—A Little Rough Around the Edges, but Worth It—
Your Bogie Fix:
Director: – Delbert Mann
Nearly twenty years after Humphrey Bogart made Duke Mantee his breakout role on the silver screen, he returned to the small screen to reprise the gangster one more time for the TV show, Producer’s Showcase. Stepping in for Bette Davis is Lauren Bacall as Gabby, and Henry Fonda plays Alan Squier, the role made famous by Leslie Howard.
You can find my previous plot synopsis here.
What I Thought
I had no idea this existed until a couple of days ago. My mind is blown. I knew that Bogart had reprised a lot of his more popular roles for radio adaptions, but to see one of his most famous characters brought back in a remake twenty years after the fact is such a fun discovery. While it doesn’t live up to the original film, there’s definitely a high thrill factor in seeing Bogart become the gangster on the run again.
The entire cast is older than the original group of actors, and I thought it added a darker, bleaker flavor to the whole thing. The chemistry between Bacall and Fonda just wasn’t there like it was for Davis and Howard. Fonda’s version of Alan Squier seemed much more depressed and regret-filled than Howard’s charming drifter. And unlike Davis’ wide-eyed young gal looking to get out of the desert, Bacall seems more like a woman on the verge of middle age who’s resigned to the life of an old maid.
The Bogart Factor
The role of Duke Mantee is trimmed. In fact, the entire movie runs about ten minutes shorter. (While it’s listed as 90 minutes on IMDB, it’s much more like 72.) A lot of the dialogue between the captive husband and wife, Mr. and Mrs. Chisolm, is cut down and folded into one short argument towards the end of the movie. It also seemed like many of Bogart’s lines might have been filmed separately and then spliced into the film. (Several sources refer to this as a “live” airing, but then, how did they get the exterior shots of Fonda walking along a country road?)
Again though, I have to say that I found it captivating to watch an actor of Bogart’s caliber get the chance to reprise the role – playing Mantee twenty years older, showing a wearier, dead-eyed mobster this time around. I think it’s a must see for diehard Bogart fans.
While Lauren Bacall’s version of Gabby doesn’t quite live up to Bette Davis’, I thought she handled certain scenes a little better. Anytime she had to read or quote poetry, I thought it was much more believable than Davis.
Henry Fonda was probably a little too old to play the charming drifter, and I’d say the fault is more on him for the chemistry not working out. He knows how to act though, and as the movie ramps up towards the climax, he does a fine job of holding his own against Bogart as he challenges Mantee to kill him.
Famous character actor Jack Warden (Google his pic, you’ll know him) plays Boze, the football wannabe gas station attendant who’s in love with Gabby. If anyone was too old for their role, it was probably Warden here. While it’s fun to see him so young, it was a little unsettling to see a man in his thirties still wearing his football jersey and going on about his college days.
Don’t Forget to Notice. . .
Look out for a young Jack Klugman as well, playing Jackie, one of Mantee’s thugs.
Classic Bogie Moment
Towards the end of the movie, Mantee finds out that the girlfriend he was supposed to meet up with has not only been captured, but has ratted him out. When Bogart plays the moment in this version, we see his mind scrambling, his eyes darting, and his jaw quivering as he can’t decide what to do next. It’s a wonderful close-up moment on Bogart as he sputters, “Shut up, shut up, give me time to think!”
The Bottom Line
Are you a Bogie completist? You probably need to check this out. Even if you’re not, it would still be a fun double feature for a film club to put on, and then compare and contrast, the two versions.
A Little Extra
Hmmm. I couldn’t find a lot of fun info on this movie, but it was apparently Lauren Bacall’s television debut!