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Updated: 24 October, 1997
Cyril Raker Endfield South African born director and screenwriter (AKA - C. Raker, Cyril Endfield, Hugh Raker, C. Raker Endfield. Studied at Yale University and New Theater School, New York where he formed his own theatrical group to put on social satires. A common interest in magic lead to his joining Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre in Hollywood. First film direction 1942 for MGM on 15 min. short Inflation commissioned by the Office of War Information, Chamber of Commerce objected to its anti-capitalistic tone, film suppressed until 1991. Nevertheless made several more shorts before serving in army Signal Corps. After WW2 made several low budget features before being blacklisted by McCarthyite HUAC for being "anti-American" and showing left-wing bias in his films (he had been a member of Young Communist League when at Yale but had never joined Communist Party). Name placed on Hollywood blacklist for refusing to name other "communists" working in industry (Compare Dalton Trumbo, blacklisted screenwriter for Spartacus). Moved to England to work and used variety of pseudonyms to avoid problems with film distribution in USA. Regarded as one of the most underrated and innovative directors in the industry. Several film guides list him as dying in 1983.
Named after the Zulus who defeated a large British force at the battle of Isandhlwana on 22 January, 1879 and who only a few hours later were halted by a small group of British soldiers at Rorke's Drift in Natal. In June 1879 the Zulus were finally defeated at Ulindi resultinig in the division of Zululand and ultimately its annexation. Instead of being called "Rorke's Drift" (or some other pro-British title) the film celebrates the dignity, military skill and heroism of the enemy of the British.
True story about small group of British soldiers trying to defend a mission at Rorke's Drift in Natal in 1879 from attack by 4,000 Zulu warriors led by Cetshwayo (played by the real Zulu Chief Buthelezi). The Zulu nation had only a few hours before destroyed a force of 1500 British soldiers at the battle of Isandhlwana. The defenders of Rorke's Drift were rewarded by the Crown with 11 Victoria Crosses (a record for one engagement) out of a total of 1,344 awarded since 1856.
Note: "prequel" Zulu Dawn (1979) directd by Douglas Hickox and co-written by Cy Endfield (based on best-selling book by Endfield) starring Burt Lancaster and Peter O'Toole about the battle at Isandhlwana against the Zulus (1,500 British soldiers killed), which was followed only some hours later by the siege at Rorke's Drift.
Obituary of Endfield in The Times, reprinted in The Australian, May 12, 1995.
Cy Endfield, Zulu Dawn (1979) (London: Gainsborough Press, 1996).
1. The contribution of John Prebble (the author of Culloden) in suggesting the idea of the story in an article which Endfield read, co-writer of screenplay.
2. The spectacular battle scenes (taking up nearly half the film), unusual because of the attention played to the "other side" i.e. the Zulus, who are shown as disciplined, honourable and clever warriors. "Choreographed" by Chief Buthulezi.
3. The rivalry between the no-nonsense common-born engineer Shard and the aristocratic born-to-rule Bromhead who believes he should be in charge. Commentary on continuing division in British army between professionally trained and nobly born soldiers.
4. To help the Zulu extras understand what they were supposed to do, the producer Stanley Baker got an old western movie to show them.
5. Context of the early and mid-1960s colonial wars of independence - Kenya, Rhodesia, South Africa leaving Commonwealth.
6. Compare CE's visually exciting depiction of battle with that of Kurosawa's.
7. The working class conscripted soldiers, Pvt Booth who prefers to stay in the infirmary than fight but shows great courage during the battle, the ethnic rivalries Welsh vs English.
8. The ending which suggest both parties honourably fulfilled their duties as warriors.
9. The singing on both sides - "Men of Harlech" vs Zulu war chants.
10. Compare with contemporary paintings and illustrations (London Illustrated News) made of British colonial wars by Lady Elizabeth Butler - "Calling the Roll" (about Crimea).