Ray Enright

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Birth Name: Ray Enright

Date of Birth: March 25, 1896

Date of Death: April 3, 1965

Number of Films that Ray Enright Made with Humphrey Bogart: 3

The Lowdown

Ray who? Okay, settle down. Before anyone throws a hissy fit, just take a deep breath and realize that Director and Editor Ray Enright was the type of guy that kept Warner Brothers rolling. Were his films giant colossal hits? Not really. But on many weekends, when there was nothing huge in the theater, people could often relax and enjoy a musical, a romantic comedy, or a Western directed by Enright.

I’ll also admit that one of his Bogie collaborations – Swing Your Lady – is in my “Top 3” guilty pleasures of Bogart’s filmography. But more on that later.

Born in Indiana and raised in L.A., Enright started as a cutter in Hollywood before taking a break to serve in World War I, and then returning to Warner Brothers to cut for two more years before becoming a director. I’ve done a little research on what exactly a “cutter” is, since it seems to me that if Enright had strictly been an editor, it would be listed that way. The cutter appears to be an assistant position alongside an editor on a film that works on some of the more manual tasks of physically cutting the film and rearranging scenes according to the editor’s desires.

Yes, Bogart has been quoted as saying that Enright directed his “worst” film (again, we’ll get to that later…), but come on. . . there are a handful of real doozy’s out there. To claim that any of the three films Enright was a part of were the “worst” is kind of stretching it. (A Holy Terror, anyone???)

Enright was also the director who was inadvertently involved in Bogart being suspended from Warner Brothers after the actor balked at starring in the Enright directed Western, Bad Men from Missouri. According to the Sperber/Lax Bogie bio, the actor returned the script with “Are you kidding–?” written on the cover.

All that said, Enright is a multi-time Bogart collaborator. The man worked with everyone from Rin Tin Tin to Joan Blondell to Randoph Scott. And I personally love one of his flops. Hey! I’m in charge here! The man goes into The Usual Suspects! If ya got a problem with that, and you wanna get slapped, come on over and complain about it!

The Filmography

China Clipper – 1936

chinaclipperposte

There was a moment about fifteen minutes into this film where I thought I might have found a real hidden gem. China Clipper isn’t widely available to watch or purchase, and I was just getting ready to write my complaint email to Warner Brothers when I suddenly understood the lack of enthusiasm behind the film.

The problem comes about midway through. Star Pat O’Brien seems to hit the peak of his character arc and just kind of flat lines. He learns his lesson on why he shouldn’t abuse his friends, family, wife, and coworkers, and he makes his apologies. Unfortunately, there’s still a good forty minutes left in the movie and the character apparently has nowhere left to go. Not only that, but whatever growth supposedly took place is quickly ignored as he reverts back to old habits, except now we’re supposed to be sympathetic to the same plight that alienated him from everyone who loves him.

This is a rare melodramatic turn for Director Enright who tended to go for lighter fare. If you like to watch repetitive shots of an airplane flying through clouds, maybe you’ll like the ending better than I did, but once O’ Brien’s character began to lose steam, I did too.

You can read my original post on the film here.

Swing Your Lady – 1938

swing

Ronald Reagan. Frank McHugh. Nat Pendleton. Penny Singleton. Allen Jenkins. Come on! You can give this one some grace, can’t you?

For all of the horrible things that I’d heard about this movie, I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as its reputation. It’s got a 4.5 user rating on IMDB and that seems unfairly harsh. Perhaps my expectations were so low that anything would’ve seemed better than the horror that I expected. I watched this one late at night in a hotel and enjoyed it so much that I immediately bought the DVD.

This film is much more along the lines of Director Enright’s usual fare of goofy characters, stretched out plots, and light love stories. Bogart is Ed Hatch, a traveling professional wrestling promoter who’s trying to break into the big time at Madison Square Garden.

Fortunately, what the movie lacks in plot coherency, I thought it actually made up for in charm. Do Bogart’s small town intentions make sense? In the long run, nope. Are a few of the characters a little over-caricatured? Oh, yeah. But every one of them was able to squeak out at least one or two laughs from me. There are some fun musical numbers (another Enright-ism) and enough comedic actors packed in to make it worth at least one viewing. Come on, people! Let’s get those user ratings up for this one!

And to be fair, Warner Bros agreed to give Bogart a raise if he agreed to to this one. So, worth it, right? Okay, sure, it bombed at the theaters – but some critics of the time liked it!

You can read my original post on the film here.

The Wagons Roll at Night – 1941

Wagons Roll at Night Poster

So . . . this one might have been in trouble from the beginning as the name for the film was changed from Carnival to The Wagons Roll at Night to try and cash in on that really popular “at/by night” theme that worked so well with They Drive by Night. You know how audiences turn out in droves to see films that take place at night, right?

Director Enright does a good job working the camera angles and cutting the film in such a way that it’s easy to forget Eddie Albert, Sig Ruman, and Bogart were rarely (if ever, in some cases) in the cage with the lions. It’s these life-or-death situations that lend an extra dose of gravitas to the film.

It’s important to note that Warner Brothers got some flack for making a movie that seemed to be a real retread of a previous Bogart film. You might find that understandable if you take just a second to consider this plot –

An entertainment promoter replaces his top drawing performer with an untrained yokel. The promoter’s girlfriend then ends up falling for the yokel and believes that he might be falling for her as well. Due to outside circumstances, the yokel has to disappear for a while until some trouble simmers down and ends up staying at the farm where the promoter grew up. While at the farm, he ends up falling in love with the promoter’s sister and it eventually leads to a life or death scenario for several of the characters involved . . .

Sound familiar to you Bogart die hards? It should. As it’s the exact same plot for both 1937’s Kid Galahad as well as 1941’s The Wagons Roll at Night. Replace boxing with the circus, Edward G. Robinson with Bogart, Bette Davis with Sylvia Sydney, and Wayne Morris with Eddie Albert, and Wagons is practically identical. (To carry the comparison to completion, you also have to replace Kid Galahad’s Bogart with The Wagons Roll at Night’s man-eating lion. Pretty even swap, if you ask me.)

Still, despite the similarities, there’s plenty to enjoy here. Yes, we lose Robinson and Davis, but Sylvia Sydney does fine, and Eddie Albert might even be an ever-so-slight step up from Wayne Morris’ stiff amateur boxer. The change of locale is really what helps this film distinguish itself from Galahad, as the excitement of the circus life and the action with the lions adds an entirely new element of tension to the story.

While the stakes in Galahad rest in the possibility of eventual death at the hands of mobsters, The Wagon’s Roll at Night is able to present a much more immediate and constant threat for its protagonist from the hazards of the lion taming occupation.

Is one better than the other? Well, if I had my druthers, I’d always prefer to keep Robinson and Davis in the equation with Bogart, but overall I found The Wagons Roll at Night to be a more re-watchable film. More than likely that’s because Bogart got top billing and appears in a majority of the scenes – but entertainment wise, I think this one has an edge over its boxing predecessor.

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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