To mark her many great screen accomplishments – not to mention the influence she exerted on independent people in her lifetime – LIFE.com presents 29 photos of the iconoclast on location for her classic 1951 movie with Humphrey Bogart, director John Huston’s The African Queen.
Over time, the characters behind the camera seem to have become more fascinating than those before it, but to recap: the movie is a down-river adventure pairing Charlie Allnutt (Bogie), a disheveled trader with a boat to match (The African Queen), and Rose Sayer (Hepburn), an English spinster missionary. (Director Huston told her to play the role as though she were Eleanor Roosevelt.) And, yes, this mismatched couple fall in love.
When it comes to the LIFE.com spread, a majority of the shots by fabled photographer Eliot Elisofon did not originally make it to the final editions of the great picture magazine. Still, these vivid examples now being seen illustrate a lot of what Hepburn wrote about in her best-selling 1987 memoir about the experience: The Making of "The African Queen," or How I Went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall and Huston.
Take, for example, LIFE.com Photo No. 9, of Hepburn washing her hair. “Did I tell you about the water?” she writes in her book. “Like velvet. It is the most spectacular water. Dirt evaporates. … Of course you can’t drink it. It’s poison. In fact, they say you shouldn’t even brush your teeth in it. But, my oh my, the feeling! Luscious. Angel’s fingers stroking you.”
My oh my, they just don’t make ’em like that anymore. R.I.P., Miss Hepburn.
To see the LIFE.com photos, click here.