Saturday, April 28, 2012

The African Queen (1951)

The straight laced Reverend Sayer (Robert Morley) and his sister Rose (Katharine Hepburn) run a missionary deep in Africa during the onset of the first world war. Their only contact with the world outside is through Charlie (Humphrey Bogart), the captain of the African Queen, one of the few steam ships capable of navigating the treacherous rivers of central Africa. Because of his importance for delivering supplies and news, they tolerate his uncouth ways.

Soon, the German army arrives to offer their assistance. That is, they burn the native's huts and conscript them into the German army. This displeases the Missionaries Sayer very much. Well, after tubby drops dead, good 'oll Charlie shows up again. After deciding that time on a river boat with the gin swilling Charlie is slightly better than being murdered by proto-Nazis, she goes with him. Then, when Rose learns that the German position in Africa is fortified by the presence of a gun boat that patrols a large lake, she decides to settle the score.

Go figure, it's a color film! I remember seeing it in my youth (leeches, bleck!) and apparently it was on a black and white TV. Anyhow, the thing that struck me most was the appearance of the two A-list actors. Bogart appeared scrawny and Hepburn old. Both actors were a bit long in the tooth come 1951, and Bogart was never an imposing physical specimen, but it was interesting they chose to be depicted as they actually were. Maybe that honesty that led the Academy to give Humph the only Oscar he would ever receive. Or maybe they felt he needed to be rewarded for his body of work. Either way, he'd be gone in six years. Smoking is bad, hmmm Ok?

Despite it's reputation, and the reputation of it's actors and director, I found The African Queen to be a bit dull. Still worth seeing, but a little bit of a disappointment. AMRU 3.
"Well I ain't sorry for you no more, ya crazy, psalm-singing, skinny old maid!"

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