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The African Queen - Starring Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart

Updated on September 21, 2017
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I'm a book blogger, the Book Lady at YouTube, and a novelist and memoir writer.

An original "African Queen" movie poster.
An original "African Queen" movie poster.

A classic adventure movie set in Africa during World War I.

I'm a fan of Katherine Hepburn, and love this movie. I think she should have been the queen, but no, the African Queen was an old, grimy river boat. It gave the classic movie, and the book on which the movie was based, their names.

Humphrey Bogart gave one of his best performances as river boat captain Charlie Allnut, a sweet but crusty alcoholic who delivered mail to the Methodist Church mission where Katherine Hepburn's character, Rose Sayer, played piano to help her brother with his congregation.

Fate plays cruel games when people least expect it. While Rose Sayer and her brother, Samuel Sayer (Robert Morley), dedicated their lives to bringing the joy of Christian love to remote African villagers,

World War I broke out and reached its pernicious tentacles into the wilds of Africa, for you see, the church was in German East Africa and the month was September, 1914.

The African Queen (Commemorative Box Set)
The African Queen (Commemorative Box Set)
This is an amazing adventure movie that will hold your attention throughout. Now, more than half a century after its release, it still resonates with universal themes of determination in the face of desperation, love that unites opposites, and strength of character during difficult times.

The movie trailer - Experience the action.

Filmed "on location" in Uganda and the Congo, and in London, Los Angeles, and Florida. (Source: The African Queen film locations.)

National Film Registry
National Film Registry

Inducted into the National Film Registry

...a significant honor!

The African Queen was one of twenty-five films inducted into the National Film Registry in 1994. The National Film Registry honors only twenty-five films each year; each film must be more than ten years old and must be culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.

The Methodist Church in Africa's where the story starts.

As the movie starts we're ushered into the 1st Methodist Church, Kungdu, German East Africa. The month is September, 1914. We see Samuel Sayer preaching and his sister Rose (Katherine Hepburn) playing the piano to lead the assembled African congregation in reverent song.

Then there's a cut to scene of the boat, The African Queen with Captain Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart) on it.

The scene is set for conflict: the pious English church musician versus the hedonist boat captain, who hails from Canada.

The captain's arrival causes a ruckus outside, distracting the Africans from their church service. The Africans leave and the captain meets the preacher and musician to deliver their mail. They go to tea. The captain's stomach rumbles with hunger as he's waiting to be served.

Before leaving the captain tells them he won't be back for a few months as the mail will be held up due to the war in Europe. This is devastating news for the Sayers. Rose tells her brother they should leave but he says he won't desert his flock.

At that moment the Germans march into town.

The preacher demands to know why the Africans are being rounded up and their huts burned. He is shoved to the ground. They will not tell him what's wrong. They can't speak English.

The church is burned!

After that, the preacher loses his mind. He can't even remember that he's in Africa!

He dies, leaving Rose alone. Then the captain returns that afternoon, conveniently there to bury the preacher and take Rose away on the boat. He says the Germans will be back to look for The African Queen.

He wants to stay hidden until the war is over. She comes up with an idea to make the boat into a torpedo using the oxygen canisters on board... to destroy the German ship.

Amazingly, he allows her to easily talk him into this crazy plan that includes the destruction of his boat! She suggests that if he doesn't do it, he will be unpatriotic in time of war, unwilling to help his country.

Soon enough on their journey, a major source of contention surfaces. Gin. He happily indulges. She is horrified.

He offers her a cup of tea.

As he's sleeping off his drunken stupor she disposes of his gin by pouring it into the river.

Thus we get the famous line:

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

Many more adventures ensue but I will not publish a lot of spoilers. This is enough to explain the setup of the movie.

The credits

...from the beginning of the movie.

Horizon Pictures Presents


Humphrey Bogart


Katherine Hepburn







Robert Morley


The Brother



Peter Bull

Theodore Bikel

Walter Gotell

Peter Swanwick

Richard Marner


Based on the Novel


by C.S. Forester

Adapted for the Screen by

James Agee & John Huston

More Credits From the Movie

Director of Photography

Jack Cardiff A.S.C.


Art Director

Wilfred Shingleton

Second Unit Photography by

Ted Scaife


Music Composed by

Allan Gray

Played by

The Royal

Philharmonic Orchestra

Conducted by

Norman Del Mar


Editor . . . Ralph Kemplen

Production Managers . . . Leigh Aman, T.S. Lyndon-Haynes

Assistant Director . . . Guy Hamilton

Assistant Art Director . . . John Hoesli

Camera Operator . . . Ted Moore

Make-Up . . . George Frost

Hairdresser . . . Eileen Bates

Miss Hepburn's Costumes designed by . . . Doris Langley Moore

Other Clothes by . . . Connie De Pinna

Wardrobe Mistress . . . Vi Murray

Continuity . . . Angela Allen

Special Effects . . . Cliff Richardson

Sound Recordist . . . John Mitchell

Sound Editor . . . Eric Wood





Distributed by

Madison Reports and Releasing Corp.

Copyright by Horizon Enterprises Inc. 1951




Sam Spiegel




John Huston

The Oscar - Academy Award
The Oscar - Academy Award

Academy Awards

...Humphrey Bogart won!

Humphrey Bogart was nominated for Best Actor for his performance in The African Queen - and he won! It was his only Oscar.

Other nominations went to:

Katherine Hepburn for Best Actress for her performance in The African Queen. She lost to Vivien Leigh for her performance in A Streetcar Named Desire. No matter; Katherine Hepburn still holds the record for the most Oscars - she won as Best Actress four times, for Morning Glory (1933), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), The Lion in Winter (1968), and On Golden Pond (1981).

James Agee and John Huston were nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. They lost to Michael Wilson and Harry Brown who won the Oscar for A Place in the Sun.

John Huston was nominated for Best Director. He lost to George Stevens who won Best Director for A Place in the Sun.

John Huston received fifteen Academy Award nominations, but never won - however he directed films for which his father, Walter Huston, and his daughter, Anjelica Huston, won Oscars. They were Treasure of the Sierra Madre and Prizzy's Honor.

James Agee never won an Oscar however his autobiographical novel, A Death in the Family, won the Pulitzer Prize.

The African Queen
The African Queen

The Boat still exists!

The boat used in the movie still exists! It is in dry dock in Key Largo, Florida.

This photo's copyright belongs to Wikipedia user, Elmschrat, and is used with Creative Commons permission. Click on the photo to go to the photograph's Wikipedia Commons page where you can see a much larger image.

Any comments about Katherine Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, or the movie? - always...

Submit a Comment
  • Underrated profile image


    7 years ago

    A classic

  • cinefile profile image


    8 years ago

    I didn't know Katharine Hepburn wrote a book about making this movie, I'll definitely have to read it. Thanks for the tip.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Nice lens, particularly enjoyed your introduction to a great film.

  • SquidooPower profile image


    8 years ago

    Great movie!

  • anmatt lm profile image

    anmatt lm 

    9 years ago

    Thanks for publishing this. It brought back memories. I loved the movie when I saw it as a teenager. I think it might be time to see it again :-)

  • PNWtravels profile image

    Vicki Green 

    9 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

    Nicely done lens on one of my all-time favorite movies.

  • atirial profile image


    9 years ago

    The classics are the best. Nice lens on an excellent film!

  • Spook LM profile image

    Spook LM 

    9 years ago

    I love watching some of the old classics. Well done. Blessed by an Angel.


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