Celebrate Katharine Hepburn With Never-Before-Seen Photos from the Set of ‘The African Queen’

In honor of the 10th anniversary of Katharine Hepburn's death, LIFE dug into their archives for rare and never-before-seen pics from the set of 'The African Queen!'
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The African Queen Katharine Bogey laughing

This past Saturday marked the 10th anniversary of Katharine Hepburn’s death—but instead of wallowing in sadness, LIFE Magazine turned the occasion into a celebration of the silver screen legend’s spectacular life and career. This, of course, meant digging into their vault for another batch of rare and never-before-seen photographs; this time, the treasure trove of images comes from the set of The African Queen.

In 1951, Katharine, her co-star, Humphrey Bogart, and director John Huston, traveled to the Belgian Congo to shoot what would become one of the most well-loved adventure films of all time. Photographer Elior Elisofan went along, capturing a unique behind-the-scenes look during the seven weeks of filming. Despite the exotic locale and romantic look of the finished film, the shoot was anything but easy; Katharine, for example, ended up with a nasty case of dysentery as a result of drinking contaminated water. Amazingly, though, she never missed a day of filming. Talk about dedication! Bogey and Huston fared better health-wise—although, as LIFE notes, this was probably because they both drank far more booze than water.

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The effort was definitely worth it, though: The African Queen netted Bogart the only Oscar of his career for Best Actor, as well as nominations for Katharine for Best Actress, Huston and James Agee for Best Adapted Screenplay, and Huston for Best Director. It’s also been selected for preservation in the United States Nationals Film Registry, with the Library of Congress deeming it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”—or, as the case may be, all three.

You can see the whole gallery (a whopping 30 images!) over at LIFE’s website; check out a few of our favorite shots after the jump!


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