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Africa’s Last Romantic

The Films, Books and Expeditions of John L. Brom

Olga Brom Spencer and Glenn Reynolds

Africa’s Last Romantic: The Films, Books and Expeditions of John L. Brom captures the drama and excitement of John L. Brom’s film expeditions from 1949 to 1962 through sub-Saharan Africa. Brom was the only explorer to follow the footsteps of Henry Morton Stanley and in a documentary interviewed the two last survivors of Stanley’s expeditions from 1874 to 1890. In 1955 he also interviewed the famous nineteenth-century East African slave trader Tippu Tip’s grandson, who defended his grandfather’s trade. Brom’s expedition was the basis for his bestseller 20,000 Miles in the African Jungle, which was translated into eleven languages. Brom managed to interview and film the rulers and tribes he encountered before they were decimated in the civil wars of the Congo after independence, and his historic films are now preserved in the Human Studies Film Archives of the Smithsonian Institution. Over 500 articles were published on Brom’s work on both sides of the Atlantic during his lifetime. Africa’s Last Romantic is a useful addition to college courses in Third World cinema, cinema studies, and African history.
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Chapter 20: The Last Voyage to Africa


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It did not take long for Brom to settle comfortably into his office in his new Douglaston Manor home, in a seaside suburb of New York. He immediately started to network with film-related organizations and individuals in the city that were interested in African themes. Although he was not yet fluent in English, he succeeded in establishing several contacts based on his significant accomplishments which had garnered international acclaim, as well as on the potential for profitable business arrangements. One of Brom’s first customers was Sterling Film that bought the distribution rights to one of his African films.

Brom was impressed by the many opportunities that were available in the United States and was ready to maximize his versatile talents as a film producer and author. Moreover, he was a surprisingly good businessman and was always on the lookout for ways to promote the African art that he had accumulated thus far. While some people find multi-tasking exhausting, he found it invigorating and, indeed, thrived on making new contacts.

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