katharinehepburnhumphreybogart

Lisa Fabrizio writes in The American Spectator about the many reasons why Casablanca tops her list of great movies. Hat tip: Betsy’s Page

On the other hand, there is what every movie should be: Casablanca. But why would folks, most of whom were born long after its making, put it at or near the tops of their lists? On its preview in November 1942, popular reaction to it was called “beyond belief,” as its release was planned to take advantage of the Allied invasion of North Africa. But today, with the nostalgia for WWII movies waning, why has it endured?

Because it has everything: all of the emotions which combine to make up everyday life, intensified by the cauldron of war. Because it has “moonlight and love songs, never out of date; hearts full of passion, jealousy and hate.” Who can deny it? These emotions and the decisions they force on people even today, are transcendent.

*****

While Casablanca is without a doubt one of my favorite movies of all time The African Queen tops my list. Unbelievably this is the only movie in which Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart co-starred.

Based on the novel by C.S. Forrester, THE AFRICAN QUEEN is set in central Africa during World War I. It is the story of an English missionary and spinster, Rose Sayer (Hepburn), in who is forced to flee her mission after German troops destroy the village. A Canadian supplier, Charlie Alnutt (Bogart), offers to take her down river to civilization in his little river steamer, The African Queen. The contrast in their personalities (Rose is a very proper Edwardian English missionary and Charlie is a scruffy, gin-drinking seaman) becomes the first major source of their disagreements, which only worsen when Rose decides she wants to do her patriotic duty and follow the river all the way down to the lake where she plans to sink the German cruiser guarding it with homemade torpedoes. Needless to say, Charlie doesn’t take to this in the slightest, but his conscience gets the better of him and he agrees to humor Rose until she discovers for herself how futile the whole idea is. Overall it makes for a great movie — nominated for four Academy Awards in 1951.

Some of my favorite lines….

Rose: Could you make a torpedo?

Charlie: How’s that, Miss?

Rose: Could you make a torpedo?

Charlie: A torpedo?…You don’t really know what you’re askin’. You see, there ain’t nothin’ so complicated as the inside of a torpedo. It’s got gyroscopes, compressed air chambers, compensating cylinders…

Rose: But all those things, those gyroscopes and things, they’re only to make it go, aren’t they?

Charlie: Yeah. Yeah, go and hit what it’s aimed at.

Rose: Well, we’ve got The African Queen.

Charlie: How’s that, Miss?

Rose: If we were to fill those cylinders with that blasting gelatine and then fix them so that they would stick out over the end of the boat, and then run the boat against the side of a ship, they would go off just like a torpedo, wouldn’t they?…We could, what do you call it, get a good head of steam up, and then point the launch toward a ship and just before she hits, we could dive off. Couldn’t we?

Charlie: There’s only one little thing wrong with your idea. There ain’t nothin’ to torpedo.

Rose: Oh yes there is.

Charlie: There’s what?

Rose: Something to torpedo.

Charlie: What’s that?

Rose: The Louisa.

Charlie: The Louisa! Oh now, don’t talk silly, Miss. You can’t do that. Honest you can’t. I told you before, we can’t get down the Ulanga!

Rose: Spengler did.

Charlie: In a canoe, Miss.

Rose: If a German did it, we can do it, too.

Charlie: Not in no launch, Miss.

Rose: How do you know? You’ve never tried it.

Charlie: I never tried shooting myself in the head, neither. The trouble with you, Miss, is, you, you don’t know anything about boats!

Rose: In other words, you are refusing to help your country in her hour of need, Mr. Allnut?

Charlie: All right, Miss, have it your own way. But don’t blame me for what happened.

*****

I love this line…..

I’ll never forget the way you looked going over the falls - head up, chin out, hair blowing in the wind - the living picture of a hero-eyne!

In 1951, when the movie was made, Hollywood still had a sliver of respect for Christian missionaries. I can’t imagine it being filmed today as it was in ‘51 without portraying Rose and Charlie in a more negative light, perhaps as the gin drinker and Charlie as a lying, self-centered coward. Missionaries serving all over the world have had to endure much for their faith and many of them have been women.

Katharine Hepburn has always been my favorite actress and she was amazing in this movie. The chemistry between her and Humphrey Bogart continues to endure. I was a teenager when I first saw the film in black and white and it is one of the few films I will sit down to watch twice. In fact, I am watching it right now.