Film / The African Queen

The African Queen is a 1951 romance/adventure film directed by John Huston, based on the 1935 novel by C.S. Forester, and starring Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart.

Hepburn plays Rose Sayer, a missionary's sister living in British Colonial Africa at the start of World War I. Bogart is Charlie Allnut, the hard-drinking man with a riverboat who, among other things, brings the mail from town every few weeks. When Rose's brother dies, he offers to take her to the nearest town to catch a ship to Britain. Being gutsy as she is, Rose instead creates a daring plan to build a makeshift torpedo, sail down the river (which no one has ever done) and take out the Königin Luise, a ship patrolling the German-controlled lake that is the only thing standing in the way of the British army. This being a film with a man and a woman as its primary stars in the 1950s, naturally, they fall in love.

Bogart's role won him his only Oscar, while Hepburn would add yet another nomination to her impressive collection.

The Troubled Production film made such an impression on Hepburn she later wrote a book about it, entitled The Making of The African Queen: or How I Went To Africa With Bogie, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind. Screenwriter Peter Viertel also wrote a novel about the shoot that was later adapted by Clint Eastwood as White Hunter Black Heart starring Eastwood as John Wilson (a Huston Expy). This film is notable for how damn long it took to come out on DVD despite widespread interest: it came only out in 2010, at least in the US. (An earlier British DVD was taken from a faded print. Later DVD and Blu-Ray releases are fully remastered.)

Tropes Associated With This Film Include:

  • Adaptational Badass: In the movie version, Rose and Charlie actually succeed in sinking the "Louisa". In the novel they don't, the ship has to be sunk by a couple of more modern British gunboats transported overland piece by piece and then reassembled to be launched in the East African lake.
  • Adaptational Nationality: Charlie is a patriotic working-class Englishman in the original novel. Bogart couldn't do the English accent, so the character was made Canadian. His patriotism still applies to The British Empire, which sort of works.
  • Adaptational Villainy: The Captain of the "Louisa" condemning Charlie and Rose to hang. In the novel he rejects that notion as uncivilized and hands them over to the British under a flag of truce.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Rose can never look like someone who is eaten alive by tropical insects. She's Katherine Hepburn.
    • Still mostly subverted, Bogie and Hepburn look sweaty and weather-beaten the entire film, even if they do retain their natural charisma. Even Hepburn's nice English clothes look she's been wearing them her entire ten years as a missionary.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Bring your German vocabulary flash cards.
  • Character Development: Rose learns to let go of her social inhibitions.
    • It is safe to assume that Charlie introduced her to further 'stimulating physical experiences' seeing how badly they want to get married at the end.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: An unbelievable amount of stuff gets slipped under the radar in this movie...
    • [After going down the first rapids]:
    Charlie: I don't blame you for being scared, Miss, not one little bit. Ain't no person in their right mind ain't scared of white water.
    Rose: I never dreamed that any mere physical experience could be so stimulating!
    Charlie: How's that, Miss?
    Rose: I've only known such excitement a few times before - a few times in my dear brother's sermons when the spirit was really upon him...I must say I'm filled with admiration for your skill, Mr. Allnut. Do you suppose I'll try practice steering a bit that someday I might try? I can hardly wait... Now that I've had a taste of it.
    • And the scene of her pumping the bilges, as he shows her how to do it...more...slowly...
  • Dueling-Stars Movie
  • Deus ex Machina: When the African Queen is stuck and lost in a marsh, Rose prays for help. When she and Allnut go to sleep that night, a sudden rain-storm washes them into the lake where they were headed to.
  • Dry Crusader: Rose really doesn't like people drinking alcohol and demonstrates it by dumping out Allnut's gin.
  • Grande Dame: Rose has some of the characteristics of this type, especially early on.
  • Kick the Dog: The German army burning down a native village in act one. Not an example of Moral Event Horizon in that it is implied the villagers survived and were captured, not slaughtered.
  • MacGyvering: Allnut manages to repair his damaged boat using a makeshift bellows and anvil, and uses some cannisters, blasting powder and bullets to create some makeshift ramming explosives.
  • Last Request: Allnut and Rose get one before the Germans are about to hang them. Allnut uses it to ask the captain to marry them.
    • According to The Laws and Customs of War as accepted at the time, civilians who attack soldiers were supposed to be executed, just like spies.
  • Married at Sea: Well, married at a lake, but it's still the captain who marries them. Leads to one of the most iconic lines of the film.
    Captain: I now pronounce you husband and wife - proceed with the execution.
  • Mood Whiplash: Charlie clowns around making animal noises that send Rosie into fits of laughter. Then they both notice the huge waterfall ahead...
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Rose is actually supposed to be a Briton (the sister of very British Robert Morley); for most Americans, at least, Hepburn's Bryn Mawr educated tones are a reasonable approximation. (Allnut is somewhat justified in the film [though not in the original novel] as a Canadian.)
    • To North American ears, he does not sound the least bit Canadian.
    • In novel and original script Allnut was meant to be Cockney. Huston cast Bogart and changed his nationality because he knew Bogart wasn't going to pull off that accent.
  • Opposites Attract
  • The Quest
  • Uptight Loves Wild
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: It was based on the real-life sinking of a German gunboat in World War I that required hauling a boat through the wilderness. No, it was not done by a beautiful movie star and a plucky mechanic. It was done by the Royal Navy.
    • In turn, Clint Eastwood made a thinly veiled depiction of this film's production in White Hunter Black Heart.
  • Wartime Wedding: Rose and Charlie.
  • Wasn't That Fun?: Rose liked going through rapids!