The 1951 classic The African Queen, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, is not my favorite Hepburn film but had its endearing moments. Hepburn plays a reverend’s sister serving as a missionary in Africa when war breaks out in Europe in 1914. Although it’s thought they are far from Germany’s touch, the German troops move in and “recruit” the natives by kidnapping them and burning their homes. Hepburn’s brother perishes in the struggle and she teams up with a loan miner and riverboat owner played by Bogart. They set out to travel down the dangerous Ulanga river on a plot to torpedo the German’s gun ship.
The characters play off each other, at first in annoyance and then later with mutual admiration, as the plot carries them into battle. Hepburn and Bogart are older at this point and have both successful careers. Bogart won an Oscar for his role, his only in his career, and I’d have to agree with the nomination and win. His portrayal of this set-in-his-ways boat captain was goofy, wild and scruffy, yet endearing and strong while playing off of Hepburn’s more structured character.
This film was Hepburn’s first color film, and a movie in which she was ill through most of the filming. I think that this film is really interesting. Considering the difficulty of blending scenes from Africa from the main filming in Turkey and London, that took a lot ingenuity for the time in multiple film locations. As #65 of the AFI 100, I’m not sure I would agree on the placement on the list at all. My favorite Hepburn movie, The Desk Set with Spencer Tracy is a better Kate movie and it isn’t even on the list at all. I liked the film, glad I saw it, but not AFI worthy.
AFI 100 total=97, remaining=3
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