William Holden was originally cast with top billing. However, he later pulled out and was replaced by Trevor Howard. Errol Flynn was then given top billing, even though Howard had the lead role.
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This was Errol Flynn's last major film before his death the following year.
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Errol Flynn's alcoholism had become a round-the-clock problem, and he was frequently at odds with John Huston. At one point, he provoked Huston into a fight; while Flynn was a former amateur boxer, the years of fast living had taken a heavy toll on him, and Huston, himself a former professional boxer, flattened Flynn with a single punch.
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According to Orson Welles, Errol Flynn was mainlining heroin throughout the shoot, and thus it was no great surprise to anyone on the film that he died at age 50 only a few months after completing his part.
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In his 1959 autobiography "My Wicked, Wicked Ways", Errol Flynn wrote that he enjoyed making this film more than any other.
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As with John Huston's earlier film Moby Dick (1956), Orson Welles makes a cameo appearance in this film.
Upon returning to Paris to film interiors, Darryl F. Zanuck, Juliette Greco and Errol Flynn were hospitalized.
Orson Welles did his part in two days at a Paris studio. His rate was normally $15,000 but he did it gratis in order to repay Darryl F. Zanuck for helping Welles find the funds to complete Othello (1951).
As had happened during shooting of The African Queen (1951) almost every person involved contracted amoebic dysentery except for John Huston and Errol Flynn, who had brought copious amounts of alcohol which kept the sickness at bay.
Eddie Albert developed an almost fatal case of sunstroke.
Darryl F. Zanuck said of Africa, "I would never make a picture there again". However he was proud that "There is not one dubbed line, transparency plate or process shot in the whole picture."
On the irony of a big game hunter like Huston making a movie about a militant elephant conservationist, John Huston said "Contrary to prevailing opinion, I never found an elephant big enough to justify the sin of killing one."
Errol Flynn left the cast of the play The Master of Thornfield to appear in the movie.
John Huston later said, "I still don't want to have to work with a producer again but if I had to, I'd certainly choose Darryl. He's been very good, co-operative and decent throughout."
20th Century Fox bought the film rights the novel in April 1957 for a price of more than $100,000.
John Huston agreed to direct for a fee he described as "slightly higher" than $300,000.
John Huston cited this film as an example of how some of the worst shoots can result in the worst films.
When Darryl F. Zanuck appeared as the mystery guest on What's My Line? (1950) just before this film was released, he said the temperatures during filming reached over 130 degrees in the daytime and only got down to 95 at night. The cast and crew were in French Equatorial Africa for 6 months making the movie and he vowed never to return.
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Terrible heat and sickness took their toll on the cast and crew. The 130 people had 920 sick calls during the filming.
During the lengthy delays, John Huston would often disappear on big game hunts.
According to John Huston's autobiography, Darryl F. Zanuck insisted that Juliette Greco play the female lead, as she was his lover.
The movie was edited in London rather than Paris so that Darryl F. Zanuck could be near Juliette Greco, who was making a movie there.
The film was mostly made on location in Africa over five months, in the Belgian Congo and Tchad in the Northern Cameroons, where the elephants were located. The cast and crew suffered from the heat, malaria and other tropical diseases. Temperatures would routinely reach 134 degrees in the day and 95 degrees at night; people had to shower four or five times a night. On some days it would be a four hour drive to the location and back and all the water had to be flown in.
Erroll Flynn, Juliette Greco and Eddie Albert had all previously worked with producer Darryll F Zanuck the previous year in " The Sun Also Rises ", part of which was also filmed in Paris.
Orson Welles made his cameo appearance via a TV screen.
John Huston says in his biography that the romance between Juliette Greco and Daryl Zanuck was a one way one. Greco as not in love at all with the mogul, he did whatever she wanted from him to do. According to Huston, Zanuck was totally blind from it.
They brought prostitutes for Errol Flynn, at night, in his tent.
Eddie Albert, who was a family man, suffered of not being able to write or receive letters to and from his wife. The wild jungle where the shooting took place could not permit mail to be taken in charge.