Monday, February 21, 2011

30 Days of Oscar Day 25 - The African Queen

Movie: The African Queen
Year: 1952
Nominations: Best Actress (Katharine Hepburn), Best Actor (Humphrey Bogart), Best Director (John Huston), and Best Screenplay
Wins: Only Bogie went home with his only award, beating out Brando for Streetcar and Clift for A Place in the Sun.  Hepburn was beaten by Vivien Leigh for A Streetcar named Desire, and Huston's award went to George Stevens for A Place in the Sun which also took Screenplay.

This was one of the first movies I ever owned (Oklahoma and The African Queen on BETAMAX back in the 80s), and I've seen it and caught more and more in it every time I see it, with today being no exception.  Often when a characters in a movie rely on a map, it's usually something made up or more abstract than reality.  So, growing up I figured that's what they'd done with the maps Kate and Bogie use to navigate the river in the movie.  However, now that I'm grown up (and some say wicked smaht) and have lived in Africa myself, I can tell they were actually using a old map of Africa - with the colonial names for things mixed with tribal names so they bear little resemblance to what I know.  But it was neat looking at the movie from yet another new perspective. 

For those who haven't seen it, Hepburn plays Miss Rose Sayer, a missionary keeping house for her brother in Africa (probably in Tanzania or Zambia).  When he dies, she's forced try to get home, but WWI has gotten in the way, and the war has found its way to Africa (the monarchs gave Tanzania to the Kaiser, while Kenya stayed British).  She gets in a boat with Canadian Charlie Allnut to get back to England eventually.  However, it's rough going on a pieced together boat down rapids with crocodiles and hippos and the propriety of the time - she always calls him Mr. Allnut and he calls her Miss.  They get friendly but it's not until they're almost killed a few times that they really get to know each other.  They fight, they bicker, learn from each other and have terrific adventures, even attempting to change the course of the war.  I love this movie every time I watch it.  I'm shocked it didn't get nominated for Best Picture, and winner An American in Paris can't hold a candle to it (though it's pretty good too). 


Marc said...

I didn't watch this movie until pretty recently (last June, I think?), when it finally came out on Blu-ray. Hard to believe it had never received a digital release of any kind before that!

Watching the movie, you can definitely tell that actually filming in Africa lent a certainty authenticity not just to the setting itself, but to the acting as well. It's just great to watch the characters as their personal barriers slowly fall away, leaving the two of them alone alone with their emotions in a strange and foreign place. If I have any complaint with the movie it's that it ends a little abruptly, but everything up to that point is so brilliant that it's hard to really fault it for that.

Jess said...

Marc - I think you're right, the setting really works with them to break down the social barriers between them. They both get dirty, they both have to survive. They're in it together. I love when they're cracking up to the sound of hippos (which really do sound more like laughing).

Anonymous said...

Such a great movie. Hepburn and Bogart are two of my favorite actors and they are fantastic together.

Also, best wedding scene ever.

Jess said...

James - gotta thanks so much for making my 30 Days (or 26 so far) of Oscar so much. I don't think anyone has commented so consistently and I really appreciate it. Plus, these are great comments.