The African Queen
Reviewed by: Brett Willis
Better than Average
10 to Adult
War Romance Drama
1 hr. 44 min.
Year of Release:
February 20, 1952 (wide)
In this classic about two very different people drawn together by a common goal, we get to see a relatively subdued version of Humphrey Bogart’s tough-guy character.
Rosie Sayer (Katharine Hepburn) assists her brother Samuel (Robert Morley) in a Methodist missionary station in central Africa. They don’t particularly like the crude habits of the drinking, smoking riverboater Charlie Allnutt (Oscar-winning performance by Bogart), but at least he’s a fellow British subject and he delivers their mail. When WWI breaks out (1914), the Germans burn the Sayers’ church and a native village and march all the Africans off to forced labor. Samuel dies from a combination of a German assault and heartbrokenness at the loss of his life’s work; and Rosie must hitch a ride to safety with Charlie. Although it seems out of character for a missionary, she cooks up a daring plan to strike back at the Germans. And while working together to carry out her plan, she and Charlie fall in love.
Content notes: There’s no profanity and no sexuality. Confined together on Charlie’s 30-foot woodburning steamboat, “The African Queen,” Rosie and Charlie sleep near each other; but it’s obvious that there’s nothing funny going on—their unlikely romance is an honorable one. There’s a small amount of violence, but no on-screen deaths other than that of Samuel. When Charlie becomes drunk and verbally abusive, Rosie pours out his entire supply of gin and the two finally come to a truce. The Africans are shown as simple people who basically do whatever the Europeans tell them to (not as dehumanized as in a “Tarzan” movie, but not fully-developed characters either). The Germans aren’t portrayed very kindly (remember this is WWI, not WWII), but what’s an old-time war movie without a little bias? The film is in color, the jungle and river scenes are very good and the special effects are OK.
The interesting question is: if Rosie and Charlie should survive the war, would their love survive the absence of the special circumstances that brought them together? Or would the differences in their faith, worldview and habits eventually drive them apart? The story doesn’t go far enough for us to learn the answers. But God’s Word warns the serious Christian believer to only marry someone of “like precious faith.” (1 Cor. 7:39; 2 Cor. 6:14-18)
What does God think about “missionary dating”?