Reverend Samuel Sayer
Captain of Louisa
First Officer of Shona
Second Officer of Shona
Based on a novel by
Director of Photography
Second Unit Director
Film Editing by
Original Music by
Miss Hepburn's Customer
Costume Design by
S.P. Eagle aka Sam Spiegel
James Agee, John Huston
Leigh Aman, T.S. Lyndon-Haynes, Wilfred Shingleton, John Hoesli
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Norman Del Mar
Doris Langley Moore
Connie De Pinna
VHS / DVD
A Horizon-Romulus Production
A United Artists Release
Produced: May 1951-August 1951
Filmed on and around the following locations:
Biondo - Democratic Republic Of Congo
Ponthierville Falls - Ponthierville - Democratic Republic Of Congo
Ruiki River - Democratic Republic Of Congo
Port Butiaba - Uganda (Kungdu Village and Church)
Kabalega Falls National Park - Uganda
Lake Albert - Uganda
Murchison Falls - Uganda
Dalyan - Turkey
Iverson Ranch - Chatsworth - Los Angeles - California - USA
Shepperton Studios - Shepperton - Surrey - England - UK
Worton Hall Studios - Isleworth - Middlesex - England - UK
Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden - Arcadia - California - USA
Los Angeles - California - USA
Premiere: December 23, 1951
In German East Africa, during the early days of World War I, German soldiers burn a native village, destroying the church and causing the death of the Reverend Samuel Sayer. The missionary's old-maid sister, Rose, is offered sanctuary by a gin-swilling ne'er-do-well riverboat pilot, named Charlie Allnut, who proposes sitting out the war in the backwaters. Rose strongly suggests a daring plan to go downriver and try to sink a 100-foot German gunboat commanding the area, which blocks a British invasion.
Bosley Crowther - The New York Times - 1951
"Performance-wise, Bogart has never been seen to better advantage. Nor has he ever had a more knowing, talented film partner than Miss Hepburn....In the lady missionary role Katharine Hepburn is fluttery and airy in her very best comedy style, and Humphrey Bogart is humourously sodden and resentful as the river-boat tramp. In her maidenly anxiety about bathing in proximity to this outlandish man, Miss Hepburn tips off the brand of humor that Mr. Huston originally conceived."
Pauline Kael - The New Yorker
"An inspired piece of casting brought Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn together. This is a comedy, a love story, and a tale of adventure, and it is one of the most charming and entertaining movies ever made. The director, John Huston, has written that the comedy was not present either in the novel by C.S. Forester or in the original screenplay by James Agee, John Collier, and himself, but that it grew out of the relationship of Hepburn and Bogart, who were just naturally funny when they worked together. Hepburn has revealed that the picture wasn't going well until Huston came up with the inspiration that she should think of Rosie as Mrs. Roosevelt. After that, Bogart and Hepburn played together with an ease and humor that makes their love affair - the mating of a forbidding, ironclad spinster and a tough, gin-soaked riverboat captain - seem not only inevitable, but perfect. The story, set in central Africa in 1914, is so convincingly acted that you may feel a bit jarred at the end; after the lovers have brought the boat, the African Queen, over dangerous rapids to torpedo a German battleship, Huston seems to stop taking the movie seriously."
Geoff Andrew - Time Out
"Impossible to deny this film?s entertainment value, even if it's hardly the great classic it's often claimed to be. Bogart, hammier than usual and thus managing to win an Oscar, is the gin-swigging, cussing river trader who helps prim missionary Hepburn to escape the Germans in East Africa during World War I. Their trying odyssey downriver, of course, gradually sees the two incompatibles falling in love, with the as always detached Bogart finally discovering commitment and attacking a German gunboat. A witty script by James Agee (from CS Forester?s novel) and fine colour photography by Jack Cardiff help to counteract the basically contrived and implausible nature of the story."
What Kate had to say
Katharine Hepburn - Me - 1991
"He [John Huston] was an amazing character. He had flashes. And those flashes were brilliant - when he told me to base my character of Rosie on Eleanor Roosevelt when she visited the hospitals of the wounded soldiers, always with a big smile on her face. He had felt that I was playing Rosie too seriously, and that since my mouth turned down anyway, it was making the scenes heavy. Since I (as Rosie) was the sister of a minister, my approach to everyone and everything had to be full of hope. A smile. It was indeed a FLASH of brilliance. In short, he had told me exactly how to play the part."
"The reason I got dysentery was my temperance! I was so busy complaining about Bogie and John drinking hard liquor I tried to shame them by drinking water in their presence at mealtimes. Well, the water was full of germs! They never got sick, and I had the Mexican trots and was in bed every day for weeks! I thought I was going to die - and in the Belgian Congo!"
What fellow actors, the director and friends had to say
"She always had a big straw hat keeping the sun off her face and a torn shirt. George Cukor used to always say, You think that Katie has no clothes. You don't understand that she has a closet full of khaki pants and shirts all custom-made." You know, she was never a fashion maven; she was just a natural. She believed in comfort."
Lauren Bacall - By Myself - 1979
"I think her major concern when she started The African Queen was that [Humphrey Bogart and John Huston] would both be drinking all of the time, which, of course, they were not. We would all sit at the table, and she was studying them. For a woman to go out to Africa with these two crazy men; who the hell knows. All through the making of The African Queen, we were buddies. We came back from shooting one day and went into our huts. Both of us came screaming out because the floors of our cabins were just covered with ants. She had a stomach problem; she never complained. She just kept on going. She had nobody there with her, no assistants, no entourage, nothing. She was just Katie. Bogie had enough of Africa by the end of the shoot. Katie would be riding a bicycle, picking wildflowers. She could have stayed there for a year."
"She was a true eccentric. And I found that no one is sexier than Katie, especially before a movie camera, and you remember she has legs like Dietrich's. The twenty years since I saw them on the stage in The Warrior's Husband hadn't hurt them at all. You learn to brand as rank slander the crack that you can throw a hat at Katie and it'll hang wherever it hits."
"Katie Hepburn had to do a jungle strip to change costumes. But that woman is sensational. I'll tell you frankly, she used to irritate the bejeepers out of me with all theat 'mahvelous' talk. But when I got to know her I found out she's one helluva dame. She was up to her-well, she was up to here in mud and water for weeks, but she's a real pro and a regular dame."
"She took to Africa like a duck to water. In fact, Katie, who first regarded me as something of a murderer for my big-game hunting during off times when we were waiting for additional equipment to catch up with us, turned into my staunchest hunt companion. She didn't do any shooting, but she carried a gun and a camera, and I have seen her stand fast when the elephants were stampeding, and advance with only a 16 mm camera in her hands on a forest pig which stood four feet at the withers and could lay a man wide open with a little thrust of his foot-long tusks."
"I remember the many nights I sat with Kate on the top deck of the paddle boat and watched the eyes of the hippos in the water all around us... We talked about nothing and everything. But there was never any idea of romance - Spencer Tracy was the only man in Kate's life."
Jack Cardiff - 2003
"We all had this terrible sickness and Kate was as sick as the rest of us. Of course, Bogey and Huston were never ill and the joke is, it was because they only ever drank whisky and never touched the water. The rest of the unit were very ill and so was Kate, but she was very brave to go in front of the cameras and act like that, because her face was often white or sickly green. She sometimes had a bucket just out of camera range, which she would throw up into between takes....Kate had a certain masculinity and she used to go walking in the jungle sometimes with John [Huston], who would have a rifle. But we never heard it go off. Kate was a strange person, she was all woman, but she hated to be considered a frail female. If you offered her your hand as she was getting off the boat, she would slap it away, because she wanted to just jump off like the men did."
"I had never met her before, and I was always nervous of her, because she seemed a formidable lady. She knew a good deal more about the business than I did. She was the sort of lady who, when you were doing a scene with her and you weren't very clever about getting into the right position, or were about to fall over one of the cables, would continue with her performance, impeccably, and at the same time manage to push you into the right place with a friendly shove and pick up the cable as well! When I used to be making up in my chair in the morning, she would, with only about three minutes before she was due on the set, snatch a pencil out of somebody's hand, make a quick mark with it on her face, not looking any different after she'd done it, and say, 'I'm made up now,' and go on the set ahead of all of us! She fascinated me: she kept to her course. She was one of those curiously lucky aristocrats to whom life comes easily."
The entire transcript can be read on Script-O-Rama's fantastic site.