The African Queen (1951)

The African Queen (1951)
7.7
  • 69680
  • PG
  • Genre: Adventure
  • Release year: 1951 ()
  • Running time: 105 min
  • Original Title: The African Queen
  • Voted: 69680

September 1914, news reaches the colony German Eastern Africa that Germany is at war, so Reverend Samuel Sayer became a hostile foreigner. German imperial troops burn down his mission; he is beaten and dies of fever. His well-educated, snobbish sister Rose Sayer buries him and leaves by the only available transport, the dilapidated river steamboat 'African Queen' of grumpy Charlie Allnut. As if a long difficult journey without any comfort weren't bad enough for such odd companions, she is determined to find a way to do their bit for the British war effort (and avenge her brother) and aims high, as God is obviously on their side: construct their own equipment, a torpedo and the converted steamboat, to take out a huge German warship, the Louisa, which is hard to find on the giant lake and first of all to reach, in fact as daunting an expedition as anyone attempted since the late adventurous explorer John Speakes, but she presses till Charlie accepts to steam up the Ulana, about to brave...

#PersonCharacters
1Humphrey BogartCharlie Allnutt
2Katharine HepburnRose Sayer
3Robert MorleyThe Brother,Rev. Samuel Sayer
4Peter BullCaptain of Louisa
  • Out of Africa with Bogey and Kate by 7

    This is one of those films whose special effects and scenery must have been astounding at the time (1951), but which seem mediocre at best today. BUT, and that's a big 'but', this does not detract from the greatness of the movie overall. The scenery truly is beautiful, for one thing--and the direction and cinematography is great.

    However, what truly makes this film a classic, and deservedly so, is the performances given by the lead actors. For their one film together, Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn pull out all the stops. Bogart is crude, dirty and a low-life river-rat with a heart of gold. He gives the Oscar-winning performance of his lifetime. Hepburn is prim and prissy, but always manages to win us over with her radiance and vulnerability, as well as that core of steel and strength she lends to all her on-screen characters. He's charming, in his way; she's achingly beautiful in hers. You can't help but warm to Charlie and Rosie, and truly, genuinely root for them to get together.

    The ending is predictable; all 'opposites-attract' romance adventure stories are. You know without a doubt that the sunset will be there for Charlie and Rosie to ride off (or swim) into together. But you still hurt when Charlie hurts; and you still smile like a fool when he sees Rose, and when he tries to explain her forthrightness away by jungle fever. You believe the love, and that's what the African Queen is all about.

    Oh, and the gin and leech scenes, of course. Those are brilliant, as everyone else here has already mentioned! ;)

  • Don't Take This One For Granted by 10

    THE African QUEEN is probably one of the most widely available films in the world, on sale in the electronics department of virtually every major retail chain, a commonplace at every rental counter, frequently seen on television. It is hard to imagine any one in the western world, especially in the United States, who has not seen the film at least once--and probably more than once. And so we take it for granted.

    That is a mistake. Based on the famous C.S. Forester novel, which it follows quite closely, THE African QUEEN is the simple story of pragmatic river-rat Charlie Allnut (Bogart) and high-minded Methodist missionary spinster Rose Sayer (Hepburn) who are thrown together by chance when German troops sweep through Africa during World War I. Once safely aboard his beat-up riverboat "The African Queen," Allnut desires nothing more than to dodge the Germans until war's end; Rose, however, determines to strike a blow against the Germans by sailing the boat downriver to attack a German battleship.

    There are so many fine things about this movie that they are hard to innumerate. Filmed on location in the Congo, the cinematography is remarkably fine without being obtrusive; the script, which is at once subtle and very purposeful, has a remarkably natural tone; the two stars--who play the vast majority of the film alone together--give justly famous performances; and Huston's direction is so fine that we never feel even the slightest hint of directorial manipulation. As an adventure, it has a sense of realism that most adventure stories lack; as a character study it is remarkably detailed and finely wrought; as a love story, it is quite touching without engaging in common sentimentality. And it can be enjoyed by many people of diverse backgrounds and ages without the faintest qualm.

    If you haven't seen THE African QUEEN in a while (or heaven forbid never seen it at all) don't take it for granted thinking you'll catch it sooner or later. Sit down with the film and watch it with fresh eyes. You'll be amazed.

    Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer

  • Love Isn't Just For the Young by 7

    The African Queen is a significant historical film in two respects. Along with King Solomon's Mines it was the first American film to show the real Africa to the American public. Previously our ideas about Africa were gleaned from studio backlot jungles created for Tarzan films and the like. The African Queen changed all that, no cheap studio sets would do any more.

    But also, The African Queen dealt with romance among mature adults in their forties. A ne'er do well river pilot on a ramshackle boat and the spinster sister of a missionary, thrown together by the circumstance of war.

    Humphrey Bogart, our intrepid river pilot, makes a scheduled stop to deliver mail to the mission run by Robert Morley and Katharine Hepburn. And he breaks the news to them that World War I has started. Almost as soon as he leaves them, German troops from East Africa come to call. Bogie comes back and he finds Kate with her dead brother. They bury him and skedaddle. And while skedaddling they conceive of a cockeyed plan to help in the war effort.

    To say what it is and what happens would spoil the story, but let me say this. The original opening of the film with Bogart coming in as church services are being conducted for a few hundred uncomprehending native Africans is Director John Huston's comment on the usefulness of the lives Morley and Hepburn have led up to that point. What Hepburn and Bogart accomplish by the end of the film makes up for the waste that was Hepburn's life.

    But The African Queen is a great romance as well. Bogart became a great romantic star in Casablanca and he upholds the tradition here, winning an Academy Award for Best Actor. Katie Hepburn doesn't seem to miss her usual partner Spencer Tracy not a bit, the part of Rose Sayer is a perfect fit. As was remarked, they're going to have stories to tell their grandkids.

    When I watch The African Queen I'm reminded of what Bogart's friend Frank Sinatra sang in one of his best ballads about how Love Isn't Just For the Young. Kate and Bogie sure prove it here.

  • The African Queen by 7

    An amazing romance-adventure classic highlighted by the brilliant performances of Bogart and Hepburn. Oscar winner Bogart's Charlie is a broken man who finds true hope and happiness in Hepburn's Rose. Rose finds love and meaning from Charlie. It's adorable to see them call each other "Missus" and "Mr. Almont" even when we know that they love each other. Even when they have their "first quarrel" near the end of the picture, we know that their lives have changed forever as a result of the other person. It's a film about true love. This is also a very funny film, which was a shock to director Huston. Bogart's stomach growling scene early on in the film is a hoot. More humor commences as both stars play off of each other wonderfully. The scenary is beautiful. No film has captured the essence and importance of nature better than this classic. This is the film that sparked other romance adventures such as "Romancing the Stone" and "Six Days and Seven Nights." Before you view those newer installments, you better check out the one and true original classic.

  • The most exciting, romantic and inspiring Odyssey of American Cinema ? by 9

    He loves his boat and knows the African river like his pocket. She loves her country and believes in accomplishment driven by faith and patriotism.

    It's all natural that the two main protagonists of "The African Queen" turn the titular boat into the unsung heroine of a military deed, whose success is as improbable as the very thought that a straight-laced Methodist missionary spinster would fall in love with a coarse, rudimentary and gin-soaked mailman, but not so when the romance serves as the very fuel of that mission, and when it's Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn and John Huston on the lead: the miracle of "The African Queen", as movie and story, is the result of three immense talents confidently maneuvering in the same direction.

    Film historian and critic Richard Schickel said about Hepburn that her secret appeal relied on the characters she usually played: "a woman on her high horse with slightly pretentious, often comically stated ideas about the world. It was for men to bring her down and get her to reveal herself as quite a good gal, sporty and democratic" generally, the task would fall to "slightly rough-necked and good-natured male" But for once, "The African Queen" provides an interesting twist to the usual formula, because it's Rose who gets Charlie on her horse. The effect is even greater because it forces Bogart to abandon his tough-guy facade, and (for once again) play a man who tries to please a woman.

    Huston's "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" had already demonstrated a new range of versatility in Bogart's acting, but even as the anti-heroic Fred C. Dobbs, Bogart was exuding a threatening toughness; as Allnut, it's a new step on his career, as a more lovable kind of loser, in a performance that will earn him an Oscar for Best Actor (Hepburn, Huston and James Agee for the screenplay will also be nominated). The word 'loser' might sound too harsh, but it's still better than coward, which seems to fit Allnut's initial plan to avoid trouble and hide in a spot with enough supply of gin, waiting for that worldwide war (the first) to stop. Too bad for him, he's got Hepburn aboard, an iron-lady who followed her bother (Robert Morley) in German East Africa only to witness the efforts of a lifetime being burned down by the Kaiser's army, a fatal shock for the brother.

    But Rose is stronger than her ill-fated brother and when she accepts to set off aboard "The African Queen", she's most determined to be part of the conflict, not in the victim's departments. And the glorious boat, becomes the unlikely arena of two one dominant and one dominated spirit in Allnut, treating Rose as a lady, until he finds out that she's not a passive and fear-stricken female observer. It's indeed Rose who suggests the idea of building a torpedo, out of oxygen cylinders and inflammable material, to destroy a German ship blocking the way to British ships from a lake downriver. Allnut argues that it's going to a certain death, they'll have to navigate along a German fort, to negotiate a few rapids, to get mired on mud across dense reeds, their chances of survival are mighty slim. An unflappable Rose then confronts Allnut to his own responsibilities as both a man, and a Canadian subject of the Union Jack brandished by the boat, and Allnut, not to lose face, accepts with reluctance.

    But we know it's a matter of time before Rose drives Allnut all nut, he finally gives himself a little one-to-one gin-soaked party, driving enough anger to finally take his promise back, disappointing his distinguished and courageous host. He wakes up with one hell of a hangover and all his emptied bottles floating on the river; trying to make amends from his behavior, he explains that his drinking is only expression of human nature, to which he gets the greatest cinematic come-back ever "nature, Mr Allnut is what we're put in this world to rise above", and the line resonates as the film's motto. It's never about what we have at hands, but what we can build on it. Rosie ignites the fire of bravery in Allnut, and the exhilarating cross of the first obstacles lead to the victorious embrace, sealing the existence of a love that got from one heart to the other, through a taped adrenalin-filled boiler hose, and a few rows as tumultuous as the rapids.

    This is not Hollywood corny romantic comedy; this is John Huston confronting two genuine characters one another, an inspirational believer and a practical technician, both combining their strengths for survival and accomplishment. Katharine Hepburn might play her usual 'strong woman' role but she's never mean-spirited. On the other hand, Bogie is clearly in love with his 'Rosie', he admires her and can see that she's changing him for the better, it's not just about forming a couple, but being a team, not just about being a team, but improving, for love and for duty, whether for sharing a tent during under a heavy storm, to fix a propeller underwater or to even accept that God is still the one who has the last word.

    That's "The African Queen": thrilling, romantic, inspiring, starring the two stars, honored by the American Film Institute as the greatest screen legends, Bogart and Hepburn, in interactions full of comedy given the opposition of their personalities and a believable chemistry built on trust, incentive and partnership, this is not 'holding-hands' heroism à la "Titanic", each step is tackled with technical precision. Which makes the climactic duel with the Germans a bit less realistic by contrast but this is another aspect of Hollywood's immortal classics, sometimes; every single element has not to be taken seriously for a triumphal ending.

    Indeed, when you have great actors, great writing and great director on the tiller, the story can surely navigate its way to legend.

#PersonCrew
1John Hustondirector
2Sam Spiegelproducer
3C.S. Foresterwriter
4James Ageewriter
5John Collierwriter
6Peter Viertelwriter