The making of the movie the African Queen in Uganda

Posted by on January 3, 2018

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 almost as adventurous as the Movie itself.

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

It was an adventurous movie and it was adventurous to those making it, drama was the rule of the day. In those days they did not have the modern conveniences of 21st Century Safari Goers, one could easily “Lose one’s Mind,”  Katherine Hepburn almost did.

John Huston and Humphrey Bogart never got sick like the rest of the crew due to the volumes of the liquor that they consumed.

The Adrift Rafting Company has a restored African Queen on the Nile in Jinja, the decaying wreck was found in Kenya – it is only one of two restored versions out of three.  The African Queen was supposed to be used in Cruises on the Nile in Jinja which is not taking place presently.

Hopefully, near future, the African Queen will once again be seen on the River Nile in Uganda with a restored version of the original boat used in the Making of the movie.

Obvioiusly – Katherine Hepburn was in Uganda without a Tour Operator, a picture as to how not to visit Africa, Uganda, your time here will be a lot different than her’s.

The making of the movie the African Queen in Uganda:  Many have seen the 1951 movie “The African Queen” with Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn, some of which  was made near Murchison Falls Park, along Lake Albert in the then port of Butiaba and the Belgian Congo.

Portions of the movie “The African Queen” were made in Uganda while the cast stayed in the historic Masindi Hotel-a battered up African Queen Steam Boat was discovered in Kenya (which had originally 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. (large quantities of Scotch)

There was a time when there was a long line in front of a pit-latrine when 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.

This 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 capita l.

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

The cast of and crew was one of the first visitors to the Murchison Falls Park area in those days with many before them and after them. Today you can visit the area where Katherine Hepburn almost lost her mind and Humphrey Bogart was numb on imported Scotch.

This was not romantic Africa as the cast and crew might have imagined it before coming here, 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 and 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 an amazing experience and very different from the ones that Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn had a bit north in Murchison Falls Park and in the Belgian Congo.

The making of the movie the African Queen in Uganda – The African Queen may have been made in 1951 but in the 21st Century there are still fans from around the world that love the movie and want to experience the boat first-hand and there would be no better place 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.