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Customer Review

189 of 217 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most unique classics in Hollywood history, February 8, 2004
This review is from: The African Queen (DVD)
Familiarity can sometimes numb us to how very odd a movie is, and that is certainly the case with THE AFRICAN QUEEN. Most polls that have been done in recent years typically denote Humphrey Bogart as the greatest movie star of all time, and frequently Katherine Hepburn gets the number two slot (and always gets the number one slot for women). Yet, these roles are almost antithetical to everything else they ever did. Bogart, the great man of action of CASABLANCA and THE MALTESE FALCON and THE BIG SLEEP, is reduced to a dirty, disheveled, lewd, drunken captain of a remarkably inconsequential boat with the profoundly self-mocking name of "The African Queen." Hepburn, who has made her career playing unbridled, liberated, and self-assertive modern women, here is a prudish (though only for a while), repressed, tightly wound spinster. But despite this highly unusual pairing, the film was one of the finest that either was ever in, netting Bogart his only Oscar (and unbelievably, only one of three nominations) and Hepburn what was something like her 200th Oscar nomination. It seems perverse that the only other two nominations were for Best Director (Huston) and screenplay (the great James Agee and Huston). I'm not sure how a film can get nominations for four of the top five awards and not get nominated for Best Picture, but it did (the five films nominated that year were the deserving AN AMERICAN IN PARIS [the winner], the somewhat censored A STREET CAR NAMED DESIRE, A PLACE IN THE SUN [which has not aged well], and the considerably less deserving QUO VADIS and DECISION BEFORE DAWN).
Today we take filming on location for granted, but in the 1940s and 1950s, few producers and directors opted for filming on the spot upon which the film was supposed to take place. Films might go to a famous locale and shoot a couple of scenes for realistic flavoring, as with a couple of scenes in ON THE TOWN or AN AMERICAN IN PARIS. Many Westerns had been shot on location, but that was no great challenge given the close proximity of Hollywood to Western locales. John Huston had previously filmed THE TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE in Mexico, but going to the Congo and Uganda for extensive filming had rarely been attempted (sorry, all those Tarzan movies were filmed in California). It was a spectacular undertaking (which Katherine Hepburn recorded in a book she wrote about making THE AFRICAN QUEEN).
There is a war plot that provides the setting for the film, but to be honest it really isn't very important. What is crucial is the remarkable dynamics between Bogart and Hepburn, as they go from loathing one another, to liking, and then to loving. It has to be the most unlikely love story in the history of film, and yet somehow these two great actors not only manage to sell it, but make it quietly majestic. There is not much in the way of cast to speak of, apart from the two leads. Robert Morley manages a small but memorable part near the beginning of the film, but Bogart and Hepburn utterly dominate the film's onscreen time. Luckily, they have no trouble pulling it off.
As odd as this film was, there had been attempts to make it into a film for quite some time. If one is familiar with Bette Davis's career, there had been a couple of attempts to film it with her in the lead with various leading men (including James Mason). But surely Katherine Hepburn is the perfect Rose Sayer. Like in THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, she can communicate self-righteousness better than anyone. Davis would only have managed egotistical haughtiness. But I'm sure everyone would agree that the casting ended up being for the best.
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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 19, 2007 7:13:09 AM PDT
J. Youmans says:
A great review, thank you. But PLEASE everyone, the word "unique" means, one-of-a-kind, like no other. There are no degrees of uniqueness. Somthing is either unique or not. Spread the word and stop saying, "very unique", etc. Phew. Thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 5, 2009 5:29:28 PM PST
K. Gittins says:
Ditto to both points.

Posted on Jan 12, 2010 1:18:54 PM PST
Just FYI, her name is spelled Kath"a"rine and not Kath"e"rine. It used to infuriate her when people spelled her name with an "e" instead of an "a", stating that "if you're such a big fan of mine, why don't you even know how to spell my name?" She is Number 1 on AFI's list of the 50 Greatest Actresses of all time so I'm surprised you didn't know this.

Posted on Feb 12, 2010 5:36:53 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 12, 2010 5:52:51 AM PST
Leebo says:
(to Robert Moore)

Thank you! It's now 6 years after you wrote your review, but it's one of the best I've read on Amazon; or maybe it just seems that way because this is one of best movies I own. I have now bought this three times, starting with VHS. It's too early for a Blu-ray review so maybe I'll take a chance (?).

Posted on Nov 26, 2010 3:22:33 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 26, 2010 3:26:03 PM PST
MMH says:
This review seems far too long for me. A "review" at Amazon is not the same as a review by a newspaper reviewer who has an entire column to fill. I became bored by the second paragraph. Basically, all we want to know is whether or not you liked the product, and why or why not. Long essays are for another place. Please be far more concise the next time. This is not a place for grandstanding or ego trips. As you can see, your review angered me. TMI.

I am happy to see that someone else corrected the spelling of Ms Hepburn's name.
She never read letters on which her name was misspelled.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2010 10:58:03 AM PST
Leebo says:
To MMH -

Beg to differ! I love reading reviews like that. Why do you bother, if it's too long? Just skip it, and speed on by...

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 30, 2010 7:43:49 AM PST
To Leebo:

Ditto what you said. I appreciate reviews that go into detail not only about plot but about quality of transfer to disc and backstory.

Excellent review by R. Moore and most appreciated by me!

Posted on Oct 17, 2011 10:54:21 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 17, 2011 11:05:42 AM PDT
I assume most people have seen this movie many times. But just in case:



I once read the novel this movie was based on. There were only two main differences. 1) In the book Rosie and Charlie actually make love. Many times, in fact. It was tastefully written but it was clear they were having sex. 2) The book ended differently. They failed to sink the Louisa.

To get around the censors John Huston gave Rosie the line (referring to flowers they found growing next to the river): "I've never seen them before." In other words, she was still a virgin. In the movie they only kiss and hug and caress. But in the novel it's clear they are doing more than that.

I prefer Huston's ending. After seeing them go through all that trouble it was nice to see it pay off for them in the end. I don't demand happy endings, but let's face it, we all like them. Rosie and Charlie may have died in the end of the novel. I can't remember that part. All I remember is that they didn't sink the Louisa.

So in my opinion Huston only improved the story. As to leaving out the sex----come on! Do adults really need that? We can use our imaginations. Leaving out the sex is OK, in my opinion. Unless the story is specifically *about* sex, then leaving it out means that the film is more appropriate for a wider range of ages. Pretty much all the films I grew up watching were like that. I'm used to it. It doesn't detract from *classic* movies, so why should it detract from contemporary films. It all depends on the importance of sex to the story line. Actually, I think modern filmmakers could learn a lot from that. The problem is that contemporary filmmakers see anything under an R rating as box office poison if the story is intended for adult audiences.

Some directors seem to be wising up about that. Some don't.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 12, 2012 9:33:44 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 12, 2012 9:39:46 AM PDT
billinrio says:
Look, MMH: Your complaint is completely off base. If your attention span is so short, and extensive reviews "anger" you, just skip any of them that are over a paragraph in length.

In reply to an earlier post on May 1, 2014 5:57:38 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 1, 2014 6:00:04 PM PDT
Nancoise says:
Of course they have sex B.T. Delions! It happens between the big smooch moment and when she brings him "breakfast" in bed and they are so very changed. It's implicit the sex continues from then on in their relationship and is part of the reason Charlie requests they be married. This film does not show them going potty or Charlie actually chopping the wood--but of course those things would have happened too. Imagination, dear!
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Review Details



Robert Moore

Location: Little Rock, AR USA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 277