The Desperate Hours – Ashley’s Take!

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Ashley’s Lowdown

I believe the year was 2012 when I first started my trek through Humphrey Bogart’s work. Due to my compulsion to view every cinematic interest in chronological order, I rarely get to completely finish the filmography journeys I start. I miss more late entries on actor’s filmographies than I would like. The Desperate Hours was one of those late roles I sadly missed, so I was more than excited about finally seeing this film.

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The Desperate Hours was the second to last film Bogie made, in 1955. Directed by William Wyler, the story follows a group of convicts who take over a suburban family’s home, holding the Hillard family hostage while they made a plan to escape police. I am also a fan of Fredric March, so his presence in this film made me all the more excited to finally see it. The Desperate Hours also takes place largely in one setting which is my favorite film sub-genre, so it is really perplexing that this film has eluded me for years. Anyway, it was finally time to see Bogie, March, and company in Wyler’s The Desperate Hours.

(Continue reading on Ashley’s blog here!)

After you’re done reading Ashley’s take, don’t forget to check her out on Twitter here and her movie diary at her Letterboxd site here!

Thanks, Ashley, for your help this month for the Bogie-A-Day Blogathon! You can read my original post on The Desperate Hours here!

*More Guest Blogs will Hopefully S00n be Available in the New “Bogie Film Blog” Segment, Take 2! Stay tuned!*

 

A Chat about Bogie and Classic Film with our Guest Bogie Blogger – Ashley!

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I put out the call a few weeks back to see if anyone was interested in helping to contribute to the December 2016 “Bogie-A-Day” blogathon, and much to my happiness, a friend from Twitter stepped forward!

Now, I’ve gotten a glimpse into Ashley’s life from her numerous posts every week on everything from the Cubs (nice), to the Jets (I’ll forgive you, Ashley), to what usually dominates her Twitter feed – Classic Films. Lots of people tweet about Classics, right? Well, there were a few tweets in particular that caught my eye. First of all – the lists:

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But everybody movie-lover makes lists, right? I mean, even if her #BestDVDEver list changes slightly every time she posts a new one, every film geek jumps at the chance to categorize the films they love. Although, Ashley likes to get serious with her categorization. “Hey, Netflix. . . lemme help you out a bit!”

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And, of course:

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We agree on a #1??? What else do I need to know? Then you’ve got the tweets that show a level of fandom that surpasses most anything else you’ve seen:

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There are three possible reactions to that pic.

1 – I have no idea what that means.

2 – O….M….G….

If you’re in the latter category, you realize that this is a fan with strong, unique, intelligent sensibilities.

I got to chat with Ashley a bit for this post, and I was so immediately thrown by how deep her love for Classic Film goes. My first instinct was to immediately shut the lights off on the blog and hand her the keys.

“You take it,” I said, “I’m a wannabe.”

She laughed and tossed the keys back. You can’t limit her input and output to just Bogart! There are thousands of films out there to watch!

So before we hear from her on specific films, come down the path with me for a bit and get to know Ashley! Then add her on Twitter (https://twitter.com/ oOoOoBarracuda) and get to know her film review blog too (https://belowtheline39.wordpress.com), and her movie diary on on Letterboxd, http://letterboxd.com/ Barracuda/

Bogie Film Blog: Ashley, tell me a little about yourself.

Ashley: My name is Ashley, I’m 27 years old, and work for a legislator in Illinois.

BFG: What’s the draw for you when it comes to Classic Film?

A: I find that there is something so pure about black and white movies. I, of course, watch colorized films, but I am instantly warmer towards a movie when I see that it is black and white. Classic film directors seem to be more invested in the escapism of film. Film is such a unique art because it transcends geographic and psychological limitations. Realism is important, of course; one is much more engaged in a film if they can feel a relation to it. Classic film directors however, seemed to be much more in tuned to taking relatable everyday realism and transporting it to the big screen in such a grand way that the audience escapes their actual life and can really submerge themselves into the glorious world of cinema. It is in my view that classic films are so much better able to penetrate real feeling people and put them on screen for the audience to see. Classic films just embody the situations and events that make up our everyday life. In my estimation, that’s the reason so many stars of the Golden Age, like Gary Cooper and Humphrey Bogart, for instance, feel like the “everyman” people that they were.

BFB: What’s the film that hooked you?

A: As a naturally introspective person, I have analyzed this question to death, and I don’t truly know. My family doesn’t appreciate classic films and my friends often refuse to watch my “old movies” with me. It seems like classic films were a part of my D.N.A. I’ve always preferred films past to films present. That being said, I will never forget the first time I watched Harvey. Watching Jimmy Stewart treat a town’s worth of people, who thought he was certifiably insane, with deep love and respect {and then} turning out to be the wisest person in the bunch has actually shaped my personality. It was the film that taught me to treat people as good as you are, and to remain true to yourself in spite of everyone that wants you to change. Aside from a brilliant and much-needed message, Harvey also showed me the depth an actor could have. No one could see Stewart’s 6′ 3½” co-star, yet his characterization necessitated that he could. The depth Stewart gave his nice guy character is a brilliance I will never forget.

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BFB: Harvey is also one of my all time favorites, and was probably in the first 5 Classic Films I ever saw! I loved it so much that I used the alleyway monologue for my college acting auditions. Talk to me about your favorite all time Classic Film?

A: Of course, this is a difficult question, and the best I could do is narrow it down to two. When I first saw The Lost Weekend I was absolutely floored. It took another viewing before I was even able to talk about it coherently. I find Ray Milland a vastly talented, yet underrated actor, and his on-screen portrayal of addiction is a characterization for the ages. This film also showed me how much a director can give impact to a scene in the simplest of ways. I was 19 when I first saw The Lost Weekend, so I wasn’t that far along in my understanding of film as art, but a couple things {Billy} Wilder did in that film were incredible. In one scene, the audience is told how long Milland’s “Don Birnam” has been in the bar by how many perspiration rings are on the table; that small detail packed such an emotional punch, I felt it through the screen. Also the opening of that film; I find it one of the most powerful openings of all time as the audience sees a bottle being hidden outside of a window before being invited into the home of an addict. Wilder certainly had a penchant for the emotionally powerful and he struck gold with The Lost Weekend.

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12 Angry Men is another film that I just love. Sidney Lumet is responsible for so many classic films, yet rarely gets mentioned among lists of “the great directors.” His masterful telling of the backstories of each juror while leaving them nameless is a directorial feat. Lumet is also a king of the one-setting narrative, which is a type of film I greatly enjoy. To limit oneself to a single setting to tell a story and avoid it coming off flat is something not all can master.

BFB: From the looks of your Twitter account, you watch a ton of films, new and old. On average, how many do you watch in a week?

A: I have a great admiration for Francois Truffaut, and a very serious love affair with his films. I read once that his academic goals after dropping out of school included that he read three books a week and watch three films a day. I have taken that philosophy and altered it, and I try my best to watch two films a day and read one book a week. Some weeks are better than others, but I typically watch no less than 14 films a week. Every month I make a theme (this month it is “films with a place name in the title”) and compile a list of films to see corresponding with how many days are in the month to keep myself organized and engaged.

BFB: Ashley, that’s astounding! You are an organized gal to say the least. If only I had 1/10 of that drive!  

So I gotta ask, what’s your favorite Bogart film, and why?

A: The ultimate every man, Humphrey Bogart made each film he was in his; he’s one of my favorite actors of all-time, making it difficult to pick one favorite. If pressed, I would pick In a Lonely Place. He gave his character, “Dixon Steele,” so much depth and in such an emotional role. There are so many brilliant Bogart films, but I can watch In a Lonely Place absolutely any time and be floored by him. Also, as Louise Brooks writes in her essay, I find it very intriguing if that truly was the role that came closest to the “real” Humphrey Bogart.

BFB: I’ve read that as well. I definitely think it sounds like the “real” Bogart on the latter half of his career – especially after some of the regrets and disappointments he faced with the House Un-American Activities Committee.

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I just revisited the film for a post on Director Nicholas Ray that will be up at the end of the month.

If you could trade places with one Classic star, who would it be and why?

A: I would pick to trade places with Dorothy McGuire on the set of Gentleman’s Agreement. I find Gregory Peck wonderful. I enjoy him much more than Cary Grant, for instance, so I would love to have been able to work with him on a film. Gentleman’s Agreement also boasts a young Dean Stockwell, who is another actor I quite enjoy; the film is also directed by Elia Kazan who is an amazing talent. I would have enjoyed meeting Kazan and picking his brain between takes.

BFB: Is it bad to admit that my favorite Dean Stockwell work is from Quantum Leap? I loved that show as a kid, and in the big two-part Vietnam episode, I was in tears from Stockwell’s work at the end. I’m tearing up now! We should close out here so I can find some tissues. . . 

Ashley, where can people find you on the web?

A: I also found Quantum Leap excellent! I am so thankful that I made the quest through Dean Stockwell’s filmography, otherwise I doubt that I would have discovered it. Oh, that Vietnam episode, I get teary just thinking about that.

I would love for people to visit my movie diary on Letterboxd, http://letterboxd.com/ Barracuda/ or to follow me on Twitter, https://twitter.com/ oOoOoBarracuda!

BFB: Thanks, Ashley! I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship!

Tune in tomorrow for Ashley’s take on The Desperate Hours!

 

Richard Brooks

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Birth Name: Reuben Sax

Date of Birth: May 18, 1912

Date of Death: March 11, 1992

Number of Films that Richard Brooks Made with Humphrey Bogart: 3

The Lowdown

When I started The Usual Suspects portion of the blog, I thought that it would be a great way to give folks a resource on some of Bogart’s best and more regular collaborators. (Did you like Peter Lorre in Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon? Well, you should definitely check him out in All Through the Night!) Yet, Richard Brooks is a real anomaly to The Usual Suspects formula as the two films in which Brooks directed Bogart could not be more different.

On the one hand, you have the melodramatic journalism boiler Deadline U.S.A. On the other, you’ve got the M*A*S*H prequel and dramatic rom-com Battle Circus. To Brooks’ credit, his history as a writer, journalist, and war filmographer reveal both of these films to make perfect sense for his talents. But the shift in tone might make it hard to grasp that the same director did both films.

Brooks met Bogart after the actor showed interest and respect for Brooks’ homophobia-in-the-military book The Brick Foxhole, and they became lifelong friends who spent a lot of time together on and off screen – even sharing a fateful trip to Washington D.C. to help other Hollywood luminaries fight the rise of McCarthyism.

I’m a big fan of all three films that they collaborated on together, and I’m happy to add Brooks to The Usual Suspects today!

The Filmography

Key Largo – 1948

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Brooks is given a writing credit here in a film that I don’t think has a single wrong note. It’s claustrophobic, emotionally overwhelming, and occasionally explosive. Bogart and Edward G. Robinson finally reverse roles when it comes to who get the upper hand at the end. Bogart and Bacall smolder. Robinson gets a great opportunity to shine in his post-popularity with plenty of great monologues. Bogart gets to play the antihero who almost waits too long to save the day. What’s not to love?

You can read my original post on the film here.

Deadline U.S.A – 1952

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There’s no rush here as Writer/Director Richard Brooks takes us inside The Day, a fictional big city newspaper run by the last honest editor in town. The story is laid out for us piece by piece, leaving no doubt as to where it will end up, and for a crime drama done skillfully, that’s a good thing. If you enjoy against-the-clock journalism films like All the President’s MenThe Paper, and Spotlight, you’ll surely enjoy this one.

Bogart was right in the midst of his Hollywood vs. McCarthyism fight, and Director Brooks has gone on record about how much of a toll it all took on Bogie. No one plays stoic and world weary nearly as well as Bogart does, and Brooks takes full advantage. Bogart’s character of journalist “Ed Hutcheson” doesn’t seem that far removed from the aging and pessimistic man that Brooks has described personally, and the portrait of newspaper editor past his prime is played wonderfully full-tilt here.

You can read my original post on the film here.

Battle Circus – 1953

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And here we have an entry into into the Brooks/Bogart filmography that doesn’t quite match up to thier two previous collaborations.

I’m a huge fan of June Allyson, but the chemistry between her and Bogart doesn’t click as well as it needed to for the film. Plus, Director Brooks can get a little lost in the minutia of the hospital’s daily grind. But I do think that this film is far more watchable than critics have said, and I’ve rewatched it happily several times.

It’s certainly the most lighthearted of the three films that Brooks and Bogart did together, and Brooks’ previous journalism and war experience is what really shines here. Could they have paired a more compatible actress with Bogart? Sure. Could they have given the plot a little more gravitas and a little less cutesy-love stuff? Perhaps, but I’d argue that with June Allyson in the mix, it would have been nearly impossible.

You can read my original post on the film here.

* ‘The Usual Suspects’ is an ongoing feature at The Bogie Film Blog where we highlight some of Bogart’s most celebrated costars. You can read the rest of the posts in the feature here. *

 

A&E Biography – Bogart – 2003

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Honorary Bogie Film Fix:

2.5 Bogie

The Lowdown

Perhaps television’s most entertaining and digestible history program chronicles Hollywood’s greatest legend.

What I Thought

Can you believe that this show has over 1,000 episodes?!? It started back in 1987 and it took until 2003 to do an episode on Bogart? Sometime when I have the time to search through hundreds of old episodes, I’ll check to see if this was merely an updated episode from a previous airing.

But on to the important stuff –

For the casual fan of Classic Hollywood, this episode of A&E’s long running bio-show hits all the major notes from Bogart’s life. They cover the struggle to make the leap from Broadway to Hollywood. They touch on how The Petrified Forest and High Sierra made him a household name. They cover the major directors (Huston and Hawks) who carved him into the star we love. They cover the Bacall love affair, marriage, and eventual children. And while they might underplay the severity of the situation, they even touch on Bogart’s work against the House Un-American Activities Committee. For the most part, it’s all here.

For anyone who’s read a Bogart biography or seen another biographical TV show, there’s nothing really new to latch onto. Certainly, anyone who’s read the Sperber/Lax, Kanfer, or Stephen Bogart bios will glean little unknown info here.

But that’s not to say that there aren’t some treats to be had.

Of all people, Art Linkletter shares some great insight into Bogart’s life as he spent some time as a next door neighbor.

Also, Stephen Bogart’s wistful recollection of his father’s final months is just as heartbreaking as one would imagine as he mentions not getting to see his father very often, and occasionally watching him being lowered to the main floor in the dumbwaiter when Bogart was too weak to walk the stairs. His stories are played over some rarely seen shots of the two together, and it put a lump in my throat.

The Cast of Interviewees

While Art Linkletter and Stephen Bogart might have been the standout interviews here, there’s no denying that it’s fun to watch and hear Roger Ebert speak when he was still somewhat healthy. Man, I miss Siskel and Ebert desperately.

John Huston’s ex Evelyn Keyes offers good insight, as well as film critic and writer Foster Hirsch. And I’d be remiss not mentioning the fun of getting to hear Martin Scorsese, perhaps Hollywood’s directorial Bogart-equivalent, wax on about Bogie.

The Bottom Line

Even if you’ve already got all the info from a dozen other sources, you’ll still probably enjoy this episode of Biography. If you’ve got a long plane ride and you can find it on YouTube, there are worse ways to pass the time!

 

Dan Seymour


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Birth Name: Dan Seymour Katz

Birth: February 22, 1915

Death: May 25, 1993

Number of Films Dan Seymour Made with Humphrey Bogart: 4

The Lowdown

There was one moment in particular that put me over the edge on whether or not Dan Seymour should go into The Usual Suspects pantheon. I knew that he was in Casablanca. I knew that he was in To Have and Have Not. I knew that he was in Key Largo. But then I noticed an uncredited role in his filmography for Sirocco.

Sirocco? Seymour’s a pretty hard guy to miss. He’s a large man, and although mostly silent in two of his four Bogart films, his imposing figure is hard to miss. So I rewatched Sirocco. Doggone if I still had a hard time picking him out as the “Wealthy Syrian.” I’ll leave that story for below, but it gave me a whole new appreciation for one of Warner Brothers’ great character actors.

Seymour got to play friend, enemy, and nuisance to Bogart over their four films, and his final role with Bogie in Sirocco is enough to make me want to keep hunting down his other films!

A connoisseur of rare liquors and cigars, a good friend of Fritz Lang, and always a generous compliment-er of Bogart in his interviews, today we welcome Dan Seymour into The Usual Suspects!

The Filmography

Casablanca – 1942

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Seymour plays Abdul the Doorman in a small role with few lines. But who needs words when you can understand every subtle gesture from your boss, Rick Blaine. Got a customer who looks a little shady? Just watch for Rick’s subtle no head shake and close the door on that creep, asap!

You can read my original post on the film here.

To Have and Have Not – 1944

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In his biggest role from a Bogart film, Seymour plays Captain Renard, Bogart’s ruthless foil that’s trying to catch the resistance fighters Bogart smuggled into town on his boat. Seymour sheds his silent tough guy persona here and takes on a gleeful dose of sleaze, overconfidence, and sadism. Makes me wish he’d had a little more room to shine in his other three Bogie films! Seymour has stated in interviews that Director Howard Hawks let him improvise some key scenes with Bogart while rehearsing, letting Hawks’ secretary scribble down the additions to the script as they went along. How man actors can say that?

You can read my original post on the film here.

Key Largo – 1948

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It’s another “intimidation through glares” role for Seymour as he plays Angel, one of Edward G. Robinson’s thugs. Not a ton to mention here except that Seymour’s presence adds great atmosphere to the already claustrophobic feel of the film. If I walked into a bar and saw Seymour as the bartender, I don’t know if I’d be as confident and comfortable as Bogart was in this film.

You can read my original post on the film here.

Sirocco – 1951

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So, IMDB says that Seymour appears as the “Wealthy Syrian” in the film in an uncredited role. Really? I’ve seen the film a few times and DO NOT remember him. So I go back and watch it. Towards the beginning, there’s a scene where a man comes in looking for Bogart’s help to get his family out of the country. He nervously sweats, fidgets, and desperately rambles out Arabic before Bogart kicks him out of the barber shop where he’s getting his shave. Was this Seymour? If it was, I couldn’t tell under the fez, glasses, mustache, and accent, but where else could he appear in the film?

The height was right, but the Syrian in Sirocco seemed lighter, and not nearly as menacing as the silent tough that Seymour was so good at. Google searches turned up nothing.

So I took some stills from the film and compared them to his other roles in Bogart films. Then i found it. He has a scar on his chin that’s perceptible for just a second in this film, and appears a little more prominently in others.

Well, I’ll be. Way to go Dan Seymour! Disappearing into a role so deeply you were unrecognizable. I have to find some of his other films now!

You can read my original post 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.*

Suspense Radio Theater – Love’s Lovely Counterfeit – 1948

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Honorary Radio Bogie Rating

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The Lowdown

Based on the novel by James M. Cain, a wannabe racketeer (Bogart) helps rig a mayoral election so that he can win the girl (Laureen Tuttle) and take over the town’s nefarious activities.

What I Thought

The story suffers heavily from being abridged to the extreme. A few important subplots have been axed, the plot takes awhile to grasp, and character turns that might have been exciting, or at the very least intriguing, tend to fall flat.

I’ve heard that there’s a James Cagney version of the show. Perhaps it’s more interesting?

Totally skippable except for Bogart completists.

The Bogart Factor

Out to promote To Have and Have Not, the part of racketeer Benny Grace fits Bogart well in this story, unfortunately, the radio script is severely lacking.

Bogart gets to play Benny in the “gray” areas of life as he shifts between good, bad, and somewhat indifferent to his city and his girlfriend. According to reviews, the original novel suffered from an overly melodramatic ending, and Bogart seems saddled with the same problem here.

How exactly does the end make sense? I’m not sure. . . at all. There’s a wedding that exonerates one character from another character’s damning testimony . . . but that character soon dies . . . so how does that save the new spouse???

The Rest of the Cast

Laureen Tuttle plays June, Bogart’s love interest. To say that her part is underwritten would be a disservice to the word underwritten. The role is for plot advancement only.

The Bottom Line

One of the very few pieces of Bogart work that I’d probably say, “Don’t bother.”

Howard Hawks

Howard Hawks directs Humphrey Bogart (Morgan) and Marcel Dalio (Frenchy).

Birth Name: Howard Winchester Hawks

Date of Birth: May 30, 1896

Date of Death: December 26, 1977

Number of Films Howard Hawks Made with Humphrey Bogart: 2

The Lowdown

All that Howard Hawks needed to make a movie was one woman and one man.

Russell and Grant. Stanwyck and Cooper. Bacall and Bogart.

Put them in a room together. Give them a reason to touch – any reason. A cigarette needs to be lit. A bottle needs to be passed. Someone needs to squeeze through a doorway. It doesn’t matter. But don’t let them touch right away. Make us wait for it. Let them banter first – sharp words that would wound any mere mortal. Then let them stare. Maybe for a moment, maybe for longer. What are they doing to each other in their minds? Is it as lascivious as what I’m thinking? Wait until the tension is perfect. Now let them touch.

White hot sparks.

There are a lot of great stories out there about Howard Hawks. He could drive studios, actors, and crews mad with cold indifference. He could also garner incredible admiration and devotion from others – like a certain young protégé who was looking to break into acting while still a teenager – Lauren Bacall.

Many give credit to Hawks for crafting the wise-beyond-her-years image of Bacall that we all know and love. But reportedly, Hawks was not happy when she and Bogart began their behind-the-scenes affair on To Have and Have Not. He blew up at Bacall. Bacall broke down to Bogart. Bogart blew up at Hawks. The pic was almost delayed. The studio smoothed it over.

Regardless of the tumultuous relationship between Hawks, Bacall, and Bogart, no one can argue that two of Bogart’s greatest films came from the famed director.

The Filmography

To Have and Have Not – 1944

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There have been countless pages written about the making of this movie, the love affair between the stars, and the lore of Howard Hawks behind the camera. It’s all worth a read and it only adds to the film!

This is the film where we get to watch two of Hollywood’s most classic icons fall in love before our very eyes. While the studio might have been trying to recreate another Rick and Ilsa sensation that fell a bit short of captivating the world like it did in Casablanca, there is no denying that the two leads here light up the screen with fireworks that few other couples have ever been able to capture.

Full disclosure – this is my favorite Bogart film from his whole list. Walter Brennan, Marcel Dalio, Dan Seymour, and Hoagy Carmichael help round out an incredible cast. The script is fun. Hawks’ direction is tight. What’s not to love?

You can read my original post on the film here.

The Big Sleep – 1946

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What sets up The Big Sleep as a Film Noir classic is the fact that the cast, director, and style of the film more than make up for the complicated plot. You don’t need to grasp every little detail to enjoy the chemistry between Bogart and Bacall – or Bogart and every single other female in the film for that matter. There are no wasted characters here, as Director Hawks has assembled an amazing cast and knows exactly how to make them interact so that we get the most bang for our buck.

This is a film where the sum total is greater than the individual parts, and the parts are pretty doggone fantastic. So the plot isn’t ironed out because they dropped some key scenes to make way for more Bacall and Bogie magic? It doesn’t matter in the end.  Hawks visually and audibly gives us exactly what we yearn for, and so we can forgive him the rest.

You can read my original post on the film here.

The Original Pre-Release Edit of The Big Sleep – 1945


The Big Sleep Pre-Release Edit

The widely accepted and well chronicled story is that Lauren Bacall’s agent, Charles Feldman, started to get nervous about his new young wunderkind after horrible reviews were written for her performance in the film Confidential AgentAgent was Bacall’s follow-up film after becoming an overnight sensation alongside of Bogart in To Have and Have Not, and Feldman was apparently panicking at the idea of Bacall disappearing into Hollywood obscurity after being labeled as a one-hit wonder.

With the film already delayed, Feldman wrote to Jack Warner, pleading to reshoot some scenes and add more of the fiery romantic flavor that Bogart and Bacall shared in To Have and Have Not. Warner agreed, Director Howard Hawks eventually relented to rework some shots, the stars reassembled a year after production, and seven reels of the film were altered with reordered scenes and a little over 20 minutes of new or alternate material.

So how different is the original film?  Well, I would bet that most casual viewers could watch both versions with a year in between and not notice much difference as the plot is still essentially the same.

For me, the biggest change was a scene that was cut from the original version before the final release of the film in which Bogart is taken into the District Attorney’s office in order to explain his involvement in the murder case to the DA and the police captain. It’s here that Hawks took time to break down everything that had taken place in the plot so far as Bogart tells the two lawmen about his involvement in the case and his assumptions about all the guilty parties involved.

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.*