Untamed (1955)




Director:     Henry King.

Starring:    Tyrone Power (Paul Van Riebeck),  Susan Hayward (Katie O'Neill),  Agnes Moorehead (Aggie), Richard Egan (Kurt Hout),  Rita Moreno (Julia),  John Justin (Shawn Kildare),  Hope Emerson (Maria. DeGroot).

Boer trek through hostile S. Africa, 1835-1840 - Boers leave Cape Colony in the 'Great Trek' and found the Orange Free State and the Transvaal



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

County Limerick, Ireland. 1847. A fox hunt is in progress with lots of dogs and horse riders.  Riders Paul Van Riebeck and Katie O'Neill are almost neck and neck in the fox hunt. They race to be the first over a stone wall. Katie arrives a bit sooner and her horse jumps the stone wall, but Paul was so close to her horse that his horse falls just before the stone wall.  Katie goes back over the wall and Paul is angry at her. He comes from South Africa and Katie is from Ireland.

Paul asks Katie to dismount. He is going to ride her horse, while she walks his horse back to the stables. He says: "Your recklessness has lamed my horse." Katie wonít cooperate so Paul pulls her off her horse. Katie is a bit shocked, but says: "Well, I finally made you speak to me even if it was an insult. Do you know youíve been a guest in my house for two weeks and youíve thought of nothing and spoken of nothing but horses?" Paul replies: "Iím a guest of your fatherís. I came to Ireland to buy horses, not to be killed by one." He rides off leaving Katie behind.

At night at the ball Katie, dressed in a beautiful green gown, still fumes about the earlier incident. Paul comes out and calls her "Katia". Katie says that her name is "Katie". He says they pronounce the name as "Katia" in South Africa. He asks her for a dance, so they dance. After the party is over, Paul kisses Katie passionately.

A black African named Tschaka is working for Paul. He says the horses will be ready by tomorrow. Paul says thatís good. They can now leave Ireland for home.

Katie comes riding up to Paul and she tells him that tomorrow they have a dinner date together at the home of a neighbor. Paul says he will be on his way to South Africa. Katie is very disappointed and urges him to stay, but Paul says he just has to leave for home. Katie says she will go with him to South Africa. Paul responds that South Africa is too hard and grim a land for Katie. She replies: "If Iím with you, I can live anywhere you live."

Now Paul has to give another reason for not letting her come to South Africa with him. He says they are trying to build a new country, a Dutch free state. He is the leader of a group of border commandoes. They stay up in the jungle and the mountains. He adds that he gave up his privileged lifestyle in Cape Town in order to fight for his peopleís dream. Everything else in his life is second to the dream. Katie gets mad and leaves.

The next day Paul says goodbye to his host and a fellow known as Shawn. These are going to be tough years ahead for the Irish as the potato blight is spreading throughout the country. Paul suggests that his host move to South Africa.

Paul leaves with his horses. Katie just comes out as Paul is going out the gate.

The potato blight destroys the potato plants. Her father dies telling Katie to find a new land, a merciful land. Katie marries Shawn Kildare. Then she and her husband make the 6 months trip to South Africa. On the voyage Katie gives birth to her son.

Cape Town. The family catches a ride with the DeGroot family and the two families become friends. The town is busy with the mostly Dutch people preparing for the big trek out of Cape Town to points north and east. [The Dutch employed slavery to help their economy and did not like the much more liberal attitude of the British on the question of slavery. So they wanted to separate from the larger British society of South Africa. They eventually created the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. Those leaving for new lands were known as Voortrekkers.]

Most of the people are headed for Hoffen Valley where there is lots of free land available. That is where the DeGroots are going. They will meet up with Paul Van Riebeck and his commandoes at Blood River. [The Ncome River got a new name when the Boers inflicted so many deaths on the Zulus that the river ran red with human blood.]

The Kildares decide to go on the trip with the Voortrekkers. They buy whatever they need to get ready to join the wagon train. Only after the Kildares decide to go does Katie ask her assistant Aggie if itís alright with her. Aggie gripes that this was Katieís plan from the very start back in Ireland after Paul left to go home to South Africa.

Kurt Hurt, son of the leader of the wagon train, is also going on the long trek of 800 miles. A pretty brown woman named Julia loves Kurt and she tells him that she is going along with Maria DeGroot to Hoffen Valley, just to be with Kurt. Kurt doesnít react and Julia asks if he is disappointed that sheís going along? Kurt picks her up off her feet and says: "No!"

Kurt goes to check on all the wagons going on the trip. He is very struck by the beauty of red-headed Katie Kildare. He gets fresh with her asking Katie whose woman is she? She replies: "My husband!"

The wagon train moves out. Kurt does some hunting along the way and brings what he shoots to Katie. He fawns all over Katie and Julia doesnít like it one bit.

The wagon train passes by ten native villages, but no males are around. The wagon train leader thinks that this may explain why Van Riebeck did not meet them at the river.

Shawn canít control his wagon on a steep downhill section and ends up crashing into the wagon in front of it. This breaks the axle of the wagon and off running goes the wagon by itself. It plunges over a cliff and kills the family owning the wagon, with the exception of the father who was walking beside the wagon. Shawn, of course, is devastated over the accident.

At night a rider rushes into the circled wagons compound to say that there are thousands of Zulus camped down by the river, about two hours from here. The wagon train leader says they must get word to Van Riebeck. The rider goes back out to find Van Riebeck.

Meanwhile, the members of the wagon train start preparing for battle. Kurt says he will do his fighting by Katieís wagon. Julia gets mad at Kurt for this saying that Kurt is in love with Katie and thatís why he wants to fight by her wagon. Kurt gets mad and starts smacking her around. Katie yells for him to stop and rushes over to make sure Kurt does stop. She then tells Julia to come with her, but Julia just spits at her.

Katie tells Shawn that she is frightened. Shawn says everyone is frightened. While they embrace, they hear the sounds of the singing Zulu warriors.

Tschaka tells Van Riebeck that there are lots of warriors coming this way. They are like leaves on a tree. Van Riebeck tells him to wake all the men.

The Zulu come over the hills like thousands of locusts descending on a crop. The wagon train leader gives the order for all the men to get mounted. They go out to talk peace with the natives, but all the natives can say is kill, kill, kill.

The Zulu go to the attack. And the whites have to rush back to their circle of wagons. The Zulu get very close to the wagons, but then pull back. They build up their anger again and then go to the attack once more.

Shawn goes down after being hit by a spear. Van Riebeck and his men descend into the mass of Zulus and manage to scare them off. The wagon train people give Paul a heroís welcome. Then Paul is shocked when he sees Katie.

Paul goes over to see Katie after being told about Shawn. He says heís sorry about what happened to Shawn. They tell each other that itís so good to see the other, but thatís about it.

Kurt comes over to Paul and asks him if he knows Katie? Yes, from Ireland. And now Katie is all alone, he says. Kurt says no, sheís not alone for he fought at her wagon.

Later Kurt brings Katie some flowers and asks her how long did Paul stay in Ireland? Katie acts as if Paul is nothing to be concerned about, but as soon as Kurt leaves, she tosses his flowers away.

The wagon train finally reaches Hoffen Valley. At night they hold a big dance. Katie dresses in her green gown again and goes to the dance. Kurt sees her and asks her to dance with him but she doesnít even notice him as she looks for Paul. She sobers up a bit when she sees Paul dancing with a pretty, young girl. Now she sees Kurt and asks him why hasnít he asked her for a dance already?

She and Kurt start dancing a square dance with the others, but when Paul comes around to her, she grabs him and pulls him out of the dance. She takes Paul on a walk. Katie asks why is he ignoring her? He says because Kurt fought at her wagon. She says: "It meant nothing to me. Shawn fought at my wagon and died there. That meant something."

Paul asks her why did she specifically chose South Africa to come to? She chose it because Paul was in South Africa. This shocks Paul, but Katie is certainly not apologetic about it.   She says she loved Shawn and thought she could see Paul and not be affected. But when she saw him again, she knew for sure that she loved Paul.

Paul tries to kiss her, but she pulls away from him. First, she wants to now if Paul really loves her or is this whole thing between them just a happy lark for him? He says he really loves her and now they kiss.

They walk back toward the party arm-in-arm. Then they suddenly see Kurt  who says: "You lied! Liars both of you. You tricked me." Paul says no one tricked Kurt. He just made a mistake.  But Kurt is already set on giving Paul a lashing with a whip. He comes after Paul.  Tschaka is nearby and he throws a whip to Paul. And now the fight's on. Paul wins the contest. Julia comes to Kurtís rescue, while Katie goes to Paul.

Paul and Katie go out riding looking over land where she might want a farm house. She wants to build in a place where she can see the river. She wants to name the place "Abend Bloem". And until they get their house built they will stay under the branches of a huge tree. They kiss under the tree.

Katie thinks about having their own little land empire, but Paul says he thinks about being free and making everyone of his state free also. They sit by the river and talk.

The house is coming along nicely. They are all set to move in. But then Katie sees Paul talking with one of the commandoes. She is concerned and starts to walk out to Paul. The man wants Paul to resume the leadership of the commandoes because there is no one equal to Paulís leadership abilities. Paul agrees to be with the commandoes tomorrow. Now the visitor takes off on his horse.

Katie comes up to him and asks him whatís going on? Paul says life is much more that just Katie and Paul. She says she will not ever let him go. They hug and kiss each other passionately.

Early the next morning Paul gets up and dressed to join his commandoes. He leaves Katie still in bed sleeping. He says they will be fighting for six months or half a year. He tells a friend to give a message to give to Katie, but now itís not necessary because here comes Katie on a horse riding as fast as she can.  Katie jumps off the horse and is mad as hell. She says to Paul: "I hate you for this. I hate you." She smacks him hard across the face. Paul just gets on his horse and tells his men to move out.

Mrs. DeGroot come out for a visit. With her is Kurt. Katie warmly welcomes Maria, but just says hello to Kurt. When Maria goes inside the house, Katie tells Kurt that itís good to see him again. He says he could have build a better house and he sure can plow better than the black farm hands.   Katie asks if Kurt knows a farmer who might help her with the farm in exchange for a share of the produce? He says he knows of no one, and besides sheís waiting for Van Riebeck to return. Katie says strongly: "Iím not waiting for anybody."  So Kurt says: "Then Iíll wait for you." He also says that heís the man for Katie. He is determined to show her and immediately goes to take over the plowing job from the black farm hands. Katie is quite the manipulator of men.

When Kurt goes in for supper, he sees Julia working in the kitchen. Kurt says loudly he doesnít want Julia around him.

Katie works out in the fields sowing seed. She stops to see that Kurt intends to chop down her favorite tree under which she and Paul had lived while the house was being built. She rushes over to him telling him not to cut that tree down. Kurt agrees not to cut the tree down "yet". He says that Aggie told him what the tree means to Katie and Paul.

Julia taunts Kurt by telling him that as soon as the planting is done, Katie is going to get rid of him. "Sheís tricking you." Kurt says heíll never be tricked again.

A storm is coming up. Kurt is so mad about Juliaís taunts that he grabs an axe and goes to cut down Katieís tree. Katie hears the sound of cutting a tree with an axe and investigates. As soon as she sees what Kurt's doing, she hurries over to him to stop him. She tells him she told him she didnít want the tree cut down. Kurt says he knows that, but he cut this farm out for her and now heís going to cut Paul right out of her life. "Youíre mine now." Katie urges him to come back into the house because of the storm coming up. Kurt says Katie is his now and he is going to make her stick to her part of the deal. She tells him sheís pregnant. He says sheís a liar and a cheat and knocks Katie to the ground. He dives at her, but she rolls out of his way.

All of a sudden lightning strikes the tree. The tree breaks apart and a large part of the tree lands on Kurtís legs. Katie just did get clear of the tree. She hears Kurt yelling for help. She goes over to try and lift the tree off Kurt, but she is going to need a great deal of help. Kurt yells at her to go get the farm hands.

Katie yells for help and help arrives. They finally get Kurt out from under the tree. Kurt now lays in bed unconscious. The decision is that Karl has to lose one his lower legs. She calls for her best farm hand Jantsie to cut off Kurtís leg. Jantsie doesnít want to do it, especially so since he canít stand Kurt. So Katie asks him to do it for her sake and Jantsie agrees to do it for that.

When the storm is finally over, Katie goes out to look over the land. Her entire crop planting is now gone. There are big holes in the roof of the house and there is debris all over the place, even including dead cows. The entire area was the victim of river flooding. Katie starts crying.

Aggie asks: "What now?" Katie says first they will take Kurt to Hoffen and the doctor. She will ask when her next baby is due. Then they will return home and put this farm back together even better than it was.

Katie has a new male child that she names Paul. She and her staff put the farm back together. Months after the storm they ride into Hoffen again. They pass by, but donít see, the one-legged Kurt supporting himself with a crutch under his left arm.

While in town Katie hears for the first time that her areaís mountains have not only got gold but diamonds too. This really wets her appetite and she concocts a plan to get rich quickly.

Back home Katie is trading everything she owns in the house with the natives in return for gold. One man comes to her with a huge uncut diamond. Katie gives all the rest of her belongings to the man in exchange.

She is ecstatic over the diamond and says now they will live in style in Cape Town. The diamond turns out to be one of the largest diamonds ever found in South Africa. This provided Katie and her family with a house, property and a position. But she was still alone and unhappy even with her two sons.

The dream of a Dutch Free State became a reality. But there was one more goal to reach. Paul wants to become the representative of the new state in the National Assembly at Cape Town. He goes to speak with the governor. The bad news is that the governor wonít see Paul. And yet, the governorís secretary tells Paul that he has been asked to invite Paul to a grand ball in honor of the governor and Paul probably could talk to the governor there.  Paul asks where is the ball taking place? The answer: "Abend Bloem."

Paul enters the ball and sees that Katie is the hostess. She immediately grabs him and takes him over to see the governor, Sir George. She introduces Paul to the governor and then almost immediately sets up a meeting with the governor for the next morning.

Paul says Katie is even more beautiful now and she has restored his one-time home to its original glory. He asks Katie to dance with him and they head for the dance floor.

The next day Paul comes to see Katie. He is so grateful for her help because the governor agreed with almost all of his suggestions. They walk around the place and talk. She says that sometimes she gets very lonely and soon they are kissing.

Back at Abend Bloem Katieís two sons run into Paul. The older boy is Terence. Paul takes a splinter out of the finger of the younger boy. Paul says the boy didnít even cry and asks him his name. Paul. Terence says: "Heís my brother."

When Katie comes in Paul asks her why didnít she tell him about his son? Katie says how could she have gotten in touch with the great commando? She is bitter at playing second or third fiddle to Paulís country. Paul is pretty much an emotional idiot. He starts complaining that all this with Abend Bloem and the governor was pre-planned just to get him back with her? (He doesnít realize that thereís nothing wrong in what she did.) She gets so angry at him that she tells him to get out of her house.

Katie loses Abend Bloem, so she wants to start over and travels in a covered wagon toward Kolesberg. A whole wagon train is heading out of Kolesberg and they run into Katie. The leader tells her that Kolesberg is now occupied by bandits and urges Katie to turn back. But nothing is going to stop Katie from her plan of getting diamonds.

When Aggie first sees the town she says itís a bed of iniquity. Thereís a fist fight in the middle of main street and a huge crowd has gathered around to watch it. Almost immediately a fellow comes up to Katie and wants to grab her for himself. He starts to manhandle her off the wagon, but Kurt comes along and fires a shot. So the man stops bothering Katie. Kurt tells the man that the woman is a friend of his. The guy calls Kurt the boss and apologizes to him.

Kurt has the family come to his house. There he speaks to Katie in private. Katie notices that Julia is still with Kurt.

Kurt says heís now the mayor of Kolesberg and has all the power in the town. He asks Katie why didnít she turn back when she crossed paths with the refugee wagon train? Then he answers his own question. Itís because Katie has nowhere to go back to. He adds that Paul wanted the boy but not the mother.

A man comes into the house saying that the commandoes are on their way. Kurt says today is the day he kills Paul. And itís an added bonus that Katie has come crawling to him looking for diamonds. He grabs a bunch of diamonds from his pocket and pounds them on the table saying she can have these diamonds.

Paul and his commandoes arrive at Kolesberg. It looks so deserted that Paul smells a trap. He sends half his commandoes around the bend. Now Paul goes forward asking to talk with the groupís leader. Itís a real surprise when Paul discovers that the bandit leader is none other than Kurt. Kurt tells him that Paul has fallen right into his trap. He tells him to take his men and leave the town. Paul pretends to take the suggestion, but instead decides to attack the outlaws.

The fight starts and then Paul decides to fool Kurt by pretending to retreat. Tschaka gives the signal and now all the forces of the commandoes descend on the bandits. It doesnít take long before the bandits give themselves up to the commandoes.

Now Kurt retreats to his house and takes hostage the boy Paul. He threatens to kill the boy. He tells Paul to throw his weapon down. Paul does so. Then he tells Paul to give him his horse. Paul gets off the horse. Kurt leaves the son from behind and gets on the horse. But before he leaves, he says heís going to kill the commando leader. He is about to shoot when Tschaka throws a spear into Kurtís mid-section. He falls from his horse. Julia rushes outside to cry over Kurtís body.

Paul hands over leadership to his commando second in command, Christian. He tells Tschaka to serve the new commander as well as Tschaka served Paul himself.

Paul and Katie watch as the commandoes leave town. Katie asks what now Paul? He reaches into his pocket, pulls out a wedding ring and puts it on Katieís wedding finger. She is so happy that she embraces Paul and asks him where are they going? Back to Hoffen, he says. And now Katie has the complete family she always wanted.


Love story between Power and Hayward during Boer trek northward through South Africa.  Pretty good. movie if you don't mind a story about the very racist Boer people who fought against the British to keep their slavery-based society.

Many Afrikaners moved into the interior. There was selective migration with the more racist heading the farthest north, so that in South Africa the farther north you go the more virulent the brand of Afrikaner nationalism you will find. There is a "Deep North" like America's "Deep South."   (Source: Sparks, Allister. 1990 The Mind of South Africa. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 41)

There were two Anglo-Boer civil wars in South Africa.  The Dutch (called Afrikaners) were the strongest supporters of apartheid in South Africa. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



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