Where No Vultures Fly

Where No Vultures Fly is a 1951 British film directed by Harry Watt and starring Anthony Steel and Dinah Sheridan. It was released under the title Ivory Hunter in the United States.[1] The film was inspired by the work of the conservationist Mervyn Cowie.[2] The film's opening credits state that "the characters in this film are imaginary, but the story is based on the recent struggle of Mervyn Cowie to form the National Parks of Kenya."[3][4] The title Where No Vultures Fly denotes areas where there are no dead animals.[1]

Where No Vultures Fly
Film poster
Directed byHarry Watt
Produced byMichael Balcon
Written byW. P. Lipscomb
Leslie Norman
Ralph Smart
Based onstory by Harry Watt
StarringAnthony Steel
Dinah Sheridan
Music byAlan Rawsthorne
CinematographyPaul Beeson
Geoffrey Unsworth
Edited byJack Harris
Gordon Stone
Ealing Films
African Film Productions
Distributed byGeneral Film Distributors (UK)
Universal-International (US)
Release date
5 November 1951 (Royal Command Film Performance) 6 November 1951 (UK)
Running time
107 mins.
CountryUnited Kingdom
South Africa

The film had a sequel, West of Zanzibar.[5]


The film is set in East Africa. It is about a game warden called Bob Payton (Anthony Steel). He is horrified by the destruction of wild animals by ivory hunters. He establishes a wildlife sanctuary. He is attacked by wild animals and must contend with a villainous ivory poacher (Harold Warrender).[1][2]

Anthony SteelBob Payton
Dinah SheridanMary Payton
Harold WarrenderMannering
Meredith EdwardsGwyl
William SimonsTim Payton
Orlando MartinsM'Kwongi



Where No Vultures Fly was one of a series of "expeditionary films" Harry Watt made, like The Overlanders, where he would find the story from visiting a location. "These expeditionary films are really journalistic jobs", he wrote later. "You get sent out to a country by the studio, stay as long as you can without being fired and a story generally crops up."[6]

Watt got the idea of the film after a chance remark from a game warden in Tanganyika. He was shooting zebras and when Watt wondered if it was necessary, the warden remarked that Watt "talk like Mervyn Cowie". This prompted the director to track down Cowie in Nairobi, who inspired the story.[6]

W.P. Lipscomb wrote the script based on Harry Watt's original idea. Ralph Smart worked on it. According to Leslie Norman "the script was turned down generally, so I went in and added a bit which made them accept it."[7]

The film was a co-production between Ealing and South Africa's African Films, with half the financing coming from South Africa. (Africa Films was a South African theatre chain.)[8][9]


Watt took a full unit to Africa and based it at Amboseli, south of Nairobi. They built a complete village of huts for the crew to live in.[6]

Anthony Steel contracted malaria during filming on location in Africa.[10]


The film was selected for the 1951 Royal Command Performance, over other contenders such as A Place in the Sun and Outcast of the Islands.[11][12]

Box office

It was the second most popular film at the British box office in 1952.[13][14]

In 1957, the film and its sequel were listed among the seventeen most popular films the Rank organisation ever released in the US.[15]


  1. Ivory Hunter (1951), New York Times, 1952-08-19.
  2. The New Pictures, Time, 1952-08-25.
  3. Where No Vultures Fly, British Film Institute.
  4. Come What May: In Lightest Africa ... By John Allan May. The Christian Science Monitor (1908-Current file) [Boston, Mass] 04 Apr 1952: 13.
  5. "BFI Screenonline: Where No Vultures Fly (1951)". www.screenonline.org.uk.
  6. "Film circus goes on safari". The News. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 16 February 1952. p. 6. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  7. Brian McFarlane, An Autobiography of British Cinema, Metheun 1997 p440
  8. A REPORT ON FILM PRODUCTION IN SOUTH AFRICA: Exports Bolster Dark Continent's Small But Hopeful Industry By J. A. BROWNJOHANNESBURG.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 13 Apr 1952: X5.
  9. U.S. CONCERN SELLS ODEON SHARES: South African Buyer Our Financial Staff. The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959) [Manchester (UK)] 14 July 1953: 2.
  10. "Stars glitter for Royalty". The Australian Women's Weekly. National Library of Australia. 28 November 1951. p. 33. Retrieved 7 May 2012.
  11. "Surprise choice for command screening". The Mail. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 27 October 1951. p. 7 Supplement: SUNDAY MAGAZINE. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  12. "COMMAND FILM GLAMOUR NIGHT". The Mercury. Hobart, Tas.: National Library of Australia. 7 November 1951. p. 12. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  13. "COMEDIAN TOPS FILM POLL". The Sunday Herald. Sydney: National Library of Australia. 28 December 1952. p. 4. Retrieved 24 April 2012.
  14. Thumim, Janet. "The popular cash and culture in the postwar British cinema industry". Screen. Vol. 32 no. 3. p. 259.
  15. BRITAIN'S MOVIE SCENE: AN AMERICAN FILM EVOLVES IN THE ORIENT By STEPHEN WATTS. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 24 Mar 1957: 123.
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