February 4th, 2020


Two Thousand Cigarettes and Two Cases of Gin

My BFI membership renewed itself on January 31st, and my immediate action was to spend one of my annual free tickets on a screening of The African Queen with introductory talk by Angela Allen, who worked on continuity.

First, those of the audience who had not seen the film previously (including me) were invited to put our hands up, to Audible Gasps! from those who had.

Then we were treated to a talk by this wonderful, well-spoken older woman who was there! In Africa! Showering in a bucket and rubbing shoulders with Bogart and Hepburn! “I’m the only one left now,” she said thoughtfully…

It’s a silly film but a lot of fun, and although I prefer Bogart in black and white and a trench coat, I wouldn’t say no to him doing hippopotamus impressions for my delight while wearing a filthy pyjama jacket. (He smiles a lot in this one, too. The man has a nice smile.)

Because so much of the action is focused on these two characters alone on the river, they need to be played by strong actors who draw the viewer’s eye and attention. And it works so well. Humphrey Bogart showing Katharine Hepburn how to pump the bilges may be the most overtly sexual thing I have ever seen in a general audience picture. Even more than ‘you just put your lips together and blow’.

Bond alumni: Walter Gotell as (what else?) a German officer.

Funny thing: although I hadn’t seen the movie before, I knew enough about the plot to riff on it for my story in Reclamation Project: Year One (plug plug). I made the Charlie Allnutt character a hyena.

One of Bogart’s first lines is apologising for the noise his stomach makes, “like there’s a hyena inside me.”

Called it!