Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Making of the African Queen by Katharine Hepburn

The Making of THE AFRICAN QUEEN or How I Went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall and Huston and almost lost my mind
By Katharine Hepburn
Copyright 1987
Plume - Nonfiction/Memoir
129 pages

I've read the book, by C. S. Forester, and I love the movie. So, when I happened across a tattered copy of The Making of THE AFRICAN QUEEN by Katharine Hepburn in my local library sale, I snatched it up.

I have Katharine Hepburn's autobiography, Me, and have read bits and pieces of it. Her writing style was oddly fragmented, very stream-of-consciousness if the stream is coming from someone who frequently interrupts her own thoughts. So, it's a little bit of a pain to read, at times, but the book is still quite interesting. Near as I can tell, it was John Huston who went the farthest towards causing Hepburn to "almost lose" her mind. He evaded her questions about the script, costumes, filming, location . . . you name it. The man seems to have been so wrapped up in his own little world that he didn't have time for his stars.

Humphrey Bogart reassured Katharine Hepburn that John Huston was always that way; she might as well just get used to it. And, she seems to have easily gotten into the swing of things, once Hepburn was settled into her little hut on a hill in the jungle. She wasn't happy that the Bogarts' hut was decorated in her favorite colors, but her hut location was perfect and that's what counted. Yes, she was quite picky that way -- a bit on the arrogant side, certainly, but dedicated to her craft.

The Making of THE AFRICAN QUEEN was a fun, quick read and the book is packed with photographs that give you a good visual of the anecdotes she shares. There's a photo of her lounging on the porch of her jungle hut and another of her washing her hair in a bucket. You get to see how they had to cross the river on rafts in order to reach the set and how she had to change clothing pretty much in view of the entire crew. The book was a fun diversion on a day when nothing else was grabbing my interest.


  1. It sounds like an interesting book. It's fun to get a good look into how movies were done.

  2. I bet my mom would love this book!

  3. Krista,

    It's one of the most interesting movie-background books I've seen. I really enjoyed it.


    Your mom must be a fan of The African Queen, yes? It's a good movie. The book is really quite fascinating and has a nice selection of photos.

  4. This sounds interesting...I love movie gossip from this time period. The stars seem to have had more character than some of the ones today. I'd love to see the photographs!

  5. Jenclair,

    Katharine Hepburn was certainly a character. LOL I love reading about Hollywood in that time period, too. I didn't realize that, even then, there was such a thing as papparazzi -- not as world-wide as they are, now, but Hepburn still had plenty of ducking and sneaking to do. You can see quite a few photographs by looking up "The Making of African Queen Katharine Hepburn" in Google Images.

  6. That was my Dad's favorite movie - I've seen it many times. This sounds fun and I was thrilled to discover that my library has a copy. Will make a fun read when I need a quick one.

  7. SuziQ,

    How cool. Your dad had excellent taste. Huz and I love the movie, too. It's definitely a great book for a quick break -- no real brainpower involved.

    You have the greatest library. I'm terribly envious. My happiest year was our year in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I would have gladly brought a bed and moved into the main library branch. It was heaven.

  8. I read Hepburn's bio, Me, years ago and thought the same thing. Very choppy writing and also very self-serving. At least I thought so. I got extremely tired of all the name-dropping.

    In other news, I see you're reading one of my favorite books -- The Things They Carried. Loved it! Hmm, I wonder if I read it during my blogging life. Off to check my archives.

  9. Les,

    You've read Me? And, it's not just I who found her a self-serving name-dropper? Oh, whew! Seriously, I feel better. I think most "star" autobiographies are insufferable. Maybe that's why I've never gotten around to reading the entire thing. Perhaps I'll donate it and not waste my time.

    The Things They Carried is totally blowing me away, but I need to set it aside and focus on my Darcy book because Mr. Darcy's got the next "due date", review-wise. Pooh. Everyone seems to rave about it; I see why, now -- The Things They Carried, I mean, not Darcy. Someone is rattling on, again. Maybe I do need kittens to calm me down. LOL


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