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Wednesday, 31 January, 2001, 13:24 GMT
Zulu screenwriter dies
Anglo-Zulu war re-enactment
The Anglo-Zulu war is re-enacted in South Africa
John Prebble OBE, who wrote the screenplay for the 1964 film Zulu, has died aged 85.

He had been suffering from cancer for some time and died at the Trinity Hospice in Clapham, south London.

Prebble was a former journalist who wrote books about the history of Scotland as well as historical novels including Culloden, Glencoe and Zulu, on which the film was based.

Sir Michael Caine
Zulu launched Sir Michael Caine's career

Zulu was an adventure based on a real-life incident in African history, the massacre in 1879 of a British mission by Zulu warriors.

Film archivist John Huntley said: "Zulu was an important film.

"UK cinema was going through something of a renaissance at that time and John Prebble certainly made a contribution to that."

The events leading to the epic battle in Zulu are depicted in personal terms involving a missionary, his daughter, the mission's commander and his men.

Caine launch

It is considered the film in which Michael Caine, playing a young lieutenant who finds his contingent has been isolated, got his acting break.

Film archivist John Huntley said: "It was Michael Caine's virtual launch into motion pictures.

"And the character played by Caine went very much against his later screen personas.

"But because Zulu was backed by US money, Caine was noticed in the US."

Prebble is survived by a wife, Jan, and three children from an earlier marriage.

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