Thursday, June 21, 2012
The African Queen
The African Queen [Blu-ray]
#17 (1998) and #65 (2007) on the AFI 100 Best Movies List
The African Queen is a 1951 adventure drama film adapted from the 1935 novel of the same name by C. S. Forester. The film was directed by John Huston and produced by Sam Spiegel and John Woolf. The screenplay was adapted by James Agee, John Huston, John Collier and Peter Viertel. It was photographed in Technicolor by Jack Cardiff and had a music score by Allan Gray. The film stars Humphrey Bogart (who won the Academy Award for Best Actor – his only Oscar), and Katharine Hepburn with Robert Morley, Peter Bull, Walter Gotell, Richard Marner and Theodore Bikel.
The African Queen has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry, with the Library of Congress deeming it "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant".
* Humphrey Bogart as Charlie Allnut
* Katharine Hepburn as Rose Sayer
* Robert Morley as Rev. Samuel Sayer
* Peter Bull as Captain of Louisa
* Theodore Bikel as the First Officer
* Walter Gotell as the Second Officer
* Peter Swanwick as the First Officer of Shona
* Richard Marner as the Second Officer of Shona
Production censors objected to several aspects of the original script, which included the two characters cohabiting without the formality of marriage. Some changes were made before the film was completed.
The film was partially financed by John Woolf and James Woolf of Romulus Films, a British company, which was so pleased with the results that they talked John Huston into directing their next picture, Moulin Rouge (1952).
Much of the film was shot on location in Uganda and the Congo in Africa. This was rather novel for the time, especially for a technicolor picture which utilized large unwieldy cameras. The cast and crew endured sickness, and spartan living conditions during their time on location. In one scene, Hepburn was playing a piano but had a bucket nearby because she was often sick between takes. Bogart later bragged that he was the only one to escape illness, which he credited to not drinking any water on location, but instead fortifying himself from the large supply of whiskey he had brought along with him.
About half of the film was shot in England. For instance, the scenes in which Bogart and Hepburn are seen in the water were all shot in studio tanks at Isleworth Studios, Middlesex. These scenes were considered too dangerous to shoot in Africa. All of the foreground plates for the process shots were also done in studio.
Most of the action takes place aboard a boat – the African Queen of the title – and scenes on board the boat were filmed using a large raft with a mockup of the boat on top. Sections of the boat set could be removed to make room for the large Technicolor camera. This proved hazardous on one occasion when the boat's boiler – a heavy copper replica – almost fell over onto Hepburn. It was not bolted down since it also had to be moved to accommodate the camera. The small steam-boat used in the film to depict the African Queen was built in 1912, in England, for service in Africa, and is now on display at Key Largo in Florida, USA. At one time it was owned by actor Fess Parker. In December 2011, plans were announced to restore the boat.
Because of the dangers involved with shooting the rapid scenes, a model was created at the studio tank in London.
The film also features a German gunboat, the Königin Luise, which is based on the former World War I vessel MV Liemba (known until 1924 as the Graf von Götzen), which was scuttled in 1916 during the Battle for Lake Tanganyika, but was subsequently refloated by the British and continues to operate as a passenger ferry to this day. The actual vessel used in the film to portray the Louisa was the steam tug Buganda owned and operated on Lake Victoria by East African Railways & Harbours.