The African Queen
Directed by John Huston with Katharine Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, Robert Morley
Kate the Iconoclast, Katharine the Icon
1951, U.S. Available for decades only in washed-out prints, this beloved classic—newly restored on 35mm—once again looks “magnificent, with deep, burnished browns and yellows and a level of detail that picks out every drop of sweat on Bogart’s brow” (Dave Kehr). Hepburn, who famously wrote about the film’s behind-the-scenes adventures in The Making of the African Queen: Or How I Went to Africa With Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind, plays British missionary Rose, who has wild times of her own when WWI reaches German Eastern Africa. Having enlisted boozy Canadian Charlie Allnut (Bogart) in her effort to torpedo a German gun boat, and thus avenge her brother’s death, Rose discovers the terror and pleasure of not only white-knuckle rides through white-water rapids but a burgeoning romance. Overwhelmed by the circumstances, the repressed spinster exclaims: “I never dreamed a mere physical experience could be so exhilarating!” Shot on location by Technicolor legend Jack Cardiff and adapted for the screen by writers including the great James Agee, Queen earned Oscar nominations for Hepburn, Huston and screenplay, with Bogart winning for Best Actor.
“Rose's plan comes across more vividly as the manifestation of her almost comical indomitability. This steadfastness, in turn, feeds off Hepburn's own reputation (on screen and off) as a no-nonsense unbreakable spirit. She sketches Rose with strokes at once broad and sharp, underlining her famed tenacity while slicing away any superfluous layers until all that remains is raw resolve. The result is a performance as sinewy and unpretentious as Hepburn's bony figure (always thin, she dropped roughly 20 pounds after falling ill during the film's infamously calamitous shoot).” –Mathew Connolly, Slant Magazine
Kate the Iconoclast, Katharine the Icon is a three month, 12 film retrospective on screen legend Katharine Hepburn, who deftly designed a long career built on an iconic persona equal parts glamour and nonconformity. Beautiful, well-bred and college-educated, Hepburn’s on and off-screen behavior were marked by an independent style that challenged 1930s Hollywood’s ideas of femininity as much as America’s. Hers was an “eccentric brand of sassy feminism” (Andrew Sarris). She wore pants in “unladylike” fashion, troubled the waters with her leftist politics and hostility toward the press, inhabited characters whose willfulness undercut notions of womanly softness as much as her androgynous physical presence—and starred in the most beloved films of Classical Hollywood. She enjoyed a lifelong friendship with George Cukor, who directed her in nine films; teamed four times with the incomparably charismatic Cary Grant; and with Spencer Tracy forged a partnership in life and the movies remembered as one of the great romantic couplings of the Hollywood era.
“For a time Katherine Hepburn’s cinema was the cinema of a free woman.” –Andrew Sarris
By 1950, Hepburn was 43—no longer a desirable woman by Hollywood standards; her exceptionality no longer sexually threatening, the iconoclast’s uniqueness was again realized, if often through the role of a spinster. In both Summertime and The African Queen, the yearning, eccentric searcher of Alice Adams (1935) and Holiday (1938) returns; in her 50s incarnation, as a plain, reserved woman, Hepburn is as aching and exciting as ever. In Long Day’s Journey Into Night, the actress—whose stage career stretched back to her youth and who translated the work of great playwrights to television into the 1970’s—gave what critic Jonathan Rosenbaum describes as “probably her greatest non-comic performance.”
The African Queen
December 3 @ 6:30pm
December 4 @ 2pm
Bright Family Screening Room at the Paramount Center
$10. $7.50 for Members and Seniors. $5 for Students. Emerson Students Free.
Color, 35mm – Re-released! New Paramount 60th Anniversary Restoration Print!