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DateOriginal Topic
23rd February 2005Film, "Zulu," and Chaplain Smith
By Evan Hock
I read the reports from men at Rorke's Drift about Chaplain Smith's aid with ammunition and encouragement during the assault, and Mr. Witt, the missionary, taking out a wounded man with his family. In light of this truth, I am sad and irritated how the otherwise enjoyable film, "Zulu" portrayed the latter as a nuisance and the former not even portrayed at all! It dishonored their memory and career as servants.
23rd February 2005Peter Ewart

The character & involvement of Witt was changed completely for the film (apart from the fact that he did leave before things warmed up a bit) & it still surprises me that they cut Smith out altogether. However, these were just two of several "character transplants", such as Dalton, Chard, Bromhead, Hook & King Cetshwayo, apparently made for reasons best know to the directors - presumably commercial.

If one didn't know about the changes - or if one ignores them altogether, along with the other departures from fact - they don't detract too much from the quality of the film (some become highlights!) which probably didn't depart from historical accuracy any more than most films of this sort. I suppose the trick is to appreciate the film for what it was, not for any attempt to portray accurately what actually happened, although there are certainly some authentic sequences.

A search through the back-postings will reveal that this topic has been aired repeatedly on ths forum in the past.

In fact Witt wasn't everyone's favourite person afterwards, but partly for different reasons.

23rd February 2005Sheldon Hall
ZULU screenwriter John Prebble responded to this very complaint when it was first made in a newspaper letters column in 1964; he explained why Smith (and others) had been omitted and defended his and Endfield's creative choices (there were two writers and two producers, but only one director!). More will be revealed shortly...
1st March 2005Julian Whybra
Witt did not take out any 'family' with the wounded Lieut. Purvis NNC.
1st March 2005Keith Smith


Higginson's statement on Isandlwana says that Purvis was taken to Helpmekaar by Captain Stephenson/Stevenson. I wonder which of the H. or Witt was not telling the truth?
2nd March 2005Peter Ewart

Well, both have had their reputation for veracity impugned on occasion, notwithstanding the fact that one was a clergyman and the other was stoutly defended in the press by Melvill's father (or was it Coghill's?)

2nd March 2005Phil Pearce
Its not only ZULU where this happens Evan . Look at the film Cromwell starring Richard Harris, for example this ever so slightly managed to miss out his Irish policy amoung other things. The film like ZULU was made to tell a story & made to make money . I have never known the truth to get in the way of either of these where the big screen is concerned. However I still enjoy watching both.
2nd March 2005Sheldon Hall
You might be interested to know that a whole lengthy section of CROMWELL about the Irish campaign was filmed at great expense, only to be cut from the film before release because it was "too long" - though I daresay box-office considerations (esp. in the US) played a part too. Never mind: there are more than enough other inaccuracies in that film to make ZULU look like a documentary...
3rd March 2005Graham Mason
When it comes to making films about historical accuracy a lot is left to be desired , Zulu Dawn flpped at the box office whereas Zulu is still highly thought of even today mistakes and all . I believe the English King PLAYED BY AN IRISHMAN !!! ( Patrick Mc Goohan ) and William Wallace played by an American Australian played little respect to historical accuracy so why should they do the same with any as yet unmade sequel to ZULU ? , we have enough knowledge today and plent of people who could give a film maker a far better cast and and story so if the media want to re-make Zulu lets for pity sake get it a little bit more accurate than the 60s vesrion entertaining as it still is , thank you .
3rd March 2005Graham Mason
Of course i should of stated i was referring to " BRAVEHEART " when talking about Patrick Mc Goohan and Mel Gibson , my mistake , sorry !
6th March 2005Paul Cubbin
Ah, the beauty of Hollywood. Don't like history? No probelm, let's change it! Recent atrocities include Pearl Harbour, Troy, Arthur (I couldn't even get past the first 15 mins) .. etc..
8th March 2005Julian whybra
i'll believe Chard who says it was Witt who took Purvis - he was there after all - Higginson wasn't!