—Recaptures a Lot of the Fun—
Producer: William Keighley
Honorary Bogie Fix:
Charter boat captain Harry Morgan (Humphrey Bogart) works as a fishing guide for tourists in Fort de France, Martinique during World War II and does his best to stay out of the way of both the Axis and the Allies. When he begins to fall for young grifter Marie Browning (Lauren Bacall), Morgan takes a dangerous job transporting members of the French resistance so that he can make enough money to buy Browning a ticket home.
What I Thought
This is the second Lux Radio Theater program that I’ve listened to for the blog, and once again, I found it thoroughly enjoyable. Unlike Lux’s version of The African Queen, the cast for this one is slightly larger, and so it does come off sounding a bit more like a radio play rather than actual audio from the film. Regardless, Bogart and Bacall are great, and as I’ve already listened to the recording a half a dozen times on car trips, I’d highly recommend a listen if you’re a Bogart fan or a fan of Classic Hollywood.
The 1 hour and 40 minute film is pared down to about 50 minutes, so there’s a lot from the movie that’s cut out. Hoagy Carmichael’s “Cricket” is gone from this version, as is all of the music from the nightclub/hotel where Bogart stays. The parts of “Frenchy” and “Captain Renard” are also condensed considerably for the broadcast. What’s left is mostly the interactions and relationships between Bogart and Bacall, and the actor playing Walter Brennan’s “Eddie.” (It’s probably Tim Graham, Jack Kruschen, or George Sorell – I found a partial cast list but not who played which parts.) Still, what remains is often wonderful – and the Walter Brennan impersonator is spot on!
I do feel like Morgan comes off as a less sympathetic character here though, as we lose all of Bogart’s mannerisms, wry grins, and longing stares from the film. Morgan’s motives in the movie seem much more altruistic than they do in this production, as it really sounds as if he’s taking the job with the French resistance strictly for the money.
At the end of the show, in the “candid” moment onstage between Bogart and Bacall, we find out that this broadcast was taped in order to promote their 1946 film, The Big Sleep.
The Bogart Factor
While listening to this broadcast, I started to think about all of the wonderful things that I’ve read about Bogart’s early stage career. None of those early theater shows were taped, so we’ll never get to see how good he was on stage – BUT – I think that these radio broadcasts are probably a pretty good example. Taped in front of a live studio audience in one take (you even occasionally hear Bogart flub, and correct, a line or two), Bogart recreates Harry Morgan with such precision that it’s easy to forget you’re listening to a radio show and not the audio from the film whenever he’s talking. Like I mentioned before, I think the fact that we don’t get to see a lot of Bogart’s trademark mannerisms keeps us from getting some of the more subtle subtext that he could convey with a sarcastic look or an intimidating glare.
I would highly recommend this one if you’re a big Bogart fan. There’s plenty to love in his performance.
Lauren Bacall reprises her role as Marie “Slim” Browning. While she does just fine in the radio version and still has a lot of chemistry with Bogart, it is a little more obvious that she’s not as comfortable behind the mic/onstage as he is.
Tim Graham, Jack Kruschen, and George Sorell are all listed as performers on the show, and I’d love to give them each credit where credit is due, but I couldn’t find an accompanying character list. One of them does an amazing impression of Walter Brennan’s old drunk, and that alone is worth a listen.
Classic Bogie Moment
“Go ahead, slap me!”
The Bottom Line
Need a Bogart fix on the road or on a plane? Download it as a podcast. You won’t be sorry.