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Saturday, September 27, 2008

The African Queen (1951)

During the early half of the 20th century, in the tension between Germany on the one side, and England on the other side, Africa was an important battle ground. Along with France and Portugal, all of them had empires in the region, and wars ensured that there was intense competition to attack at the territories controlled by the other. This political scenario sits at the background, and catches up with the finale of the movie and the novel on which the movie was based on. The movie was based on a novel of the same name, written by .S. Forester, and published in 1935. The 1935 period was a time when Britain was seemingly in decline, unable to catch up with an economically and politically resurgent Germany under Hitler. The novel, set in 1914 (at the start of the First World War) is also construed as an attempt to show citizens of Britain that the English were on the winning side of the First World War, able to capture the Empire earlier controlled by Germany.

The African Queen (1951 film)

The African Queen was directed by John Huston, and produced by Sam Spiegel (billed as "S.P. Eagle") and John Woolf. The movie was shot in both Central Africa (at some amount of hardship to the Queen), but since health concerns prevented the lead stars from getting into African river water, the water scenes were shot back in England. The movie revolved around the lead pair of Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. Katharine and her brother Samuel Sayer (played by Robert Morley) are British missionaries in a village in German East Africa (now known as Tanzania), who get supplies through a boat (The African Queen) run by the rough Canadian Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart). He warns them that German troops will soon arrive, but they refuse to leave. The Germans dutifully appear, and start forcing the local villagers to serve as soldiers in the war. When Samuel tries to oppose, he is beaten, and dies soon after. Cliff arrives soon after, and helps Rose in burying her brother, and she leaves with him. She wants to go via the lake downriver, and he tells her that the Germans are blocking the entry to the lake with a gunboat, and they will also be in danger.
Cliff is hesitant, but Rose is firm on moving toward the lake, even though it will be a tough journey and there will be 3 rapids on the way, along with all the other dangers about more troops, and wild animals. They have a tough journey with many adventures, but manage to overcome the challenges that they keep on facing. As they approach the lake, Rose proposes to convert the boat into a torpedo boat and sink the gunboat by colliding with it and using explosives to blow up the gunboat. As they attempt this, the African Queen seems to sink, effectively sinking their plan as well. They are caught, and before being executed as spies, Bogart, as a last wish, asks for them to be married. As they are married, in a miracle, the gunboat collided with the sunken African Queen and caused the explosives to blast, sinking the gunboat.

Oscars:
- Best Actor in a Leading Role - Humphrey Bogart (his only Oscar for Best Actor)
- Nominated: Best Actress in a Leading Role (Katharine Hepburn)
- Nominated: Best Adapted Screenplay (James Agee & John Huston)
- Nominated: Best Director (John Huston)

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