Walter Mencken 11 a.m., Nov. 27
The African Queen, My, She Is Yare
The fabled scow that Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn navigate through John Huston's beloved yarn is once again shipshape, out of drydock, and, my, she is yare. (Yare. Were it not for Katharine Hepburn's Holiday, I might never have come to the word. Who says movies aren't edukational?)
Floating in the warm waters of Florida's Key Largo, the boat was recently restored to the tune of about $70,000. The vessel, built in 1912, recently underwent cosmetic and mechanical repair and is now seaworthy and fit to carry passengers.
Once again, the cheese stands alone: I don't get The African Queen. Maybe it needed a glass bottom and Arthur Godfrey singing the title tune.
Why anyone would want to spend 105 minutes trapped in a boat with a grungy, reeking old Bogart and Katharine Hepburn in her "haughty virgin" mode defies comprehension. (My guess is a good chunk of the $70,000 went to Febreze®.)
It's not as if I didn't give it a good shot. There were two screenings of 35mm dye-transfer prints at Chicago's 400 Theatre (I went twice in one week) and, later, a sparkling private collector's 16mm print, vintage 1955.
I returned to the film a few years back after a near 30-year hiatus. Even cinematographer Jack Cardiff's (The Red Shoes, War and Peace, Rambo: First Blood Part II) lush Technicolor hues aren't enough to tide me through it. It marked my final voyage.
Click to learn everything you ever wanted to know about the boat's history.
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