Birth Name: David Allen Curtis Jenkins
Date of Birth: April 9, 1900
Date of Death: July 20, 1974
Number of Films Allen Jenkins Made With Humphrey Bogart: 7
When I started ‘The Usual Suspects’ portion of the blog, I would occasionally get tweets or emails asking when I was going to do a write-up on so-and-so. Peter Lorre. Sydney Greenstreet. Lauren Bacall. But surprisingly, the actor that I received the most requests about was Allen Jenkins.
Born to parents who both had experience as singers and actors, Jenkins started his career next to James Cagney on Broadway before heading west to become one of Hollywood’s most talented scene stealers. Often playing a secondary thug or menial laborer (his usual duties in most Bogart films), Jenkins had an amazing gift of timing and line delivery. His addition to the supporting cast of any film automatically upped the quality of the picture considerably.
And have I mentioned yet that he was the voice of Top Cat for Hanna-Barbera?
The first Bogart film I saw with Jenkins was Brother Orchid, where he had a small but unforgettable role as a murderous henchman who was getting a little R&R as he laid low in a sanitarium. That funny, but all too brief, appearance marked him in my mind as a notable talent, and then he just kept popping up again and again as I made my way through the rest of Bogart’s filmography.
Looking back now over the seven films that they shared together, only one of them (Dead End) would probably be deemed as a Classic by most critics and fans, but despite the quality of the other six films, Jenkins was able to consistently deliver the goods and make the most out of each of his roles.
Three on a Match – 1932
Jenkins plays Dick, one of Bogart’s lackeys. It’s a pretty small part as Bogart’s crew of thugs doesn’t show up until the last act, but even with just a few minutes, Jenkins is able to convey an incredible amount of confidence onscreen as he makes his supporting role look effortless. It’s an excellent use of a character actor to bolster the quality of a film – even in a tiny role. You can read my original write up on the film here.
Marked Woman – 1937
Jenkins plays Louie, the somewhat shady wardrobe supplier for Bette Davis and her nightclub escort roommates. He’s a bit gangster and a bit fashion designer. Hey, what else are you going to do if you’re a street smart black marketer who just happens to have a good eye for color palettes? Jenkins has a great exchange with Mayo Methot when he first appears, knocking on the door and then immediately entering the gals’ apartment.
Methot: (SITTING UP FROM THE COUCH WHILE NURSING A HANGOVER AS JENKINS KNOCKS AND ENTERS) Don’t you believe in knocking twice?
Jenkins: Don’t you believe in praying once?
Jenkins: So we’re even!
You can read my original write up on the film here.
Dead End – 1937
Jenkins plays Bogart’s right-hand henchman, Hunk. It’s another fantastic supporting role, that while not integral to the overall film, really lifts the quality of a film that’s already full of numerous character actors from the classic era. While this role leans a little more on melodrama rather 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. You can read my original write up on the film here.
Swing Your Lady – 1938
Jenkins plays Shiner, one of Bogart’s trainers (con men?) that’s charged with helping Bogie turn Nat Pendelton into a professional wrestling box office draw. It’s a solid little supporting role alongside of Frank McHugh, and while most of the comedic heavy lifting is given to the film’s hillbillies, Jenkins still gets some time to mug around and get some laughs. You can read my original write up on the film here.
Racket Busters – 1938
Jenkins is one of the few bright spots in the film, playing trucker, ‘Skeets’ Wilson, who opens up his own tomato company during a trucking racket controversy. He has a few nice scenes with Penny Singleton who plays his wife in the film, but even with these two comedic dynamos, the writers weren’t able to give the couple more than one or two mild laughs. You can read my original write up on the film here.
The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse – 1938
Jenkins plays Okay, one of the henchmen under the thumb of Bogart, and then eventually Edward G. Robinson, as Robinson turns from practicing medicine to studying the psyches of criminals. He spends most of his screen time horsing around with Max Rosenbloom, and it’s another solid performance for Jenkins. (The crew uses the guise of a string quartet to lay low, which is a pretty great ruse as far as I’m concerned.) You can read my original write up on the film here.
Brother Orchid – 1940
Jenkins plays Willie the Knife, one of Edward G. Robinson’s gangster buddies that’s laying low in an asylum “pretending to be crazy” as he waits to see how things with Robinson shake out. He’s one of the first people Robinson turns to when he needs to take his turf back from Bogart and his old crew who edged him out. The character really ends up going nowhere, but all you have to do is tell me, “Allen Jenkins has a small role as a knife-happy thug who’s hiding in an insane asylum” and I’m THERE! You can read my original write up on the film here.
*The Usual Suspects is an ongoing feature at The Bogie Film Blog where we highlight the actors and directors who share more than one film with Bogart. You can read the rest of the entries here.*