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The African Queen

Updated on September 24, 2014

Bogart and Hepburn together for the only time


'The African Queen' gained Humphrey Bogart an Oscar for his role as the hard-drinking riverboat captain. The film is classic Huston material--part adventure, part quest--but this time with a pair of characters who'd all but given up on happiness. Bogart (a long-time collaborator with Huston on such classics as The Maltese Falcon and Key Largo) and Hepburn have never been better, and support from frequent Huston crony Robert Morley adds some extra dimension and colour.
Bogart was given a rare opportunity to demonstrate his range as an actor, more than holding his own opposite the formidable Hepburn... He played many scenes with maximum effectiveness, down impossible rapids, where he becomes covered with leeches and suffers a severe fever attack, his drunk scene where he rebels against Hepburn and mocks her high-blown speeches, and the tender moments in which he realizes he's fallen under her bewitching spell...

The film has a great, if implausible, story-line made believable by brilliant acting from the principal actors and it was nominated for four Academy Awards in 1951. The acting of the two principal actors - Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn - is some of the strongest ever registered on film, (although this was their first and only pairing together) and it is no coincidence that they are each classed at number one all time position for actor and actress by the American film Institute.

The film has rightly proved to be one of the classics of Hollywood adventure filmmaking, with comedy and romance besides. It was the first color film for the two leads and for director Huston.

The Original Trailer

Plot Summary

The African Queen tells the unlikely but compelling tale of two companions with utterly mismatched personalities who develop a strangely touching love affair as they travel together downriver in Africa at the start of World War I.

It is the story of an English missionary and spinster, Rose Sayer (Katharine Hepburn),who is forced to flee her mission after German troops destroy the village. A Canadian supplier, Charlie Alnutt (Bogart), offers to take her downriver to civilization in his little river steamer, The African Queen. The contrast in their personalities (Rose is a very proper Edwardian English missionary and Charlie is a scruffy, gin-drinking seaman) becomes the first major source of their disagreements, which only worsen when Rose decides she wants to do her patriotic duty and follow the river all the way down to the lake where she plans to sink the German cruiser guarding it with homemade torpedoes. Needless to say, Charlie doesn't take to this in the slightest, but his conscience gets the better of him and he agrees to humor Rose until she discovers for herself how futile the whole idea is.

There are massive rapids on the Ulanga and Allnut takes Rose down the first set to make her change her mind. Far from discouraged, she still wants to press on. A few days later, the African Queen goes over a small waterfall, after being shot at by the German lookouts at the fortress of Shona. The boat needs many repairs including a new shaft and prop.

After a heroic repair job by both Rose and Charlie, the river seems to peter out and the two get lost in the dense reeds. They resort to pushing and pulling the 'Queen', but it's all to no avail. The boat gets stranded in the mud when the water level drops. All seems lost, but a huge storm floods the river and Allnut and Rose wake up afloat on the lake the next morning. They start to make a torpedo out of oxygen tanks aboard the African Queen but a storm capsizes the boat.

Charlie and Rose are captured and taken aboard the German vessel. Allnut says he was just fishing, but the Germans don't believe him and sentence him to death for giving false testimony. Rose tells the true story, but they still sentence them both to death. Before they're hanged, Allnut asks the German Captain to marry them. After the "wedding" the African Queen resurfaces with the torpedo facing the Louisa. The boats collide and the Louisa is destroyed, allowing Allnut and Rose to swim ashore to freedom with their objective carried out.

Principal Cast

Charlie Allnut........

......Humphrey Bogart

Humphrey Bogart (1899-1957) became famous for portrayals of tender-hearted heroes with tough and cynical exteriors.

Though he began his acting career on the stage after military service in World War I, in 1930 he made his first motion picture and was on his way to becoming one of Hollywood's most prominent leading men of the 1940s and '50s. He was nominated as Best Actor for his portrayal of Rick Blane, Ingrid Bergman's rekindled romance, in the Best Picture of 1943, CASABLANCA, but won his first and only Oscar for THE AFRICAN QUEEN. He was nominated for a third and final time in 1954 for THE CAINE MUTINY.

"I should never have switched from scotch to martinis." Is said to be Bogart's last words. A movie legend, indeed.

Rose Sayer.....

......Katharine Hepburn
Katharine Hepburn holds the record for most number of Oscars won. Her career as a leading lady spanned seven decades, over fifty quality films (running the gamut from screwball comedies and romances to high drama), and twelve Oscar nominations (another record) and four Oscars, three of them after the age of sixty. She formed memorable screen partnerships with the likes of Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy and director George Cukor but outlasted all of them and excelled just as easily on her own. Her position on the AFI list of Movie Actresses? Number One.

Reverend Samuel Sayer........

......Robert Morley (1908-1992)

Robert Morley's portly frame, double chin and perpetual look of pop-eyed surprise made him one of the screen's most recognisable performers and one of its most endearing personalities. It always appeared that to him acting was no more than a delightful game for which one was paid.A versatile actor, especially in his younger years, he played roles as divergent as those of Louis XVI, for which he received an Academy Award Nomination as Best Supporting Actor (Marie Antoinette 1938). He also received Oscar nominations for Oscar Wilde (1960) and for his role in The African Queen.

Other Cast Members

Captain of Louisa              Peter Bull

First Officer             Theodore Bikel

Second Officer             Walter Gotell

Petty Officer             Gerald Onn

First Officer of Shona             Peter Swanwick

Second Officer of Shona             Richard Marner

A Happy Ending

The African Queen

Reader Feedback

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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Great movie! The combination of Hepburn and Bogart is magic.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 

      10 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I love The African Queen. It's one of my top five movies of all time. Your lens made me smile with good movie memories!


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