THE AFRICAN QUEEN (1951)

Director: John Huston
Writer: C.S. Forester (novel), James Agee, John Huston
Cinematography: Jack Cardiff
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Robert Morley
Running Time: 105 min.

Any “best of” list of films directed by John Huston is bound to include The Maltese Falcon (his directorial debut), Key Largo, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and The African Queen. Any similar list of Humphrey Bogart vehicles is likely to include the same titles. These two Hollywood legends created legendary films together. Their final venture also brought them together with another legend, Katharine Hepburn, with whom neither had previously worked.

At its heart, The African Queen is a love story between seemingly opposite and opposing characters who find themselves thrown together in a war-torn African jungle. Bogart (who won his only Academy Award for this film) stars as Charlie Allnut, a hard-drinking riverboat man who travels with Rose Sayer (Hepburn), a puritanical missionary. They embark on a mission to destroy a German gunboat and must contend with the harsh environment of Africa and their conflicting personalities throughout their journey. Charlie is seemingly a selfish rogue, but it takes Rose to bring out the real man inside. An excellent study of the effects men and women have on each other, the chemistry between the two film legends is intense, the dialogue crackles and, in the masterful hands of Huston, the film keeps you enthralled throughout the perilous journey.

The actual creation of the film has itself become the stuff of legends. A 1990 film, White Hunter, Black Heart, starred Clint Eastwood as a fictionalized John Huston, manic and obsessed with hunting down an elephant while in Africa to shoot a film. Katharine Hepburn later recalled the adventure in her book, “The Making of the African Queen or, How I Went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall, and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind.”


(return to FILM FEST 2002)

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