Humphrey Bogart
Katharine Hepburn
Robert Morley
Peter Bull
Theodore Bikel
Walter Gotell
Peter Swanwick

John Huston




Time: 105 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Action/Drama/Romance

Won Academy Award for Best Actor (Bogart). Nominations for Best Actress (Hepburn), Best Director and Best Screenplay.

I have to admit, though I heard how great this film is over the years, I never felt compelled to actually sit down and watch it. I love Hepburn and Bogart, but I thought the film was about something completely different. What I'm not sure, but I didn't expect a fun, romantic, exhilarating ride through the wilds of Africa. What could be interesting about two people arguing on a boat while it floats down the river? A whole hell of a lot. I should have known a film with that kind of cast filmed by a brilliant director would be anything but ordinary. It's a shame after seeing the chemistry between them that Bogart and Hepburn only worked together this one time. Though the African Queen has adventure, danger, and humor, it is, in the end, a lovely romance. One that brings together two people from very different classes and idealogies, allowing them to finally find love and acceptance in their lives.

The film opens in German East Africa in a little village named Kung Du. Rose Sayer (Hepburn), a spinster who accompanied her brother, the Reverend Samuel Sayer, as a Christian missionary to bring God to the natives, plays the organ at the Sunday service. The service is disturbed by the arrival of a ramshackle tugboat The African Queen. Her hard-drinking captain Charlie Allnut (Bogart) stops in for a spot of tea and some conversation. Seems that war has begun in Europe between Germany and England. He warns them that they might want to leave while they can, though he can't see why the Germans would make trouble for them since the village is in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately, the Germans don't agree with Charlie's assessment. The village is burned to the ground, causing its inhabitants to flee. The destruction of his life's work is more than the Reverend Sayer can bear and he soon leaves the earthly concerns of the world to his sister to deal with.

"Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above."

When Charlie returns to check on them, he finds Rose alone with nowhere to go. He offers her a place on the Queen to sit out the conflict with him. Rose refuses. She's not about to just sit around and wait for the war to be over. If the only way to return to England and help the war effort is to sail down the river over enormous rapids, sneak by a German fort and blow up the LOUISA, the most fortified boat in Africa, well then that's what they're going to do. Charlie laughs at her plan. There's no way he's going to take his tiny little decrepit boat into that situation. She's totally crazy to think that they could make it past the rapids, nevermind successfully attack a major sea vessel. He soon discovers that it's impossible to say no to Rose. With no one to depend on but themselves, they begin to form an unbreakable bond of trust and friendship. Both are set in their ways, constrained by years of habit and ideas of morality, but after several life and death situations, the walls come tumbling down, a mutual respect is formed and a kernel of love begins to grow.

As they make their way down the river, surviving one dangerous situation after another, they discover sides to each other they never dreamed existed, some good, others bad and a few ugly. Rose really begins to lighten up and enjoy life on the river. It's more exhilarating than she imagined it could be. Once sober, Charlie lets his guard down and begins teaching her all there is to know about piloting a river boat. They end up finding true love on the river, but that's not enough to save them from the elements or the Germans. In the end, when it looks like they won't survive the journey and that they failed their country, they still manage to keep their love and their hopes alive. As they've learned, the world can surprise you and the end of one life is sometimes the beginning to an even better one.

THE AFRICAN QUEEN is a wonderful love story, filled with humor, action and wonderful acting. Bogart and Hepburn were at the heights of their careers and they are magic together. The plot, music and dialogue get a little overly dramatic at points, but they're able to keep the craziness from being ridiculous and unbelievable. This is at its' heart a poignant, engaging and exciting story. Bogart was the only one to win the Oscar among this film's nominees, but it's clear he wouldn't have won without the glowing presence of his co-star and the brilliant direction of Huston. The strength of the acting and the story keep THE AFRICAN QUEEN from being dated, making it a wonderful cinema experience even 50 years later. If you're looking for a little romance and high adventure, you can't go wrong with this baby. She may be old, but she still delivers the goods.

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