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Movie Fact #132 - January 3rd, 2021


It be silly to talk about the 1951 film The African Queen without talking about the titular vessel most of the story takes place on and revolves around narratively. The small steam-boat used in the film to depict the African Queen was built in 1912, in Britain, for service in Africa (And at one time it was owned by actor Fess Parker). While much of shooting was done on location in Uganda and the Congo in Africa, the boat was very much an illusionary prop at times. Certain scenes were filmed using a large raft with a mockup of the boat on top with sections of the boat set able to be removed to make room for the large Technicolor camera. While the results speak for themselves, this method of set design proved hazardous on one occasion when the boat's boiler – a heavy copper replica – almost fell on lead actress Katherine Hepburn due to it, like the rest of the set, not being secured to the deck so it could be moved to accommodate the camera.

Ultimately, in December 2011, plans were announced to restore the boat with restorations completed by the following April and the African Queen is now on display as a tourist attraction at Key Largo, Florida. Ironic that the old girl lives, given it's fate in the film. Too stubborn to die, I suppose. Good for the African Queen. Stay tuned!

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