Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
King Solomon's Mines (1937)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of King Solomon's Mines (1937)
35mm, black and white, 80 mins
DirectorRobert Stevenson
Production CompanyGaumont-British Picture Corporation
ScreenplayMichael Hogan, Roland Pertwee
Original novelH. Rider Haggard
PhotographyGlen Macwilliams

Cast: Paul Robeson (Umbopa); Cedric Hardwicke (Allan Quartermain); Roland Young (RN Commander Good); John Loder (Sir Henry Curtis); Anna Lee (Kathleen 'Kathy' O'Brien)

Show full cast and credits

Umbopa, a dispossessed African king, accompanies a group of English explorers on a perilous journey to find the gold mines of King Solomon.

Show full synopsis

King Solomon's Mines (d. Robert Stevenson, 1937), is based on the novel by H. Rider Haggard. The film's production values are superior to Sanders of the River (d. Zoltan Korda, 1935), Robeson's previous African-based adventure-drama; Africa looks like Africa, rather than a stretch of the River Thames. However, though Robeson's Umbopa is a more charismatic and less stereotypical character than his Bosambo in Sanders, other Africans are portrayed as little more than exotic primitives.

By the time he made King Solomon's Mines, Robeson was a major star in British films. In this film he is given top billing over his white co-stars, including the distinguished stage and screen actor Sir Cedric Hardwicke, who plays hero Allan Quatermain, and Roland Young.

Robeson was expected to sing in all of his films, even if the plots did not necessarily require him to do so. Consequently he sings - magnificently - in King Solomon's Mines. Robeson's presence made it almost impossible to cast white actors in blackface in other African roles, a practice that was still common on stage and screen in the 1930s. Instead, the Guyanese actor Robert Adams was cast as the evil King Twala, and smaller roles went to Ecce Homo Toto and Makubalo Hlubi. However, Gagool, the ancient witch doctor, was played by Sydney Fairbrother, a white character actress in blackface.

Contemporary critics praised the quality of the African locations, filmed by Geoffrey Barkas, and the tense atmosphere created in the scenes set in the African village and mines.

Paul Robeson Jr describes the film in his recent biography of his father, The Undiscovered Paul Robeson (2001) as, "A straight adventure film with no political overtones and minimal stereotypes... a bit like Sanders of the River without the pro-imperialist slant and with fewer loincloths."

Stephen Bourne

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. 'Climbing Up' (3:14)
2. The true chief (4:25)
Production stills
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Big Fella (1937)
Borderline (1930)
Proud Valley, The (1940)
Sanders of the River (1935)
Song of Freedom (1936)
Bennett, Charles (1899-1995)
Hardwicke, Sir Cedric (1893-1964)
Junge, Alfred (1886-1964)
Robeson, Paul (1898-1976)
Stevenson, Robert (1905-1986)
British African Stories