—A Short PSA from Hollywood’s Greatest Asset—
Honorary Bogie Film Fix:
Producer: Gordon Hollingshead
Reporters meet Humphrey Bogart and Mayo Methot as they arrive home after a trip to see the American Red Cross in action during World War II.
What I Thought
At 3 minutes and 18 seconds, Report from the Front is more of a brief time capsule of Hollywood’s WWII support than it is a Bogart film. Shot to support the Red Cross for The Office of War Information, Bogart is only visible for a few moments at the beginning, and then again at the end, as he makes a plea for movie-goers to donate to the Red Cross. The rest of the video is footage of U.S. servicemen fighting, relaxing, and being cared for by the Red Cross while Bogart narrates.
According to A. M. Sperber’s Bogart, Bogart arrived on the Warner set with his four page monologue memorized and insisted on Methot being included in the shot with the fake plane as he is approached by reporters. He had even made a few rewrites to the script to make the final plea for donations a little stronger. (Sperber, 252, 253)
The short film is powerful, as just before the footage of soldiers and aid workers begins, Bogart looks straight into the camera and talks about what he’s witnessed overseas. His voice is steady and authoritative, and I’m sure his request was effective as movie theater ushers passed donation plates through the aisles. Who wouldn’t listen to a fedora and trench-coated Bogart as he looks you in the eye and tells you to help ailing servicemen?
The Bogart Factor
In his most iconic Hollywood costume, and with a plane very similar to the one from the final scene of Casablanca, it’s pretty clear that The Office of War Information was trying to squeeze out every drop of goodwill that audiences had for Bogart at the time. It’s no-nonsense and played for utter sincerity, and Bogart has the chops to pull it off.
It’s just Bogart and Mayo Methot, although Methot has no lines. But she does look very pretty!
Classic Bogie Moment
Despite how badly the House Un-American Activities had beaten up and smeared Bogart over the years, he actually had a long and detailed history of supporting the U.S. troops – even travelling overseas to entertain them with his best gangster shtick as he put on shows for servicemen and visited the wounded in hospitals. It’s that sincerity that gives this short more of an authentic documentary feel than other PSAs from the time. Multiple interviews with Bogart and those who knew him talk about his disappointment at not being able to serve during WWII due to age, and it’s heartwarming to know that he went the extra mile to do what he could.
The Bottom Line
Not a must see, but a great moment for Hollywood during a trying time.