—Worth a Watch—
Your Bogie Film Fix:
Director: Anatole Litvak
A wealthy physician (Edward G. Robinson) moonlights as a gangster to do research on the criminal mind.
What I Thought
Go ahead and get all the giggles out over the name of the film. Yes, even Bogart referred to this movie with a less than flattering parody of the title. (For those of you who are Seinfeld fans, it rhymes with ‘Delores.’)
What we have here is a pretty entertaining dark comedy that tends to err more on the side of dark and less on the side of comedy, but other than that, I really have no complaints about the film. I think casting Robinson and Bogart as two of the leads lends a little more gravitas to the script than was originally intended. Even though both men could play comedy very well, it’s easy to forget that there are laughs to be had during this film until some over-the-top slapstick or hijinks ensue.
Director Anatole Litvak spent most of his career doing heavy drama, and perhaps that touch was hard to leave behind for a more ‘comedic’ film, but Litvak’s still a very capable director and he gives us a lot of great shots of some of Hollywood’s most interesting faces. Was it his choice to have Robinson and Bogart play their roles straighter than the original play? I don’t know. Regardless, it doesn’t completely spoil the fun, and it’s still a must see for Robinson fans.
The Bogart Factor
It’s not a huge part for Bogart, but he nails it. Playing ‘Rocks’ Valentine, we see the two-dimensional gangster that Bogart was often assigned for his minor antagonist characters, and yet he still elevates the material like only he can.
It seems to be a trend in Bogart’s bad guys that, once again, he’s the only one in the gang who’s aware that something’s not right. He doesn’t trust Robinson’s intentions, but no one will believe his doubts. And so for about the fourth or fifth movie, everyone who might have survived in the end is dead because they didn’t listen to Bogie!
While the script doesn’t give Bogart a lot to work with, he makes sure to add his own flourishes so that ‘Rocks’ makes a big impact. I’ll rest my case on the Classic Bogie Moment below . . .
Edward G. Robinson is great here as Dr. Clitterhouse. Yes, I wish that he’d been a little less thoughtful and subdued so that more comedy could have seeped into the role, but the guy is just so doggone watchable onscreen that it’s hard to criticize anything he does. He gets to have some great scenes with both Claire Trevor and Bogart – especially their final confrontation together in his office. If you’re a Robinson fan and you haven’t heard about it yet, you should check out this Spanish blog by Gonzalo. He’s posting on Robinson in a similar vein to The Bogie Film Blog. (I use Google translate since I don’t speak Spanish.)
Claire Trevor plays Jo Keller, the jewel fence that Robinson turns to when he needs to move some diamonds. Trevor is a lot of fun here, and a great double bill would be to watch The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse back to back with Key Largo in order to enjoy Trevor, Robinson, and Bogart taking on wonderfully varied roles. Trevor’s unrequited pining for Robinson is great as we truly believe she’s fallen in love with the mind behind the man.
Donald Crisp plays Inspector Lane, the investigating officer into Robinson’s heists. I thought the chemistry between Crisp and Robinson was great, and their scenes as good friends were especially well done. It leads to a great climactic finish when the arrest is finally made. Crisp and Robinson also share some really good scenes in Brother Orchid as well, and I need to do a cross reference and see if they did any more films together.
Max ‘Slapsie Maxie’ Rosenbloom plays Claire Trevor’s right-hand man, Butch, and he’s very good in the role. Perhaps the most sympathetic character in the film, I was probably more worried about Butch’s outcome than any other character!
A number of other great character actors fill out Bogart’s gang, most notably is Bogie Film Blog favorite Allen Jenkins as Okay. He spends most of his screen time mugging around with Max Rosenbloom, and it’s another solid performance for Jenkins. I’m anxious to see the rest of his Bogart films so that I can add Jenkins to The Usual Suspects!
Classic Bogie Moment
If you’re going to get held up and forced to be the front for a criminal empire, wouldn’t you prefer to have it done in style by this man?
The knee over the arm of the chair is the perfect choice! One of the little flourishes that Bogart adds to the role to elevate it above a typical thug.
The Bottom Line
There’s enough to enjoy from both Robinson and Bogart to make up for anything lacking in the script or tone.