A&E Biography – Bogart – 2003

biography-humphrey-bogart

Honorary Bogie Film Fix:

2.5 Bogie

The Lowdown

Perhaps television’s most entertaining and digestible history program chronicles Hollywood’s greatest legend.

What I Thought

Can you believe that this show has over 1,000 episodes?!? It started back in 1987 and it took until 2003 to do an episode on Bogart? Sometime when I have the time to search through hundreds of old episodes, I’ll check to see if this was merely an updated episode from a previous airing.

But on to the important stuff –

For the casual fan of Classic Hollywood, this episode of A&E’s long running bio-show hits all the major notes from Bogart’s life. They cover the struggle to make the leap from Broadway to Hollywood. They touch on how The Petrified Forest and High Sierra made him a household name. They cover the major directors (Huston and Hawks) who carved him into the star we love. They cover the Bacall love affair, marriage, and eventual children. And while they might underplay the severity of the situation, they even touch on Bogart’s work against the House Un-American Activities Committee. For the most part, it’s all here.

For anyone who’s read a Bogart biography or seen another biographical TV show, there’s nothing really new to latch onto. Certainly, anyone who’s read the Sperber/Lax, Kanfer, or Stephen Bogart bios will glean little unknown info here.

But that’s not to say that there aren’t some treats to be had.

Of all people, Art Linkletter shares some great insight into Bogart’s life as he spent some time as a next door neighbor.

Also, Stephen Bogart’s wistful recollection of his father’s final months is just as heartbreaking as one would imagine as he mentions not getting to see his father very often, and occasionally watching him being lowered to the main floor in the dumbwaiter when Bogart was too weak to walk the stairs. His stories are played over some rarely seen shots of the two together, and it put a lump in my throat.

The Cast of Interviewees

While Art Linkletter and Stephen Bogart might have been the standout interviews here, there’s no denying that it’s fun to watch and hear Roger Ebert speak when he was still somewhat healthy. Man, I miss Siskel and Ebert desperately.

John Huston’s ex Evelyn Keyes offers good insight, as well as film critic and writer Foster Hirsch. And I’d be remiss not mentioning the fun of getting to hear Martin Scorsese, perhaps Hollywood’s directorial Bogart-equivalent, wax on about Bogie.

The Bottom Line

Even if you’ve already got all the info from a dozen other sources, you’ll still probably enjoy this episode of Biography. If you’ve got a long plane ride and you can find it on YouTube, there are worse ways to pass the time!

 

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