The Great Kimberley Diamond Robbery

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Screening Details

Length: 2 reels (Black and White) / Copyright Date: unknown / Release Date: 11 December 1911 (premiere) / Language: Silent (English intertitles) / Genre: Adventure / Alternative Title: The Star of the South


A Khoi worker finds a diamond on the banks of the Vaal River and sells it to two local diggers for four shillings. They, in turn, sell it to Dick Grangeway, who decides to take it to Cape Town and then perhaps to London. However, two desperadoes hear of the plan and set off in pursuit when Dick, his wife Kate and other prospectors set off for the coast by ox-wagon. They have obtained the co-operation of a group of marauding tribesmen in return for a third of the loot and the party is overwhelmed. The warriors fail to find the diamond, but when the two white villains are about to torture Kate in order to establish its whereabouts, their chief intervenes. Kate escapes to seek help and the colonial mounted police arrive in time to apprehend the would-be robbers. (Summary based on advertised accounts and a review in The Star of 12 December 1911.)


It is usually argued that this was the first fiction film produced in South Africa. Certainly it is the only one of which there are reliable accounts. The film was probably made at the instigation of Australian-born entrepreneur and showman Rufe Naylor and was first shown on 11th December 1911 at his new 1,500-seater Orpheum Theatre (evening) in Johannesburg, as well as at the local Tivoli (afternoon). In Cape Town it was screened at Wolfram's Bioscope. The film was primarily shot on Sunday 22nd October in Fountains Valley south of Pretoria. The man responsible was R.C.E. Nissen, a war correspondent and photographer then in the employ of Naylor. The production company credited was the Springbok Film Co., a small outfit set up by Naylor. The only identified actor in it was Emma Krogh, the daughter of a Deputy State Secretary in the administration of Paul Kruger’s Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek and the mother of Afrikaans author Stella Blakemore. It is generally supposed that its inspiration was Edwin S. Porter's The Great Train Robbery (1903), though as an Australian Naylor would probably have been familiar with Charles Tait's film The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906) and Charles MacMahon's Robbery Under Arms (1907), which he could have seen before he came out to South Africa in 1908.

(Note: No prints are known to have survived)


Emma Krogh (Kate Grangeway)


Production Company: Springbok Film Co. / Producer: Rufe Naylor / Director, Script & Photographer: R.C.E. Nissen.


The Star, 12 December 1911

Sunday Times, 21 June 1914

Gutsche, Thelma - The history and social significance of motion pictures in South Africa 1895-1940

Le Roux, André I. & Fourie, Lilla – Filmverlede: geskiedenis van die Suid-Afrikaanse speelfilm

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