It looks like another brief hiatus for The Bogie Blog. With two jobs taking their toll on my time, I’m a little sad to say I won’t get every Bogart film in before the 1 year anniversary of the blog. (A secret goal I had in the beginning.). But things should be back up in a week or so!
—Perhaps the Most Undeserved Film Title of All Time—
Your Bogie Film Fix:
out of 5 Bogies!
Director: Irving Cummings
The son (George O’Brien) of a murdered millionaire (Robert Warwick) heads to Texas to confront the supposed murderer (James Kirkwood).
What I Thought
At fifty-three minutes, the review for this one was almost “Watchable.” Then I got to the twist ending which immediately calls into question everything that just happened in the previous fifty-two minutes and should potentially create an incredible legal nightmare for all the shooting, fighting, and death that the took place around the main protagonists. Instead, the twist is embraced by all the characters, laughed about, and taken as a neat and tidy wrap-up for a tragically violent story. I’m obviously tip toeing around spoilers her, but James Kirkwood’s Texas rancher is so negligent in his communication to other characters that he should spend the rest of his life in prison.
Based on a novel by renowned Western author Max Brand, there is some potential to be had by the story here. A wealthy playboy polo player heads out west and proves that he can be as tough as the cowboys while he solves his father’s murder – it’s a nice fish-out-of-water story, and other than the ludicrous way that O’Brien meets his love interest (Sally Eilers) at the beginning of the film, the romance isn’t half bad either despite the (clichéd) facet that she just happens to be dating the man (Bogart) who wants O’Brien dead.
Definitely not a must see for casual fans. There’s a good reason this one’s hard to find.
The Bogart Factor
It’s a stereotypical bad guy role for Bogart here as he plays Steve Nash, the head cowhand for James Kirkwood’s ranch. No backstory is given. He’s got a bunkhouse full of goons. He’s quick to use murder to solve all his problems. When the ending arrives, you will wonder Why in the heck did Kirkwood have this guy on the payroll?
All that said, Bogart’s the standout performance here by far. The role is essentially the same as any of his early gangster roles, complete with the East Coast accent, and no one could play stock tough guys better than Bogie. He whines, grouses, argues, sneers, and loses his temper throughout the film and it never gets old.
As one of only three Westerns in his filmography, there is enough here to make it a must see for Bogart completists as he does get a lot of screen time with all the other leads.
George O’Brien plays Tony Bard, the wealthy playboy who goes to find his father’s killer. This was my first experience with O’Brien, but he seems to have had a decent career in Westerns. There’s not a lot to work with in the script for him, but he’s charming enough.
Sally Eilers plays Jerry Foster, Bogart’s apparent girlfriend, and the woman who O’Brien eventually woos by the end of the film. Eilers is probably the other standout alongside of Bogart as she’s pretty and seems comfortable onscreen. But again, with only fifty-three minutes to work with, there’s not much time to really see what she has to offer here.
James Kirkwood plays William Drew, the wealthy rancher suspected of killing O’Brien’s father. He’s briefly in the beginning and then reappears in the final act, so there’s not a lot of screen time for him, but he’s fine in the role despite the fact that his actions are criminal whether he’s guilty of the murder or not.
Robert Warwick appears briefly as O’Brien’s father, John Bard, before he’s murdered. Warwick was apparently a big encourager for Bogart early on, and their relationship was enough for Bogart to bring Warwick back for a small role in In a Lonely Place, so I’ll give him some props again here!
Stanley Fields plays Bogart’s right hand goon, Butch. Yup, that’s all you need to know to understand his character . . .
Rita La Roy shows up as Kitty, a counter girl who seems sweet on Bogart. Again, that’s about all you really need to know . . .
Classic Bogie Moment
He’s a cowboy, right? Right? But this sentence still comes out of his mouth as if he’s in full Bronx gangster mode:
“Fella doesn’t come into a town like this and ask questions for nuttin’!”
The Bottom Line
Harmless enough, painful in the finale.
—A Strong Cast Makes This a Classic—
Your Bogie Film Fix:
out of 5 Bogies!
Director: William Wyler
A down on his luck architect (Joel McCrea) is pulled between two women (Sylvia Sidney and Wendy Barrie), a gangster on the run (Bogart) visits his old stomping grounds, and a group of street kids (The ‘Dead End’ Kids) make the best out of their lives in the slums of New York.
What I Thought
Based on the hit Broadway play of the same name, Dead End is theater brought to the big screen in the best possible ways. An ensemble piece that takes it’s time letting characters interact in more private, high-stake conversations, Director William Wyler keeps the most important essence of any great stage drama alive; the audience gets to watch people struggle through life-altering decisions in real time right before their eyes. Dialogue is king here, giving the top billed stars plenty to chew on as they pinball between one another, sorting out their lives while altering the lives of everyone around them at the same time.
Key to much of what works here is Art Director Richard Day as he does an amazing job creating a studio set that looks like the real New York, but at the same time retains the claustrophobic feeling of a large group of people struggling to be noticed on a theatre stage. The atmosphere brings the caged mood of the slums to life – characters can see the wonder and shine of the world beyond their neighborhood, but they know that they’ll never get there.
It’s the film that earned The ‘Dead End’ Kids their name, having been brought from New York where they originated their roles on stage. Many of the film’s strongest moments come between the boys and Bogart as he takes an interest in them after recognizing his own childhood reflected in their behavior. It would lead to a multi-film collaboration between the kids and the soon-to-be superstar, but make no mistake, this is their strongest film together.
Director Wyler does a great job of letting each character, no matter how small the role, shine in their own moments without stealing the overall focus of the film. (See Claire Trevor below.) Does Bogart outshine the film’s actual leads? Maybe, but it’s not his fault. The role is written so well that I don’t think his charisma could have been bottled up any more than it already was. I’m excited to write up Wyler’s future Bogart collaboration, The Desperate Hours.
A must see gangster role for Bogart, there’s more than enough here to please any classic film fan.
The Bogart Factor
Playing ‘Baby Face’ Martin, this is one of Bogart’s most fleshed-out gangster roles. While on paper it might not look like much – a criminal running from the cops who stops by to see his old flame and his mother one more time – a lot of expectations get turned on their heads when both interactions don’t follow the typical Hollywood formula.
It’s a role where we get to see Bogart thinking out loud, saying just as much with his facial expressions and mannerisms as he does with his dialogue. Perhaps one of his best portrayals of internal turmoil, I’m a little surprised that this part isn’t more talked about when people list his greatest performances. ‘Baby Face’ Martin seems like a younger, ever-so-slightly more hopeful, version of Duke Mantee just as he turns the corner from confidence to fatalism.
For the scenes between Bogart and his mother (Marjorie Main reprising her role from the original play), as well as Bogart and Trevor, this film’s an acting clinic for how to handle disappointment with a character in film. Both scenes are incredibly strong moments that give us a great glimpse of Bogart’s skill at listening and reacting to his costars onscreen.
And how many roles has Bogart played where he’s a gangster who’s gotten plastic surgery to hide? I smell a future post coming up. . .
Joel McCrea plays Dave, the unemployed architect who’s taking odd jobs to make ends meet while he courts Kay Barrie and keeps Sylvia Sidney on the line just in case. McCrea if very good here, and it’s no fault of his that the rest of the cast is so strong that we forget his storyline until he shows up now and again. His character arc is one of the best of the film, and his final confrontation with Bogart and Allen Jenkins is just about as taut and suspenseful as a film climax can get.
Sylvia Sidney plays Drina, the lower class gal that’s sweet on McCrea and can’t stand the fact that he’s after a woman of higher means. Again, Sidney is great here, but it’s not one of the roles from the film that you’ll remember as the overall cast is just too good. I’m excited to see her again in The Wagons Roll at Night where she gets a little more of the spotlight on her own.
Wendy Barrie plays Kay, the upper class woman who seems to think that McCrea is a diamond in the rough. Barrie and McCrea have good chemistry together, and you can feel the desperation in each performance as both seem to see each other as more of a ‘rescue’ than a life partner.
Claire Trevor plays Francey, Bogart’s ex who’s turned to prostitution to make ends meet. Her moment with Bogart is so strong that Trevor won an Oscar for the role, despite the fact that she’s only in the film for a few minutes. Is it deserved? I’d have to see the other nominees from that year, but Trevor is a powerful actress, and she’s one of the main reasons that I’m looking forward to writing up Key Largo soon.
Allen Jenkins plays Bogart’s right hand henchman, Hunk. What can I say? I really love Jenkins, and it pains me a little bit that I can’t put him into The Usual Suspects portion of the blog yet. (I only enter folks after I’ve seen all of their Bogart collaborations, and Racket Busters is indefinitely unavailable!) I might just have to do a partial write up sometime because Jenkins is a go-to character actor for solid performances. While this role leans a little more on the melodrama than the comic relief that Jenkins was so good at, it’s a real testament to his talent that we believe he’s the heavy that he’s supposed to be.
The ‘Dead End’ Kids turn in an incredibly strong performance as they recreate the roles that they played on Broadway. Billy Halop, Huntz Hall, Bobby Jordan, Leo Gorcey, Gabriel Dell, and Bernard Punsly seem to have a natural chemistry, and it’s easy to see why they were able to parlay this film into a career together.
Classic Bogie Moment
Come on, it’s Allen Jenkins and Bogart as two of the best dressed gangsters in New York! How could I not go with a pic from these two?
The Bottom Line
If my Bogart DVD collection had to be cut in half, I’d probably want this one in the mix.
Birth: May 3, 1906
Death: September 25, 1987
Number of Films Mary Astor Made with Humphrey Bogart: 2
Born and raised in Quincy, Illinois, Mary Astor was groomed by her parents from a very early age to be a star. It only took a series of beauty pageants to get her noticed by a Hollywood agent who signed her to a contract that had her doing bit parts in silent films starting at the age of only fourteen.
After slowly building up to a solid and very successful career, Astor seemed to peak in 1941 when she won an Oscar for her role in The Great Lie, the same year that she appeared in the cinema classic The Maltese Falcon alongside of Humphrey Bogart. Astor’s life was apparently a troubled one though, filled with affairs, divorces, the death of a husband, depression, a suicide attempt, and a heart ailment.
What I loved about her two films with Bogart was the way that she was able to distinguish two characters that, at first glance, seem to share so much in common. One is a sultry, dangerous, femme fatale. The other is a slightly naïve gal in over her head and forced to put on a ruse in order to save someone she loves. Yet, both start out as women of mystery, and we don’t have any idea whose side they’re really on until the plot has finally resolved itself.
And to be honest, this whole write up is just an excuse to post the pic below from Across the Pacific. If I ever bumped into that gal on a boat and the only other man aboard was Sydney Greenstreet – well, it quickly becomes apparent how easily someone could fall for Astor in real life or on screen.
The Maltese Falcon – 1941
Astor plays femme fatale Brigid O’Shaughnessy, the woman who pulls Bogart into the danger and mystery surrounding the small, but priceless, falcon statuette. According to a few different bios and websites, Director Huston had Astor run around the set before takes in order to lend a constant breathless quality to her performance. After re-watching this film for the umpteenth time, I have to say that it certainly seems to be true and it works well for her performance. Astor’s reputation as a woman who liked to spend time with lots of different men supposedly helped create a lot of excitement for this one when it came out. While that aspect might be lost on modern day viewers, Astor is still amazing in the role – hitting all the right notes and keeping the audience’s sympathies, despite a string of nonstop lies and manipulations. I saw this one before Across the Pacific, and I have to admit that it took me a few viewings of Pacific to forgive her for the way that she treats Bogart in Falcon. I think it’s a testament to her talent that she’s so good and playing someone so bad. Astor also reprised her role as Brigid on a few different radio broadcasts alongside of Bogart and Greenstreet. You can read my original write up on the film here.
In This Our Life – 1942
Regardless of what the filmographies may say, Astor’s not in this one! Directed by John Huston, rumor had it that Bogart, Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and a few others had appeared in the movie as background players for a scene to add a little in-joke for Falcon fans. Whether the scene was cut from the film, or just a hoax to begin with, none of them are visible. You can read my original write up on the film here.
Across the Pacific – 1942
Reteaming with Director John Huston, Bogart, and Sydney Greenstreet, Astor plays Alberta Marlow, the mysterious woman who’s sailing with Bogart and Greenstreet through the Panama Canal on their way to Asia. I really, really loved Astor here, even more than in The Maltese Falcon. She gorgeous, funny, flirtatious, and so wonderfully girl-next-door-ish that I found it much easier to believe that Bogart would fall in love with her. Again, Astor reprised her role alongside of Bogart and Greenstreet on the radio. Good grief, just the scene from the pic above brings me so much joy that even if this film had been awful, the chemistry between these three stars would have been worth the effort! You can read my original write up on the film here.
*The Usual Suspects is an ongoing section of the blog where I highlight some of Bogart’s more regular collaborators. You can read the rest of the write ups here.*
—Not as Casablanca-ish as You’ve Been Told—
Your Bogie Film Fix:
Director: Curtis Bernhardt
A black market gun dealer (Bogart) sells weapons and ammo to the Syrians as they revolt against their French occupiers in 1925, only to fall in love with the girlfriend (Märta Torén) of the French Colonel (Lee J. Cobb) in charge of French Intelligence.
What I Thought
The bar on this one had been set pretty low by everything that I’d read and everyone that I’d talked to before I watched it. I was told over and over again – this was a weak attempt at recreating the magic of Casablanca.
I got Sirocco as one of the five films from the TCM box set ‘Humphrey Bogart: The Columbia Pictures Collection.’ During the film’s introduction, Ben Mankiewicz acknowledges the criticism that the film has received for aping Casablanca, but he also points out that watching the film removed from the era helps the enjoyment of it quite a bit. I would agree 100%.
Yes, we have expatriate Bogart involved in some criminal operations in a foreign occupied country. And yeah, there is a woman involved, who also happens to be involved with a man who’s doing his best to become a martyr for his cause. But I think Sirocco does a good job of finding its own legs as it diverts away from many of the more iconic qualities that we think about when we consider Casablanca.
First and foremost, Harry Smith is a much darker criminal than Rick Blaine. Whereas Blaine ran an under-the-radar casino that was actually favored by the local law, Smith is supplying the weapons that are aiding the Syrians to actually kill the French in charge. If discovered, Smith knows he would almost certainly be shot.
Blaine lives low profile, rarely leaving the nightclub and never sticking his neck out when there’s trouble. Smith, on the other hand, is required to live in a constant state of danger as he dodges bullets, stalks darkened alleys and underground catacombs, and risks his neck every time he goes after a paycheck.
But above all, one character describes Smith as a man with, “no morals and no political convictions.” While the same accusation was essentially made against Blaine, I think much of it was an act that he was ready to drop in a heartbeat when finally faced with a life and death decision that could impact the entire war. With Smith, it’s dead on.
Beyond that, I think it could be pretty easily argued that Sirocco isn’t even a Bogart vehicle nearly as much as it is a showcase for Lee J. Cobb as he plays the French military man in charge of smoking out Bogart’s gun ring. I think we’re supposed to be rooting against the French as we cheer on Bogart. But Bogart’s portrayal is just seedy enough, and Cobb’s is just righteous enough, that it’s not hard to sympathize with the French occupier who defies his own commanding officer to bring a truce to the bloody battle.
We watch Cobb slowly melt down under the pressure of finding the gunrunners while at the same time trying to salvage his relationship with Märta Torén, who is clearly ready to end the relationship and move on to a darker and more mysterious Bogart.
After you watch the film and see what both Cobb and Bogart go through during the last act of the film, try and imagine the role of Harry Smith played by someone less legendary than Bogart. I’m pretty sure that if an unknown had been cast in the role, Sirocco would be considered Cobb’s film to make or break.
This is the second film I’ve written up by Director Curtis Bernhardt, the first being Conflict, and what I’ve really come to appreciate is the way that he often lets scenes play out not for plot advancement, but for character color. Especially check out the scenes where Bogart’s lounging in the barbershop or the nightclub when we get to watch him just exist for a few moments in the environments with his costars, as if nothing more important was happening in the rest of the world.
The Bogart Factor
He’s very good here. The script doesn’t give him quite as much nuance as Rick Blaine, but I enjoyed seeing him play a real anti-hero. If Bogart had made the decision to leave the girl behind, or shoot his way out of being arrested, it would have been believable. Director Bernhardt does of great job of setting up Harry Smith as a man who is just in it all for the money. Once he’s got enough, he’ll probably disappear, moving on to the next conflict where he can make a quick buck at the expense of a lot of dead soldiers.
I like dark Bogie a lot. This character is probably more on par with someone like Roy Earle – a likable criminal who you almost want to root for, even though he’s a part of some pretty awful behavior. Check out the scene where he takes the cigarette back from Torén and smokes it despite the fresh blood that’s on the end of it.
Lee J. Cobb plays French Intelligence officer Colonel Feroud. Cobb does a really nice job here of painting a man that’s incredibly noble, and yet incredibly flawed at the same time. He’s the only man in Damascus who seems to want the fighting to end without any more bloodshed, but at the same time, he loses his temper and attacks the woman he loves. I want to watch it again just to spend a little more time focusing on his performance rather than Bogart’s.
Märta Torén plays Cobb’s girlfriend, Violette. Again, like so many of the other characters in this film, Violette is not an easy person to love, and we never fully know if she’s actually interested in Bogart, or if she just wants to use him for an exit from the country. It’s a completely contrary role to Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa, and Torén holds her own very well against Bogart and Cobb.
Nick Dennis nearly steals the film as Bogart’s sidekick and gunrunning partner, Nasir. I really enjoyed Dennis here, and I want to see a lot more of him. I defy you to pick any scene that he’s in and not smile at least once.
Zero Mostel plays one of the other black marketeers that’s in league with Bogart and Dennis. It’s not a huge role, but I was surprised to see him again in another Bogart film after The Enforcer. I’ve always enjoyed Mostel a great deal, and he’s a perfect fit for this nervous nelly role.
Classic Bogie Moment
So . . . your favorite nightclub just got blown up with you inside? The room is filled with smoke, blood, and the screams of women? Might as well have a smoke and a drink, right? Check out Bogart and Nick Dennis keeping it cool here:
This one’s well worth a watch. Some of the posters even use the tagline, “Beyond Casablanca,” and I think it could make a great double feature with the cinema classic.
—Drastically Abridged, but It Works!—
Honorary Bogie Fix:
For my synopsis of the storyline from Across the Pacific, you can read my original write up on the film here.
What I Thought
I know that I probably don’t need to say this, but you should definitely watch the film before listening to the broadcast. Some of the bigger plot twists and character motivations are given away in the opening segment by the narrator. From the very beginning we know who’s who and what they’re after.
That being said, I can’t really explain why this radio broadcast works so well. Almost all of the actual action has been removed from the story except for two key scenes – one in which Bogart is knocked unconscious, and the big shoot out at the end – but the conversations between the three main leads keep things humming along at a crisp enough pace that you don’t notice.
We also get another taste of Bogart as the narrator, albeit briefly, when his character of Rick Leland breaks the fourth wall and interrupts the actual narrator to move the story along at the beginning. It’s not nearly as much narration as he had during The Maltese Falcon broadcast a few weeks ago, but it’s kind of fun, despite the fact that he essentially spoils all of the film’s big surprises in order to jump ahead in the story.
What really makes this radio broadcast work is the chemistry and conversations between the three main leads. Bogart and Astor seem to be just as smitten as in the original film, and Bogart and Greenstreet share so many sparks while working alongside one another that they could probably read the phone book and it would be captivating. While this version of the story may not be as action packed as its source material, the writing is sharp and it gives us some of the best bits of dialogue from the film.
The Japanese stereotyping is still here, as it’s pretty central to the story, but it’s not nearly as heavy as it was in the film since we don’t get a visual on the characters. Although, when Rick’s buddy Sam shows up, the accent is more than a little over the top.
All in all, if you’re a fan of the film you’ll find this an easy listen at just a little over half an hour.
The Bogart Factor
I downloaded this one from the Warner Archive Podcast, and unlike a lot of other classic radio broadcasts that survive from that era, this one’s crystal clear. There’s a few times we hear the studio audience (see below for one example), and it reminds me again how lucky these folks were to have the chance to see these cinema legends firsthand recreating iconic roles.
There are no stutters or dropped lines here, as Bogart seems especially laid back behind the microphone. Again, he’s brought his A-game to the broadcast and gives 100%.
This is the film that sold me on Mary Astor, and while her part is significantly shortened for the radio, she’s great here. I love the fact that she can deliver her lines in such a way that I feel like I can actually hear when she’s smiling. Out of the three Astor broadcasts that I’ve listened to thus far, this one’s been my favorite as she really sounds just as attractive as Bogart’s dialogue makes her out to be.
Sydney Greenstreet is the real scene stealer here as so much of Bogart’s time is spent in exposition. His laugh is much more subdued than it was in The Maltese Falcon radio broadcasts, but there is such joy in the delivery of his lines that I am once again envious of everyone who ever got to see him do live theater.
Classic Bogie Moment
Well, it seems that every classic Bogart film has at least one drunk Bogie scene. I’m ready to state that every great Bogart radio appearance has at least one knocked out Bogie groan. Not only does he get knocked out, but it takes two hits from Greenstreet’s goon, so we get double the groans before he hits the floor! Unlike the knockout in the Falcon broadcasts though, the audience here giggles a bit. What happened on stage to make them titter? We’ll never know!
The Bottom Line
This certainly won’t quench a healthy thirst for a Bogart Fix, but it’s a nice way to spend a short drive.
—As Good as an Action Thriller Can Get—
Your Bogie Film Fix:
Director: John Huston (Vincent Sherman finished the film, uncredited, after Huston was called off to film war documentaries.)
After being kicked out of the military for stealing funds, Rick Leland (Bogart) entertains the thought of selling out to the Japanese during World War II after meeting another traveler (Sydney Greenstreet) and a mysterious woman (Mary Astor) while on a ship headed for Asia.
What I Thought
When Hollywood has a hit film, the first thing they do is try to find the formula for it and do it all over again. Most famously in Bogart’s career, he made a few movies after Casablanca that were accused of being a little too reminiscent of the blockbuster. Some of the films, like Tokyo Joe, have been quite fairly accused of falling into this category. Other films, like Chain Lightning, might bear some resemblance as well, but I feel that they’ve been unfairly compared.
But a few months before Casablanca was released, America got Across the Pacific – a film that some considered an attempt by the studio to recreate the magic from The Maltese Falcon. Three of the core cast from Falcon were back for lead roles, with Greenstreet even being referenced as “the fat man” at least once by another character. Add into the mix the same director that helped Bogart become a household name, and yes, it certainly does seem like Warner Brothers was stacking the deck in an attempt to get lighting to strick twice.
While Across the Pacific is not The Maltese Falcon, it is one of the best action-adventure thrillers of its time, and if not for the Japanese stereotyping, I think this one would probably get a little more play in the greatest Bogart films ever conversations.
Huston does amazing things with his trio of stars. He gives us exactly what we want from Bogart and Greenstreet, shaping characters for both of them that play up to their specific skill sets. With Astor, we get something similar to the mystery that surrounded her in Falcon, but with a different spin. There’s a greater sense of playfulness this time around as she portrays more of a girl-next-door. The change is great, and even though nothing physically was changed, I have a whole new respect for Astor’s acting range and beauty.
Huston, as always, is an incredibly efficient director, giving us no wasted scenes and making everything from the smallest conversations to the biggest action sequences riveting and beautifully shot. Bogart’s shootout and escape from the movie theater has to be, hands down, the BEST action scene I’ve ever seen him in. The fact that there’s a knife thrower mixed into the chase makes it all the more crazy, and the choreography is done so well that it’s impossible to tell when Bogart’s work ends and the stunt double takes over – just like it should be.
My only complaint about the film is that I felt the script tipped its hat a little bit too early as to some of the twists in the story. Rather than giving us a major character reveal thirty minutes in, I would have rather been left in the dark until the climax. The scene works, and it sets up some good momentary tension later in the film, but I would have been fine with questioning everyone’s motives for just a little bit longer.
Director Huston also gives us one of the most graphic beatdown scenes I’ve seen in classic film between Bogart and Greenstreet when the big man attacks Bogart with his cane after Bogart is already unconscious. Like the very best directors, Huston shows us no real violence, but has Greenstreet deliver his blows just offscreen, making our imaginations do all of the grotesque work of creating visuals for the horrible sounds we’re hearing. It’s a brilliant and disturbing moment of violence that sticks with you long after the film is over.
Does the name of the film strike you as funny? You know, considering the fact that they never even actually make it to the Pacific Ocean? Well, it turns out, in an amazing coincidence, that the original script of this film actually predicted the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. After the actual attack, the script was quickly changed to make the plot revolve around an attack on the Panama Canal so as not to belittle the real life tragedy. Despite the plot change, the film’s title was left alone.
The Bogart Factor
While the character of Rick Leland might not carry as much gravitas of some of Bogart’s more classic roles, this was a character that he was born to play. Fedora, trench coat, cigarettes, the requisite drunk-Bogie scene, a beautiful woman, dangerous enemies, and plenty of intrigue – very few of Hollywood’s stars could lend a film like this as much credibility as Bogart does. I truly can’t imagine anyone else filling in this role and having the same effect.
I also think that the love scenes here between Bogart and Astor are a step up from Falcon. I know how blasphemous that might be to write, but I don’t think I ever truly believed that he fell for her in Falcon. Here though, it plays out beautifully. Oh man . . . that scene with the three of them on the deck of the ship .
Mary Astor is top notch as Alberta Marlow, the mysterious woman who’s sailing with Bogart and Greenstreet. I really enjoyed the fact that we don’t get to find out the full story on her until the end of the film, and I wish that had been the case for at least one other character. Again, I have to say that I think this role fit her a little more comfortably than the one she played in The Maltese Falcon. I feel that she just comes off as more compelling and attractive when she gets to be a little comedic and playful.
Sydney Greenstreet plays the cagey Dr. Lorenz, another passenger on the boat who seems to have untoward intentions for Bogart and Astor. What I really loved about Greenstreet here is that his character is an incredibly wealthy world traveler, meaning Greenstreet is dressed to the nines and a tad more sophisticated in his demeanor than he was in The Maltese Falcon. One of my all-time favorite Greenstreet-Bogart scenes occurs when Greenstreet plies Bogart’s past out of him with an endless supply of booze. Any classic Bogart film has at least one drunk Bogie scene in it. Adding Greenstreet into the mix just makes it all the better!
Victor Sen Yung plays a traveler sharing passage on the boat, Joe Totsuiko. Again, there are some pretty strong stereotypes to be had here – some of which are played up to hide his character’s real identity – but it’s over the top. (Especially the glasses.) It is kind of fun seeing him judo-throw Bogart during a martial arts exhibition on the boat.
Lee Tung Foo plays Bogart’s old friend and sidekick, Sam Wing On. It’s not a huge role, and Foo is no Dooley Wilson, but he’s solid in the role. He’s also probably the only Asian actor in the film who gets a semi-non-stereotyped role.
Roland Got plays ship steward ‘Shoulda-be’ Sugi. 90% of his lines are two words . . . “Shoulda-be!” There are laughs to be had, but you never feel great about having them.
Paul Stanton and Charles Halton appear in small roles as undercover contacts for the U.S. military. They’re both fine in their roles but don’t have a whole lot to work with.
Classic Bogie Moment
How could I not go with a shot of Bogart and Greenstreet together? What’s even better is that they get another chance to play allies (somewhat), and so we get to see them enjoy each other’s company over a few drinks, and a comparison of pistols!
Mine’s bigger than yours . . .
The Bottom Line
I love this film, and I can never get enough of Bogart and Greenstreet together. Supposedly, Huston snuck Peter Lorre onto the set to play a waiter on the ship during shooting one day to play a joke on Greenstreet. While no footage of the incident seems to exist, it’s a great gag, and I’m only left to imagine how much fun it would have been to add Lorre into the mix here.