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The African Queen

April 24, 2011

The African Queen (1951)
Director: John Huston
Actors: Katharine Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, Robert Morley

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Synopsis: A prim missionary (Katharine Hepburn) and a wily old steamboat captain (Humphrey Bogart) become unlikely allies when forced to flee from German forces in East Africa.

Review: Putting The African Queen‘s celebrated reputation to one side momentarily, viewed completely dispassionately it’s a pretty mediocre piece of cinema. The tone of the story is extremely broad – to almost pantomime level in some parts – and there never is really any sense of danger in Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart’s journey down the Ulanga river into German-dominated territory. The film clearly wouldn’t have worked with any old actor or actress – the material isn’t strong enough – but with the star quality of Hepburn and Bogart, it saunters along amiably enough to its predictable conclusion. In many respects, this is the sort of classic industrial picture we rarely get nowadays, where the concept is subservient to the pleasure gained from getting a couple of old Hollywood pros together (perhaps the closest contemporary example is the Streep-Baldwin-Martin farce of It’s Complicated) and letting them have some fun. (April 2011)

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