Friday, 3 June 2011

Best Actor 1951: Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen

Humphrey Bogart won his only Oscar from his second Oscar nomination for portraying Charlie Allnut in The African Queen.

The African Queen tells the story of a steamboat Captain Charlie, and a missionary Rosie (Katharine Hepburn) who attempt to destroy a large German ship in Africa during World War I.

Humphrey Bogart's win here is usually described as a makeup career award, and it is hard to deny that fact. I  do not think this would probably still be a noted Bogart performance even if he had not won the award, because of the style of Bogart's performance here. His performances many other times are largely serious with more of some brief moments perhaps of comedy, this performance though is a rather casual performance from Bogart, that could be described as one of his most comedic.

Bogart is a performer who I sometimes plays parts a little on the dull side, and not infusing enough energy into his performance. Here I will say he tries not to really play the part all that dully a lot of the time, since he in many ways tries to be a more energetic Bogart here, that is a little more wild than in many of his earlier performances. This does not mean I find his performance all that interesting either, but he is at least not overly dull in this performance. Bogart never becomes overly interesting even though not dull, because his performance still is never that good. He is charming at times, but other times he seems to just be acting the part without infusing all that much into the scene. He sometimes does feel more of just going through the motions of the performance a little bit, by not adding the additional charm the performance probably always required.

A big part of his performance is his chemistry with Katharine Hepburn. I have heard many say they love their chemistry together. I myself never felt it to be that amazing, but not extremely lacking either this time around. I think they work well enough together in their basically two person show, but still their work never becomes all that fascinating or entertaining either. Bogart's performance most of the time feels just functional to me. This time around I felt he drifted a bit to a bit more than functional and a few minor scenes I really did think he was quite charming, but other scenes he goes below functional such as with his drunk scene. This is a mixed performance more than it used to be, which is an improvement since I felt had little value at all before. I still can't call this really a good performance but I am now far more reluctant to call it a bad one.


Anonymous said...

Well, I disagree, I love his performance and the film itself! He will be fourth I think :(

joe burns said...

I guess what I expected, although I thought you might like him a little more.

Was Brando really the frontrunner this year? It might be just overhype saying he was the frontrunner that year, sort of like what Fritz was saying with Judy and Grace back in 54, that Judy wasn't a total shoo-in.

Louis Morgan said...

I am no sure who was the front runner it could have been no one really, or Bogart since he was the unrewarded veteran. March had won the Golden Globe, and Kennedy the NYCC, so it is really hard to say.