The African Queen


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The African Queen
"I can think of few films with so small a cast, yet the character development and swift-moving storyline carry you along"

Despite being 50 years old*, there is still something refreshing about watching The African Queen.

Set at the outbreak of World War I, Humphrey Bogart stars as Charlie Allnut, a gin-swigging river trader, who hooks up with a prim and proper missionary, Rose Sayer (Katharine Hepburn), after the death of her brother, Samuel (Robert Morley).

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The mismatched pair go on to enjoy a series of comic escapades, as they attempt to sail the eponymous boat down the Ulonga-Bora river to "torpedo" a German warship. Battling Germans, leeches and swarms of flies along the way, they find that love is also in the air.

I say the film is refreshing for two reasons. The first is its faith in the leading actors to carry the movie with their star quality. I can think of few films with so small a cast, yet the character development and swift-moving storyline, carry you along, like the boat they are sailing. Bogart and Hepburn seem, at first, an unlikely duo to be cast in these roles, but they turn in excellent performances, with Bogart winning an Oscar for his troubles.

The second great thing is that neither of the leading players will ever see 40 again. Their ages give the film more depth - there is something endearing about two older people finding love and adventure and a sense that romance will last. Modern directors would do well to take note.

*Editor's Note: This review was written 10 years ago about a previous edition of the film - it is now available on DVD and in cinemas in a new version which has undergone further restoration.

Reviewed on: 25 Jul 2001
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A prim missionary and boozy river trader sail a boat through Africa.
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Read more The African Queen reviews:

Max Blinkhorn *****

Director: John Huston

Writer: John Huston, James Agee, Peter Viertel, from the novel by C S Forester

Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Robert Morley, Peter Bull, Theodore Bikel

Year: 1951

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: UK


Glasgow 2011

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