Wednesday, January 22, 2014

“The African Queen” with Hepburn and Bogart at The Edge in Bigfork

“The African Queen” movie spotlights the only pairing of Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart.  This film is a roaring adventure love story with the third “star” being the boat.. It was one of John Huston’s best directed projects. The movie still warms audiences with over six decades under its belt.. Truly a classic in every sense of the word, with an Oscar for Bogart, nominations for Hepburn, two for director John Huston and one more for best adaptation of a screenplay for James Agee and John Huston. The film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry in 1994, is on the U.S. Library of Congress’ list of "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant motion pictures,” and listed three times on The American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest Movies  list.  Showing Thursday February 13th at The Edge Center in Bigfork. Time 6:30PM. Cost Free.

The whole movie is carried by Hepburn and Bogart with relatively small supporting parts for six other actors, notably Robert Morley, plus lots of extras. The most dangerous scenes and roughly half of the movie were filmed in England.  Much of the rest was shot in Uganda and the Congo of Africa, with a few scenes filmed in Turkey. Featuring bugs, large leeches, even larger reptiles, flying bullets, and oppressive heat, location shooting in Africa created some unique situations for the crew. Bogart and Huston did not get dysentery, claiming it was due to their drinking regimen.

Katharine Houghton Hepburn (May 12, 1907 – June 29, 2003) got her acting reputation on Broadway before becoming one of America’s most successful Hollywood movie actresses. She received four Academy Awards, was active in Hollywood productions for over 60 years, and the whole time she it did her way. The American Film Institute named her the greatest female film star in Hollywood history in 1999.

Humphrey DeForest Bogart (December 25, 1899 – January 14, 1957) also got his start acting on Broadway and went for a film career after acting roles became hard to find during the Depression. He spent over 30 years in the movie business acting in 75 films and is considered an American Icon as the tough guy. Romantic leads were not consistent with the tough guy, but interestingly, his romantic lead in the “The African Queen” gained him his only Academy Award as best actor.

As the director and co-screen play writer of “The African Queen”, John Marcellus Huston (August 5, 1906 – August 28, 1987), above, left his special touch on the final product. He not only leaves a formidable legacy with the movie industry, he is a challenge to describe in a few sentences. Amateur boxer, reporter, portrait artist in Paris, Calvary rider in Mexico, documentary film make in WWII, movie director plus short story and screen play writer are among his many accomplishments. It is hard to over-praise his film work.  He wrote screenplays for most of the 37 films he produced and won two Oscars of the 15 nominations he received. He had a 47 year film career and during that time directed his father, Walter Huston and Daughter Anjelica Huston to their Oscar wins. He loved location shoots. Houston’s artist background gave him the ability to visualize scenes and more carefully place actors in them.

The boat, named “The African Queen” is the third star of the film and her life of adventures did not stop with the end of the movie. She accidentally sunk three times while filming in Africa! Like all important stars, she had a stunt double to shoot the rapids and was partially reproduced on a raft because there was not enough room on her for cameras, actors, support personnel and props. She was built in 1912 in England and named the S/L Livingston. She was used by the British East Africa Company for carrying mercenaries, missionaries, cargo and hunting parties on the Victoria Nile and Lake Albert. Her narrow build was to facilitate river travel. Houston saw her in 1951, commissioned her for the movie, and renamed her The African Queen. She became a star. In 1968 the boat came to the US and left only once for the Queen Mother’s 90th birthday in London. After more tour adventures including a stint abandoned in a field,  The African Queen still runs charters in Key Largo.   For more details:

Hepburn wrote a book about her movie-making experiences in Africa entitled “In "The Making of 'The African Queen,' or How I Went to Africa with Bogie, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind", (title containing references to Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and John Huston) 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.” Quote from

Come and see all the drama at The Edge Center’s Classic Movie Series shown by Jack and Lynn Nachbar on Thursday February 13. Time 6:30PM. Jack Nachbar’s knowledgeable, entertaining presentation will make you enjoy it all the more.  The show begins with a cartoon from the movie’s time period and great snacks provided by our hosts.   All this is free of charge.