Hatari! (pronounced [hɑtɑri], Swahili for "Danger!") is a 1962 American adventure romantic comedy film directed by Howard Hawks and starring John Wayne. It portrays a group of professional game catchers in Africa.[2] The film includes dramatic wildlife chases and the scenic backdrop of Mount Meru, a dormant volcano.

Hatari (movie poster).jpg
Original movie poster by Frank McCarthy
Directed byHoward Hawks
Produced byHoward Hawks
Paul Helmick
Screenplay byLeigh Brackett
Story byHarry Kurnitz
StarringJohn Wayne
Hardy Krüger
Elsa Martinelli
Red Buttons
Music byHenry Mancini
CinematographyRussell Harlan
Edited byStuart Gilmore
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • June 19, 1962 (1962-06-19)
Running time
157 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$12,923,077[1]

Hatari! was shot in Technicolor and filmed on location in northern Tanganyika (in what is now Tanzania).


In Tanganyika in the 1950s, the Momella Game Company captures animals for zoos and menageries, using fast off-road vehicles, lassos, and cage traps. The company consists of Frenchwoman Brandy de la Court, the owner; Sean Mercer, a tough Irish-American who heads the catching expeditions; Mexican Bullfighter Luis Francisco Garcia Lopez, sharpshooter Little Wolf "The Indian", former NYC cabbie "Pockets", retired German race car driver Kurt Müller, and several native staff.

They open one hunting season by pursuing a female rhino. Kurt and the Indian ride in a small herding car and force the rhino towards the ropes and poles Sean and his crew hold from the back of their larger pickup truck. The rhino gets too close to the herding car and gores the Indian in the leg, and the group starts the five hour journey to Arusha to get help.

At the hospital, Kurt gets into an altercation with French marksman Charles "Chips" Maurey, who is eager to work for the company. However, it turns out Chips is the only one present with the necessary blood type to save the Indian's life with a transfusion. Chips agrees to this, and Sean offers him a job. They head home, to discover Italian photographer Anna-Maria "Dallas" D'Alessandro has arrived unannounced. The next morning, Dallas shows them a letter saying the Basel zoo has sent her. As they are Momella's biggest client, Sean reluctantly gives her a trial. Despite many rookie embarrassments, Dallas enjoys her first day and the others vote to allow her to stay, much to Sean's irritation.

Chips arrives, and he and Kurt become friends. The company capture a giraffe, three ostriches, a zebra, a gazelle, a leopard, and a cape buffalo as the days go by, and Dallas and Sean begin to develop feelings for one another, though Sean, having been run out on by a previous fiancee, resists. Meanwhile, Brandy is pursued by three suitors - Kurt, Chips, and Pockets. The Indian arrives back from hospital, shaken by his experience, and Sean agrees to not pursue any more rhinos until the end of the season.

While visiting a tribe of Wa-Arushas, Dallas finds an orphaned elephant calf and adopts it, much to Sean's irritation as the rest of his crew start herding goats and getting milk for the calf instead of doing their job. However, that night, Dallas gets Sean to thaw a bit and they share a kiss for the first time.

While pursuing wildebeests, Kurt blows a tire and wrecks the herding car, dislocating his shoulder and badly spraining Chips' leg. The same day, Pockets is walking on a tall fence and slips and falls, only bruising himself. Despite this, Brandy shows the most concern for him, revealing which of the three men she loves.

Dallas finds two more orphan baby elephants, and is allowed to keep them once she promises to hire a boy to tend and feed them. News of how baby elephants follow her around reaches the Wa-Arushas, and they give Dallas a ceremony and name her "Mama Tembo", mother of elephants. Some of the paint is hard to get off her skin, after the ceremony, for which she becomes angry that Sean didn't warn her, but the two eventually reconcile over the ludicrous situation.

Pockets creates a Rube Goldberg machine with a rocket and nets to catch a huge vervet monkey troop all at once, with surprisingly effective results. The company finally has only one order left - the rhino. They pursue an angry bull rhino, and it manages to get loose a few times. Finally they succeed with no one hurt, much to the Indian's relief.

Dallas begins to fear that Sean still sees her as the woman that left him, instead of as herself. She leaves Pockets a goodbye letter and flees to Arusha. Sean, however, loves her and doesn't want her to go. With the help of the three baby elephants, he tracks her through the streets of Arusha and corners her in the hotel. They are married that afternoon, and prepare to spend their wedding night in Sean's room; however, the three elephants barge in, destroying the room, much to the couple's annoyance.


In credits order
Uncredited cast
  • Jon Chevron as Joseph
  • Sam Harris as Man in Store
  • Cathy Lewis as "Arusha Control," the Radio Operator (voice)
  • Henry Scott as Sikh Clerk
  • Emmett Smith as Bartender
  • Judy the Chimp as herself
  • Jack Williams as Man


Hatari! has a very loose script and, like many other major works of Hawks, is principally structured on the relationships among the characters, though it is "bookended" by the initial violent (and nearly fatal) encounter with a rhinoceros and the end-of-season determination to make such a capture to fulfil the team's quota. The script was written by Hawks' favourite writer, Leigh Brackett, after the group returned from Africa with the catching scenes.

Much of the film revolves around scenes of chasing animals in jeeps and trucks across the African plains. The animals pursued are also all live, wild, and untrained. Capturing animals by chasing them down is banned today due to concerns of exhausting and killing the targeted animals. There is also the fact that, owing to the development of reliable animal tranquillisers and powerful dart guns in the decades since Hatari! was filmed, it's no longer necessary to lasso and rope the animals to capture them.

At the beginning of the production, all Hawks knew was that he wanted a movie about people who catch animals in Africa for zoos, a dangerous profession with exciting scenes the likes of which had never been seen on-screen before.[2] Hawks increased his knowledge on animal catching from the work of the famous South African animal conservationist, Dr. Ian Player. In 1952 South Africa was eliminating all large wild animals to protect livestock, and only 300 white rhinos survived. Player then invented his famed rhino catching technique to relocate and save the white rhinos. Player's project was called "Operation Rhino" and it was recorded in the renowned documentary film of the same name. Hawks studied this film closely and incorporated aspects of it into his film.[3][4]

Michèle Girardon (Brandy) spoke no English when cast in the role; she taught herself English while on the set, according to a July 1961 LIFE magazine profile of the actress.[5]

Government-licensed animal catcher Willy de Beer was hired by Hawks to be the closeby technical adviser, and his assistants became their staff of experts in regard to catching the animals.[6]

Hawks was inspired by the famous animal photographer Ylla, so he had script writer Brackett add the character of Dallas. Hawks said, "We took that part of the story from a real character, a German girl. She was the best animal photographer in the world."[3][7][8][9][10]

Filming in Africa was dangerous for the production team and actors. According to director Howard Hawks all the animal captures in the picture were actually performed by the actors; no stuntmen or animal handlers were substituted on-screen. The rhino really did escape, and the actors really did have to recapture it - and Hawks included the sequence for its realism. Much of the action sequence audio had to be re-dubbed due to John Wayne's cursing while wrestling with the animals. However, a stand-in, "Rusty" Walkley (real name: Mildred Lucy Walkley), was used for some scenes involving Elsa Martinelli.[11]

Hawks said Wayne admitted being scared during some of the action scenes, and "had the feeling with every swerve that the car was going to overturn as he hung on for dear life, out in the open with only a seat belt for support, motor roaring, body jarring every which-way, animals kicking dirt and rocks and the thunder of hundreds of hooves increasing the din in his ears." Wayne felt it was unpredictable with the terrain's hidden holes and obstacles which could have been disastrous.[12]

John Wayne wore a belt with his famous Red River D buckle on it, as he did in many of his movies. It can be clearly seen in the scene where Sean Mercer calls Arusha Control after the Indian is gored by the rhino in the opening of the movie; and again in the scene where Sonja the cheetah wanders into the bathroom while Dallas is bathing and introduces herself by licking Dallas and purring.

When Hawks interviewed de Vargas, he told him it would be very dangerous and showed him a documentary. De Vargas had no double and like the rest of the cast appeared in the animal catching shots.[13] One evening Buttons and Wayne were playing cards outside and a leopard came out of the bush towards them. When Buttons mentioned the approaching leopard, Wayne said, "See what he wants."[14] De Vargas said technical adviser Willy de Beer was mauled by a loose baby leopard that sprang on him from a tree, "He came back with his arm covered in bandages and throat completely wrapped, but he just shrugged it off." [15]

As the animals frequently refused to make noise "on cue" (in particular, the baby elephants refused to trumpet inside populated areas), local Arusha game experts and zoo collectors were hired to do "animal voice impersonations".

Hawks stated in interviews that he had originally planned to star both Clark Gable and Wayne in the film until Gable's death finally ruled that out.

Hatari! introduced the memorable Henry Mancini tune "Baby Elephant Walk".[16] Another memorable musical moment is a duet of Stephen Foster's "Old Folks at Home" (Swanee River) with Dallas playing the piano, and Pockets playing the harmonica.

Ngorongoro farm, owned by Hardy Kruger from 1960 to 1973, served as the movie's setting.


Hatari! grossed $12,923,077 at the box office,[1] earning $7 million in US theatrical rentals.[17] It was the 7th highest-grossing film of 1962.

Jean-Luc Godard listed Hatari! as one of the best films of its year of release.[18]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Comic book adaptionEdit


Michael Milner adapted Leigh Brackett's screenplay into a paperback novel published by Pocket Books in 1962 as a tie-in to the movie. The cover features the movie poster of the rhino attacking the catching truck. The novel goes into more detail about some aspects of the animal-catching, particularly about Pockets' rocket net project, and about the pursuit of Brandy by Kurt, Chips, and Pockets. The book is a little edgier than the film, but it is a fast read and faithful to the movie. The novel's ASIN number is B000BJUQP4.[22]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Box Office Information for Hatari! The Numbers. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
  2. ^ a b McCarthy, Todd. Howard Hawks: the grey fox of Hollywood, New York, Grove Press, 1997, pg 572, ISBN 0802115985
  3. ^ a b McIntyre, Thomas. "Fifty Years of HATARI! – The Story of Most Expensive Safari In the World." Sports Afield, May/June 2012, pg 70
  4. ^ McCarthy, pg 575
  5. ^ LIFE. Time Inc. 21 July 1961. p. 80. ISSN 0024-3019. Retrieved January 31, 2015.
  6. ^ Stanley, Frank. "Hatari." International Photographer: The Magazine of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, September 1961, Vol 33 No 9, pg 181
  7. ^ Joseph McBride (writer), Hawks on Hawks University of California Press, 1982, ISBN 0-520-04344-8, pg 143
  8. ^ Peter Bogdanovich, The Cinema of Howard Hawks, Museum of Modern Art-Doubleday, 1962
  9. ^ Scott Breivold, Peter Bogdanovich interviewer, Howard Hawks: interviews, University Press of Mississippi, 2006, ISBN 1-57806-832-0, pg. 38
  10. ^ McCarthy, pg 573
  11. ^ Australian Woman's Weekly December 5, 1962
  12. ^ McCarthy, pg 582
  13. ^ McCarthy, pg 577
  14. ^ McIntyre, pg 73
  15. ^ McCarthy, pg 579
  16. ^ Henry Mancini interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1969)
  17. ^ "All-time top film grossers", Variety, 8 January 1964, pg 37.
  18. ^ "Jean-Luc Godard, Cahiers du Cinema Top 10's, 1956-1965". Retrieved 2019-04-14.
  19. ^ "AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-06.
  20. ^ Dell Movie Classic: Hatari! at the Grand Comics Database
  21. ^ Dell Movie Classic: Hatari! at the Comic Book DB (archived from the original)
  22. ^ https://www.amazon.com/Hatari-Michael-Milner/dp/B000BJUQP4

External linksEdit