“Oh yes, there was no doubling at all - the actors caught the animals. We chased sixteen rhinos and caught four with ropes.” - Howard Hawks on filming Hatari!
Hatari! (1962) Movie Trailer
Hatari! - 1962 (Original Poster)
When it comes to putting Howard Hawks’s movies in categories, “Hatari!” is the most difficult one to nail down.
With a group of hunters, led by John Wayne’s Sean Mercer, chasing across the plains of Africa in speeding jeeps and trucks as they attempt to round up a variety of animals for zoos back home, the picture certainly has all the elements of an adventure film. Hawks establishes the danger early in the story when one of the crew is injured while attempting to capture a rhino.
Russ Harlan, one of the director’s favorite cinematographers, worked with Hawks to place us right in the middle of the action. In an age before computer graphics, the audience joins the chase as thundering herds of zebras, giraffes, elephants, and yes, rhinos stampede. It is equally startling to realize that the actors were right in the middle of these chase sequences. Several sources report that a few of these scenes had to be overdubbed to cover the Duke’s cursing during his attempts to capture the critters.
As is often the case in films by Howard Hawks, several dashes of romance are added to the adventure mix. John Wayne gets to play the flustered older male to Elsa Martinelli’s romantically aggressive Dallas. Meanwhile, Michele Girardon as company owner Brandy is pursued in both tense and comic ways by three love struck employees.
Numerous comic scenes make it difficult to label “Hatari!” as just an adventure movie. If your definition of a comedy is measured by number of times you laugh or grin while watching a film, “Hatari!” will provoke both responses more times than many pictures that are released as comedies.
Combine the glee of catching Red Buttons as Pockets attempting to milk a goat with the joy of watching baby elephants roaming through town in search of their adopted mama Dallas (to the tune of Henry Mancini’s now famous “Baby Elephant Walk,” and add a generous sprinkle of puns and wisecracks and it is easy to see how this film provides enough humor to keep an entire family entertained.
In the end, “Hatari!” best fits in the category of sheer entertainment. John Wayne, who appeared in well over 100 movies in his long career, later stated “The most fun I ever had on any picture was on ‘Hatari!’” and several other cast members over the years have echoed that sentiment. You can actually feel that fun when you watch this movie.
Though it might not have much a plot and, perhaps, runs a bit too long; “Hatari!” remains one of the most successful efforts of the last part of Howard Hawks’ career.
Director: Howard Hawks
Producers: Howard Hawks and Paul Helmick
Screenplay: Harry Kurnitz (story) and Leigh Brackett
Music: Henry Mancini
Cinematography: Russell Harlan
Editor: Stuart Gilmore
Art Directors: Carl Anderson and Hal Pereira
Released: October 6, 1962 Running time 157 minutes
By following the life and art of Howard Hawks one can capture the true essence of the Golden Age of Hollywood, as if slipping on special lenses that suddenly pull away the grain and glare to reveal an unforgettable time of Movie Magic.