Monday, April 23, 2012

The Making of the African Queen Katherine Hepbrn

This is a delightful little book, published in 1987 by Alfred A Knopf, only 128 pages and 45 wonderful black and white photos of the time in Africa making this classic movie.  I will have to add African Queen to my Netflix Que now, I know I have seen it but want to see it again now with this insight. 

I am a big fan of Katherine Hepburn, 1907-2003,  a woman I admire for being ahead of her time and for her strength--no shrinking violet.  She did things her way, including her  lifelong partnership with Spencer Tracy.   This is the first book that she wrote and it reads quickly, but like being in direct conversation with her, listening  as she shares her views.  I found this delight at our  book sale. 

One of the best books about her is Kate Remembered, by Scott Berg which I reviewed and posted on my other blog in 2010.  Here is the link and it is the last of the reviews posted that date so you have to scroll along.  http://patonlinenewtime.blogspot.com/2010/08/catch-up-post-on-recent-reads.html

Kate photo from back jacket cover
There is a lot different about Kate here and Kate as her life progresses.  For one, in 1951 during the filming of the Queen she is rather astounded at the drinking of alcohol constantly by Bogart and John Huston, she is almost  tee totaller in Africa when they made the Queen.  However toward the end of the filming she along with many others on the crew come down with "the blight",  as she explains what must have been the African revenge; they had been consuming bottled water which turns out to be contaminated.  She notices that neither Bogie nor Huston get the illness, because they were drinking booze not water, so she switches to champagne.  I don't know where you can get this book now which went through at least 5 printings, but it is a treasure if you appreciate Hepburn and wit.   

Her introductory page, "I've never written a diary--well, I mean,  put down dreary things like when did my eye start twitching?  when did it stop? --well, you know, things the doctor asks you and you"ve always forgotten them because they are really fundamentally dull....then when you've lived as long as I have, you usually wish that you had kept one because you can't remember the plot of many of the movies you've made--or the plays--really not anything about them or who or why.  But there are some happenings you can't forget...."


Kate and Bogie on the set
 I don't want to violate copyright laws, but here is just one more photo from inside the book cover, just for a taste of what is inside.  On page 68 her observation of Africa where she was so  set to go when she agreed to make this film because she wanted the adventure:  "The country is like a great sponge--it finally absorbs you.  Eventually you will get malaria or you will get dysentery and whatever you do, if you don't keep doing it, the jungle will grow over you.  Black or white, you've got to fight it every minute of the day."   Kate appreciates the hardships of the Africans and the  difficulties the natives face in a land without  adequate education,  shelter, transportation, all those things we take so much for granted. 

No experience from being drenched in equatorial downpours to having to raise the Queen from the murky mud of the river when it sinks, to the outhouse treks, diminishes her enthusiasm.  She does share that she is looking back and  with time  we lose the bad memories (if we are wise) and remember only the good.  repeatedly she comments that making this film was "great fun." She had the attitude of perseverance and a get on with it outlook.  That served her as well in this adventure as the rest of her life. 

This book is  5 *****  Very entertaining and a quick read.