SPOILER ALERTKIMBERLEY JIM
(1963) EMIL NOFAL
The singer Jim Reeves only ever made one feature film before his untimely death in a aeroplane crash and this is it, a cheerful musical tale of two good natured American con artists (if there is such a thing) who land up in Kimberley during the diamond rush. After fleecing the public with a snake-oil mixture named Dr Nature’s Cure-All (guaranteed to get rid of one’s mother-in-law) they win the deeds to a failing diamond claim and travel with the owner to a dusty town named Mac-Mac, singing merrily all the way.
Mac-Mac has its’ own share of problems, water rationing, claim jumping, bar strikes and personal hassles: the most poignant of the latter involves a father returning to town after a jail sentence, searching for his estranged son, a horrid little brat who will only accept the ex-con as his dad after the latter knocks down two men in a street fight arranged by Jim Reeves and his partner in crime, Clive Parnell. The real drawcard in this film is Jim Reeves screen presence: a true gentleman American, dispensing down home homilies to one and all and singing his way into the hearts of all, even those that he fleeces at the gambling table and in the boxing ring.
After Jim Reeves’ untimely death, the local version of Kimberley Jim was released with a prologue and epilogue which memorialised Reeves, stating clearly that, through his work on this film and his music, he became a true friend of South Africa and the film has remained a classic. Its’ budget ran to over R1 million, making it the most expensive film made to date in South Africa and also marked the end of Emil Nofal’s collaboration with Jamie Uys, as well as the start of the celebrated Emil Nofal / Jans Rautenbach partnership when Nofal resigned from Jamie Uys Film Productions, taking Rautenbach with him.
The film is currently illegally available on DVD overseas and locally: Nofal did not (and continued to do so, right up until his death in 1986) approve of the government created National Film Board – now the National Film, Video and Sound Archives – so the negatives of the film landed up in private hands overseas, without the knowledge of Jamie Uys or the American film producer Joseph E. Levine who had bought both Kimberley Jim and Dingaka for overseas distribution.