—Great Way to Spend a Car/Plane Ride—
*This is post #2 in my African Queen trilogy of posts. Post #1 on the actual film can be found here.*
Honorary Bogie Fix:
Canadian boat captain Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart) helps a Christian missionary(Greer Garson) leave an African village as the Germans take control during the first World War.
What I Thought
Can you imagine movie stars of this day and age promoting their films by recreating abbreviated versions for the radio? Bogart did it multiple times, and although Katherine Hepburn is replaced by Greer Garson in the role of Rose here, it’s still a lot of fun, and a great way to kill a car ride or plane trip if you’re one of those people who prefer podcasts to music.
Taped before a live audience, Bogart and Garson crank up the roles of Charlie and Rose considerably for the audio-only crowd. As colorful as Bogart was for the film version, he’s even more goofy and eccentric here. It makes sense, considering the entire story now has to happen in our minds as we listen along, and both actors are forced to rely only on their spoken words to get the message across.
Intermittently, we get spots for Lux Toilet Soap (it’s how Esther Williams and Zsa Zsa Gabor keep their complexions so healthy, dontcha know!), and a teaser for the following week’s production of Les Miserables. There’s also a short, very scripted, “off the cuff” moment with Bogart and Garson after the curtain call that is kind of a shocking reminder about how completely staged Classic Hollywood could look and sound in its “candid” moments.
Unlike a lot of radio theater from the time, there were multiple moments where I forgot that I wasn’t listening to the audio from the actual film. I really enjoyed this broadcast.
The Bogart Factor
Bogart throws himself into the radio version of Charlie Allnut just as much as he did in the filmed version. He’s quirky, charming, goofy, and just a little bit off of his rocker. It all makes for a lot of fun as he and Greer Garson have decent chemistry together, and we get to re-enjoy the courtship of two great film characters.
Other than a couple very minor roles, Bogart and Garson carry the entire broadcast as they talk their way down the river, and they both seem to be enjoying themselves immensely. I continue to maintain that Bogart was one of most professional actors I’ve ever seen, always giving 100% to every role, no matter how small or strange.
Greer Garson plays Rose Sayer, and while she’s no Katherine Hepburn, she does a good job. Garson’s version of the English missionary is even more prim, proper, and enunciation-obsessed than Hepburn’s, as she really plays up Rose’s stuffiness for the radio, and she capably handles herself alongside Bogart . My only complaint would be that Garson lacks the tough side of Rose, and errs too greatly in the direction of British snob.
Classic Bogie Moment
What’s so great about Bogart in the film version is that he truly held nothing back in his quirky and eccentric portrayal of Charlie Allnut – the captain who starts a little off-his-rocker even before the river drives him over the edge.
What’s even more fun about the radio broadcast is that Bogart gets to turn it up a notch as he plays for both a live crowd, and a crowd that can only hear his voice. This means that when it’s time to get drunk, he gets silly drunk, singing “The Bold Fisherman” with slightly more zest and bravado than the film version. We’ve seen a slurring, droopy-eyed, drunk Bogart quite a few times in film, but this is a sloppy, giddy, off-the-wall, plastered Bogart, and it’s a blast.
The Bottom Line
Have an hour? Take a listen. It’s a lot of fun to hear Bogart having so much fun.