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The African Queen (1951)

Trailer
0:31 | Trailer
In WWI Africa, a gin-swilling riverboat captain is persuaded by a strait-laced missionary to use his boat to attack an enemy warship.

Director:

John Huston

Writers:

C.S. Forester (novel), James Agee (adapted for the screen by) | 1 more credit »
Won 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Humphrey Bogart ... Charlie Allnutt
Katharine Hepburn ... Rose Sayer
Robert Morley ... The Brother / Rev. Samuel Sayer
Peter Bull ... Captain of Louisa
Theodore Bikel ... First Officer
Walter Gotell ... Second Officer
Peter Swanwick Peter Swanwick ... First Officer of Shona
Richard Marner ... Second Officer of Shona
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Storyline

September 1914, news reaches the colony German Eastern Africa that Germany is at war, so Reverend Samuel Sayer became a hostile foreigner. German imperial troops burn down his mission; he is beaten and dies of fever. His well-educated, snobbish sister Rose Sayer buries him and leaves by the only available transport, the dilapidated river steamboat 'African Queen' of grumpy Charlie Allnut. As if a long difficult journey without any comfort weren't bad enough for such odd companions, she is determined to find a way to do their bit for the British war effort (and avenge her brother) and aims high, as God is obviously on their side: construct their own equipment, a torpedo and the converted steamboat, to take out a huge German warship, the Louisa, which is hard to find on the giant lake and first of all to reach, in fact as daunting an expedition as anyone attempted since the late adventurous explorer John Speakes, but she presses till Charlie accepts to steam up the Ulana, about to brave... Written by KGF Vissers

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

leech | gin | drunkard | unshaved | africa | See All (56) »

Taglines:

Bogart the King is back with the 'Queen!' See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for thematic elements, some violence and smoking | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In the 1970s Viacom, then just a television syndication company, acquired the US rights to the film. It immediately licensed video rights to Magnetic Video, which soon merged with 20th Century Fox- In 1994, Viacom purchased Paramount Pictures and the film was incorporated into Paramount's library. Fox continued to hold video rights until 1997. Paramount did not issue the film on video until 2009, when a newly-restored version was released on DVD and Blu-ray. See more »

Goofs

While passing the German fort, a hose on the boiler is shot and damaged. Allnut wraps a cloth around the hose and then begins to wrap it with tape. The tape is clearly cotton-based black gaffer's tape, used in movie and stage production to cover and hide set hardware that is not to be seen. Gaffer's tape was invented by Johnson & Johnson in 1942 in response to the military's request for a tape that could be used to seal metal ammunition boxes to keep out water. Thus it did not exist in 1914 when the movie is set. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
[singing hymn, "God of Grace and God of Glory]
The BrotherRose SayerAfrican Parishioners of the First Methodist Church of Kungdu: Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: GERMAN EAST AFRICA September 1914 See more »

Connections

Referenced in Hamlet (2000) See more »

Soundtracks

God of Grace and God of Glory (Cwm Rhondda)
(uncredited)
Words by Harry Fosdick
Music by John Ceiriog Hughes
See more »

User Reviews

 
The most exciting, romantic and inspiring Odyssey of American Cinema
30 October 2013 | by ElMaruecan82See all my reviews

He loves his boat and knows the African river like his pocket. She loves her country and believes in accomplishment driven by faith and patriotism.

It's all natural that the two main protagonists of "The African Queen" turn the titular boat into the unsung heroine of a military deed, whose success is as improbable as the very thought that a straight-laced Methodist missionary spinster would fall in love with a coarse, rudimentary and gin-soaked mailman, but not so when the romance serves as the very fuel of that mission, and when it's Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn and John Huston on the lead: the miracle of "The African Queen", as movie and story, is the result of three immense talents confidently maneuvering in the same direction.

Film historian and critic Richard Schickel said about Hepburn that her secret appeal relied on the characters she usually played: "a woman on her high horse with slightly pretentious, often comically stated ideas about the world. It was for men to bring her down and get her to reveal herself as quite a good gal, sporty and democratic" generally, the task would fall to "slightly rough-necked and good-natured male" But for once, "The African Queen" provides an interesting twist to the usual formula, because it's Rose who gets Charlie on her horse. The effect is even greater because it forces Bogart to abandon his tough-guy facade, and (for once again) play a man who tries to please a woman.

Huston's "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" had already demonstrated a new range of versatility in Bogart's acting, but even as the anti-heroic Fred C. Dobbs, Bogart was exuding a threatening toughness; as Allnut, it's a new step on his career, as a more lovable kind of loser, in a performance that will earn him an Oscar for Best Actor (Hepburn, Huston and James Agee for the screenplay will also be nominated). The word 'loser' might sound too harsh, but it's still better than coward, which seems to fit Allnut's initial plan to avoid trouble and hide in a spot with enough supply of gin, waiting for that worldwide war (the first) to stop. Too bad for him, he's got Hepburn aboard, an iron-lady who followed her bother (Robert Morley) in German East Africa only to witness the efforts of a lifetime being burned down by the Kaiser's army, a fatal shock for the brother.

But Rose is stronger than her ill-fated brother and when she accepts to set off aboard "The African Queen", she's most determined to be part of the conflict, not in the victim's departments. And the glorious boat, becomes the unlikely arena of two one dominant and one dominated spirit in Allnut, treating Rose as a lady, until he finds out that she's not a passive and fear-stricken female observer. It's indeed Rose who suggests the idea of building a torpedo, out of oxygen cylinders and inflammable material, to destroy a German ship blocking the way to British ships from a lake downriver. Allnut argues that it's going to a certain death, they'll have to navigate along a German fort, to negotiate a few rapids, to get mired on mud across dense reeds, their chances of survival are mighty slim. An unflappable Rose then confronts Allnut to his own responsibilities as both a man, and a Canadian subject of the Union Jack brandished by the boat, and Allnut, not to lose face, accepts with reluctance.

But we know it's a matter of time before Rose drives Allnut all nut, he finally gives himself a little one-to-one gin-soaked party, driving enough anger to finally take his promise back, disappointing his distinguished and courageous host. He wakes up with one hell of a hangover and all his emptied bottles floating on the river; trying to make amends from his behavior, he explains that his drinking is only expression of human nature, to which he gets the greatest cinematic come-back ever "nature, Mr Allnut is what we're put in this world to rise above", and the line resonates as the film's motto. It's never about what we have at hands, but what we can build on it. Rosie ignites the fire of bravery in Allnut, and the exhilarating cross of the first obstacles lead to the victorious embrace, sealing the existence of a love that got from one heart to the other, through a taped adrenalin-filled boiler hose, and a few rows as tumultuous as the rapids.

This is not Hollywood corny romantic comedy; this is John Huston confronting two genuine characters one another, an inspirational believer and a practical technician, both combining their strengths for survival and accomplishment. Katharine Hepburn might play her usual 'strong woman' role but she's never mean-spirited. On the other hand, Bogie is clearly in love with his 'Rosie', he admires her and can see that she's changing him for the better, it's not just about forming a couple, but being a team, not just about being a team, but improving, for love and for duty, whether for sharing a tent during under a heavy storm, to fix a propeller underwater or to even accept that God is still the one who has the last word.

That's "The African Queen": thrilling, romantic, inspiring, starring the two stars, honored by the American Film Institute as the greatest screen legends, Bogart and Hepburn, in interactions full of comedy given the opposition of their personalities and a believable chemistry built on trust, incentive and partnership, this is not 'holding-hands' heroism à la "Titanic", each step is tackled with technical precision. Which makes the climactic duel with the Germans a bit less realistic by contrast but this is another aspect of Hollywood's immortal classics, sometimes; every single element has not to be taken seriously for a triumphal ending.

Indeed, when you have great actors, great writing and great director on the tiller, the story can surely navigate its way to legend.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

UK | USA

Language:

English | German | Swahili

Release Date:

21 March 1952 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The African Queen See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,000,000 (estimated)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$51,357
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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