[5]

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.[6]

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.[3] 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.[6]

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.[7]

Home media

As this film is in the public domain, it has been released multiple times on DVD from several companies.

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. ^ 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. ^ a b c Jim Mulholland (1977). The Abbott and Costello Book. Popular Library. pp. 181–185.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-19. Retrieved 2011-07-19.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ p. 35 Hobbies magazine, Volume 53, Issues 7-12Lightner Pub. Co., 1948
  6. ^ a b Phil Hall (January 20, 2006). "The Bootleg Files: "Africa Screams"". Film Threat. Retrieved 2009-04-18.
  7. ^ Bob Furmanek (February 6, 2004). "8 Abbott & Costello Films Coming!". Archived from the original on 2019-02-13. Retrieved February 13, 2019.

External links

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