Febuary is Oscar Season, so we're celebrating with some award winners from years past!
Shot almost entirely on location in Central Africa and starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn, it is no surprise that the movie The African Queen is a classic. In fact, it ranks as number seventeen on a list of the top 100 American Films.
Set in German East Africa at the outbreak of World War One, a Canadian Steam-boat captain and a tea-totaling British missionary are thrown together aboard the African Queen. When missionary Rosie Sayer (Katherine Hepburn) watches as the Germans destroy her home and then her brother dies, she convinces the reluctant Captain Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart) to take his boat down treacherous waters. She intends to convert the boat into a missile and torpedo a important German gunboat. What is compelling about this movie is how these two very dissimilar individuals learn to live, work, and, eventually, love one another. Will their patriotic missile equal a naval success or a horrible death by rapids, disease, predators and enemy guns? Danger abounds in the African Queen!
This film provoked mixed feelings. Personally, the plot seemed often slow, despite the many dangers these two people face. However, the acting was superb. My love of Bogart was born from films like Casablanca and Maltese Falcon; the personality of Charlie Allnut differs greatly from the hard-boiled dick characters of those films. The part really shows Bogart’s diverse abilities, and it is no surprise that this is the role that earned him his only Oscar. Hepburn was also wonderful. The best parts of the film were the unspoken emotions shown on their faces, whether expressions of burgeoning love or comic scenes, such as when they imitate the animals! Good thing the acting was so good since they are only two characters throughout most of the film. The other real strength of the film was that it was shot on location in Africa, a choice that made the filming extremely hazardous, due to both disease and the challenge of filming on a “boat.” Nearly every member of the cast and crew became deathly ill at one point or another. To find out more about the misadventures this production faced, read Hepburn's memoir about the expeirnce. The book is aptly named The Making of The African Queen: Or How I went to Africa with Boogie, Becall and Hudson and Nearly Lost My Mind. Still, the daring choice that paid off both commercially and critically, as African Queen’s ranking clearly indicates!
Despite these highlights, the plot is not overly engaging. I really had to force myself through this film. Still, for the acting that won Bogart his only Oscar and for the African setting showing sweeping film shots, I would recommend taking at least one trip with The African Queen.
Looking for other Oscar winners? Try: Gigi | Citizen Kane |