Aboard the African Queen

By: Kathy Kelsey Foley, director on June 2nd, 2010

I boarded the African Queen, so to speak, early Sunday morning, May 23, at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles.

No, I haven’t lost it (yet). I was among a couple hundred American Association of Museums annual meeting attendees who took advantage of an invitation to attend a screening of the recently restored John Huston adventure film, The African Queen, starring Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart.

What a great conference kickoff. We were transported by coach to Paramount Studios and ushered into the elegant theater, complete with plush velvet seats and Deco adornments. Paramount Pictures Restoration VP Ron Smith introduced the project, describing the challenges and the processes used to correct faded dyes and misregistration and also to remove audio crackles and pops.

And then the lights dimmed, the curtain opened, and for 105 minutes I was transported to East Africa and onto Charlie Allnut’s (Bogart) riverboat, African Queen, as he and Rose Sayer (Hepburn) bantered and sparred and ultimately triumphed in their seemingly improbable plot to sink the Louisa, a German vessel. Of course, the pair is successful, and as they tackle a succession of river challenges, Allnut transforms from a slovenly gin-swiller to a clean-shaven romantic, capturing Sayer’s heart, too.

As the final credit rolled and the curtain closed, the appreciative audience enthusiastically applauded. The African Queen is a classic . . . they just don’t make movies like this today.

En route to the waiting buses, there was another surprise: a display of recently restored Ten Commandments jewelry – a perfect treat for the museum crowd. An archivist provided background and answered questions as many snapped photos.

And then it was time to get serious. AAM sessions began at 1:00. I had colleagues to re-connect with, pressing issues to tackle, and new and innovative practices to learn about. Four days of invigorating and inspiring nurturing and sharing.

I returned to the Woodson Art Museum with to-do list of ideas and lots of information to pass along to coworkers as well as memories of my journey aboard the African Queen.

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