Today’s Prayer Focus

The African Queen

Reviewed by: Brett Willis

Moral Rating: Better than Average
Moviemaking Quality:
Primary Audience: 10 to Adult
Genre: War Romance Drama
Length: 1 hr. 44 min.
Year of Release: 1951
USA Release: February 20, 1952 (wide)
Cover Graphic from “The African Queen”
Featuring Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Robert Morley, Peter Bull, Theodore Bikel, Walter Gotell, Peter Swanwick, Richard Marner
Director John Huston

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”?

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn provide audiences with true adventure. This is how Hollywood should be. This is truly a classic. I highly recommend this movie. These two actors project a fun and exciting Hollywood adventure (minus the violence, sex, and profanity). My Ratings: [5/4]
Jeremy Sarver, age 22
Bogie and Hepburn have perfect chemistry as a spinster and an old sailor in dangerous territory. There is nothing here that would be offensive to any audience. It is a rousing adventure that holds up well, even after all these years. My Ratings: [5/5]
Hillari Hunter, age 38
Negative—I watched “The African Queen” recently with my Dad and was ashamed to find much objectionable content. Spiritual content: The film opens with a VERY long scene making mockery of the missionaries, depicting them as buffoons who can’t connect with the natives. A horrible ruckus of noise ensues, and you will have to turn the volume down just to endure it. At another point the missionary woman gives the man “the silent treatment” by reading her Bible. “And you call yourself a Christian!” the man yells. The woman also prays a prayer that shows she doesn’t read her Bible very well either: “Judge us not for our weakness, but for our love… and open the gates of Heaven for [us].”

Sensual content: There are about 3 very awkward scenes, with 1 of them being extremely inappropriate (not the sleeping scene described in the main review). The scenes feature no “explicit” sensuality between the characters, but feature inappropriate outfits and circumstances that are designed to incite sinful thinking. Also, the overall attire becomes more inappropriate over time for the same reason above (NO there are no excuses for it, filmmakers have full control over what they put into a film!) For these reasons alone, the movie loses all its morality points.

Violent content: Some gunfire and manhandling, no deaths by violence. Language: Technically none, but the DVD distributed by Castaways Pictures contained a foul swear word in the subtitles toward the end, when the two main characters are arguing about who is going to carry out the task and who is going to wait on shore. Obviously, someone was not paying attention to the dialogue. Also, a German sniper says something angrily when he misses his chance, but it’s not subtitled, and I don’t speak German.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 1
Adam, age 24 (Canada)