Your Honorary Bogie Cameo Fix:
Director: David Butler
A Balkan prince (Dennis Morgan) befriends a New York City cabbie (Jack Carson) and falls for a manicurist (Joan Leslie) as he tries to disappear into the American culture for a week and meet the Hollywood legend Lauren Bacall.
What I Thought
It took me awhile to track this one down, and I’d all but given up on this Bogart cameo until TCM recently reran it. Charming, and somewhat predictable, it’s still a fun ride as we watch Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson zip around New York City, seeing the sights and the nightlife, as they both try to woo Joan Leslie into a lifelong romance.
Warner Brothers took huge advantage of its concurrent release of The Big Sleep to work in a side angle where the Balkan prince is desperate to meet the legendary Lauren Bacall. We’re left to assume that he must have been very taken by To Have and Have Not and Confidential Agent as he asks practically every American he meets if they know the beautiful leading lady.
It’s the Morgan/Carson chemistry that really sells this picture, though. A 40’s film comedy duo, Morgan and Carson have a great chemistry together, and I’m excited to track down another Bogart cameo film they both appeared in – Always Together. Morgan’s the handsome hunk. Carson’s the lovable lummox. Both men do well supporting one another and seem to sincerely enjoy each other’s company. Director David Butler used the same light-handed rom-com charm in another Bogart cameo film, Thank Your Lucky Stars, in which Morgan and Carson also appear as themselves.
Are there a few plot holes that I would have liked filled in? Sure. For instance, did I miss something, or does it seem odd that Dennis Morgan’s Prince Henry doesn’t have any sort of accent? Why would a man so obsessed with Lauren Bacall choose to show up ½ way through one of her movies? Why does one popular speech make Jack Carson’s cabbie not only famous (understandable) but seemingly rich and powerful? (I understand the status switch that Morgan and Carson make at the end of the film for plot reasons, but it’s a bit of a stretch even for a light romantic comedy.)
Was The Big Sleep really promoted as a Lauren Bacall vehicle in some posters? (And can I get one of these posters?)
Bogart plays himself for one line as Prince Henry finally has a chance meeting with Lauren Bacall on a plane to Milwaukee. Again, it’s tiny, but nobody knew how to play up their showbiz image as well as Bogart. I’ll save all 100% of the cameo for the ‘Classic Bogie Moment’ below.
Dennis Morgan does much better in this film as a love-struck Balkan prince than he did as the surgeon in The Return of Doctor X. Both characters are essentially the same – handsome and charming fish-out-of-water who are trying to keep up with a goofy sidekick, but Prince Henry has a few more subtleties built into his character as the royal son who’s desperate to embrace all that democracy, the American culture, and the American women have to offer. This one certainly makes me want to see the rest of the Morgan/Carson team-ups.
Jack Carson plays cab driver Buzz Williams, and other than the fact that he seems a little too eager to let his girlfriend hang out with a handsome prince, he seems like just the kind of guy who you’d want to have a beer with. This was the third Carson/Bogart film that I’ve watched for the blog and it was probably my favorite role for Carson.
Joan Leslie plays the manicurist love interest to both men, Connie Read, and she’s very good in the role. Yes, she does seem a little shallow to leave Buzz behind for a prince just because he’s a prince, and yes, I’m still not quite sure what the whole psychotherapy dream at the end had to do with making her choice between the two men – but again – plot coherency shouldn’t be at the top of your priorities for enjoying this film.
Bogie Film Blog favorite S. Z. Sakall plays Prince Henry’s right hand man, Count Oswald. As always, Sakall’s presence is another testament to how well Classic Hollywood’s studio system worked when it came to producing strong supporting character actors. Sakall’s scene with little Peggy as she demands the true dirt behind fairytale princesses is especially fun. I’m glad that I’ll now get to add him to ‘The Usual Suspects’ portion of the blog after this one!
Patti Brady plays Peggy, Jack Carson’s precocious niece who’s also in love with Prince Henry. Yes, it’s essentially the same role as the one she would play the same year in Never Say Goodbye, but in a much more scaled back version, but she’s still shines brightly.
And, of course, there’s Lauren Bacall as herself in a tiny cameo!
Classic Bogie Moment
Prince Henry sees the object of his desires alone on a plane with an empty seat next to her. Just as he’s making his move, there’s a tap on his shoulder and we see this:
The Bottom Line
A miniscule, but very rewarding cameo! Come for the Bogart, stay for the Morgan/Carson chemistry!