I haven’t seen Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner in a long time. But the cast is superb and the subject matter dynamite.
The African Queen is one of my favorites (due for a re-viewing one of these days) and I would argue it’s the best dialogue ever written for Hepburn.
This is arguably Bogie’s best work. And arguably John Huston’s best work.
Bogart won the Oscar (edging out Brando for A Streetcar Named Desire and Clift in A Place in the Sun). Hepburn was nominated but lost to Vivien Leigh for A Streetcar Named Desire. There’s probably an overall justice that neither “Streetcar” nor “Queen” took the top honors but split them.
Huston was nominated for Best Director but lost to George Stevens for A Place in the Sun. Think about the absolute junk that now makes its way to the Oscar finalists and then think back to 1952 and ask yourself if all questions of earlier good taste can be dismissed as nostalgia.
Very few films can work with story being almost exclusively about two characters. “Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison” is one that worked for Mitchum and Kerr. There are no doubt others, but those are two that stand out and show how rare that is.
Hepburn is drop-dead terrific in “Queen.” Never been better. And her shrillness serves a purpose. In her younger films, the rat-a-tat-tat dialogue along with her shrillness served only to make me long for earmuffs.
I admire Huston most for “The Maltese Falcon,” “Key Largo,” “The Asphalt Jungle,” “Heaven Knows, Mr Allison,” and “The Man Who Would Be King.” But perhaps “Queen” is his supreme effort.
From the trivia section at IMDB, I didn’t know:
Lauren Bacall famously ventured along for the filming in Africa to be with husband Humphrey Bogart. She played den mother during the trip, making camp and cooking. This also marked the beginning of her life-long friendship with Katharine Hepburn.
I suspect Hepburn wasn’t that easy to get along with…and that Bogie and Huston did so well together because they could enjoy their drinking session on their time off.
It’s easy to forget that sometimes these actors earn their pay. And they were not all forever snowflakes:
According to cameraman Jack Cardiff, Katharine Hepburn was so sick with dysentery during shooting of the church scene that a bucket was placed off camera because she vomited constantly between takes. Cardiff called her "a real trooper." In her book "The Making of 'The African Queen'" Hepburn said she rushed for the outhouse only to find a black mamba inside, then ran to the trees.
Bogies reaction to the filming is interesting as well:
Humphrey Bogart hated Africa immediately and was miserable, but Katharine Hepburn adored it, calling it "utterly divine." Bogie complained about everything: the heat, the humidity, the dangers, the food. He recalled, "While I was griping, Katie was in her glory. She couldn't pass a fern or berry without wanting to know its pedigree, and insisted on getting the Latin name for everything she saw walking, swimming, flying or crawling. I wanted to cut our ten-week schedule, but the way she was wallowing in the stinking hole, we'd be there for years.”
Whether this bit is true or not, it’s in the trivia section:
To show her disgust with the amount of alcohol that John Huston and Humphrey Bogart consumed during filming, Katharine Hepburn drank only water. As a result, she suffered a severe bout of dysentery.
It’s interesting to note that The African Queen now is moored in Key Largo. It’s available for daily canal cruises. I guess that’s a good thing but for me it would be like filling up the original Ark of the Covenant with ice and brewskis and taking it on a picnic to the beach. Something about that just doesn’t set right. FYI, for a 1-1/2 hour cruise it’s only $59.00. $29.50 for children ages 4 to 12.