Welcome To My Mind

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Rare photos from the filming of The African Queen, 1951, courtesy of Vintage Everyday. In 1951, two of the world’s most beloved — and highest paid — movie stars, Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, followed director John Huston to a most un-Hollywood location: the sweltering jungle around the Ruki River, in the Belgian Congo (today known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo). There, they spent seven weeks filming a WWI-era romantic-comedy-adventure film about a hard-drinking riverboat captain, Charlie Allnut (Bogart), and his burgeoning love affair with a prim Christian missionary, Rose Sayer (Hepburn). LIFE photographer Eliot Elisofon was there, too, capturing the stars and crew between takes on the arduous shoot. (Photos: Eliot Elisofon—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images).

There are tales of dysentery, diarrhoea and other tropical ailments, not to mention soldier ants, hippos, black mambas and crocodiles. But adversity drew everyone together. Bogart helped pull the African Queen out of the river when it sank one night, while Bacall mucked in with the catering. She and Hepburn became lifelong friends, and Hepburn ultimately came to admire Huston. Their relationship even became flirtatious, judging by the memoir she wrote later, entitled The Making of the African Queen, or How I Went to Africa With Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind. This admiration was mutual, says Anjelica. “I remember, towards the end of his life, we were all having dinner and Dad started to talk about The African Queen. He said, ‘Katie was the best female friend I’ve ever had in my life.’ And Lauren Bacall, this little voice at the end of table, piped up, ‘Well what about me, John?’ And he said, ‘Oh honey, you were married to Bogey.’” —Anjelica Huston: My father John’s wildest shoot

Below: legendary cinematographer Jack Cardiff on the set of John Huston’s The African Queen, filming Katharine Hepburn with good old fashioned movie magic.

Recommended viewing: Elwy Yost meets John Huston, director of such films as The Maltese Falcon, The African Queen, and The Man Who Would Be King. Huston offers anecdotes about Orson Welles, Humphrey Bogart, and Truman Capote, with whom he has worked; describes his long career; and outlines the difficulties he encountered in the making of Moby Dick.

Here’s a rarity: James Agee, John Collier & John Huston’s screenplay for The African Queen  [pdf]. (NOTE: For educational purposes only). The DVD/Blu-ray of the film is available at Amazon and other online retailers.

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