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The African Queen (1951)
The greatest adventure a man ever lived… with a woman!
Filmmaker(s): John Huston

At the start of the First World War, in the middle of Africa’s nowhere, a gin soaked riverboat captain is persuaded by a strong-willed missionary to go down river and face-off a German warship.

The African Queen (1951)


Tom Cruise played an exaggerated version of himself in “Magnolia,” following a tradition set long ago.

We liked to believe that the sex sirens we saw in movies the 30’s were really that way in life and probably they were. John Wayne followed, never playing anything but himself. And so is the case with our Miss Kate. She delivers her lines with conviction, but it is always her conviction, not the character’s.

(A clue: she never acts with her body, only her mouth and the tilt of her head. Even that tilt was normally restricted in the studio films as she insisted in a downward lighting to emphasise her cheeks.)

I like to watch this every once in a while to remind myself how forgiving we are. A film can be severely flawed; dialog and normal dramatic practice can be compromised, but if there is one strong element — only one is required — we forgive all and happily join.

The strong element here is the characterisation of the two of course. Neither was an actor of particularly wide range or depth. Each had established themselves, their lives, in the public’s mind — screen and real persons merged.

Reading her memoir of this movie, you can just see her on screen behaving not so much as her character (which is very poorly portrayed in the scenes with her brother) but as herself.

It is a sort of documentary around which someone has arranged a story, after the fashion of “What’s up Tiger-Lily.”

So it boils down to whether you think these people are interesting, as people. I don’t.

Posted in 2005

Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.


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