Flame Trees of Thika

Flame Trees of Thika

4.3 6
Director: Roy Ward Baker

Cast: Hayley Mills, David Robb, Holly Aird

     
 

Based on an autobiographical novel by Elspeth Huxley, this 1981 film tells the story of the Grant family -- little Elspeth (Holly Aird) and her parents, Robin (David Robb) and Tilly (Hayley Mills) -- after they arrive in Kenya to start a coffee plantation. The episodic production begins when a lion greets the horse-drawn carriage transporting Tilly and Elspeth to the… See more details below

Overview

Based on an autobiographical novel by Elspeth Huxley, this 1981 film tells the story of the Grant family -- little Elspeth (Holly Aird) and her parents, Robin (David Robb) and Tilly (Hayley Mills) -- after they arrive in Kenya to start a coffee plantation. The episodic production begins when a lion greets the horse-drawn carriage transporting Tilly and Elspeth to the site of the plantation. Tilly stares the lion down with the help of a poised shotgun, demonstrating her resolve to make a go of it in the rugged new land. After the Grants construct a home with the help of Kikuyu natives, they hold a housewarming attended by neighbors Hereward (Nicholas Jones) and Lettice Palmer (Sharon Maughan), fellow Brits who have also settled in Kenya. Meanwhile, 11-year-old Elspeth revels in the land, the wildlife, and her new Kenyan friends. While her parents are away, Elspeth stays with Mrs. Nimmo (Carol MacReady), a Scotswoman who corrects the little girl's manners and makes her dress formally for dinner. During the day, Elspeth travels back and forth to her home on a pony to feed her pet deer and pet chameleons. On one trip, she meets and makes friends with Englishman Ian Crawfurd (Ben Cross), a newcomer. After her parents return and host the Palmers and Crawfurd at a get-together, Crawfurd and Lettice Palmer, who is bored with her husband, Hereward, and Africa, fall in love and begin an affair. A leopard carries off a dog Lettice cherishes, and everyone joins in a hunt for the animal, including wily Boer huntsman Mr. Roos (William Morgan Sheppard). On the hunt, Lettice and Ian Crawfurd, whose affair has become obvious to all, provoke Hereward. Ian and Hereward brawl. A native whom Hereward insults with a racist remark stabs Hereward, but he survives. When the first World War begins, Robin and Ian both do service. Will they come back? That is the question that gnaws at Elspeth and her mom -- and Lettice -- while life goes on at Thika.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Mike Cummings
Menacing leopards, racism, war, and the whims of nature vie for attention with a charming little girl in this six-hour production chronicling the fortunes of a British family in East Africa in the early 20th century. Time and again, it is the little girl -- a dimpled tyke with a curious mind -- who wins the viewer's favor. Her name is Holly Aird, an actress with a rare ability to communicate childhood in all of its innocent wonder. She portrays Elspeth Grant, an 11-year-old whose parents, Robin and Tilly, forsake an easy tea-and-crumpets life in England to coax a coffee crop from scrub land in the vast, open reaches of Kenya. The Grants lead an idyllic life, full of the romance and adventure of untamed Africa. But the film does not ignore the hard realities of everyday life: the racism of white overlords, the infidelity of a bored neighbor woman, and the slaughter of wildlife by trophy hunters. In her role as Elspeth, young Aird sets an example for the adults, making friends with shy blacks, oddball whites, a spindly deer, and two chameleons. She develops a special rapport with British hunter Ian Crawfurd (Ben Cross) and wins over priggish Scotswoman Mrs. Nimmo ( Carol MacReady) and gruff Boer Mr. Roos (William Morgan Sheppard). Hayley Mills, herself a winsome child actor in earlier days, plays Elspeth's mom, the neighborhood's nurse, and everybody's shoulder to cry on. Her well-starched British manners suffer a wrinkle or two as she adjusts to African life, but she maintains her good humor throughout. So, too, does David Robb as Elspeth's father, who does not cower before foul weather, arid land, and war. Lending authenticity to the film are native East Africans recruited to play the black Kenyans.

Product Details

Release Date:
03/29/2005
UPC:
0733961718256
Original Release:
1981
Rating:
NR
Source:
A&E Home Video
Time:
5:50:00
Sales rank:
4,677

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Hayley Mills Tilly Grant
David Robb Robin Grant
Holly Aird Elspeth Grant
Sharon Maughan Lettice Palmer
Nicholas Jones Hereward Palmer
Ben Cross Ian Crawfurd
David Bradley Alec Wilson
Morgan Sheppard Mr. Roos
Carol Macready Mrs. Nimmo
John Nettleton Major
Tony Osoba Ahmed
Paul Onsongo Juma
Steve Mwenesi Sammy
Mick Chege Njombo
Mzee Pembe Chief Kupanya

Technical Credits
Roy Ward Baker Director
John Hawkesworth Producer,Screenwriter
Verity Lambert Executive Producer
Christopher Neame Executive Producer

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