Katherine Hepburn in Africa

The African Queen is one of my special films – the first of the East Africa campaign of World War 1. While the book(s) better cover the war itself, the film still holds its own.

I recently re-watched it after having seen White Hunter, Black Heart (1990) which deals with John Huston’s early departure for Africa before the cast and crew arrive. Both were then followed by my reading of Katherine Hepburn’s The Making of the African Queen or How I went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall and Huston and almost lost my mind. There is also a 57 minute video of The Making of the African Queen.

Interestingly, Hepburn does not mention CS Forester being with them, and she dispels the myth of MV Liemba making an appearance in the film – the German ship was a reconstruction in London! How disappointing, but it goes to show, you can’t always believe everything you read – double checking and even more need to be done. This is something I’m discovering more and more as I continue to delve into World War 1 in Africa – well, not just WW1, given my Kitchener photograph faux pas.

Back to Hepburn though – her down to earth style of writing was refreshing. Her joy at the quality of the African water palpable (not to drink mind) as was her concern for people she’d met 30 years previously. When she wrote the book the wars of independence had taken place. The book also contains some fascinating photos – I’m really pleased I wasn’t in charge of the camera!

Now, all that’s left I think is to get the paper version of White Hunter, Black Heart written by screenwriter Peter Viertel.

And for anyone wondering – Lauren Bacall is called Betty Bogard in Katherine’s recollections. I had to look this up.

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