When Stephen Humphrey Bogart was a baby, his parents left for a trip to the Congo (or the Belgian Congo, as it was known at the time). “My mom said it was the adventure of a lifetime,” the 70-year-old tells The Post. And it was: His mother, Lauren Bacall, had accompanied her husband, Humphrey Bogart, to the set of the 1951 John Huston-directed movie “The African Queen,” the movie that would win Bogey his only Oscar.
As the sardonic Canadian steamboat captain named Charlie Allnut, he rescues a missionary, Rose Sayer (Katharine Hepburn), from a village torched by WWI German forces — and she enlists him on a wild trip down the river to attempt to torpedo a German warship.
The restored Technicolor film, which reliably appears on lists of the greatest films of all time, will be showing at the Metrograph (7 Ludlow St.; Metrograph.com) Saturday at 7 p.m., presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and with an introduction from the actor’s son.
“John Huston loved shooting on location, but it was very hard,” Stephen Bogart says. “Everybody got dysentery except my father and Huston, who only ate canned food and drank scotch.”
Bacall, who struck up a lifelong friendship with Hepburn while helping maintain the set’s camp, had her share of terrifying moments. “One morning they woke up, and my mother put her feet on the floor and the carpet was moving,” Bogart says. “It was a whole bunch of army ants who had invaded the space. They started biting, and she was running, and everybody was running, and they had to move the camp. It was crazy.”
It’s reminiscent of one of the movie’s scenes, in which Charlie and Rose are attacked by flies when they try to dock for the night. In that shot, the flies used in the scene are between two panes of glass — they’re not really biting the actors.
But the movie’s creepiest moment was all too real for Humphrey Bogart.
“My father didn’t like leeches,” says his son. “And when you’re in the water, in the Congo, you’re gonna get leeches. They put some on him in strategic places, but he was really walking through the bulrushes (tall, grasslike plants in the water). You only saw them from the waist up.” In the film, Bogey shudders all too convincingly as Hepburn picks off the huge leeches one by one.
Bogart says there were actually three or four boats used interchangeably in the film, one of which is docked in Key Largo, Fla. “It’s got a captain — you can take a ride on it,” he says.
Bogart, who didn’t follow his father into acting, wrote a book in 1995, “Bogart: In Search of My Father,” about trying to figure out who the man had really been. “He died when I was 8 [in 1957]. I didn’t know who he was except when he was on camera,” says Bogart. “He made 75 movies in 30 years. He wasn’t around. He was working, supporting the family.” Still, Bogart thinks he’s inherited some good qualities from his famous father. “Probably my way of dealing with life. You have to treat people right, you have to compromise, all that stuff.” And, of course, he inherited his parents’ good looks. “I used to get, a lot, that I look like my mother, but as I got older, I morphed into my father,” he says with a laugh.
At the Metrograph, he’ll be promoting a new line of liquors, Bogart Spirits, and the evening’s offerings will include gin — appropriate, considering the booze is a plot point in the movie: At one point, a frustrated Rose hurls Charlie’s gin bottles into the river.
“We’ll do a little Q&A, and there will be Bogart liquor in the lobby,” he says. “People can come in, watch the movie and get drunk.”
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