The Attorneys

Marked Woman

*Character Reference is an ongoing segment of The Bogie Film Blog where we dissect the different recurring genres and characters from Bogart’s filmography. You can find the rest of the entries here.*

The Lowdown

Bogart played every angle on both sides of the law during his career. Petty criminal. Gang Boss. Convict. Corrections officer. Private Eye.

And yes, even a lawyer a few times.

An actor who could play good or evil with equal ease, the role of an attorney fits Bogart just like any other. The suits are a little less flashy, the dames don’t fall for him as hard, and nobody gets plugged, but doggone it, Bogart knew how to play a crusader who fought for justice at any cost.

While none of Bogart’s attorney films probably rank in your “Top 10 Bogie Movies of All Time,” they are all three worth a watch. I would even consider one of them a rarely talked about gem.

The Attorneys

Marked Woman – 1937


Bogart plays Assistant District Attorney David Graham, the man trying to capture and convict a powerful mob boss who’s running a ring of high-priced “hostesses” at nightclubs, among other nefarious illegalities. Bette Davis is one of the “hostesses” in question, trying to stay out of trouble from both Bogart and the mobster as she makes her way through life.

Bogart is still pretty young, even letting his previously over-used gangster accent slip out a bit when he tells his nemesis, “I’m going to indict you for moider!” Overall though, he gives a strong performance as the lawyer who’s pulled himself up by his bootstraps from his own dark past to make sure that justice is served.

Bogart might get second billing on the poster, but in reality, he’s fourth or fifth down the line when it comes to screen time. While it’s fun to note that the roles of criminal and do-gooder have now switched between Bogart and Davis since Petrified Forest, I didn’t feel that the same tension and chemistry between the actors was there.

There’s a great moment when Davis enters Bogart’s office in a desperate moment of need that rings with a bit of Maltese Falcon-ness with Bogart coolly sitting behind his desk as the lady pleads for help.

You can read my original post on the film here.

Knock on Any Door – 1949

Knock On Any Door Poster

Bogart’s wonderful here as Defense Attorney Andrew Morton, the man set to defend a young hoodlum (John Derek) that’s accused of killing a cop.

He has some great scenes as he attempts to mentor his young client, and it’s a lot of fun to see him battling it out in the courtroom with the District Attorney (George Macready) in a battle of wits as they attempt to sway the jury over the young defendant’s life. Bogart’s personality and presence are so strong, he could probably convince a jury that the sun only rises at night if he worked hard enough.

Quiet, reflective, occasionally torn and brooding, Bogart plays this one close to the chest and it works. I loved the fact that he didn’t initially want to take the case, but was sort of guilted into it by his girlfriend (Candy Toxton). This worked in the film’s favor as at several points, Bogart’s reluctance is conveyed through the doubt he carries about his client.

This one’s definitely worth a look. You can read my original post on the film here.

The Enforcer – 1951


My personal favorite attorney role from his filmography, Bogart is Assistant District Attorney Martin Ferguson. Ferguson is a man in desperate need of sleep when the movie opens, and even more desperate need when it wraps up. The key witness in the biggest trial of his life just died and he has to spend all night going over the evidence to find a new lead on a gangster (Everett Sloane) that’s about to walk free.

Ferguson and his right hand man, Captain Frank Nelson (Roy Roberts), reopen the case from the beginning, and we the viewers get to flashback to the first moments that the gangster’s men slip up, and the crime syndicate flashes onto ADA Ferguson’s radar.

Imagine an extra-long episode of Law and Order, except the cast is made up of classic Hollywood actors. It’s a murder mystery who-done-it in which we get to watch Bogart track down one lead after another, only to find out that every new witness he needs has just turned up dead.

There’s also a nifty twist at the end, that I’ll admit, I should have seen coming. But twist endings weren’t as common in classic Hollywood, so I wasn’t expecting it! It’s not my fault, see! The clues were there but I wasn’t paying close enough attention! I’ll wager that even if you do see it coming, it’ll still be pretty satisfying – I’ll say no more just in case you haven’t seen it yet!

This one’s a must see, and an underrated gem in my opinion. You can read my original post on the film here.

*Character Reference is an ongoing segment of The Bogie Film Blog where we dissect the different recurring genres and characters from Bogart’s filmography. You can find the rest of the entries here.*

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