Stanley and Livingstone (1939)

 

 

Director:     Henry King.

Starring:     Spencer Tracy (Henry M. Stanley), Nancy Kelly (Eve Kingsley), Richard Greene (Gareth Tyce), Walter Brennan (Jeff Slocum), Charles Coburn (Lord Tyce, Publisher London Globe), Cedric Hardwicke (Dr. David Livingstone), Henry Hull (James Gordon Bennett, Jr.), Henry Travers (John Kingsley), Miles Mander (Sir John Gresham),  David Torrence (Mr. Cranston),  Holmes Herbert (Sir Frederick Holcomb),  C. Montague Shaw (Sir Oliver French),  Brandon Hurst (Sir Henry Forrester), Hassan Said (Hassan, Stanley's Native Guide),  Paul Harvey (Col. Grimes). 

Newspaper reporter Stanley goes searching for the presumed lost David Livingstone, Scottish missionary and explorer who exercised a formative influence upon Western attitudes toward Africa.

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

 

1870.  Wyoming Territory, U.S.A.  A colonel says that he knows the Comanche and especially Chief Santanta and the chief has made up his mind to fight. The President of the USA sent a delegation of peace to speak with the Indians.  They were expecting to get an army escort, but the colonel says that he can't take the responsibility of letting the delegation go any farther into Indian territory.  He says the Comanche are less than a miles away from them. 

A band of Indians come from the mountains, but with two white men.  The Indians were the men's escort.  The colonel is astounded by this turn of events.  He learns that the guide Jeff Slocum has been helping a newspaper reporter named Henry M. Stanley, who wanted to get an interview with Chief Santanta and apparently he got it.  The peace commissioners want Stanley to tell them all about Chief Santanta, but Stanley is not saying anything.  He says that his employer is James Gordon Bennett, Jr. of the New York Herald and the story belongs to him.    And off go Jeff and Henry.  Stanley is headed back to New York City.   

In New York, Bennett talks to a group of newspapermen who want to buy him out along with his newspaper.  Bennett doesn't seem interested in selling his paper.  Stanley arrives and Bennett has him come in to report what he has accomplished.  As Stanley comes in, the group of newspapermen go out a side door.  Bennett complains to Stanley that Boss Tweed and his boys are still trying to buy him out. He tells Stanley that he did a great job in Wyoming.  But what he really wants to talk about is an expedition to prove that Dr. David Livingstone is alive.  The London Globe expedition has just come back from Africa declaring that the good doctor is dead.  Bennett wants Stanley to go to Africa and prove that Livingstone is still alive. He can then make Lord Tyce and his London Globe the laughing stock of every newspaper office from Park Row to Fleet Street.  He adds this shocker:  "Now get ready.  You're going to Africa."  Stanley is stunned by the news.  He tries to talk Bennett out of the idea by saying that few people know about this man.  Bennett starts to set Stanley straight. Livingstone is well known among Christians spreading the word in Africa and he is well known as a fighter against slavery and the slave traders in Africa.  He says that Livingstone is one of the greatest adventurers in world history.

Bennett starts bluffing Stanley saying the trip would be dangers and perhaps Stanley is right that he better just stay safe at home.  He can do that expose of the Boss Tweed Ring.  He tells Stanley to contact that political cartoonist Thomas Nast, who has been exposing the Tweed Ring in his cartoons.  But Stanley wants to know where Livingstone was last seen.  The answer is Tanganyika (an East African territory lying between the Indian Ocean and the African great lakes: Lake Victoria, Lake Malawi and Lake Tanganyika; it was once part of the colony of German East Africa).    Stanley also wants to know how long the journey would take and Bennett says it could take as much as three years, but it would be "the greatest in the history of journalism . . . "   Stanley is going and Bennett has already booked his passage to Africa.

With Jeff Slocum along, Stanley travels down the Red Sea, the shortest route to East Africa.  On the ship Slocum starts up a conversation with an Englishman.  When Stanley comes around, Slocum introduces the man to him.  That's when they both find out that the man is Tyce, the publisher of the London Globe.  Stanley is thrilled to learn this piece of information.  Later he approaches Tyce and flatters his newspaper.  This allows Stanley an opening to ask about East Africa.  Tyce says that he is on his way to Zanzibar to bring home his son, who led the expedition to find Livingstone.  His son has been quite sick since the end of the expedition.  As they talk, Stanley gradually introduces the fact that he is an American newspaper for the New York Herald.  Tyce says:  "For Bennett?  That sensation monger with his pushy Yankee rag?"  Yes.  This makes Tyce angry and he leaves. 

Zanzibar, off the east coast of Equatorial Africa.  The ship carrying Stanley arrives.  Eve Kingsley and her father Governor Henry Kingsley are going to receive Lord Tyce.  Staying with the Kingsleys is Gareth Tyce, the son of Lord Tyce.  Eve and Gareth appear to be boyfriend and girlfriend.  As everyone prepares to receive Lord Tyce, Stanley shows up at the house and asks Eve if he can see her father?  She wants him to come back another day, but the Governor, thinking that the new visitor is a friend of Eve's, invites him to stay and dine with them.     

Eve takes Stanley in to greet Gareth and Lord Tyce.  Of course, Lord Tyce has already met Stanley and is still angry about it.  But Gareth warmly wishes good luck to Stanley.  The Governor is excited to learn that Stanley has come in search of Livingstone.  He says he knew Livingstone well.  In fact, the governor's house was once the house of Livingstone.  After dinner Stanley asks the Governor for a pass to the island of Pemba.  Eve spoils Stanley's plan by telling her father that even though Stanley has relieved him of any responsibility for him, if anything should happen to Stanley, her father would be held responsible.  Stanley is mad at Eve and sarcastically thanks her for her gracious hospitality.  Eve tells him:  "I'm sorry if I ruined your plans."  She says she did it for Lord Tyce.  She says she desperately has to get her father back to England for Africa is killing her father, just like it killed her mother.  Stanley tells Eve that he's sorry for butting in on their lives and for Eve not to worry about the pass because he will get along without it.  He leaves.

Stanley has hired a boat to take him and Jeff over to Pemba.  Eve arrives to tell Stanley not to go to Pemba.  It is filled with slavers who hate white men for trying to stop the slavery trade.  If the slavers found out he was looking for information about Livingstone, they would surely kill him.  Stanley sarcastically asks her:  "What else did Lord Tyce ask you to tell me?"  Insulted, she turns to leave.  Stanley apologizes, but advises her to save her advise for someone with good sense enough to take it.  Eve says that's why she told him about Pembra. 

A notice on a bulletin board says:  "Mr. Henry M. Stanley's caravan will leave for Pemba and the Mainland on the morning of the 5th of February."  Meanwhile, Stanley gets information from the Governor about what different tribes want in the way of tribute.  Mr. Kingsley tells Stanley that before he leaves, Eve wants to speak to him.  Stanley thanks Eve for getting him the pass to Pemba.  Eve, however, says she already regrets it.  She is convinced that he is going to come back broken by Africa just like all the other expedition leaders she has seen.  Stanley says that he's not trying to be a hero, ". . . but if Livingstone's alive, I'm going to find him.  That's my assignment."  He adds:  "It is nice to know that you care what happens to me.  Wish me luck."  Eve replies:  "Oh, I do, with all my heart."  Stanley says goodbye to Eve and her father. 

"March 25, 1871.  Fine days out.  Weather clear but hot.  Easy marching country.  We have been climbing steadily ever since we left the coast and the coolness of the nights proves we have already reached a considerable elevation.  Ahead lies the great plateau of equatorial Africa, a vast area of open country.  We are the first to enter it from an area so far south."  On the plateau, they come across animals such as lions and giraffes.

Stanley writes that they are reaching the heart of the Dark Continent.  They come to a village where they give the tribe some tribute to pass through their territory.  A native there says he knows where the "white man" is.  Stanley goes off in the recommended direction.  He dreams of finishing his search and turning back to see Eve again.  He also praises the wondrous beauties of the African landscape. 

The expedition reaches the village of Mbashi where Livingstone is supposed to be staying.  Stanley and Jeff go into a hut to see the white man, who turns out to be an albino native.  So  Stanley pushes on.  He writes that the unhappy misunderstanding was the start of their luck turning against them.  One of the natives is dragged off by a lion and two others die of dysentery, their worst enemy.  The vultures follow the caravan and the natives start to desert.  At village after village they are met by the words:  "Not know."   

After a three month period, they finally see human beings again when they come upon a slave caravan.  The head slaver says he just came from Tanganyika, but he has never seen a white man in this country.  Stanley trudges on.  Now they hear the war drums of a warlike tribe.  The natives start firing arrows from their bows, killing some members of the caravan.  Stanley starts firing and hitting the attackers.  Slocum leads the men up to the top of a hill to get a better defensive position. 

More tribesmen gather to attack the caravan.  There are hundreds of them swarming toward Stanley and his men.  The caravan runs for cover.  Now there are thousands of hostile natives running toward them.  Stanley and the others start fires in the grasslands.  The wall of flames stops the advancing horde and the caravan gets away from them. 

Now when Stanley writes in his diary, he writes of the possibility of his not coming back.  He writes to anyone who might find the diary to tell James Gordon Bennett:  "And tell him his story is written in the blood of the men I am leading to their deaths."  He writes a special note just for Eve Kingsley.  He regrets that he will probably never see her again for ". . . I will not leave Africa without Livingstone." 

Stanley comes down with the fever.  He becomes delirious and hears the voices of the various people on his journey talking about the expedition.  The natives grow restless and want to move on to Tanganyika.  Someone mentions another white man and Stanley jumps from his cot.  He tells Slocum to stay and take care of the sick, while he with a few man marches to see if they can find this white man.   

November 10, 1871.  Stanley writes they have traveled for 15 days.  They finally reach Lake Tanganyika and the village spoken of.  The small detail marches into the village as the natives gather around them.  Ahead they see a primitive house and a white man.  Stanley goes up to him and says;  "Dr Livingstone.  I presume."  Yes.  Livingstone notices that Stanley is not well and takes him into his house.  Stanley tells the doctor it has been over a year since they left Zanzibar. Livingstone is amazed that Stanley deliberately came all this way just to find him.   Stanley tells the good doctor that he is front page new, that the whole world is wondering what became of the famous Dr. Livingstone. 

Dr. Livingstone tells Stanley that he is neither lost nor hiding.  "I have no intention of leaving Africa until my work here is finished."  This shocks Stanley.

The next morning Stanley is awakened by a chorus of "Onward Christian Soldier" led by Livingstone.  Stanley goes over to look out the window.  After the singing stops, Livingstone tells Stanley that he has sent an escort to bring in the other members of the expedition.   

The doctor uses Stanley to hold down a boy who has to have a thorn taken out of his foot. Later he shows Stanley a map of Africa.  He says the area where they are at is the origin of the great rivers that flow to the Atlantic (Congo River) and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea (Nile River).   The area needs to be studied so that Africa is no longer the Dark Continent. 

January 4, 1872.  Stanley writes:  "I have persuaded Dr. Livingstone to take me with him on a visiting trip around what he calls his parish."  The area covers thousands of square miles of territory.  On the trip the doctor has a bout of what he calls recurrent fever.   Stanley tells Livingstone that he is coming back with the expedition.  Again the doctor says no.  He will stay and even die in this place.  At least, Stanley gets him to agree to go with him to a larger village. 

The time has come for Stanley to return home.  He will leave tomorrow morning.  The villagers give a big performance in honor of Stanley.  Livingstone gives Stanley some letters for people in the known world.  He tells Stanley to tell the world that he needs assistance to do some of the great amount of work left to do in his part of Africa.  The doctor also tells Stanley about a short-cut back to Zanzibar that will only take him one-fifth of the time it took Stanley to get to Dr. Livingston. 

Stanley arrives in London with Slocum tagging along.  From the ship he sees Eve Kingsley who now is Mrs. Tyce.  Stanley is disappointed.  Eve tells him that he now has some of the look of Dr. Livingstone.  Stanley replies that he is still just a reporter looking for his next assignment.  The royal geographers say that the Livingstone letters are not real, since the handwriting is different.  And the maps are not correct.  Lord Tyce says that the whole thing is a fraud.  He says it was all done for the benefit of Mr. Bennett's American newspaper. 

Stanley gets up and says by attacking him in a "trial" means also losing much of the work of Dr. Livingstone.  Stanley tells the geographers that he was born in England and had to work in the work house.  He only knew of poverty and hard times in England and grew to hate it, but Dr. Livingstone had restored his belief in his native country.  He says by not believing in the letters and the maps, they are closing Africa for generations to come. He sums up by saying:  "Gentlemen, the choice is yours."

A vote is taken and the vast majority of the geographers reject the claims of Stanley.  Just then the chairman receives a letter that the body of Dr. Livingstone was brought to Zanzibar by the natives.  In one of Livingstone's letters, he mentions the name of Mr. Henry M. Stanley.  His last message was to Stanley:  "Too weak to go on.  Have asked that my heart be buried here together with my dreams.  My son, the torch has fallen from my hands.  Come and relight it."  Now Lord Tyce moves that the previous resolution be stricken from the record and an apology be extended to Mr. Stanley for the society's lack of hospitality, of which Lord Tyce states, he was the worst offender.  Eve is so pleased that she rushes to her father-in-law and gives him a big hug. Now there is great applause for Stanley.

Stanley is not returning to New York, in spite of Mr. Bennet's pleading with him in the many telegrams he sends to his one-time reporter.  Instead, he is heading back to Africa.  He says goodbye to Eve and she gives him a big kiss on the lips and says:  "God bless you."

Stanley leads an expedition into unknown territory in Africa.  He reaches Stanley Pool, Stanleyville and Stanley Falls.

 

 

I remember this film that I saw on television many years ago.  I loved the movie.  It was thrilling that a man would go into the unknown parts of Africa in search of the famous Dr. Livingstone.  The expedition itself was exciting with its finding new, unknown animal species and facing many dangers from lions and hostile natives.  Stanley persevered and found Dr. Livingstone, when everyone was saying that the doctor was already deceased.  It was great seeing the royal geographers make fools of themselves by rejecting Stanley's claims.  And then to see Stanley's claims excepted  -- it was all great.  I'm glad I got a chance to see the movie again.  Spencer Tracy was terrific in the role of Henry M. Stanley.   Cedric Hardwicke as Dr. David Livingstone was also great. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

 

David Livingstone

1813  --  born Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland, one of seven children living in a single room at the top of a tenement building for the workers of a cotton factory.

1823  -- at age 10 he has to help his family; works in a cotton mill.

1834  --  Livingstone decides to become a medical missionary when he hears an appeal by British and American churches for qualified medical missionaries in China.  Studies Greek, theology, and medicine for two years in Glasgow.

1838  --  becomes a member of the London Missionary Society.

1839-1842  --  the Opium War prevents his going to China.  Decides to go to Africa instead.

1840  -- is ordained as a missionary and sets sail for South Africa .

1841  --  arrives in Cape Town.  He comes to detest the treatment of the Africans by the Dutch Boers and the Portuguese.  

1841  --  reaches Moffat's mission at Kuruman on the Cape frontier; pushes his search for converts northward into new territories.  

1842  -- goes farther north than any other white man into the difficult Kalahari country.

1844  --  a lion mauls him, especially his left arm, on a journey to Mabotsa to establish a mission station.

1845  --  Livingstone marries Moffat's daughter, Mary, who accompanies him on many of his journeys.

1849  --  assists in discovery of Lake Ngami; is awarded a gold medal and monetary prize by the British Royal Geographical Society.

1852 --  the Boers destroy his home at Kolobeng and attack his African friends. Mary's health and the family's needs for security and education force her and their four children back to Britain.

1853  --   "I shall open up a path into the interior, or perish." He wants to find a route to the Atlantic coast that would permit legitimate commerce to undercut the slave trade and a shorter route to the Makololo people, one that would not go through Boer territory.

1854  --  Livingstone reaches Luanda on the west coast.  Starts back.

1855  --  reaches Linyanti; explores the Zambezi regions.  Discovers the Victoria Falls on the Zambezi.  

1856  -- reaches Quelimane in Mozambique.  Returns a hero to England.

1857  -- publishes Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa, which sells more than 70,000 copies.  For six months speaks all over the British Isles.

1857  --  in his Senate House address at Cambridge he tells his audience that he will not be able to complete his work in Africa and calls on young university men to take up the task.

1858  -- publication of Dr. Livingstone's Cambridge Lectures is very popular.

1858  -- returns to Africa, this time as head of an expedition.  Lots of troubles and arguments internally within the expedition.  Disillusionment with Livingstone.  

1859  --  first Brit to reach districts around Lake Nyasa (Malawi).

1860  --  foundation of Cambridge University's Mission to Central Africa. Send expedition to Africa following Livingstone; disillusionment with Livingstone's leadership.  

1862  -- his wife dies on the Zambezi.

1863  --  eldest son, Robert, to join his father; the son winds up instead in the United States, where he fights for the North in the Civil War.  The British government recalls the expedition because Livingstone's optimism about economic and political developments in the Zambezi regions are premature.

July 23, 1864  -- returns to Britain and with his brother Charles, writes Narrative of an Expedition to the Zambesi and Its Tributaries.

1864, Dec. 5  --  Robert dies fighting for the North in the Civil War.

1866  --  returns to Africa with support from private and public bodies. He wants to do missionary work and abolish the slave trade on the East African coast.  But this time he also wants to find the source of the Nile.

1867  --  Livingstone moved north from the south end of Lake Nyasa; a deserter carries off his medical chest. He discovers Lake Mweru.

1868  --  discovers Lake Bangweulu.

1869  --  reaches Lake Tanganyika.

1871  --  reaches Nyangwe on the Lualaba leading into the Congo River, farther west than any European had penetrated.

1871, Oct. 23  --  he meets Henry M. Stanley, a correspondent of the New York Herald who had been sent to search for him.  They explore together, but Livingstone refuses to go back with Stanley.  

1872, March 14  --  Stanley departs for England.  Replenished by Stanley's supplies, Livingstone moves south again, obsessed with finding the Nile sources.

1873  --  at Chitambo in the Ilala district of what is now Zambia, Livingstone's African servants find him dead, kneeling by his bedside as if in prayer. He most likely died from bleeding hemorrhoids, which he had refused to have treated.

1874  -- is buried in Westminster Abbey. Publication of The Last Journals of David Livingstone.

1893  -- creation of the British Central Africa Protectorate, which in 1907 becomes Nyasaland, and in 1966 the republic of Malawi.

 

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