Eva Monley, Hollywood's Expert on Africa, Dies at 88

Eva Monley Portrait - H 2011
Bill Wilson

Eva Monley Portrait - H 2011

Production manager, location scout and producer worked on such films as “The African Queen,” “Lawrence of Arabia” and “A Far Off Place.”

Eva Monley, a production manager and location expert who assisted such directors as Otto Preminger, John Ford and David Lean navigate Africa and other exotic locations during her 50-year career, died Nov. 12 of pneumonia at her home in Nanyuki, Kenya. She was 88.

Monley also produced 1993’s A Far Off Place, which was filmed in Namibia and Zimbabwe and starred a teenage Reese Witherspoon in one of her first features. Monley was a friend of South African writer Laurens van der Post, the godfather of Prince William and the author of the book on which the movie is based.

Monley served Hollywood as an invaluable location scout, assistant director and/or production manager in Asia and Europe as well as Africa. Her resume includes John Huston’s The African Queen (1951), Sydney Pollack’s best picture winner Out of Africa (1985) and Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun (1987).

Born April 29, 1923, in Berlin, Monley escaped with her mother from Nazi Germany to a farm in Kenya. While working as a secretary in Nairobi, she was hired by an MGM team scouting locations for King Solomon’s Mines (1950), thanks to her knowledge of the country and her fluent Swahili.

She served as an assistant on that Deborah Kerr-Stewart Granger adventure film, then on The African Queen. Soon, she was in demand on American and British films using Africa as a location.

Monley worked closely with Preminger on Exodus (1960), The Cardinal (1963), In Harm’s Way (1965), Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965) and Hurry Sundown (1967) and spent two years on Lean’s epic Lawrence of Arabia (1962).

Among her other credits are Ford’s Mogambo (1953), Ken Russell’s Billion Dollar Brain (1967), Don Siegel’s The Black Windmill (1974), Huston’s The Man Who Would Be King (1975), Gil CatesThe Promise (1979), High Road to China (1983), Champions (1984), Mister Johnson (1990) and Mississippi Masala (1991).

Monley’s papers were donated to the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and in 1988 she received a lifetime achievement award from the British Film Institute.