John Huston


Birth Name: John Marcellus Huston

Date of Birth: August 5, 1906

Date of Death: August 28, 1987

Number of Films John Huston Made with Humphrey Bogart: 9

The Lowdown

Many would posit that John Huston was the greatest thing that ever happened to Bogart’s career and I certainly couldn’t refute the notion. More than once Bogart was on the record saying that he favored the director above any other, and Huston arguably gave Bogart the biggest moments of his career.

While Huston had written two of Bogart’s early films (the less-than-stellar The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse and the more-than-stellar High Sierra), it wasn’t until they got together for The Maltese Falcon that real magic was born. The studio wanted George Raft in Bogart’s role – Huston wanted Bogart. Thank God that Huston eventually got his way.

The two would go on to make some of Classic Hollywood’s most iconic films, as seen below, and reportedly enjoyed each other’s time off screen indulging in booze, revelry, and double dates with their wives. (Huston reportedly despised Bogart’s third wife, Mayo Methot, but loved Bacall.)

And, like any great friendship, their relationship occasionally became strained. Things on the set might get tense or filming kept Bogart away from his love of sailing as it did on Treasure of the Sierra Madre. And yet, they would always push through to greatness.

Huston would go on to say that whenever things got rough between them, Bogart was often the first to apologize. Thank goodness he did. Thank goodness they were both able to keep each other on their toes – on and off screen. And most of all, thank goodness these two Hollywood geniuses ended up collaborating so, so, so often.

Long overdue, here’s John Huston’s entry into The Usual Suspects!

The Filmography

Amazing Dr C Poster

The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse – 1938

Huston is credited solely on the screenplay for this one and reportedly had no contact with Bogart during filming.

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 goofy hi jinks ensue.

You can read my original post on the film here.

High Sierra – 1941

High Sierra

Again, Huston is credited with the screen play here, but had a much larger on set presence where he got to know and become friends with Bogart.

Huston’s script is tight and powerful. Director Raoul Walsh gives us a lot of fantastic close ups and quiet moments to linger on. By far his most nuanced gangster role, Bogart’s portrayal of ‘Mad Dog’ Roy Earle is that of a hardened and ruthless criminal who’s been tempered by time and experience. He’s finally reached that often clichéd moment in film where he’s ready for one more job before he settles down. But cliché is avoided here as Huston wisely pairs Earle with partners who are considerably younger than him, and who more than likely reflect his own recklessly impetuous past.

You can read my original post on the film here.

The Maltese Falcon – 1941

The Maltese Falcon Poster

The Studio wanted Raft. Writer/Director Huston wanted Bogart. The final result changed cinema history as we know it and boosted Bogart far enough into the stratosphere that his legend was permanently cemented into Hollywood history.

Looking back now, Warner Brothers had all of the ingredients for a timeless classic. Bogart, Lorre, and Greenstreet. John Huston writing and directing. A film based on a famous novel that had never been filmed well in two prior attempts. But Bogart was an unproven draw. Lorre was still regarded as a foreign character actor that could do well, but was considered more of a novelty than anything else. And Greenstreet was making his film debut after years in the theater. For Warner Brothers, this was still a gamble with a whole lot of unknown variables in the mix.

Look how well it paid off.  Haven’t seen it yet?  Give. Me. A. Break.

You can read my original post on the film here.

In This Our Life – 1942

In this our life poster

Huston directs here in what was my first major disappointment while blogging about Bogart. While I really loved this movie, it was a huge letdown for me to discover that Bogart is nowhere to be seen within it. According to every online and book-bound Bogart filmography available, Bogart’s credited with a small cameo in the film. IMDB says he’s an uncredited dancer on a roadhouse table. The official Humphrey Bogart Estate site claims that he has a cameo as a tavern owner. After a careful, frame by frame, examination of both bar/tavern scenes, I can definitively say that Humphrey Bogart is nowhere in this picture.

As the story goes, Huston gathered his core crew from Falcon and put them around a table in the tavern scene. While this is totally believable, I’m guessing that if it actually happened it was cut out for being a distraction to the overall film. Oh, well. Perhaps the footage will surface someday…

You can read my original post on the film here.

Across the Pacific – 1942

Across the Pacific

A few months before Casablanca was released, America got Across the Pacific – a film that some considered an attempt by the studio to recreate the magic from The Maltese Falcon. Three of the core cast from Falcon were back for lead roles, with Greenstreet even being referenced as “the fat man” at least once by another character. Add into the mix the same director in John Huston, and yes, it certainly does seem like Warner Brothers was stacking the deck in an attempt to get lighting to strike twice.

While Across the Pacific is not The Maltese Falcon, it is one of the best action-adventure thrillers of its time, and if not for the Japanese stereotyping, I think this one would probably get a little more play in the greatest Bogart films ever conversations.

You can read my original post on the film here.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre – 1948

Treasure Poster

A long-time passion project for Writer/Director/Cameo Actor John Huston for over a decade, both he and his father Walter would go on to win Oscars for their tremendous work here.

Huston had a wonderful way of bringing out the best in his actors, and the triangular dynamics between each of the three main characters works on so many different levels. Perhaps one of Huston’s greatest gifts was his ability to create an environment for his actors that allowed them to believably flip between sympathetic and villainous from one moment to the next. Could anyone else have played both sides as well as Bogart did here?

While it’s not my absolute favorite Bogart performance, I don’t argue too hard with people who do claim that it’s his best. It’s certainly got to fall within the top five for me. Plus, you get to see Director Huston himself make a cameo as a generous American benefactor who gives some pity money to a lowly Bogart early on.

You can read my original post on the film here.

Key Largo – 1948

Key Largo Pic

Huston was Writer/Director for this one and there’s not a wrong note in this whole film. The cast is superb, and while Claire Trevor was the only actor from the film to win an Oscar, it surely wouldn’t have been a surprise if Barrymore and Robinson had at least been nominated as their performances are stand-out wonderful as well. (Fortunately or unfortunately – depending on whom from this film you consider – the main competition for the Oscar race that year was another little Huston film called The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet. Huston snagged Best Director and Best Screenplay for Madre, so I imagine that Trevor’s win for Best Supporting Actress here and Walter Huston’s win for Best Supporting Actor in Madre were just the icing on the cake for him.)

You can read my original post on the film here.

The African Queen – 1951

The African Queen

I recently rewatched this one specifically for this post as it’s one of my all-time favorites and it never disappoints. Sure, some of the special effects (re: mosquito swarms and green screens) used by Writer/Director Huston look pretty shabby in this day and age, but the performances that he pulls out of Bogart and Hepburn are so strong that their scenes together make the film a must see.

Just take the silent pan-out towards the end after Hepburn kneels in prayer next to an unconscious Bogart in the middle of the papyrus maze. To see them give up on life only a hundred yards away from freedom is heartbreaking in a way that you can feel all the way down to the pit of your stomach.

Throw in the stories of off camera drinking by Huston and Bogart (supposedly the only thing that kept them from falling ill, unlike Hepburn), and the fact that Bogie finally got a long overdue Oscar, and this film is a legend unto itself.

You can read my original post on the film here.

Beat the Devil – 1953

beat the devil poster

This one from Writer/Director Huston is probably my biggest guilty pleasure from all of Bogart’s films. While it can be one of those polarizing cult classics that people either love or hate, I think everyone across the board can admit that it’s one of the most eclectic and eccentric casts and crews that Bogart ever worked with. You’ve got the wild and hard-drinking Huston, the flamboyant and witty writer, Truman Capote, the Italian sex bomb, Gina Lollobrigida, the thick-accented Hungarian-American, Peter Lorre, and academy award winning actress, Jennifer Jones. Whether you’re an avid supporter of Devil’s cult status, or you simply find it a convoluted mess, there’s no denying that the film fascinates movie buffs and casual fans on multiple levels.

And in case I wasn’t clear enough. I LOVE THIS FILM. Plus, it’s in the public domain so you can check it out on YouTube anytime you don’t have your classic film collection on hand!

You can read my original post on the film here.

*The Usual Suspects is an ongoing section of the blog where I highlight some of Bogart’s more regular collaborators. You can read the rest of the write ups here.*

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