Blog Directory CineVerse: Adventure and romance in Africa -- Hollywood style

Adventure and romance in Africa -- Hollywood style

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Now 68 years old, "The African Queen" is a vessel that shows its age yet still maintains fine form while demonstrating impressive resiliency and strength--thanks in large part to the powerhouse casting of Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. Our CineVerse group discussed this John Huston-helmed classic last night and drew these conclusions:

What makes this film memorable and a cut above? What elements particularly shine?
  • It’s shot on location in the Belgian Congo, adding to the realism; in 1951, it was extremely rare not to recreate exotic locales within the studio or on a lot. Here, the filmmakers actually travel to Africa and risk the cast and crews to many perils, including stampeding elephants and waterborne illness.
  • The tramp steamer itself and the natural environment become crucial and colorful characters in the film.
  • The film ticks many genre and subgenre boxes: romance, action/adventure, war film, and drama.
  • Humphrey Bogart’s Charlie Allnut continues the Huston tradition of using anti-heroes as one of the main protagonists; consider how Bogart and Huston bring many other anti-heroes to life in films like The Maltese Falcon, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and Key Largo. Allnut’s gruff personality, penchant for booze and smokes, and overall griminess make him a classic anti-hero, although he evolves into a more classic hero/good guy as the movie progresses.
  • The filmmakers used Technicolor cameras, which were difficult to haul and position on a remote shoot on the water; hence, the cameras had to show closer and closer shots of Charlie and Rose—establishing an intimacy with the audience.
  • Bogart and Hepburn represent a colossal coup of casting—two superstars never before paired together—that works wondrously. We believe in their characters’ unexpected romance, one of the greatest in the classic Hollywood era.
  • “Great movie romances aren’t easy to accomplish, and the best ones tend to think outside of the box. Here we have two relatively older people from opposite walks of life falling for each other in a surprisingly short amount of time. It shouldn’t work, but it does. And as time goes on, The African Queen’s many breaks from typical romances only make it seem more modern and fresh,” wrote movie blogger Evan Saathoff.
Themes prevalent in The African Queen
  • Humanism vs. divine intervention. Charlie and Rose demonstrate the amazing capacity for human beings to rise above their flaws and challenges, be resourceful (such as making torpedoes out of spare parts) and solve problems, and draw from inner strengths, yet some of the ways they escape incredible danger seem to almost be deus ex machina-like (such as avoiding death on the rapids, getting unstuck from the mud and weeds, not being hanged or blown up when the torpedoes sink the Louisa, etc.).
  • Nature versus man. Set in an exotic and dangerous locale, with elements, animals and the natural environment representing significant threats to survival, Charlie and Rose have the odds stacked against them. And yet, they are able to hold their own against nature but nearly succumb to the threat posed by other human beings (the Germans).
  • Opposites attract. Charlie is a gritty, worldly man with lots of doubts and pessimism as well as vices (smoking and drinking); Rose is a prim, proper woman of stout religious beliefs whose optimism and determination help them survive and fulfill their mission.
  • True love conquers all. If this sounds like a sappy convention from classic Hollywood movies, it’s because it is; this is a classic Hollywood movie that makes you believe in the power of true love and its ability to overcome obstacles.
  • The doomed quest. As in many films by John Huston (including Moby Dick, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and The Man Who Would Be King), our protagonists are on a bit of a suicide mission—or at least think they are.
Movies similar to The African Queen
  • Jean Renoir’s The River (also from 1951)
  • Heaven Knows, Mr. Alison
  • Rooster Cogburn
  • Australia
  • White Hunter, Black Heart
  • Apocalypse Now (much of the story also takes place on smaller ship)
  • The Empire Strikes Back
Other films directed by John Huston 
  • The Maltese Falcon
  • Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  • Key Largo
  • The Asphalt Jungle
  • The African Queen
  • Moby Dick
  • The Misfits
  • The Man Who Would Be King
  • Prizzi’s Honor
  • The Dead

  © Blogger template Cumulus by 2008

Back to TOP