The Flame Trees of Thika
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|The Flame Trees of Thika|
|Directed by||Roy Ward Baker|
|Produced by||John Hawkesworth|
|Written by||John Hawkesworth|
Elspeth Huxley (novel)
Sharon Maughan (credited as Sharon Mughan)
|Music by||Alan Blaikley|
|Edited by||Ralph Sheldon|
|Distributed by||Euston Films|
|seven 50-min episodes|
The Flame Trees of Thika is a British television serial of seven 50-minute episodes made by Euston Films for Thames Television in 1981. It was adapted by John Hawkesworth from the 1959 book of the same title by Elspeth Huxley, and is set in and around the town of Thika in Kenya's Central Province. The story deals with the lives of British settlers in this part of East Africa in 1913, when the country was a British colony, up to the start of World War One.
Robin Grant (David Robb), his wife Tilly (Hayley Mills) and daughter Elspeth (Holly Aird) move to British East Africa (now called Kenya) to set up a coffee plantation. They meet Piet Roos, a Boer big game hunter and Njombo, a native who goes to work for them. The Grants face many travails in getting established, but these improve after they hire Sammy as the headman of the plantation. Hereward (Nicholas Jones) and Lettice Palmer (Sharon Maughan) move to the area. There is a fight between Roos and Sammy. Then Njombo kills Kimon, who was the Palmer’s headman. As a result, his chief strips him of his property and Sammy marries the girl Njombo wanted. Elspeth has a very interesting New Year’s Eve party with Mrs. Nimmo and a newcomer to the area, Alec Wilson while her parents and the Palmers go to Nairobi. A big game hunter, Ian Crawford (Ben Cross) arrives in the area and becomes infatuated with Lettice Palmer, who gives a pony to Elspeth. We learn Lettice left her first husband to elope with Hereward, and Elspeth develops an intense dislike for Hereward Palmer after he shoots a baby antelope on a hunt. Sammy arranges for a curse to be put on Njombo, and it literally takes an “Act of God” to get it lifted. After the railroad reaches Thika, Lettice gets a piano, but during a party held to celebrate its arrival, a leopard kills one of her dogs. During the hunt to get it, Hereward kills the leopard, but is almost killed by its mate, but saved by Roos. The Palmers, Tilly, and Crawford go on a safari, during which Lettice and Crawford have an affair. Hereward and Crawford are about to have a brawl when Crawford’s servant stabs Hereward. As a result, Crawford leaves and Lettice stays with Hereward. Then on August 4, 1914 the Grants learn war has been declared on Germany. Robin joins the army, while Tilly becomes a nurse and Elspeth goes to school, where she is bullied for being a know-it-all. She runs away back to Thika. Ian Crawford is killed. Then Robin is transferred to France so all the Grants leave Africa and return to Europe for the duration.
The Flame Trees of Thika was filmed on location in Kenya, directed by Roy Ward Baker and produced by Hawkesworth and Christopher Neame with Verity Lambert as executive producer. The filming included aerial views of the actual Kenya-Uganda railway train as it traveled between Mombasa and Nairobi heading toward Uganda.
It was originally transmitted on the ITV network from 1 September to 13 October 1981.
It is available on DVD.
- Red Strangers - a related novel by Elspeth Huxley.
- Out of Africa - book which begins in the same period in British East Africa.
- The town name "Thika" is pronounced "th-ee-kah".