Sunday, May 3, 2015

The African Queen Alive (but Not So Well) in the Florida Keys


Don't ask me why, but there she was, the African Queen, the steamboat from The African Queen moviedocked next to a Holiday Inn in Key Largo, Florida. Completely unguarded, open to the elements, the African Queen—more precisely the Queen Louisa— floats while fishermen clean their haul a few slips away. Nearby a faded signs offers the Queen for dinner tours by reservations only. Several old publicity photos hang on a fence. "I don't think that boats going anywhere" says a tan old man peering at the tattered Union Jack. He gives the sign a quick glance but doesn't take down the phone number. 


I don't call the number either. I don't understand why The African Queen is tied up where she is; the movie takes place in Africa and as far as I can tell there were no scenes shot in Florida. Why is she there? Despite the fact that Humphrey Bogart starred in the film Key Largo, the Florida keys seem an incongruous place to find a grand old movie prop. The connection seems tenuous at best.



The flag no longer looks fresh and clean, it's faded and tattered but my shot doesn't capture that so I found this shot of the boat to show you how it looked when the owners first finished restoring the boat


Today's Sunday Slacker video provides the answer. The current owners Suzanne and Lance Holmquist "rescued" the dilapidated boat and restored it with plans to let the paying public go on dinner and sunset cruises. Judging from the look of the signs and the lack of buzz, I wonder if their plans have gone awry, leaving the boat to float, alone and almost abandoned once again. It seems an ignoble ending for the weathered beauty that once carried Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn down an African river in the 1951 film based on the C.S. Forester novel of the same name, a film that earned Humphrey Bogart his only Oscar. 


What do you think? Does the African Queen belong in the Florida keys or in a museum where more of the world might enjoy it? I'd like to see it in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Museum currently being built. Like the ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz that Leonardo DiCaprio bought and donated to the museum, the African Queen needs a true movie-loving benefactor, not a private party using it to take well-heeled tourists on dinner cruises.

You can stream The African Queen, the John Huston film directed film starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn on Amazon, VUDU, and Google Play. You can watch the vintage trailer here.

 The African Queen trailer





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