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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Love-story message of a greatest possible "opposites attract" variety, with staid, spinsterish Rose falling in love with ill-mannered, hard-drinking Charlie, and the two learning to appreciate and respect each other. Secondary theme about striving against near impossible odds to fight tyrannical enemies.
Positive Role Models
Both Charlie and Rose are flawed but heroic characters. Charlie drinks too much and is generally uncouth; Rose is a little snobbish, but by the end they've proven their worth and thoroughly won each other over. Rose and her brother are brittle Methodist missionaries, fish-out-of-water puritans in the African jungles. The script stops short of depicting them and their Bible lessons as intrusive and ineffective, but slovenly Charlie seems better adapted to the environment and culture. Black tribal Africans are mostly passive background characters. Both Charlie and Rose refer to the Africans who work for them as "my boys."
Violence & Scariness
A hail of gunfire. German soldiers bully people (one dies off-screen) and burn a grass hut village. A threatened execution by hanging. Scene of Charlie plagued by blood-sucking leeches. Talk of torpedoes and bomb-building.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Very mild suggestion that Charlie and Rose sleep together. Rose seems to be naked when bathing in the river (but actually she's covered with a slip).
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Both Charlie and Rose refer to the Africans who worked for them as "my boys."
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Products & Purchases
A novel of the same name by C.S. Forester exists but has been completely overshadowed by the movie adaptation.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Charlie smokes cigars and drinks gin, finally to the point of drunkenness, where he sings off-key and is surly and rude to Rose. Charlie talks of how he used to sleep off hangovers on typical Sunday afternoons. Rose disapproves of alcohol, sending his stash into the river while Charlie is in hangover agony. Charlie tosses his cigar to the ground upon arriving in the African village, and the African villagers rush over and scuffle over who gets the cigar butt.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The African Queen is a classic 1951 romantic comedy/adventure starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. As a movie set in Africa during World War I, the depictions of Africans are indicative of the stereotypes of the time. Bogart's character is a steamboat captain, and Hepburn's character is a missionary -- both make references to the Africans who assist them as "my boys." An early scene in which Bogart's character first arrives at the African village involves Bogart's character, Charlie, tossing a cigar onto the ground. Immediately, several African villagers run to and scuffle over who gets the cigar butt. As with other movies starring Bogart, there's plenty of smoking (cigars) and drinking (gin). Charlie is shown binge-drinking gin, resulting in him singing off-key and then making surly comments and insults at Hepburn's character's expense. The next morning, Charlie is hung over while Rose dumps the remaining bottles of gin into the river. There is light violence in the form of gunfire and dangerous river rapids. Squeamish moments involve blood-sucking leeches and, to a lesser extent, a painful mosquito swarm. There's a very mild suggestion that Charlie and Rose sleep together. Rose seems to be naked when bathing in the river (but actually she's covered with a slip). To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
THE AFRICAN QUEEN is one of the finest and most satisfying of the "odd couple takes a trip together" genre. Rose and Charlie are opposites, and yet they are perfectly suited to each other. Ultimately, Rose isn't comfortable "rising above" nature, and indeed grows to love it, as she gives up some of the strictures of civilization and appreciates the beauty and "stimulation" of the natural world. Charlie learns to appreciate some of the beauties of civilization; to take the challenge and the responsibility of participating in the fight against the Germans, to have a relationship of trust and tenderness.
Humphrey Bogart won a well-deserved Oscar for this performance. Katharine Hepburn, who was also nominated, said that her performance was based on director John Huston's suggestion that she play Rose as Eleanor Roosevelt. (Compare this performance to her appearance in Pat and Mike a year later, in which she played a world-class athlete.) This movie is based on a novel of the same name by C.S. Forester, but the romance was added by screenwriters James Agee and John Huston.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.