The African Queen (1951)

african queen poster 1951 movie
9.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 10/10

Impressive for its time, a classic

Slow paced compared to some of todays similar films

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The African Queen

Studio:  Romulus Films/Horizon Pictures

Genre(s):  Action/Adventure/Romance/Drama/War

Release Date(s):  December 26, 1951 (Premiere)/January 7, 1952 (UK)/March 21, 1952 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

african queen charlie rose katharine hepburn humphrey bogart

Glad we’re past that whole love/hate relationship, Rosie

Missionaries Rose Sayer (Katharine Hepburn) and her brother Samuel (Robert Morley) find their world in Africa upended when war breaks out in Europe.  The Great War has spread to Africa and when tragedy strikes, Rose finds her way down the river with Canadian boat captain Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart) on his boat the African Queen.  Their goal is a lake patrolled by a German ship called Königin Luise…but the river might kill them first.

Directed by John Huston (who penned the screenplay with James Agee, Peter Viertel, and John Collier), The African Queen is an action adventure film.  Based on C.S. Forester’s 1935 novel, the movie was a critical and box office success.  It received Academy Award for Best Actor (Bogart) with nominations for Best Actress (Hepburn), Best Director, and Best Screenplay.  It was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress in the National Film Registry in 1994.

african queen model boat rapids

Just like when I’d send plastic boats down the creek…

The African Queen was another hole in my movie watching.  A classic, it just never lined up right for viewing.  Having finally seen the film, I can see how The African Queen inspired films years after it was made.

The movie has a strange balance.  It is both a romance and adventure…but there also is some room for a bit of comedy (generally of errors) in the film.  It starts out like a typical rom-com in that there is a he-hates-her/she-hates-him type of relationship between Charlie and Rose which of course becomes love.  The movie sometimes goes dark and then ends dark…but then an almost farcical turn (which also oddly is reminiscent of Jaws in its final scene).

The cast is good, but it is a different style of acting than you’d expect today.  Bogart is loud and boisterous, but he also quickly changes his tune toward Hepburn’s Rose (probably faster than she does).  Hepburn is at her best in this film as both great timing and delivery.  The movie is largely just the two actors working together, and they do it well.

african queen ending charlie rose swimming to shore jaws

Pretty much just like the ending of Jaws…but substitute a shark for The African Queen

The movie has a lot of technical shots for the time with various different means of achieving the effect of a boat travelling down the river.  It is also noted for using locations shots in Uganda and the Congo which was unusual for Hollywood at the time.  While some of the projection shots and model shots don’t look as good today (and you can see a car going through the background after the boat sinks), the vast location spots do hold up.

The African Queen is a “must” that I didn’t see soon enough.  I think I would have liked it even more if I had seen it younger…or perhaps I could have hated it when comparing it to other adventure films that were released as a result of the success of the film.  It is one of those types of films that helps you understand film in general…and I will always recommend films that manage to do that.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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