Thursday, April 3, 2014

The African Queen

The African Queen
seen @ Landmark Loew's Jersey Theater, Jersey City, NJ

I had forgotten how good The African Queen is. I had only seen it once before, way back in my video store days, and all I remembered of it was the opening scene - Katharine Hepburn in that makeshift church, earnestly playing the organ to a bunch of stupefied African natives who have no idea what she's singing about.

It's funny that I'd see a movie where Humphrey Bogart is at his scruffiest so soon after reading this article about what made him such a style icon. It's true that for someone with such... unconventional looks as Bogart (to put it nicely), he rocked the tuxedo like nobody's business. And next to Harrison Ford, no one else looked better in a fedora. 

While his character in Queen is very much a Bogart kind of character - the American abroad (well, Canadian, anyway) - in terms of his image, he's playing against type. Even in To Have and Have Not, another movie where he's in another country, dresses casually and owns a boat, he's still recognizable as Bogey. Not here, though, looks-wise.

The print that the Loew's JC presented was a recent restoration (from 2009, I believe) and it looked beautiful. The Technicolor colors popped in a way I didn't remember seeing from the VHS version I saw years ago. During the opening credits, legendary cinematographer Jack Cardiff got a brief burst of applause from someone in the audience, and no wonder - all those images of the river, and the surrounding jungle, and the animals, and the boat itself as it made its fateful trip. He captured it all well.

Queen was a bit of a last-minute selection on account of the problems the Friends of the Loew's (FOL) are still having with Jersey City. Despite that, and despite the pouring rain on Saturday night, a fairly big crowd turned out, which is very encouraging. Host and FOL head Colin Egan had nothing new to report regarding their struggle to retain control of the Loew's JC, but it was quite clear that the crowd was on his side. 

He always acknowledges the FOL volunteers in his introductions, but on Saturday night he made special mention of their efforts to preserve the theater during this difficult time, and someone shouted out "That's right!" as part of the applause. In addition, Egan and the rest of the staff were wearing "I support Friends of the Loew's" buttons, which they gave away for free. Naturally, I snagged one. 

I don't live in Jersey City, so I don't know if Saturday's crowd is representative of the city at large, but in this recent poll taken by the Jersey Journal, 65% of the respondents opposed JC picking a new organization to run the Loew's JC, so that's something. I would've preferred a different phrasing of the question, though, to something like "Should the FOL remain in charge of the theater" or something to that effect. 

I think FOL's efforts to preserve the theater and make it a viable venue for movies and other events are blatantly obvious to anyone who looks at the facts, but then again, I'm not the mayor of JC. Here's hoping they can resolve this dispute soon.


  1. Regarding Bogie's unconventional looks (like that), I can't recall the film, but in one of his movies a woman says to him "How can a man so ugly be so handsome?" or something like that.

    I hope I get a chance to see "The African Queen" on the big screen someday. Could happen.

  2. I can't think of a contemporary analog, either, in terms of screen image. Maybe Dustin Hoffman, but his appeal is completely different. Bogey truly was one of a kind.


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