The African Queen // Katharine Hepburn & Humphrey Bogart’s Famous Boat in Key Largo

, The African Queen // Katharine Hepburn & Humphrey Bogart’s Famous Boat in Key Largo

Recently, I watched the famous 1951 movie with Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart that depicts missionaries in East Africa who must evade Germans and survive rapids, so I was excited to get to tour the boat used in “The African Queen!”

, The African Queen // Katharine Hepburn & Humphrey Bogart’s Famous Boat in Key Largo

The African Queen Movie

It was difficult to believe I stood in the same spot as those famous stars were while filming the movie. By the way, the film is full of fun machismo and exaggerated danger.

, The African Queen // Katharine Hepburn & Humphrey Bogart’s Famous Boat in Key Largo

Some old reviews said The Los Angeles Times’ Edwin Shallert wrote about the film’s premier. He said it “should impress for its novelty both in casting and scenically,” and found the ending “rather contrived and even incredible, but melodramatic enough, with almost a western accent, to be popularly effective.”

, The African Queen // Katharine Hepburn & Humphrey Bogart’s Famous Boat in Key Largo

I have to agree totally with The New York Times’ Bosley Crowther who declared the film a bit quirky. He said, “a slick job of movie hoodwinking with a thoroughly implausible romance, set in a frame of wild adventure that is as whopping as its tale of off-beat love … This is not noted with disfavor.”

, The African Queen // Katharine Hepburn & Humphrey Bogart’s Famous Boat in Key Largo

Absolutely, he is spot on – the story is implausible, adventurous, and just plain goofy. I read that Hepburn channeled Eleanor Roosevelt’s demeanor to display a smile always. So, in the movie, you see them surviving crazy events, and she’s always smiling, even though she was very ill during filming.

, The African Queen // Katharine Hepburn & Humphrey Bogart’s Famous Boat in Key Largo

Recently we had watched the movie, and it is hilarious. Humphrey Bogart won his only Oscar, and an Academy Award for Best Actor for the film directed by John Huston. Likewise, Katherine Hepburn received her fifth Academy Award nomination for this film.

, The African Queen // Katharine Hepburn & Humphrey Bogart’s Famous Boat in Key Largo

Shooting the Film

The shooting location for the film was Uganda and the Congo in Africa. The setting takes place mostly on the Ulanga River. Now you can see she lives in a protected marina with other working boats.

, The African Queen // Katharine Hepburn & Humphrey Bogart’s Famous Boat in Key Largo

During filming, Hepburn later wrote that she kept a bucket close by for bouts of seasickness that Bogart and Huston avoided. Further, they accomplished this supposedly by drinking only whiskey and no water. Swimming scenes were shot in studio tanks in London studios in Middlesex.

Built in 1912 in Britain for use in Africa, in April of 2011, the new owners restored Livingstone. Interestingly, filming with the large Technicolor cameras used in shooting the film required redesigns on portions of the boat in order for them to be able to be removed.

, The African Queen // Katharine Hepburn & Humphrey Bogart’s Famous Boat in Key Largo

History of the African Queen Boat

Records show that the boat actually was the L.S. Livingston, or the Livingstone. The steam engine was a prop, with a real diesel engine hidden under cargo and stacked gin crates.

, The African Queen // Katharine Hepburn & Humphrey Bogart’s Famous Boat in Key Largo

Although it appears wood, the boat was built in 1912 in the UK at Lytham Shipbuilding and Engineering Co. of rivited sheet iron. For example, you can see the plating in this photo above and the one below.

She was built for the East African Railway, and used on the Victoria Nile and Lake Albert from 1912 to 1968. Her trade was to move cargo, missionaries and hunting parties on the border between the Belgian Congo and Uganda.. Huston directed the movie in 1950, then it released in 1951.

, The African Queen // Katharine Hepburn & Humphrey Bogart’s Famous Boat in Key Largo

Similarly, I read that for the first 50 years of operation, the Livingstone served to transport hunters, mercenaries, and cargo on the Ruki River in the northern Democratic Republic of Congo.

, The African Queen // Katharine Hepburn & Humphrey Bogart’s Famous Boat in Key Largo

African Queen Comes to the U.S.

Then, owners brought the African Queen to the US in 1968. She worked in San Francisco, Oregon, and then Florida. Other historical accounts say she was found in Cairo, Egypt in the 1970’s with coal still in her bilges.

An attorney from Florida who was a Humphrey Bogart fan acquired the boat in 1982 in Key Largo. He died in 2001, and I remember seeing it wasting away on shore about that time.

, The African Queen // Katharine Hepburn & Humphrey Bogart’s Famous Boat in Key Largo

National Historic site status and her 100th birthday happened in 2012. More details of her history are here at History of a Classic. I purposely left off how she came to Florida, so you must go read the rather interesting history there! I’ll only offer you a spoiler alert – Ocala is mentioned!

In 2012 Suzanne and Lance Holmquist, an engineer, saw it in a marina. They rebuilt the interior steel hull and boiler, and they now offer cruises in the Florida Keys on the boat which is held in trust.

, The African Queen // Katharine Hepburn & Humphrey Bogart’s Famous Boat in Key Largo

The African Queen Is Still Working Her Trade!

The African Queen still runs daily charters now – and is located in Key Largo. It’s docked at the Marina Del Mar marina, part of the Holiday Inn Complex at mile marker 100. You can take daily canal cruises, or dinner cruises. Florida Keys TV gives you a glimpse into a sail on the AQ.

, The African Queen // Katharine Hepburn & Humphrey Bogart’s Famous Boat in Key Largo
This hood is above the steam engine – I’m not sure if the steam engine is used regularly, and the outboard is maybe there for backup.

We were not there at a scheduled cruise, but did see all the offerings for sailings and even dinner cruises. What fun it would be to cruise the canals in the Florida Keys on the same vessel on which Bogart and Hepburn worked!

, The African Queen // Katharine Hepburn & Humphrey Bogart’s Famous Boat in Key Largo
Here I am facing forward. In an earlier photo, I faced aft to get the perspective of the size of the boat.

Interesting Side Stories

Disney used this movie as inspiration for the “Jungle Cruise” attraction that opened in 1971 – no surprise there! However, Kevin Costner is a past Jungle Cruise skipper! Also, at the entrance is a large palm tree from 1896, almost 20 years before the boat construction began according to 15 Facts About Disney’s Jungle Cruise.

It appears Busch Gardens Tampa also used the idea for their Stanley Falls water flume, with an African Queen Boat Ride in 1977.

The African Queen has been transported to an operated in harbors at Sydney, New York City, England, and Ireland.

, The African Queen // Katharine Hepburn & Humphrey Bogart’s Famous Boat in Key Largo

Take Non-Toxic Sunscreen to the Florida Keys! (And a Good Hat!)

The Florida Keys have banned sunscreens with the toxic ingredients oxybenzone and octinoxate, so treat yourself to a new tube of Stream2Sea sunscreen this season. Here’s a 10% off discount to reward you for being environmentally conscious; just use “KimW” at the checkout.

What to Read Next: 

In Search of the Best Sailing Hat Ever

How to Dispose of Toxic Sunscreen Banned in Several Vacation Destinations

This was just one stop in our Ultimate Florida Keys Road Trip // Key West Dive Trip!

What to Watch Next: Trying & Applying Reef Safe Mineral Sunscreen – Tinted and White // Deep Water Happy


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