Katharine Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, “The African Queen” (1951)
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The award-winning 1951 adventure film "The African Queen" was directed by John Huston and co-starred Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. Others in the cast included Robert Morley, Peter Bull, and Theodore Bikel. All exterior scenes were filmed on location in Africa.
Synopsis, via IMDb:
In Africa during World War I, a gin-swilling riverboat captain is persuaded by a strait-laced missionary to use his boat to attack an enemy warship.
Some film trivia, via IMDb:
Humphrey Bogart hated Africa immediately and was miserable, but Katharine Hepburn adored it, calling it "utterly divine." Bogie complained about everything: the heat, the humidity, the dangers, the food. He recalled, "While I was griping, Katie was in her glory. She couldn’t pass a fern or berry without wanting to know its pedigree, and insisted on getting the Latin name for everything she saw walking, swimming, flying or crawling. I wanted to cut our ten-week schedule, but the way she was wallowing in the stinking hole, we’d be there for years."
Sources claimed that everyone in the cast and crew got sick except Humphrey Bogart and John Huston, who said they avoided illness by essentially living on imported Scotch whiskey. Bogart later said, "All I ate was baked beans, canned asparagus and Scotch whiskey. Whenever a fly bit Huston or me, it dropped dead."
In her book "The Making of ‘The African Queen,’ or How I Went to Africa with Bogie, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind", Katharine Hepburn described the first day of shooting. Five cars and trucks were needed to take the cast, crew and equipment 3.5 miles from Biondo to the Ruiki River. There they loaded everything onto boats and sailed another 2.5 miles to the shooting location. Press materials and contemporary articles detailed the perils of shooting on location in Africa, including dysentery, malaria, contaminated drinking water and several close brushes with wild animals and poisonous snakes. Most of the cast and crew were sick for much of the filming. In a February 1952 "New York Times" article, John Huston said he hired local natives to help the crew, but many would not show up for fear that the filmmakers were cannibals.
In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #65 Greatest Movie of All Time.
Lauren Bacall famously ventured along for the filming in Africa to be with husband Humphrey Bogart. She played den mother during the trip, making camp and cooking. This also marked the beginning of her life-long friendship with Katharine Hepburn.
According to cameraman Jack Cardiff, Katharine Hepburn was so sick with dysentery during shooting of the church scene that a bucket was placed off camera because she vomited constantly between takes. Cardiff called her "a real trooper." In her book "The Making of ‘The African Queen’" Hepburn said she rushed for the outhouse only to find a black mamba inside, then ran to the trees.
The African Queen was actually the L.S. Livingston, which had been a working diesel boat for 40 years; the steam engine was a prop and the real diesel engine was hidden under stacked crates of gin and other cargo. It is now docked next to the Holiday Inn in Key Largo, FL, just off US Highway 1.
In Africa at that time, moving heavy film equipment and supplies was a tricky undertaking. The roads in the area were at best just narrow paths cut out between jungles. For shooting on the river, the crew built the steam-powered "African Queen" and another boat for towing the Queen with a generator, lights and reflector platforms; it was followed by a raft with heavy camera equipment and a small crew from Britain. They also built another raft with props and sound equipment; and finally a floating makeshift dressing room/toilet for Katharine Hepburn made with bamboo. Hepburn had insisted on having the privacy of a dressing room, but after having it dragged up the river several times it was clear that it was totally impractical, so she valiantly gave it up.
Walt Disney used this film as the basis for Disneyland’s "Jungle Cruise" attraction.
Humphrey Bogart won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in this movie, making him the last man born in the 19th century to ever win a leading role Oscar.
The first choices for the lead roles were John Mills and Bette Davis. An earlier Warner Bros. version considered in 1938 was to star Davis and David Niven. RKO later proposed doing it with Charles Laughton and his wife, Elsa Lanchester.
Often the cumbersome raft carrying equipment behind the African Queen refused to follow the curve in the river while being transported, and the heavy scorching boiler would come close to tipping over. Cameras and lamps would get caught on overhanging shrubbery, boats would get caught on submerged logs, the boat engine would stop abruptly, or hornets would attack the cast and crew while shooting.
Katharine Hepburn had insisted that John Huston use Doris Langley Moore as her costume designer, as her costumes were meticulous period recreations. The brutal heat and humidity of the area, however, made it impossible for the clothes, costumes or anything to dry completely, and mold would even grow on the fabric. Hepburn desperately wanted a full-length mirror in order to check her appearance between takes, and she got one. She lugged the cumbersome mirror all over the jungles of Africa until it broke in half. Without blinking, Hepburn carried around the larger broken half without complaint.
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