Ever since I learned that Kate Hepburn wrote about her experiences in Africa filming The African Queen, I’ve wanted to read it. It’s one of my favorite films and I love Forester’s novel.
Well, Kate’s book is certainly an experience. Her distinct voice is readily apparent in her writing. I think if you’ve ever seen her interview Katharine Hepburn: All About Me
, you’d know what I mean—the way she tells a story… short brief sentences that are to the point, and the way she meanders from one thought to the next; a way that’s not always linear. Nevertheless, she’s entertaining, and I couldn’t help giggling at some of her commentary in regards to Lauren Bacall and Bogart. Her descriptions of John Huston are also great fun. At first she can’t stand the man, but he seems to gradually wear her down to the point where they become best buddies. Also, her photographs are quite good. She’s got some great candid shots of the Bogarts and Huston, as well as various shots from around the set.
Below are a couple of sections I thought worth noting:
“ ‘I want adventure—I want to hunt elephants with John. Not to kill, just to see.”
Oh my God, Katie. Talk to Bogie….”
“Katie, what’s happened to you? You’re a decent human being.”
“Not anymore I’m not. If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun. John has fun.”
“John,” says Bogie. “That son of a bitch has gotten to you.”
“He’s seeing Africa.”
“You’re making a picture.”
“Yes, I’m making a picture, but I’m seeing life at the same time.”
“She’s gone,” he said to Sam [Spiegel:]. “Under the spell.”
“Listen Katie—have you ever shot a gun?”
“Yes, Bogie—I’m a pretty good shot.”
“Well, your friend John is not William Tell—in fact, when you get to that goddamned boat, you’d better throw a few cans over the side and see how good or how bad he is—and if the elephant charges… take my advice and run.” He went off…. Bogie was right. He—John—had beautiful guns and a passion for le sport
. Not a great eye. But I was with him all the way. Adventure.”
“ ‘What’s the matter Bogie—you scared of a leech? Try one,” I said.
“You try it first, kid.”
Well, ugh. I just couldn’t.
So the rest of that day was spent trying to find—invent—a material that would stick to Bogie’s skinny frame. There he sat—and everyone would come in and see if his or her concoction would stick. He was funny sitting there…. So—how shall I put it— so pure. Like a little kid. Dear Bogie. I’ll never forget that close-up of him after he kisses Rosie, then goes around in back of the tank and considers what has happened. His expression—the wonder of it all—life.”