Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Making of The African Queen: Review

Bogart: Katie, what's happened to you? You're a decent human being.
Hepburn: Not anymore I'm not. If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.

The Making of the African Queen OR How I Went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind (1987) by Katharine Hepburn is the actress's recollections of her great African adventure some thirty years after the fact. She tells us straight off that she never kept a diary, but later in life she often wished she had because "when you've lived as long as I can't even remember the plot of many of the movies you've made--or the plays--really not anything about them or who or why." So, the reader might be tempted to take her memoir with a grain of salt. But she also tells us that "there are some happenings you can't forget. There they are. A series of facts--pictures--realities. This happened to me with The African Queen. I remember it in minute detail--I can see every second of its making and of me at the time...." And we know that there are, indeed, memories like that and are ready to take her at her word.

Of course, as with many celebrity books, one is also tempted to wonder if Katharine Hepburn really did write this. I don't know if she did sit down and write it all out (or type it all out...), but this is most distinctly her voice. If she didn't write it herself, I suspect she dictated it to someone who produced it exactly as she told it. Full of vim and vinegar and a spirit of adventure that comes through in so many of her characters--particularly that of Miss Rose Sayer in this movie. Hepburn tells us that she always wanted to go to Africa and she certainly didn't want to miss out on any adventures while she was there--up to and including going on an elephant hunt (she didn't shoot any and neither did any in her party) with John Huston who was a very poor shot and certain NOT to be much protection if there was any danger. 

If I have one complaint about her memoir, it is that it is less about the making of the movie than it is the use of the movie's production as a backdrop to Hepburn's memories of Africa. Not that those memories and her story aren't worth reading about--they are, but it's not quite the story the reader expects. [Which explains a four-star rating instead of five.] 

The book has an overall feel of an afternoon visit with Hepburn. The memories pour out of her like the reminiscences which might come up in a friendly chat . It makes for an enjoyable read and an interesting peek into the life of one of America's great actresses. She not only gives great descriptions of the locales in Africa, but has also given us plenty of pictures from behind the scenes on location. 

1 comment:

fredamans said...

Sounds very fascinating for fans of the film.