The African Queen (1951)

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Critic Consensus: Perfectly cast, smartly written, and beautifully filmed, The African Queen remains thrilling, funny, and effortlessly absorbing even after more than half a century's worth of adventure movies borrowing liberally from its creative DNA.

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After years of wooing director John Huston via good reviews, film critic James Agee was given a chance to write the screenplay for a Huston picture. Adapted from a novel by C.S. Forester, The African Queen stars Humphrey Bogart in his Oscar-winning portrayal of Charlie Allnut, the slovenly, gin-swilling captain of a tramp steamer called the African Queen, which ships supplies to small East African villages during World War I. Katharine Hepburn plays Rose Sayer, the maiden-lady sister of a prim British missionary, Rev. Samuel Sayer (Robert Morley). When Germans invade and Samuel dies, Allnut offers to take Rose back to civilization. She can't tolerate his drinking or bad manners; he isn't crazy about her imperious, judgmental attitude. However it does not take long before their passionate dislike turns to love. Together the disparate duo work to ensure their survival on the treacherous waters and devise an ingenious way to destroy a German gunboat. The African Queen may well be the perfect adventure film, its roller-coaster storyline complemented by the chemistry between its stars. The profound difficulties inherent in filming on location in Africa have been superbly documented by several books, including one written by Katharine Hepburn. Screenwriter Peter Viertel (who worked, on an uncredited basis, on the script of this film - assisting with some of the dialogue) incorporated some of the African Queen anecdotes in his roman a clef about a Huston-like director/adventurer, White Hunter, Black Heart.

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Cast

Humphrey Bogart
as Charlie Allnut
Robert Morley
as Rev. Samuel Sayer
Theodore Bikel
as 1st Officer
Peter Bull
as Captain of the Louisa
Walter Gotell
as 2nd Officer
Gerald Onn
as Petty Officer
Peter Swanick
as 1st Officer at Shona
Peter Swanwick
as First Officer of Shona
Richard Marner
as 2nd Officer at Shona
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Critic Reviews for The African Queen

All Critics (42) | Top Critics (6)

The African Queen is top flight entertainment, delightful, different, always interesting.

Feb 20, 2017 | Full Review…
Hollywood Reporter
Top Critic

Five minutes in, and cowriter-director John Huston has already set the stage for something besides your typical '50s jungle-bwana boogie.

Feb 9, 2011 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

It is a picture with an unassuming warmth and naturalness...

Jun 28, 2007 | Full Review…

The direction is often questionable, but the screenplay (by James Agee, John Collier, Huston, and Peter Viertel from C.S. Forester's novel) is a model of tight construction.

Jun 28, 2007 | Full Review…

Impossible to deny this film's entertainment value...

Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

And so Mr. Huston merits credit for putting this fantastic tale on a level of sly, polite kidding and generally keeping it there, while going about the happy business of engineering excitement and visual thrills.

May 20, 2003 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The African Queen

A very entertaining and exciting adventure shot on location in Africa in glorious Technicolor and with a wonderful chemistry between Hepburn and Bogart - she as a smart, determined and strong-willed woman and he in a hilarious performance that granted him his only Oscar.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

½

Two legends onboard a small boat is enough to create magic. A John Huston adventure always shines above the rest because of its gravitas, an inherent solemnity that here is conveyed through Bogart and Hepburn.

Pierluigi Puccini
Pierluigi Puccini

Super Reviewer

Charlie Allnut: Oh, I'm not worried miss. Gave myself up for dead back where we started. "The greatest adventure a man ever lived... with a woman!" The African Queen is a movie I have wanted to see for a long time. It has the distinction of being one of those classic films that very film fan has to see. On top of that, it stars Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn and is directed by John Huston. So there's really nothing to deter you from wanting to watch it. When WW1 is launched, a missionary living in Africa with her minister brother, must leave with a rugged, riverboat captain; after her village is destroyed by German soldiers and her brother dies. Rose wants Charlie to go down the river, which worries Charlie a great deal because as he says, there's only death down the river. He reluctantly agrees and the river, as well as a German U-Boat create many obstacles for the missionary and alcoholic captain. The African Queen wasn't the irrevocable masterpiece a expected, but nonetheless it is still a very good film. I wasn't blown away by anything that the film did, but it was undeniably entertaining and well constructed, written, directed, and acted. The African Queen is a film that needs to be seen by all film buffs. 

Melvin White
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

½

The prim sister of a missionary who is killed when the German army come to their small corner of Africa convinces a pragmatic boat's captain to help her sink the German's nearby destroyer. The story is a simple one, but this film is all about the characters, who are wonderfully written and perfectly played by two of the very best actors who ever graced the silver screen. Hepburn and Bogart bring a tangible sense of warmth and affection as their feelings grow for each other, Bogie displaying his rarely seen but keen sense for comedy. The visual effects have obviously dated rather badly, but it has more depth and romance than a hundred Hugh Grant or Andie McDowell films. Another classic from John Huston.

xGary Xx
xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

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