The African Queen (1951)
Think of Katherine Hepburn and male screen partners and you automatically think of Spencer Tracy. But Kate's most affecting piece of romantic work was with Humphrey Bogart (en route to his only Oscar) in John Huston's classic adventure tale about a riverboat captain and a missionary woman battling the Germans in Africa during World War I. What makes The African Queen so enjoyable is the stars' utter lack of vanity. As Charlie Allnut, commander and crew of the title vessel, Bogie isn't some rakish model of derring-do; he's a sweaty, smelly, unshaven, drunken lout who finds himself helpless at the hands of Hepburn's Rose Sayer, a woman as naive as she is imperious. Their quest to sink a German gunboat is suicidally quixotic, but the couple battles through to share one of the most hard-earned screen kisses in movie history. (Shot on African locations under very primitive conditions and featuring genuine leeches, the film inspired in Hepburn a lifelong loathing for director Huston.) Do not confuse this with the 1977 TV remake starring Warren Oates and Mariette Hartley.