Jim Comes to Jo'burg

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Screening Details

Running Time: 50 min. (Black and White) / Copyright Date: unknown / Release Date: 24 October 1949 / Language: English / Genre: Drama/Musical / Alternative Title: African Jim.


A young man leaves his rural background for the big city, in this case Johannesburg. Immediately after his arrival he is mugged, but is befriended by a night-watchman, who also finds him a job. Various mishaps result in him being fired, but his new friend's daughter, who sings at a nightclub, gets him a job as a waiter and, when he reveals his talent as a singer, a new career is launched. The story is intercut with a number of musical interludes, not only from Jim (Daniel Adnewmah) and the girl (Dolly Rathebe), but also from the African Inkspots and the Jazz Maniacs.


Released in 1949, Jim Comes to Jo'burg is usually, though erroneously said to have been the first locally produced film to feature a virtually all-black cast. While today it comes across as naive and its primitive film technique and no-budget production values date it more than it should, it was nevertheless a milestone in the history of the South African cinema. Producer Eric Rutherford and director Donald Swanson met during the making of the British children’s serial The Mystery of the Snakeskin Belt in what was then Rhodesia. Daniel Adnewmah, who played Jim, later had a small role in Zoltan Korda’s Cry, the Beloved Country (1952), but subsequently disappeared from sight. Dan Twala, who played the night-watchman, became a prominent soccer administrator, journalist and radio personality. He was instrumental in establishing the non-racial professional South African Soccer League. Dolly Rathebe went on to become one of South Africa’s greatest and most popular jazz singers and made a number of film appearances later in life. The film had its premiere for black audiences on Monday, 24 October at the Rio Cinema in Market Street, Johannesburg. The guest speaker was Dr. A.B. Xuma, president-general of the African National Congress. A premiere for white audiences followed at the Victory Cinema in Orange Grove on 28 November. Overseas the film is known as African Jim, the title under which it was first shown in the United States. Today's audiences will have to make allowances for some of the terminology that forms part of the dialogue. (The film's title became the source of a well-known South African expression and a widely used theme in literature and art.)


Daniel Adnewmah (Jim), Dolly Rathebe (Judy), Dan Twala (Charlie, the night-watchman), Sam Maile (club pianist).


Production Company: Warrior Films / Director & Scriptwriter: Donald Swanson / Producer: Eric Rutherford / Cinematography: Ronnie Shears / Set Designer: Gloria Green / Sound: Ken Taylor.


Rand Daily Mail (various issues)

Davis, Peter - In darkest Hollywood: exploring the jungles of cinema's South Africa (1996)

Maingard, Jacqueline - South African national Cinema (2007)


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