vintage, nostalgia and memories


August 10, 2014

Rare Photos from the Filming of ‘The African Queen’ in 1951

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.

Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn on location in Africa for the filming of The African Queen, 1951.

Katharine Hepburn on location in Africa for the filming of The African Queen, 1951.

Humphrey Bogart’s wife Lauren Bacall kept him company during production; here, the couple enjoys a smoke with an unidentified woman, 1951.

Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn on location in Africa for the filming of The African Queen, 1951.

Director John Huston and Humphrey Bogart during filming of The African Queen, 1951.

Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn on location in Africa for the filming of The African Queen, 1951.

Off to work goes Hepburn, leaving the private bungalow which she decorated charmingly with native spears and flowers.

Director John Huston examines one of his rifles during filming of The African Queen, 1951.

Katharine Hepburn gives her hair its nightly wash on the set of The African Queen, with the help of Sonduco, a production employee.

A deeply amused Humphrey Bogart on location in Africa for the filming of The African Queen.

Katharine Hepburn allows LIFE’s Eliot Elisofon inside her private bungalow during filming of The African Queen.

Humphrey Bogart’s beard gets a touch-up during filming of The African Queen.

Katharine Hepburn adjusts her costume before a full-length mirror which was soon broken.

Humphrey Bogart and director John Huston joined on the set by Lauren Bacall and crew members during filming of The African Queen.

Swimming in the river during filming of The African Queen.

A view of the rig necessary to allow filming of Charlie Allnut’s boat on the river in The African Queen.

Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn on location in Africa for the filming of The African Queen.

Chief cameraman Jack Cardiff and producer Sam Spiegel discuss technical specifications during filming of The African Queen. Spiegel went on to produce 1962’s Lawrence of Arabia, which won the Oscar for Best Picture.

Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn in Africa during filming of The African Queen.

Katharine Hepburn on location in Africa for the filming of The African Queen, 1951.

A man beats a hollow log with sticks — the daily 6 a.m. wake-up call for the cast and crew of The African Queen.

Katharine Hepburn enjoys a moment away from the filming of The African Queen.

A local resident tends to the wardrobe for Katharine Hepburn on location for The African Queen.

Lauren Bacall makes sandwiches while surrounded by her husband and the crew during a lunch break on location for The African Queen.

Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn rehearse a scene while crew members watch, on location for The African Queen.

At siesta time after lunch everybody took it easy. Director Huston (right) fished doggedly with technician Kevin McClory, never caught a thing.

Bogart snoozes in a hammock under makeshift shelter on an equipment raft. He never had to study lines, learned them after two or three readings.

Katharine Hepburn, her face concealed by her massive hat, puts up her feet.

Katharine Hepburn on location in Africa for the filming of The African Queen, 1951.

(Photos by Eliot Elisofon—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

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