Just as musicians don’t always make great actors, as any music video will show you, actors don’t always make great writers. Here’s an exception: The Making of the African Queen.
Katherine Hepburn’s account of the making of The African Queen is priceless, not just because of the story it tells, but because it is memoir done right. It doesn’t attempt to tell her life story as if it were an autobiography. It is simply a memoir of a particular event.
Limiting herself to a single event, the making of this iconic movie, Hepburn gives herself room to include plenty of detail. She writes like she speaks. If there were a font called Quavery Serif, the printer would have used it.
Like any good memoir, you didn’t have to be there and know the people involved to enjoy it. Whether you’ve seen the movie or not, the stories are interesting and funny. Hepburn captures Huston and Bogie just as we want to believe they were, whether it’s true or not. Although the title of the book is The Making of the African Queen, the subtitle perfectly captures the feeling of the book. As any good adventurer would, she tells stories of epic disasters as if they were just one of those things.
You might expect a book written by an enormous personality about enormous personalities creating an epic movie to be over-written and intense. It is, instead, a delicate, friendly, polite book – much like I would expect tea with Kate to be.