The making of the movie the African Queen in Uganda

Posted by on February 29, 2020

The making of the movie The African Queen in Uganda – The Reality

How I went to Africa…and almost Lost my Mind -“The African Queen” was nearly as adventurous as the Movie itself.

The making of the movie The African Queen in Uganda – Humphrey Bogart – Katharine Hepburn – Director John Huston looked forward to coming to Africa – Katherine Hepburn wrote a book, “How I Went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall, and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind.” 

Katharine Hepburn loved Africa when she first arrived. She was curious about everything that she saw that was new and, at times, strange to her. Humphrey Bogart never liked Africa but made his time tolerable by downing excessive amounts of Scotch with director John Huston. 

The Making of the African Queen was an adventurous time since the movie was made in then raw Africa without the conveniences that a 21st Century Tourist on Safari enjoys. However, Murchison Falls Park, where part of the film was made, was an early Prime Safari Destination.

One of the African Queen Boats used on the site was used to ferry up tourists to Murchison Falls from the Paraa. It was an African Queen Boat piloted by an Indian that brought Ernest Hemingway to safety after his plane crashed at Murchison Falls.

The making of the movie the African Queen in Uganda: 

Many have seen the 1951 film “The African Queen” with Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn, some of which were made near Murchison Falls Park, along Lake Albert in the then port of Butiaba.  Most of the movie was made in the Belgian Congo, and it is there where they were mostly in the African Bush.

Portions of the movie “The African Queen” were filmed in Uganda. At the same time, the cast stayed in the historic Masindi Hotel-a battered up African Queen Steam Boat was discovered in Kenya (which had initially been found near Murchison Falls) and lovingly restored in Uganda.

The making of the movie was an adventure, pit latrine outhouses were used, and due to the cast drinking foul water, everyone but Humphrey Bogart and director John Huston came down with dysentery. They did not drink any water but large quantities of Scotch.

There was a time when there was a long line in front of a pit-latrine. A woman came screaming out of it after having encountered a poisonous Black Mamba, which somehow cured the rest of the cast and staff and another reason that Katherine Hepburn almost lost her mind during the filming of the movie.

It was then raw Africa, no safari comforts except when they stayed in the oldest Hotel in Uganda built-in 1923, the Masindi Hotel, and later in Entebbe in a more resort-like place. Entebbe in those days was the capital.

While the movie was being filmed in Uganda, things were relatively reasonable. When they moved into a makeshift camp in the Belgian Congo – Life became tough.  You jumped into bed at night to avoid mosquitoes, and in the morning, you checked your shoes for centipedes.

Today you can visit Murchison Falls, where Katherine Hepburn almost lost her mind, and Humphrey Bogart was numb on imported Scotch.

It was not romantic Africa as the cast and crew might have imagined; this was the reality of daily life where one learns to thrive on chaos.

“The country is like a great sponge—it finally absorbs you. Eventually, you will get malaria, or you will get dysentery, and whatever you do, if you don’t keep doing it, the jungle will grow over you. Black or white, you’ve got to fight it every minute of the day.”
― Katharine Hepburn, The Making of The African Queen, or: How I went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall, and Huston and almost lost my mind

Ironically one of the boats using in making the movie became the S.S. Murchison, which was manned by a Goan Pilot who rescued Ernest Hemingway after his plane crashed near Murchison Falls after clipping a telephone wire. There were stranded for a few days.

Hopefully, soon, the restored African Queen now in Jinja along the Nile will take passengers on Nostalgic Cruises on the Nile, and visitors can experience Uganda in one of the original African Queen.

Such a cruise during the day or at sunset would be simply a fantastic experience and very different from the ones that Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn had a bit north in Murchison Falls Park and the Belgian Congo.

The making of the movie the African Queen in Uganda. The African Queen may have been made in 1951. In the 21st Century, there are still fans from around the world that love the movie and want to experience the boat first-hand. There would be no better place to do so than the historic River Nile itself. The sight of the crocodiles put a bit of fright into cast and crew, but they managed.

If the African Queen begins to operate again, we will let you know on this page…enjoy Uganda.