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United Kingdom 1966
Directed by
James Hill
96 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Born Free

This story, based on Joy Admanson’s book about bringing up a lion cub with her husband in Kenya, was an enormous hit in its day. Although in one way it was a harbinger of a more ecologically-aware sensibility in film, supplanting the Great White Hunter view of Africa perpetuated previously, with its highly sentimental portrayal of the Adamsons it is also typical of a era (The Sound of Music was released the previous year) which was about to end.

Virginia McKenna plays Joy Adamson with a high-strung nobility straight out of her starring role in the WWII drama, She Carved Her Name With Pride, whilst Bill Travers as her cuddly husband is a typically damned good sport puffing on his pipe in times of need.  Reality was a far cry from the way it was portrayed here, we later found out, Adamson apparently being a good deal less than saintly and her husband eventually being killed by a lion.

The film won Oscars for Best Score and Best Song, the latter with Matt Monroe singing.  It was followed by a sequel Living Free (1972) with Susan Hampshire taking over Virginia McKenna’s role and Nigel Davenport doing the marital honours but the moment had passed and the success was not repeated.




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