THE AFRICAN QUEEN: True Compassion | FCC 138

In the 1951 classic film THE AFRICAN QUEEN, Charlie Allnut (played by Humphrey Bogart) and Rose Sayer (played by Katharine Hepburn) share a journey on the eponymous steamboat and learn what true, hands-on compassion really is. Join us as we discuss these Christian themes and more on this episode of the Finding Christ In Cinema podcast.

For your convenience you will find each podcast segment at the time referenced below:

  • 00:00:00 – Introduction
  • 00:02:11 – Movie Discussion
  • 00:27:58 – Listener Feedback
  • 00:33:37 – Christian Themes in THE AFRICAN QUEEN (1951) 
  • 00:57:50 – Upcoming

On this episode, we are joined by John Carney. He is the City Editor of the Shelbyville Times-Gazette and is also a certified United Methodist lay speaker. Check out his blog at Medium, and follow him on Twitter.


Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn as the the Pharisee and the Publican

At the beginning of this film, Charlie Allnut and Rose Sayer understand “compassion” in very different ways. Charlie lives his life as a benevolent boat captain who does small jobs and makes deliveries to the indigenous people of Kungdu village. Rose and her brother Samuel are Methodist missionaries who hold worship services for those same people.

Not to downplay the importance of the necessity of corporate worship for which the Sayers provide, it soon becomes apparent that they do not see themselves as with those worshipping with them but above. Even when Charlie joins the Sayers for tea, his stomach his growling while the Sayers sip their tea. It’s a stark clarification in how each understand compassion, and it sets the film’s primary thematic conflict in motion beautifully.

This image from the AFRICAN QUEEN has Humphrey Bogart as Charlie Allnut and Katharine Hepburn as Rose Sayer.

It’s a scenario akin to the hypothetical Pharisee and Publican of Jesus’s parables. You can find that scene in Luke 18:9-14 and relate the characters thusly. The Sayers seem thankful that they are not like Charlie, and Charlie just seems thankful to be alive. Likewise, the Pharisee is thankful for not being like the Publican, but the Publican is thankful to be a servant of God.

The African Queen and Compassion

As the story goes on, and as Charlie and Rose find themselves stuck on the eponymous steamboat, they are thrust into a world in which the only safety is with each other. While on the African Queen, Rose slowly but surely takes any opportunity she can to be truly compassionate to Charlie – from letting him in her private shelter during a rain storm to rubbing salt on him to remove river leeches to even getting in that leech-filled water and pulling a defunct African Queen with him. Her transformation from cold-hearted to warm and loving is a beautiful one.

This image from the AFRICAN QUEEN has Humphrey Bogart as Charlie Allnut and Katharine Hepburn as Rose Sayer.

This kind of compassion is very hands-on and an ultimately more effective way to save lives. It carries on through Rose and Charlie when they find themselves caught by the German forces and on the way to be executed. Even through this very real type of persecution, Charlie and Rose have such a real sense of compassion and love that they are willing to die if it may save the indigenous people. If that’s not Christian, I don’t know what is.


Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes – including links to articles discussed – by clicking here.

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About Brenden Taylor

Brenden is a graduate student pursuing his Master in Theatre Arts degree with Regent University. He is an educational assistant and tutor by day and a theatre practitioner by night. You can find him live-tweeting his favorite movies on Twitter @LeviTheBeliever or posting poetry and unsolicited opinions at thebookofbrenden.com
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  • Philip Heard

    Hey guys, I love these classics episodes. There’s an aesthetic to classic films I enjoy, it’s kind of like the cinematic equivalent of comfort food. One thing I get from The African Queen is how at the beginning Rose was offering Charlie dinner and responding to the physical need he had, but it seemed her heart wasn’t in it. It reminds me of 1 Corinthians 13, where Paul repeatedly tells us if he were to do all sorts of great spiritual things, but without love, it would amount to nothing in the end. It’s convicting because it calls to mind how much I can do the “right thing” but without a loving heart.

    The documentary John mentioned on Netflix called Five Came Back is indeed excellent. And what’s great is many of the films those directors did for the war effort are on Netflix, as well.

    Love the the show guys! #muhweeladgimli

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