65 – The African Queen (1951)

Charlie: It’s a great thing to have a lady aboard with clean habits. It sets the man a good example. A man alone, he gets to living like a hog.


Seen before?

R: No.

F: No.



R: I wasn’t particularly looking forward to watching this, but I’d definitely say it’s the best love story set on a boat we’ve seen on the list so far! (The other of course being Titanic.)

F: Don’t forget Sunrise! But I agree – after seeing Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby playing possibly the most annoying character in the history of film I was nervous before watching this. But she is infinitely less annoying here.

R: There’s not a lot to dislike, is there? Compared to Titanic, we have a less cringey script and better developed lead characters. Where Jack and Rose were these flawless people who had weird unnatural conversations, Charlie and Rosie are both more interesting, flawed (he drinks, she’s naïve) and their relationship feels a lot truer to life.

F: Yes a really great pairing. Their relationship feels natural and not forced. That said, I think he should have reacted more to her throwing the gin off the side!

R: Noted – I won’t ever dare throw away any of your alcohol!

F: Also, I found the overriding story of a small steam boat attempting to take out a German warship a bit far-fetched. What did you think?

R: Yes it is all a bit unbelievable – particularly their ability to survive some of the white water rapids. But having just watched Raiders of the Lost Ark this felt a lot like a spiritual predecessor. Both films demand you suspend your disbelief for the action sequences, but both work because they’ve got well developed characters you believe in and root for. Charlie is particularly strong, I think, largely down to Humphrey Bogart’s thoroughly enjoyable, eye-rolling performance.

F: Yeah he’s really great here. I’ve always thought Bogart to be quite an unlikely movie star. He’s got quite an odd face but that allows him to play a wide range of characters, both good guys and bad guys. But he’s having a lot of fun here. Although from what I’ve heard the actual shoot of this was far from fun…

R: My guess watching this was that most of the scenes with Bogart and Hepburn were filmed in London. Is that not the case?

F: According to Wikipedia (granted not always the most realible source) large parts were filmed in Africa and everyone got sick! Except Bogart who just drank gin rather than the water. But I think most of the boat scenes were filmed in a studio.

R: Yes it’s sometimes quite obvious in the boat scenes that there is a man with a bucket just out of shot who’s throwing water at them! But this was 1951, and it’s all edited together pretty well to give a reasonably convincing illusion. How do you think the film holds up for a 21st century audience? It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I’m thinking this might be the simplest story we’ve seen so far on the list.

F:  I was also surprised how effective the colour was. Sometime early colour films feel quite fake. I agree with you in that there were no surprises here. From about 5 minutes in I knew exactly how things were going to pan out. But it’s an effective story that is well told.

R: There is nothing​ wrong with simple – it certainly beats over-elaborate. But I think the predictability is a bit of an issue. It’s a very gentle film – perfectly enjoyable – but never truly thrilling.

F: Gentle is a nice way of putting it. But I do think there are elements that lift this above other films.


Is it worthy of the top 100?

R: Doesn’t feel like there’s enough here to make it really stand out. No from me.

F: Yes I enjoyed it and was able to forgive some of the more far-fetched moments.


Up next:
64 – Network (1976)
66 – Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

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