The Pepsodent Show with Bob Hope – 1941

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My Review

—Typical, But Fun, Bogart Guest Star—

Honorary Radio Bogie Fix:

Radio Fixes 2

The Lowdown

Hope spends the first ten minutes pushing Pepsodent and horsing around with his usual cronies before introducing Bogart for some goofy tough-guy jokes and a skit. What’s fun to note is that the house band must have been worth the price of admission alone as I could have listened to them for another half an hour.

What I Thought

The comedy is pretty standard fare for Hope. Some jokes are clever – (On going to the beach) “A lot of people change their bathing suits in their cars, which I think is disgusting. Especially when it’s so much easier to do it on the bus.”

Some jokes went so far over my head that I had to use Google to know what he was talking about – (On a wedding he attended) “What a wedding. The bride was carrying four roses . . . rather well.” (Four Roses is a brand of bourbon.)

And then there’s your standard rhyming pun stuff that Hope loved to do as in this ad for Pepsodent – “Even if you don’t get flowers from your feller, if you use Pepsodent, you’ll get white lilies under your smeller.”

The good news is that Bogart gets two segments in the show. The first is just standing around with Hope playing up his tough guy persona (his handkerchief is so tough it goes off like a gun when it comes out of his pocket) and giving one of Hope’s sidekicks romantic advice. (Bogart ends up kissing his gal with PLENTY of radio sound effect smooches.)

The best segment comes last though, as we’re treated to a very Prairie Home Companion-ish skit with Hope and Bogart trying to escape from jail.

The Bogart Factor

Bogart knew exactly what the audience wanted from a personal appearance and he delivers here. He plays up his tough guy persona with just a touch of tongue in cheek self-deprecation. (Being in so many violent movies means he has to sleep with the lights on at night!)  And he gets to shine with his gangster accent as he plays a fellow con with Hope trying to escape from jail.

As usual, Hope takes a few too many of the jokes from his guest, but both guys come off well and it’s worth a listen for anyone who likes Bogart’s radio appearances.

The Rest of the Cast

Hope’s joined by some of his regular troublemakers – Bill Goodwin (some great live flubs by Hope here), Professor Jerry Colona, and Skinny Ennis who manages to steal the show multiple times.

Bottom Line

Worth a listen if you can find it to download on an Old Time Radio Podcast, but nothing new if you never catch it.

The Screen Guild Theater Presents: The Petrified Forest – 1940

pet forest

My Review

–Needs More Bogart–

Honorary Bogie Radio Fix:

Radio Fixes 2

The Lowdown

For my full synopsis of the plot to The Petrified Forest click here.

What I Thought

This one was just another amazing jewel to be found as an extra on the “Humphrey Bogart: The Essential Collection” box set. While the play/film was adapted for radio three times, this is the only one starring Bogart as Duke Mantee, and the 24-film box set is the only place that I’ve found to hear it.

The audio is a little muffled, but it’s certainly listenable. My initial gut reaction was something along the lines of, “Where the heck is Bogart?!?” as he doesn’t show up until the very end of Act I, and even after that, his part seems to be considerably shortened from the film version. Yes, it’s a radio adaption, meaning it was shortened by at least 1/3 or more for the broadcast, but still – where’s the Bogart love?

Then I looked back at the date of the airing – January 7, 1940. High Sierra was still a year away, and up until that point, Bogart had mostly been playing a second fiddle gangster to the likes of Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney, or helming his own crime pics at a much lower B-level.

It’s Tyrone Power and Joan Bennett that get the real time to shine here, and both of them do fine. I’m a little surprised by how much I bought into their romance after being more than a little partial to the pairing of Leslie Howard and Bette Davis from the film. But the chemistry is real here, sharp and energetic, and Power’s drifting writer feels a little more willing to help Bennett’s pouty waitress out of love, rather than pity, as Howard was towards Davis in the original.

Of course, just like the film, the real fireworks start when Bogart comes in. I’ll save my thoughts on his performance until I get to ‘The Bogart Factor’ below, but I will say that the combination of Power/Bennett/Bogart fell a little flat for me.

Overall, it’s interesting to hear Bogart reprise his famous gangster role for the second out of what would be three performances (the original film, this radio broadcast, and then the made-for-TV remake with Bacall fifteen years later), and while it’s not a must listen for casual fans, most Old Time Radio and Bogart enthusiasts will find enough here to make it worthwhile.

The Bogart Factor

Straight to the point – reprising the gangster-on-the-run role of Duke Mantee, Bogart’s third billed and only gets his most famous lines to use. We also don’t get any of the amazing caged tiger-like mannerisms that helped add an incredible amount of tension to the film. I’d also offer that he doesn’t seem quite as enthused for this broadcast as he did in several of his other films that were adapted for the radio. I haven’t decided yet if it’s really his fault, or if the role of Duke Mantee just needs to be seen as much as it needs to be heard. Plus – he doesn’t even get called out for the trivia game at the end with Power and Bennett even though he was the only original cast member from the film!

The Rest of the Cast

Tyrone Power comes off the best out of the entire cast as he takes over for Leslie Howard playing the wandering and depressed writer, Alan Squier. Power has a great voice for radio and the presence to pull off a solid character. Again, like Bogart, the part of Alan Squier has been cut down quite a bit, but there’s still plenty left to work with as Power carries the bulk of the weight in this production.

Joan Bennett is just fine in as the lonely cafe waitress, Gabby Maple, but Bette Davis has cast a long shadow and it’s not easy to get out from underneath of it. Bennett doesn’t give a bad performance, but it’s just low key enough that I wouldn’t have had any idea it was her if she hadn’t been listed in the credits.

The Bottom Line

Only for Bogart and Old Time Radio enthusiasts, but since it’s a rare find, those are probably the only folks who are going to listen to it.

Dead Man – 1945

dead man

My Review

—Mediocre, but Still Fun—

Honorary Radio Bogie Fix:

Radio Fixes 2

The Lowdown

A train-hopping hobo (William Tracy) is haunted by the voice of a railroad bull (Bogart) after killing him.

What I Thought

Based on a short story by famed novelist and screenplay writer James M. Cain (The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity, Mildred Pierce, Algiers, etc.), this one’s worth a listen for the author’s pedigree alone. While this story doesn’t come close to his best works, its paint-by-numbers plot is still entertaining enough. And – I have no doubt that 70 years ago, this plot might have played out a little more unexpectedly to a general public that wasn’t nearly as media-saturated as we are today.

Is this production of Dead Man good? It’s okay. It’s an easy listen at half an hour and more than good enough to pass the time on a commute to work or an airplane ride. Not as good as several of Bogart’s radio film adaptions, the actors do well with what they have.

This broadcast of Dead Man was one of Bogart’s rare pre-Bold Venture dips into radio that wasn’t a cameo appearance or a film adaption. Supposedly handpicked by Bogart himself, the noir-ish feel of a story that focuses on a murderer consumed with guilt and paranoia seems right up the Hollywood legend’s alley.

The Bogart Factor

Bogart does well here as Larry Knott, the railroad bull who’s murdered. Yes, his ghostly voice sounds a little like he’s standing across the street and speaking through a bullhorn, but how much can you really do on the radio when you need to distinguish someone as an ethereal presence that also needs a good dose of tough guy added in? There are so many roles in his filmography where Bogart plays a guilt ridden ne’er-do-well that is slowly becoming mentally unhinged (Black Legion, San Quentin, Dead End, Conflict, The Two Mrs. Carrolls, etc.) that it’s kind of refreshing to hear him as the innocent conscience haunting another killer. It wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine Bogart playing the lead role himself if the story had made it to the big screen. If anyone knows the ins and outs of guilt-driven-mania, it’s Bogart for sure.

While it’s not a must listen unless you’re a Bogart completist, it’s worth a listen for anyone interested in a James M. Cain/Bogart collaboration.

The Rest of the Cast

William Tracy plays Lucky, the hobo who kills Bogart at the beginning of the story, only to be guilted into madness by his disembodied voice until he can stand it no longer. Tracy does well here with the material he’s given, more than able to give his private conversations with Bogart plenty of angst and tension.

The Bottom Line

You could do worse for old time radio. If you’re already a subscriber to an old time radio podcast, this one has either come up, or probably will eventually.

The Columbia Broadcasting System Presents: Henry IV – 1937

shakes

My Review

—Bogart’s Better Than I’d Been Led to Believe—

Honorary Radio Bogie Fix:

Radio Fixes 2

The Lowdown

It’s Shakespeare’s story of an uneasy king who’s forced to contend with borderland disputes, a ne’er-do-well son, and the revolt of some hotheaded rebels – all of which culminates in a bloody battle wherein the king’s army desperately needs to strike down an insurrection before it gets out of hand.

What I Thought

Let me just get a couple things out of the way.

I was an English major at a large state university that is not known for having an esteemed English program. I had a literature emphasis and therefore had to read every written word by Shakespeare at one point or another. I had to watch a lot of it onstage. I even had to memorize some.

That being said, I’m not a big fan.

After those 4 ½ years of undergrad, I immediately pulled the drain plug in my brain and happily let all of that Shakespearean knowledge and experience pour out, never to look back. Oh, I remember plots. I remember a few characters. I even grew to love several parts of Hamlet.

But I’ve never considered revisiting the bard. Until now.

Bogart did Shakespeare? I thought that I’d tracked down most of Bogart’s available radio appearances – mainly film recreations, a few comedic appearances, and the Bold Adventure series with Bacall. Then I jumped onto Spotify and discovered the William Shakespeare – Vintage Collection.

So apparently in the late 30’s, the National Broadcasting Company and the Columbia Broadcasting System were competing with one another for a higher class of listeners with dueling radio series starring prestige actors in the greatest works of Shakespeare. Orson Welles, Edward G. Robinson, John Barrymore, Helen Menken, Tallulah Bankhead and many others jumped at the chance to perform some of history’s most treasured stories. Bogart was eager for his chance as well.

To be clear – reading Shakespeare always paled in comparison to actually seeing it performed onstage for me. I always had a hard time keeping his typically large large cast of characters straight as I tried to follow his pre-Seinfeld multi-story arcs that wound up and down and all around until they generally met up at the end. Seeing actors actually embody the roles helped me keep things clearer so that I could spend more time wrestling with the language.

A radio production, though? Well, I think it falls somewhere in between the printed page and the stage for me. Easier to grasp than words in musty old book – not as fun to follow along with without any visual aids.

When numerous male actors are putting on affected British accents and wallowing in the joys of their own diction, I still have a little trouble distinguishing who is who. It does help, however, that Henry IV’s nearly three hour running time was shortened to just an hour here, and for anyone who likes classic film, appreciates Old Time Radio productions, or can at least tolerate Shakespeare, it’s a fun little side alley from Hollywood’s classic era to veer into for a bit.

I was actually shocked by how much I enjoyed Bogart’s part of Hotspur, the hotheaded rebel who’s causing trouble for Henry IV. The great Bogart biography written by A.M. Sperber and Eric Lax (a minor deity in Bogart history and lore) makes it sound like Hollywood’s greatest leading man made a fool of himself in the show – sounding more like a Brooklyn tough guy who can’t speak the Elizabethan language than a stage actor.

I couldn’t disagree more.

The lisp is hardly noticeable. Bogart’s diction is wonderful. And best of all, he’s one of the few actors in the whole production who’s voice makes his character easily recognizable and almost fully understandable.

Perhaps not for the casual Old Time Radio fan, this one’s definitely worth a listen for any big Bogart fans that want to have their minds blown just a little bit.

The Bogart Factor

Playing Henry ‘Hotspur’ Percy, Bogart gets a chance to do something that had almost exclusively eluded him until this moment in his career! He speaks lines during a death scene!

Prince Hal and Hotspur duel, Hotspur is on the losing end, and Bogart actually gets to lament his death!

“But that earthy and cold hand of death lies on my tongue – no, Percy, though art dust, and food for…” (death gasp)

The part isn’t huge, but he does play heavily into the beginning and the end of the two part CBS radio episode.

The Rest of the Cast

Walter Huston plays the titular Henry IV. Almost as much fun as hearing Bogart do Shakespeare, Huston is overshadowed by the larger role of Harry (Hal), the Prince of Wales played by Brian Ahearn. But to me, Walter Connolly’s Falstaff will probably make the production worth it for any Shakespeare diehards.

The Bottom Line

It’s freaking BOGART doing SHAKESPEARE! Give it a listen just to say that you did! Who knows? It might tempt you to hear Edward G. Robinson’s version of The Taming of the Shrew.

A Holy Terror – 1931

Holy Terror Poster2

My Review

—Perhaps the Most Undeserved Film Title of All Time—

Your Bogie Film Fix:

2 Bogie

 

 

out of 5 Bogies!

Director: Irving Cummings

The Lowdown

The son (George O’Brien) of a murdered millionaire (Robert Warwick) heads to Texas to confront the supposed murderer (James Kirkwood).

What I Thought

At fifty-three minutes, the review for this one was almost “Watchable.” Then I got to the twist ending which immediately calls into question everything that just happened in the previous fifty-two minutes and should potentially create an incredible legal nightmare for all the shooting, fighting, and death that the took place around the main protagonists. Instead, the twist is embraced by all the characters, laughed about, and taken as a neat and tidy wrap-up for a tragically violent story. I’m obviously tip toeing around spoilers here, but James Kirkwood’s Texas rancher is so negligent in his communication to other characters that he should spend the rest of his life in prison.

Based on a novel by renowned Western author Max Brand, there is some potential to be had by the story here. A wealthy playboy polo player heads out west and proves that he can be as tough as the cowboys while he solves his father’s murder – it’s a nice fish-out-of-water story, and other than the ludicrous way that O’Brien meets his love interest (Sally Eilers) at the beginning of the film, the romance isn’t half bad either despite the (clichéd) facet that she just happens to be dating the man (Bogart) who wants O’Brien dead.

Definitely not a must see for casual fans. There’s a good reason this one’s hard to find.

The Bogart Factor

It’s a stereotypical bad guy role for Bogart here as he plays Steve Nash, the head cowhand for James Kirkwood’s ranch. No backstory is given. He’s got a bunkhouse full of goons. He’s quick to use murder to solve all his problems. When the ending arrives, you will wonder Why in the heck did Kirkwood have this guy on the payroll?

All that said, Bogart’s the standout performance here by far. The role is essentially the same as any of his early gangster roles, complete with the East Coast accent, and no one could play stock tough guys better than Bogie. He whines, grouses, argues, sneers, and loses his temper throughout the film and it never gets old.

As one of only four Westerns in his filmography, there is enough here to make it a must see for Bogart completists as he does get a lot of screen time with all the other leads.

The Cast

George O’Brien plays Tony Bard, the wealthy playboy who goes to find his father’s killer. This was my first experience with O’Brien, but he seems to have had a decent career in Westerns. There’s not a lot to work with in the script for him, but he’s charming enough.

Sally Eilers plays Jerry Foster, Bogart’s apparent girlfriend, and the woman who O’Brien eventually woos by the end of the film. Eilers is probably the other standout alongside of Bogart as she’s pretty and seems comfortable onscreen. But again, with only fifty-three minutes to work with, there’s not much time to really see what she has to offer here.

James Kirkwood plays William Drew, the wealthy rancher suspected of killing O’Brien’s father. He’s briefly in the beginning and then reappears in the final act, so there’s not a lot of screen time for him, but he’s fine in the role despite the fact that his actions are criminal whether he’s guilty of the murder or not.

Robert Warwick appears briefly as O’Brien’s father, John Bard, before he’s murdered. Warwick was apparently a big encourager for Bogart early on, and their relationship was enough for Bogart to bring Warwick back for a small role in In a Lonely Place, so I’ll give him some props again here!

Stanley Fields plays Bogart’s right hand goon, Butch. Yup, that’s all you need to know to understand his character . . .

Rita La Roy shows up as Kitty, a counter girl who seems sweet on Bogart. Again, that’s about all you really need to know . . .

Classic Bogie Moment

He’s a cowboy, right? Right? But this sentence still comes out of his mouth as if he’s in full Bronx gangster mode:

“Fella doesn’t come into a town like this and ask questions for nuttin’!”

The Bottom Line

Harmless enough, painful in the finale.

Tokyo Joe – 1949

Tokyo Joe Poster

My Review

—Believe the (Poor) Hype— 

Your Bogie Film Fix:

2 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  Stuart Heisler

The Lowdown

An American (Bogart) returns to Tokyo after World War II to pick up the pieces of his broken marriage and his former nightclub, the ‘Tokyo Joe.’

What I Thought

Unfortunately, almost every post-Casablanca drama that Bogart starred in got held up against the Hollywood classic by critics and then inevitably paled by comparison.  That’s not all that strange.  It still happens in modern cinema all the time – a major star hits it big with a film or wins an Oscar and then spends the rest of their career trying to live up to their previous work.

I like coming into films like this fresh.  I get to read the history behind it.  (It was the second film for Bogart’s fledgling Santana Production’s company.  It was the first U.S. film to shoot in Japan after the war, even if it was only second unit footage.)  I’m sixty-plus years removed from Casablanca’s initial fervor.  (It’s now considered an unmatched Hollywood classic, and not the decade’s current standard of greatness.)  I have the benefit of seeing Bogart’s career in the full scope, able to appreciate this film as an artist’s continued journey into cinematic independence.  (Bogart’s Santana Productions was stretching and growing to lay the groundwork for a much more indie-friendly Hollywood.)

All that said, the critics are pretty much on the nose.  This film is held back greatly by a script and a director that don’t seem to know what tone they want to set for their main protagonist.  I think we’re supposed to root for Bogart’s returning war vet just as much as we did for Rick Blaine.  At least, that’s the feeling I’m left with as we watch him fight for the love of his life and rekindle his friendship with his former nightclub partner and best friend.  The problem is, early on in the film we’re introduced to Bogart as a man who dumped his wife, ditched her to die in a hostile country, and then returns to reclaim her, only to resort to blackmail before turning over a new leaf.

It’s not that Bogart can’t be appreciated while playing darker roles.  Director Heisler followed up a year later with Chain Lightning for Warner Brothers, a film where Bogart’s quick to throw everyone, including his best friend, under the bus in order to satisfy his own desire to succeed.  While Lightning was by no means a classic, I do think that Heisler was able to put together a film with more consistent characters and believable motivation.

So yes, there’s a nightclub.  There’s a long lost love.  There’s a song (‘These Foolish Things’) that repeats throughout, punctuating the love-tortured moments of Bogart’s stormy relationship.  There’s an evil foreign enemy to hate.  (In fact, one of the most uncomfortable aspects of the film is that there only seems to be one decent Japanese person left in Japan, and it’s not the one we’d even suspect.  The rest are painted as greedy, American-hating, shady thugs.)  This does indeed seem to be a real attempt to recapture the greatness of Hollywood’s greatest film and it falls flat.

I don’t think Tokyo Joe would have taken much adjustment to fix.  Heisler has a talent for making his stars look good (just see the Classic Bogie moment below), so there’s a lot of little moments where this film looks like a classic, but none of the characters are portrayed with enough weight or pathos to pull off the life-and-death stakes that the plot requires us to believe.

The Cast

Florence Marly plays Bogart’s ex-wife, Trina Landis.  Marly does fine with what she has to work with, but her will-I-or-won’t-I relationship with Bogart is a far cry from the one he shared with Ingrid Bergman.  Why would she go back to him?  Why would she even consider it after all that he did to her?

Alexander Knox plays lawyer Mark Landis, current husband to Florence Marly and the only thing standing between her and Bogart’s attempts to put his marriage back together.  Like Marly, Landis seems to be suffering from a severe lack of clear motivation as he continually helps his rival out for no explainable reason.

Teru Shimada was the standout of the film for me, playing Bogart’s good friend and club partner Ito.  Their judo scene early in the film was a lot of fun; despite the fact that there were several prolonged moments where it was obvious that stunt doubles were being used.  His arc in the film is one of the most interesting, and believable, and it makes me wish that the role had been a more integral piece of the story.

Sessue Hayakawa plays the heavy, Baron Kimura, the man attempting to undermine the Allied forces by blackmailing Bogart into working for him.  Again, there’s not a lot to work with for Hayakawa as he’s a two-dimensional villain.  I think painting a Japanese bad guy with such broad strokes was probably necessary for the time, but it does no favors for Tokyo Joe’s cultural longevity.

Classic Bogie Moment

Bogart.  Fedora and leather jacket.  Very nice.  If the best thing to come out of this film was a shot like this one, it was still probably worth the effort!

Tokyo Joe Bogart

The Bottom Line

The subject matter of trying to work through a post-war conflict from within the losing country has so much more potential than what’s on display here.  Not a must see, but not the worst way to spend a Saturday night.  Probably just for Bogart completists, though.

King of the Underworld – 1939

King of the Underworld Poster

My Review

—A Confused, but Watchable Film—

Bogie Film Fix:

2 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director: Lewis Seiler

The Lowdown

A doctor (Kay Francis) follows gangsterJoe Gurney (Humphrey Bogart) to a small town in the hope of clearing her name after her husband (John Elderidge) is killed while helping Gurney’s gang.

What I Thought

The key word to this film is potential. There’s a lot of potential to be had here, but unfortunately, King of the Underworld falls short of living up to it.

I’m a fan of Lewis Seiler’s work, and while he doesn’t make perfect films, he’s a capable director when he has the right script. This time though, it seems as if he can’t decide whether he’s making a crime drama, a gangster comedy, or a love story. King of the Underworld feels like a mashup between the taut dramatics of Bogart’s gangster-on-the-run film The Petrified Forest and the goofy shenanigans of Seiler’s own gangster-in-hiding film It All Came True.

Bogart is initially shown as a ruthless murderer, reclining on a couch while he shoots one of his own men one moment, and then later playing for laughs as he doesn’t understand that a doctor is being insulting when she diagnoses him as the “moronic” type.

Then there’s the English writer (James Stephenson) hitchhiking his way across the country, accidently coming across Bogart’s crew after their car breaks down. Later, he falls for Francis after he gets stranded in the small town. Both plot points directly out of The Petrified Forest. Stephenson is solid with what he has to work with, but he’s given no real time to develop his relationship with Francis, and seems to exist for little more than plot advancement.

Despite all of my issues with the tone and script of this film, it’s not unwatchable. The acting is well done, Seiler knows how to frame a shot and keep a story moving, and the plot has a few interesting turns.

I think that the fault for any shortcomings might lie both with Director Seiler’s inability to pick a mood, and the fact that the screenplay was written in part by another multi-time Bogart collaborator, Vincent Sherman. Sherman, as many regular Bogie Film Blog readers know, directed two of Bogart’s more offbeat films – The Return of Doctor X and All Through the Night – both films that I contend were meant as spoofs of the horror and gangster genres respectively.

So was King of the Underworld meant more as a parody? I don’t think so. So much real angst was built into the story between Francis and Bogart that I think the comedic moments were just a bit too overplayed. There’s just enough humor thrown in that it undercuts Bogart’s threat as an antagonist. My guess is that Sherman and Seiler were both still in the infancy of their experimentations with turning the gangster genre on its head, and they put in a little too much silliness to make any of the gravitas truly effective.

Regardless, this one might be a fun double feature with Director Seiler’s own It All Came True, or Vincent Sherman’s underrated gem, All Through the Night.

The Bogart Factor

Bogart could be comedic, dramatic, romantic, threatening, subdued, and whimsical – and while several of those are attempted at various points here, the performance comes off as uneven. In some scenes he’s wonderfully despicable. In others, his comedic timing is flawless. While that kind of varied personality works well in some films (see All Through the Night, High Sierra, The Roaring Twenties), it comes off as fragmented and uneven here.

Again though, the character of Joe Gurney is incredibly interesting and has so much potential. The story of a gangster obsessed with Napoleon, yet too shortsighted to see that they share the same tragic flaws, should lead to a much more satisfying character arc than it does here. Especially when you add in the relationship with the historical author who’s on hand to chronicle it all. But wait, there’s that Francis/Stephenson love story to contend with. And the side story about how the townspeople don’t like Francis. Then there’s the out for justice/revenge plot that keeps disappearing and reappearing, grabbing for our attention. It’s just too many under-developed story fragments in too short of a film.

All of that said, I’d still say this one is probably a must see for diehard Bogart fans as so many of the elements that made him a great ‘bad guy’ are here on display in various moments.

The Cast

Kay Francis plays Dr. Carol Nelson, the wrongfully accused woman who’s trying to clear her name by chasing down the gangster. Francis is good here despite being lost in the plot details. I would have loved to have seen another 10 minutes added to this 67 minute film that fleshed out her relationship with James Stephenson.

James Stephenson plays Bill Stevens, an English writer hitchhiking across the states. It’s impossible not to compare him to the great Leslie Howard in The Petrified Forest, as it’s essentially the exact same character, but Stephenson does well with an incredibly underwritten role. This could have been a film that revolved entirely around a man taken hostage and forced to write a gangster’s biography, as it’s a pretty interesting idea, but we only get a little taste of that plot point here.

Arthur Aylesworth plays Francis’ small town medical practice competition, Dr. Sanders, who’s none too happy to have a new doctor in town as he questions her relationship with Bogart. Aylesworth is fine; the part is small and he’s mainly used to move the plot forward when needed.

John Eldredge plays Niles Nelson, Francis’ husband, who falls in with Bogart at the beginning of the film and ends up losing his life because of it. Again, his role is small and doesn’t quite give us the emotional stakes that we need to fully invest in Francis, but he’s fine in the role.

Then there’s Bogart’s crew, who even though I’m going to lump them together, deserve a mention. Charley Foy, Murray Alper, Joe Devlin, Elliott Sullivan, Alan Davis, John Harmon, and John Ridgely all add a lot of color to the film with their brief scenes and comedic lines. Director Seiler uses them just enough to help the film without overcrowding it.

Classic Bogie Moment

Need someone that can leisurely kill a man from the sofa while reading about Napoleon? Who better than this guy?

King of the Underworld

The Bottom Line

I think it’s worth a watch, and despite the plot issues, there’s still a lot of good moments in the film. It’s certainly not the worst Bogart film I’ve done for the blog so far!

*UPDATE – You know, it’s been about a week since I watched this one, and I’m already kind of itching to watch it again. Rereading the review, perhaps I was a little harsh on it considering that I’m already looking back fondly. I still stand by my first opinions, but take it all with a grain of salt!

Invisible Stripes – 1939

Invisible Stripes

My Review

—Better Than You Might Think—

Your Bogie Film Fix:

2 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director: Lloyd Bacon

The Lowdown

A recently released convict (George Raft) does his best to go straight after prison, but his conscience gives way to the need to support his family.

What I Thought

This was my second viewing of Invisible Stripes, and I have to say that I liked it much better this time. The cast of George Raft, William Holden, Jane Bryan, Bogart, and Flora Robson is one of the best ensembles I’ve seen in a while, and all the character relationships really crackled – especially Raft and Robson who give us most of the heart in this film.

I can see why this movie might not have gotten the most glowing reviews. The story of an ex-con trying to go straight had been done so many times before this that it must have felt like old cliché. Bogart does his absolute best with the role that he’s given, but he’s underused, and a young William Holden still seems a little green as it’s only his fourth film. All that aside though, the film is entirely watchable and keeps the drama and action chugging along at a pace that held my interest even on a second viewing.

Director Lloyd Bacon did so many good films with Bogart that he’ll eventually need to go into ‘The Usual Suspects.’ He handles this film well, especially in the quieter, character building moments of love and loss with Raft’s family. Raft’s final line to his mother is so subtly done that I almost missed it, even though it’s an incredibly heart wrenching moment.

Make no mistake, Raft and Robson create an incredibly dynamic mother-son relationship here, and it’s easy to understand the love they have for one another.

The Bogart Factor

Playing ex-con Chuck Martin, this might be one of the most likable thugs that Bogart ever got to play. Right up until his final scene, we have to appreciate and respect Martin’s attempts to help George Raft’s Cliff pull himself up by his bootstraps – even if it’s not by legal means.

The part is small, so there are long droughts throughout the film where Bogart’s presence isn’t felt, but when he’s onscreen, he pops. Could they have used him more? Probably, but it wouldn’t have fit with the story. The film needed to spend its time building up the relationship between Raft and Holden. So I guess that if I’m going to watch someone play a likable bad guy, it’s a treat that it gets to be Bogart, even if the role is tiny.

The Cast

I’m not the biggest George Raft admirer, but I really liked him here as Cliff Taylor, the ex-con who tries to make good when released from the pen. Several scripts that Raft turned down in his career went on to become some of Bogart’s most iconic films, so maybe with the additional appreciation of this film, I can finally get on the George Raft bandwagon. He plays his emotions close to his vest and he did a wonderful job of making me believe that he loved and cared for his mother and brother. This film is re-watchable for me based on Raft’s performance alone.

William Holden plays Raft’s younger brother, Tim Taylor. Holden is fine in the role, but he has nowhere near the film presence that he would develop with another decade under his belt. Erring a bit on the side over overacting, Holden does have a number of good scenes with Raft, and decent chemistry with Jane Bryan as his love interest.

Flora Robson plays Raft’s mother, Mrs. Taylor, even though she was about six years younger than Raft at the time of filming. In my opinion, Robson’s performance steals the show, and I have an all new screen crush. How can you not love a mother like that? I wanted to hug and kiss her to death every time she appeared on screen. The work she does with Raft in this film makes me want to explore her filmography further to see what I’ve been missing!

Jane Bryan plays William Holden’s love interest, Peggy. Bryan is on my shortlist for actors that need to go into ‘The Usual Suspects,’ as she’s usually a pretty strong supporter in every film that I’ve seen her in so far. This is no exception, as she gets some pretty meaty scenes with Holden, and a couple of good chances to interact with Flora Robson. It’s a more mature role than her other two Bogart films, Marked Woman and Kid Galahad, and it suits Bryan well. I still need to follow-up on the rest of her filmography!

Don’t Forget to Notice

Hey! There’s a brief cameo by ‘Dead End’ Kid Leo Gorcey as Jimmy the stockboy with George Raft!

Classic Bogie Moment

Bogart was great with a little subtle innuendo. There’s a scene at a party where he’s cozily chatting up Lee Patrick on a couch when they have this exchange:

Patrick: I’m a rare animal, Chuck. I’m a natural blonde. That’s why you went for me quick, wasn’t it?

Bogart: Well, that . . . and other things . . .

Invisible Stripes

Look at that grin . . . Ladies and gentlemen, that’s a man with bad intentions on his mind!

The Bottom Line

Give it a shot, I don’t think you’ll regret it. Maybe not a must see for Bogart fans, but the relationship between Raft and Robson is worth it!

Lux Radio Theater – Bullets or Ballots – 1939

My Sign

My Review

—Great for Robinson Fans— 

Producer:  Cecil B. DeMille 

Honorary Bogie Fix:

Radio Fixes 2 out of 5 Radio Bogies!

The Lowdown

A cop (Edward G. Robinson) goes undercover to bust up the organization of a big time racketeer (Otto Kruger).  All the while, he has to keep his numbers running gal pal (Mary Astor) happy while trying to steer clear of a gun toting henchman (Humphrey Bogart).

What I Thought

I’m really getting into these Lux Radio Theater recreations of some of Hollywood’s most classic movies – especially when the original stars are on hand to recreate their roles.  Here we have Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart reprising their roles from the film, and while Joan Blondell doesn’t reappear, she is replaced by Mary Astor and it’s pretty satisfying to hear her work with Bogart again.

Robinson, much like Bogart, translates perfectly to the radio.  Whenever he’s speaking, it sounds just like audio from the film.  It didn’t give me the same classic film fix that the radio versions of The African Queen or To Have or Have Not did, but it’s listenable, and it’ll probably get another play on my next long car drive.

There’s a fun, and very staged, interview with a real criminologist during the intermission, and Cecil B. DeMille is producing, so he does the introductions.  Plenty of advertisements are made for Lux Toilet Soap.  The only real complaint that I had was that this show wasn’t taped in front of a live audience, so anytime there’s applause, it’s clearly just DeMille and a couple of stage hands, making the production seem a little bit smaller.

Plus, character actor Frank McHugh isn’t back to play his role from the film, which is always a loss!

The Bogart Factor

Bogart’s back as ‘Bugs’ Fenner, and unfortunately the part seems to have been trimmed back quite a bit.  It’s neat to hear him recreate the role, but when you don’t get to see him brooding in the background during all the gangster scenes, the lack of menace is a noticeable loss for the production.

He sounds just like the ‘Bugs’ from the film and it’s always fun to hear Bogart interact with Robinson, but there’s not quite enough here for a solid Bogart fix if you need one.

The Cast

Edward G. Robinson is the undercover cop, Johnny Blake.  Robinson’s a professional, and he seems to be putting in as much energy for the radio show as he did for the film.  If you’re a Robinson fan, you’ll certainly enjoy the broadcast.

Mary Astor is the numbers running racketeer Lee Morgan.  The part’s been trimmed from when Blondell had the role, so there’s not a whole lot to work with here.  But we get to hear her team with Bogart again, and the two have a couple of good scenes together!

Otto Kruger is playing the role that Barton MacLane played in the film, racketeer Al Kruger.   Again, with the roles trimmed for radio, he doesn’t get a lot of time to shine, and frankly, who can live up to MacLane?  The guy was great in the film!

Classic Bogie Moment

There weren’t really enough scenes for anything to pop out, but like in my review of the film, I’d like to point out that ‘Bugs’ was right the whole time!  Blake was still working for the cops, and if Kruger and the rest of the gang had just listened, they would have been a lot happier – and alive!

How many times was one of Bogart’s gangsters actually smarter than his cohorts, and yet he still always seemed to end up at the wrong end of a gun.  Oh, well . . .

The Bottom Line

Worth a listen if you’re a Robinson fan or if you’d like to hear Astor and Bogart get back together for a few scenes.

You Can’t Get Away With Murder – 1939

You Cant Get Away With Murder

My Review

—Decent Melodrama— 

Your Bogie Film Fix:

2 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  Lewis Seiler

The Lowdown

Johnnie Stone (Billy Halop) is a teenager heading down a dangerous path after he falls in with small time gangster Frank Wilson (Humphrey Bogart).  After being sentenced to Sing Sing Prison for a gas station holdup, Johnnie is torn when his soon to be brother-in-law, Fred (Harvey Stephens), joins him in prison after getting the death penalty for a murder in which Frank and Johnnie were actually involved.

What I Thought

I had to wonder while watching this film if Warner Brothers wasn’t trying to create a new B-movie Bogart gangster with Billy Halop.  One of The Dead End Kids, this was the fourth film that Halop made with Bogart (Dead End, Crime School, Angels With Dirty Faces), and Bogart was clearly an influence on the young actor’s style and presence.

The melodrama can skew a little heavy as Halop wrestles with his secrets while in prison.  There are multiple crying-into-the-elbow moments, and a few “You ain’t the bossa me!” teenage rebellion outbursts with Johnnie’s sister.  While Halop occasionally appears a little green and the sibling tension often seems unmotivated, there are some flashes of good work in his performance.

The film is very watchable, despite the fact that there were a few plot points that I had issues with.  Why was Johnnie so dead set on making trouble when he was surrounded by people who loved him?  Was there supposed to be motivation for his behavior implied by the fact that he had absentee parents?  Why wouldn’t his sister Madge (Gale Page) instantly assume that he and Frank were responsible for the murder after they’re busted for the other robbery?  When faced with a more than typically friendly prison staff and inmates, why does Johnnie wait so long to spill the beans on Frank?

I ended up feeling that Director Seiler was a scene or two short in setting up the unbreakable bond between Johnnie and Frank.  I know that the lure of money and power can be overwhelming for a young kid without direction, but once they were in prison, what kept Johnnie loyal, almost to the bitter end?

Problems aside, there are numerous good scenes of comedy, action, and drama which all help elevate the film above a subpar script.

The Bogart Factor

Playing another one of his “young punks” who thinks he has the world by the tail (á la Up the River, The Bad Sister, Big City Blues, Midnight/Call It Murder, etc.), Bogart gets a good deal of time to flesh out his wannabe-gangster persona as he leads young Johnnie astray.  There’s plenty of cool talk and gun play as the elder thug mentors his protégé on the fine art of the criminal lifestyle.

While not fleshed out to a fully three-dimensional character, Bogart’s still very good as the murdering thief whose over-confidence in his own skills continues to trip him up.  Playing the film’s main antagonist, Bogart’s able to pose a physical and psychological threat to Halop with his performance despite the fact that the script doesn’t give Halop a lot of motivation to fall under Bogart’s sway.

Is it Bogart’s best bad guy role?  Not by a longshot.  It’s not even in the top ten.  But I can’t blame the studio for hiring the guy who could look cool, talk tough, and handle a gun better than anyone else to fill the role.

The Cast

Billy Halop as Johnnie Stone deepens his “street tough” persona beyond what we’ve come to expect from The Dead End Kids.  He often tips the line into over-playing his emotions, but what young actor from the time doesn’t?  Even Bogart had to feel his way through a few dozen films before he fully grasped the importance subtlety and nuance.

Gale Page plays Johnnie’s older sister, Madge, and she does all right with a character who only appears when plot advancement requires it.  Page worked a number of films with Bogart in supporting roles, so it’s always good to see her, but she definitely deserved more depth than this.

Harvey Stephens plays Fred Burke, the fiancé to Madge, and he suffers from the same lack of character development that she does.  Existing for little other purpose than the movie-goer’s sympathy, Fred comes and goes whenever Johnnie needs an extra emotional push to move the story along to the next level.  Stephens doesn’t get the time to shine here as he did in The Oklahoma Kid.

Henry Travers plays Pop, the old timer librarian that tries to mentor Johnnie into a better man.  It’s a character that we immediately expect Henry Travers to play, so there’s no new ground broken here for the well know character actor, but Travers is always a treat, so it’s great to see him.

George E. Stone, Harold Huber, and Bogie Film Blog favorite Joe Sawyer all show up in roles as inmates alongside Bogart and Halop – each with their own great character quirks and scene-stealing moments.  It was especially fun to see Sawyer as Red since it’s the only Bogie film in my memory where Sawyer plays a good guy.  We’re even left with an ambiguous ending for Red as he disappears over the wall.  Did they catch him?  I hope not!  After all those gangster and inmate roles, he deserves at least ONE successful escape!

Don’t Forget to Notice

The stuntmen on this film deserve a lot of credit for the prison escape scene.  Two falls have to happen off of a wall that’s somewhere between fifteen and twenty feet high.  The second one looks incredibly painful, and there’s no appearance of padding or trickery.  I winced for sure!

Classic Bogie Moment

I mentioned the same thing about Cagney in a previous post, but Bogart is an actor that can put on any costume and still look cool.  Fancy gangster suit?  You bet!  Down on his luck bum?  Sure.  Cowboy outfit?  Well . . . except for those silly hats, yes!  To put a bullet point behind it though, just take a gander at these pics of Bogart in his prison gear:

bogart classic 4
With Halop and Travers

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bogart classic 3

This is a prime example of the man making the clothes.

The Bottom Line

Not a must see for non-diehards, but there are a few good glimmers of fun and talent to enjoy here.