The African Queen

TJR review

This 1951 classic has a screenplay written by John Huston, based on a C.S. Forester novel. It stars Humphrey Bogart as a boozy riverboat pilot (with an Oscar for best actor) in Africa at the beginning of WWI. His passenger, Rose Sayer (Kathryn Hepburn) is a Methodist missionary who engages with Bogie in a classic exchange as they navigate the treacherous Ulanga River. Then, it gets really exciting. (Hint: we beat the Germans in WWI.)

James Berardinelli 75/100 (good reviewer)

Over the course of a 26 year career that encompassed more than 75 movies, Humphrey Bogart made only five color films. The first and most respected of those was 1951’s The African Queen, the last of five pictures he made with his good friend, director John Huston. The African Queen also represented the only time Bogart was paired with Hollywood legend Katharine Hepburn. For Bogart, The African Queen capped his career.

While The African Queen was financially successful in its day (being the 12th most-seen film of 1952), it has withstood the passage of time without losing its mystique. Most people with a knowledge of film history know of the movie even if they haven’t seen it. Those with an aversion to black-and-white may find The African Queen more aesthetically appealing than Bogart’s greatest titles.

Roger Ebert 100/100 (good reviewer)

Holding forth about actors a few years ago, John Huston allowed as how there were good ones and bad ones, and then there were a few like splendid thoroughbreds: All you had to do was judge their gait and you could see they had class. In this category, he placed Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. He didn't mention any movies, but he must have been thinking about their performances in his own justly celebrated classic, "The African Queen" (1951).

Huston went on location in the Congo to make the movie, which won Bogie his only Oscar and inspired a spate of parodies (remember Sid Caesar, Alfred E. Newman and practically everyone else dragging that boat down the river?). It was the most popular film of 1951, and that rather surprised everybody since Bogart and Hepburn were supposedly past their prime at the box office and the plot didn't sound so hot when you described it.