Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart are both talented actors, they’re also legends whose very name suggests to us aptitude and glamour. You’d think that having these two glamorous creatures of Hollywood team up would be something of a noir-like, sensational eye candy of sorts? Well, no. The African Queen features these two glamorous beings at their grimiest. Bogart as a bachelor sea captain and Kate as a spinster, the two travel on sea aboard the eponymous African Queen to do their bit to fight the enemies during the war. What an adventure it is.
It’s no secret, I am smitten with Ms. Hepburn; and though Bogie isn’t my favourite of the era, he’s still exceptional. The African Queen treads that margin between comedy and drama that is often so difficult to do right. Sometimes I see it more as a farce than anything else, but not quite. With just two actors for the majority of the film John Huston has the difficult task of directing this, and of course he does great. He directs it like an action film, and it works, the shots of Africa and the pacing are all excellent. You wouldn’t think two people talking could be so gripping, but it is. Of course, though, it all comes down to the acting. Katie and Humphrey. Naturally, it’s good. Watching these two go at it [and they really do go at it] is a treat. They manage to sell any potential missteps of the plot and even that ending which gets a little too schmaltzy for it’s own good seems fine with them doing the heavy lifting.
It probably would not be untoward to label this a fantasy, for The African Queen is most definitely not a slice of life. But it’s still wonderful, Huston directs it superbly and Kate and Humphrey do what they do best. I remember reading Kate’s account of the experience and how Lauren Baccall came along and they two were in charge of housewifery on set. It’s always great to see two legends coalesce and The African Queen is not exception.