Cindy and I returned to Africa last night in our togetherness project. We watched The African Queen. It is a much different movie from Zulu and for that we were both grateful. While the African people were portrayed in “humorous” caricature (think the Birmingham Brown character in the Charlie Chan movies), which is just as offensive as showing them as brutal savages, that was just a small side element of the entire movie. I could almost overlook it.
The movie boils down to being a love story between Katharine Hepburn’s and Humphrey Bogart’s characters. That’s where the movie succeeds so well. It is a romantic comedy. While some of the comedy would be considered politically incorrect today (see my comment above), the rest of the film is fine. I especially think Bogart is wonderful playing a character who is not hard-boiled.
One of my favorite parts of the movie is when Bogart’s character wakes up, hung over, and finds Hepburn’s character pouring his gin into the river. As a former drinker, I feel his pain. But then, it was gin.
Hepburn’s character alternates between firmly telling him what he needs to do, and gently cajoling him into doing things his better judgement warns against. She seems to always win out. In the end, he doesn’t mind.
The things that we find to be in poor taste or offensive have certainly changed since this movie was released in 1951. But some things seem to hold true. Romance is funny. Or at least that seems to be a constant in Hollywood.