Monday, January 25, 2010

Magnificent, Marvellous, Mighty Monday and Armand and Michaela Denis

I've long loved Armand and Michaela Denis's books detailing their adventures in Africa and around the world. This dynamic couple who were so popular in the fifties are, sadly, barely remembered today. And yet they played such a vital role in conservation and were so influential when it came to nature documentaries.
Their lives resonated with me in a lot of ways. The Kenyan expat community reminded me of my own early years in Papua New Guinea.
Their books make riveting reading as they describe their adventures with lions, the natives, crocodiles and so forth. One of my very favourites is Michaela's 'At Home with Michaela' as she details how she made a beautiful house for herself and what it was really like to be a woman on safari. She soon found out taking lipsticks and cosmetics into the native camps was a sure way to make new friends with the women there. It seems women can have universal interests!
Michaela was a stand-in for Deborah Kerr in the movie King Solomon's Mines and was a quintessential fifties glamour pot. She trained as a dressmaker in Paris and so her life really did take an unexpected turn when she fell in love with the Belgian film-maker Armand Denis. Of course I was always going to have a soft spot for a woman who never forget to apply her red lipstick in the middle of the jungle! She would sneak away many times to dance all night with the natives, and kept her cool whilst being bitten by baboons and charged by wild rhinos!
Both Armand and Michaela were believers in psychic matters and swore they saw a spaceship over the African plains. I also believe strongly in magic and psychic affairs after my time in Papua New Guinea. Michaela's books are filled with fascinating psychic stories of Africa.
The books have a poignant edge as the couple lament the rapid loss of wildlife in the Kenya they loved so much. They would be heartbroken to see the situation today, not only in Africa but worldwide.
Michaela writes beautifully of her longing for a child (sadly which never came to pass, as predicted by an African witch doctor) and of her enormous love for Armand, who she loved so much and regarded as her soulmate.
Although Michaela believed she couldn't live without Armand by her side, she had to as he died in 1971.Michaela stayed in Africa and became interested in spiritual healing techniques which she studied under African healers. She did marry again but her husband died several months after their marriage. Michaela died in Nairobi in 2003.
Although this very special couple often draw blank looks from people when I mention their name and their wonderful books are long out of print, you can still track them down through EBay and secondhand shops.
It was the Scribe who first introduced me to this dynamic, adventuring couple. On Friday I shall post about a wonderful gift the Scribe bought me related to them.
And so for Magnificent, Marvellous, Mighty Monday let us pay tribute to the spirit of conservation, adventure and lust for life that Armand and Michaela Denis possessed in spades. May their courage, compassion and sheer guts enter our own creativity and life. And never forget - even if the lion has your scent, don't forget that red lippie!
make every second of this life count. Never feel self- pity - what a vice, what a bore for others!"
Michaela Denis


  1. Interesting post! I love that pic of her touching up her makeup by the side of the truck.

  2. How incredibly charming they are! Especially her with the red lipstick, definitely a lady through and through! Looks like beauty and make up is a universal language spoken by women:)


  3. Love this post -love the quote! Really interesting as I had never heard of these guys... and now I want to hear about your adventures in Papua New Guinea and how your experiences shaped your beliefs! Please!!!! xxx

  4. Love her message and love that she wore red lippy in the jungle!

  5. As Willow stated, this is really a wonderful post. I had vaguely heard about the couple but really knew nothing about them. Your story and background info has me looking to do a search on EBay as you suggest. I like the little bit about Micheala walking around with lipsticks and cosmetics and that yes, all womaen of the world are interested in looking beautiful.
    Love the photos, too

  6. Hello Josephine

    What a fascinating read you post is! I have never heard of that couple but am glad that I have through your beautifully written post.

    What a wonderful couple they were, your post does make me want to read more about them. I love the bit about Michaela applying her red lipstick in the middle of the jungle.

    You get the strong impression that she really took great care of her appearance and that you would not expect someone like that to be interested in spending time with animals or being in a country without pretty fashionable boutiques.

    Off to find out more about them...I am surprised that I have not heard about them before...

    Take care
    Warm wishes
    Isabelle x

  7. they sound like a unique and fascinating couple, what a shame they are all but forgotten. it's great that you've inspired us to find out more about them. i'm reminded of the old tv show 'hatari' that was on when i was a child.

  8. Hi Willow, yes I love that pic too. No make-up studio for Michaela.
    Sher, Michaela found it was a sure-fire icebreaker to enter these isolated camps with her cosmetics bag.
    Curious Cat is always the curious one! I will do a Blog about that one day, I promise.
    Thanks Jennifer. Michaela was the ultimate glamour puss in extreme conditions to be sure!
    Gary, it is good to hear somebody else has heard of them. Sometimes I feel really, really ancient!
    Isabelle, it is so true you shouldn't judge books by their covers. Michaela was way gutsier than she may have appeared. It was a tough and scary life on safari. Thank you for all your praise!
    Pinry, I'm really old and I can't remember that show. I must ask the Scribe as he may know it. I remember Adventure Island, Skippy and Starsky and Hutch however! xx

  9. Yes, any woman who can apply red lipstick in the jungle is a saint as far as I am concerned. What a glamour lady indeed.

  10. What a lovely post and photos. I've just jotted their names down for future reading. Their books sound fascinating.

  11. Hi me again! Oh thank you so much for all this information about Armand and Michaela! I've loved making their acquaintance again after all the years, I used to love watching them in their programmes on television no colour back then but it didn't seem to matter. I always thought they seemed to love each other, she was so lovely and chic! I think it also helped because Armand always reminded me of my Dad!

  12. My darling I popped in to wish you a love filled February full of blessings.

    Love & Hugs

  13. I love this post this is very intresting post. I really enjoy it. Thanks for share this post.

  14. Good post so far... Thanking you for sharing this great post with us. Are you interested in watching Online TV Shows.....?

  15. I found your post while searching for a very special short film featuring Michaela and Doris Stokes. Michaela was talking about Minnie who, she said, was sitting on her shoulder (Minnie had died some time previously)...yes, they were both believers in spiritualism. I would love to see that again - anyone know where I can find it?? Love for the animals, Nicki


  16. Hello Nicki, I am afraid I don't but I would also love to see it if you manage to track it down. There is footage now of Michaela talking to camera shortly before her death which is fascinating but not the Doris Stokes. I'll put the link below to that. Let me know if you ever come across it! Love for the Animals to you as well. xx


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