Claire Trevor

Birth Name: Claire Wemlinger

Birth: March 8, 1910

Death: April 8, 2000

Number of Films Claire Trevor Made with Humphrey Bogart: 3

The Lowdown

Collaborations with Humphrey Bogart seemed to work out very well for Claire Trevor. She was nominated for an Oscar for her very brief but powerful role as Bogie’s ex-girlfriend in 1937’s Dead End. She went on to win the Oscar for her role as Edward G. Robinson’s alcoholic lounge singer girlfriend in 1948’s Key Largo. Add in her tremendous part in The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse, and you get to see Trevor’s great range as an actress in just three of her more than sixty films.

Born in Brooklyn to an Irish mother and French father, Trevor had aspirations to be an actor since childhood and would go on to be a star on stage, radio, television, and film. Often playing the tough dame from the wrong side of the tracks, Trevor also did well early in her career in Westerns, even starring alongside a new young cowboy named John Wayne in Stagecoach.

What personally draws me to Trevor’s performances is her ability to play beauty, strength, and brokenness – often in the same character. Add in to that her lifelong passion for supporting the arts – Trevor became such a large supporter to the University of California, Irvine’s drama department that they named the acting school after her. She also donated both her Oscar and her Emmy to the school where they sit on permanent display.

I think Trevor is one of those great Classic Hollywood actresses who tends to be left out of conversations about the greats for some reason, but her film legacy, drama school namesake, and award recognitions are more than enough to earn her a bright spot in Hollywood history, and a spot in The Usual Suspects!

The Films

Dead End – 1937

Trevor plays Francey, Bogart’s ex who’s turned to prostitution to make ends meet. The scene they share coupled with the scene of Bogart being chastised by his mother are, I believe, two of the most powerful scenes from Bogart’s entire career. Director William Wyler had to leave out the overt references to both prostitution and syphilis in the scene she shares with Bogart here, but what’s left unsaid is even more powerful. Their sexual tension is off the charts. When they stand an inch away from one another before Bogart tries to kiss her, it feels like someone’s hold back two magnets from clanging together. Yes, Trevor is only in the film for a few minutes, but it was such a strong showing that she was nominated for an Oscar. That should be all you need to know!

You can read my original write up on the film here.

The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse – 1938

Trevor plays Jo Keller, the jewel fence that doctor/gangster Edward G. Robinson turns to when he needs to move some diamonds. Trevor is a lot of fun here, and we get to see her playing the tough gal who’s actually got some power over the fellas. Trevor’s unrequited pining for Robinson is great as we truly believe she’s fallen in love with the mind behind the man.

You can read my original write up on the film here.

Key Largo – 1948

Trevor plays Robinson’s alcoholic girlfriend and former lounge singer, Gaye Dawn. She’s great in the role, and not surprisingly, won an Oscar for her performance as the gun moll that’s living out her last years in the bottom of a bottle while clinging to a madman who gave up on her a long time ago. One of the best behind-the-scenes stories from this film is that Director John Huston sprung Trevor’s A Cappella performance of “Moanin’ Low” on her the day of shooting. If true, it certainly helped give Trevor a shaky and painful performance that’ll make you cringe in the best possible way. Perhaps the greatest testament to her performance here is the fact that she seems so vulnerable and pathetic at the beginning of the film, only to come around and help and good guys at the end, giving us just a glimpse of the beauty and power she was able to play so well in a film like Clitterhouse.

You can read my original write up on the film here.

*The Usual Suspects is an ongoing feature here at The Bogie Film Blog where we highlight some of Bogart’s greatest recurring costars! You can read the other entries in the series here.*

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