Theater of Romance: One Way Passage – 1945

radio

Honorary Bogie Radio Fix:

Radio Fixes 3

The Lowdown

Bogart (Warner’s Dynamic Star!) and Joan Bennett (who would go on to star with Bogart in We’re No Angels) are two ships passing in the night (pun intended) in this doom-fated romance between a man headed to death row and a woman with a fatal heart defect.

What I Thought

Full disclosure, I’ve never seen the William Powell and Kay Francis film that this one is based on, although it sounds like it might be worth checking out after this.

Yes – you know exactly where the plot is going. Yes – it’s hard to feel too much sympathy for Bogart every time his murder conviction is mentioned. Yes – you do wonder why the cop guarding Bogart continues to trust him even after Bogart drugs him while trying to escape.

If you can believe me though, all of that is trivial compared to the thoroughly enjoyable chemistry between Bogart and Bennett as they fall in love and spend their last days together. Neither will tell the other one their fateful secret. (And why would Bennett ever suspect Bogart’s murderous past? I mean, it’s not like every death row inmate gets to head to his execution on a cruise, right?)

At twenty-four minutes, this one’s definitely worth a listen for any Bogart or Old Time Radio fan. Plus, we get great tips on hygiene from Colgate Tooth Powder and Halo Shampoo! Did you know that bad breath can lead to unexplainable sadness? And why isn’t Halo Shampoo still a thing? Best. Shampoo. Name. Ever.

Why struck me as most interesting was that Bogart didn’t seem to be promoting a film for this one. Broadcast in December of 1945, this show came six months after Conflict was released, and six months before Bogart made his cameo in Two Guys from Milwaukee.

Maybe he liked the original film!

 

Two Guys from Milwaukee – 1946

Two Guys from Milwaukee poster

My Review

—Amiable Fun—

Your Honorary Bogie Cameo Fix:

Bogie Cameo

Director: David Butler

The Lowdown

A Balkan prince (Dennis Morgan) befriends a New York City cabbie (Jack Carson) and falls for a manicurist (Joan Leslie) as he tries to disappear into the American culture for a week and meet the Hollywood legend Lauren Bacall.

What I Thought

It took me awhile to track this one down, and I’d all but given up on this Bogart cameo until TCM recently reran it. Charming, and somewhat predictable, it’s still a fun ride as we watch Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson zip around New York City, seeing the sights and the nightlife, as they both try to woo Joan Leslie into a lifelong romance.

Warner Brothers took huge advantage of its concurrent release of The Big Sleep to work in a side angle where the Balkan prince is desperate to meet the legendary Lauren Bacall. We’re left to assume that he must have been very taken by To Have and Have Not and Confidential Agent as he asks practically every American he meets if they know the beautiful leading lady.

It’s the Morgan/Carson chemistry that really sells this picture, though. A 40’s film comedy duo, Morgan and Carson have a great chemistry together, and I’m excited to track down another Bogart cameo film they both appeared in – Always Together. Morgan’s the handsome hunk. Carson’s the lovable lummox. Both men do well supporting one another and seem to sincerely enjoy each other’s company. Director David Butler used the same light-handed rom-com charm in another Bogart cameo film, Thank Your Lucky Stars, in which Morgan and Carson also appear as themselves.

Are there a few plot holes that I would have liked filled in? Sure. For instance, did I miss something, or does it seem odd that Dennis Morgan’s Prince Henry doesn’t have any sort of accent? Why would a man so obsessed with Lauren Bacall choose to show up ½ way through one of her movies? Why does one popular speech make Jack Carson’s cabbie not only famous (understandable) but seemingly rich and powerful? (I understand the status switch that Morgan and Carson make at the end of the film for plot reasons, but it’s a bit of a stretch even for a light romantic comedy.)

Was The Big Sleep really promoted as a Lauren Bacall vehicle in some posters? (And can I get one of these posters?)

Big Sleep Poster The Bogart Factor

(SPOILER ALERT)

Bogart plays himself for one line as Prince Henry finally has a chance meeting with Lauren Bacall on a plane to Milwaukee. Again, it’s tiny, but nobody knew how to play up their showbiz image as well as Bogart. I’ll save all 100% of the cameo for the ‘Classic Bogie Moment’ below.

The Cast

Dennis Morgan does much better in this film as a love-struck Balkan prince than he did as the surgeon in The Return of Doctor X. Both characters are essentially the same – handsome and charming fish-out-of-water who are trying to keep up with a goofy sidekick, but Prince Henry has a few more subtleties built into his character as the royal son who’s desperate to embrace all that democracy, the American culture, and the American women have to offer. This one certainly makes me want to see the rest of the Morgan/Carson team-ups.

Jack Carson plays cab driver Buzz Williams, and other than the fact that he seems a little too eager to let his girlfriend hang out with a handsome prince, he seems like just the kind of guy who you’d want to have a beer with. This was the third Carson/Bogart film that I’ve watched for the blog and it was probably my favorite role for Carson.

Joan Leslie plays the manicurist love interest to both men, Connie Read, and she’s very good in the role. Yes, she does seem a little shallow to leave Buzz behind for a prince just because he’s a prince, and yes, I’m still not quite sure what the whole psychotherapy dream at the end had to do with making her choice between the two men – but again – plot coherency shouldn’t be at the top of your priorities for enjoying this film.

Bogie Film Blog favorite S. Z. Sakall plays Prince Henry’s right hand man, Count Oswald. As always, Sakall’s presence is another testament to how well Classic Hollywood’s studio system worked when it came to producing strong supporting character actors. Sakall’s scene with little Peggy as she demands the true dirt behind fairytale princesses is especially fun. I’m glad that I’ll now get to add him to ‘The Usual Suspects’ portion of the blog after this one!

Patti Brady plays Peggy, Jack Carson’s precocious niece who’s also in love with Prince Henry. Yes, it’s essentially the same role as the one she would play the same year in Never Say Goodbye, but in a much more scaled back version, but she’s still shines brightly.

And, of course, there’s Lauren Bacall as herself in a tiny cameo!

Classic Bogie Moment

Prince Henry sees the object of his desires alone on a plane with an empty seat next to her. Just as he’s making his move, there’s a tap on his shoulder and we see this:

TGFM Cameo“Pardon me, you’re in my seat. Lift it, bub!”

 

The Bottom Line

A miniscule, but very rewarding cameo! Come for the Bogart, stay for the Morgan/Carson chemistry!

Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid – 1982

Deadmenplaidposter

My Review

—A Must See for Any Classics Fan—

Your Honorary Bogie Cameo Fix:

Bogie Cameo

 

 

Director: Carl Reiner

The Lowdown

A private detective (Steve Martin) stumbles across an evil organization while investigating a man’s death.

What I Thought

It’s been at least fifteen or twenty years since I’ve seen this one, and I have to say that my appreciation for the film has grown immensely. This is primarily because I’ve now seen almost all of the classic films referenced within the film in the last two decades.

Using clips and splicing in footage from nineteen different films from the Classic Hollywood era (including a trio from Bogart – The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, and In a Lonely Place), Director Carl Reiner and leading man Steve Martin have assembled a spoof/parody/homage of the early 30s and 40s Film Noir detective movies. Using over the shoulder shots, intercutting phone conversations, and actually inserting Martin into the train scene from Suspicion with Cary Grant, a large number of classic era stars take on new roles as friends and enemies of Martin’s no-nonsense private eye.

Is the footage used seamlessly? No. The stock used for the classic films looks much more aged and sometimes dimmer than the modern day shots, but it doesn’t really matter. What matters is how well the dialogue works, and how much fun Martin and Director Reiner seem to be having with writing and re-writing a script as they go along to make all the famous clips fit. Any fan of classic films will have a blast trying to pick out which clips come from which films.

Being a spoof, the real question here is, Is it funny? If you’re a fan of Steve Martin’s comedy films from the 80s (and how could you not be?) you’ll think it’s hilarious. There’s plenty of clever highbrow mixed in with try-not-to-laugh lowbrow humor. Martin’s in the prime of his comedy career and his timing is flawless. And seeing some of Hollywood’s greatest legends taken out of context will bring more smiles, chuckles, and outright laughs than you can imagine.

Among the classic actors appearing from film clips are Ingrid Bergman, James Cagney, Bette Davis, Cary Grant, Veronica Lake, Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyk, and Lana Turner – as well as Hollywood’s number one star – Humphrey Bogart, and many others.

The Bogart Factor

Although footage is also used from Dark Passage and In a Lonely Place, Bogart is playing Phillip Marlowe from The Big Sleep. The catch? Instead of being the top dog in his detective agency, Bogart now seems to be the subordinate lackey for Steve Martin’s subdued and cynical private dick.

There’s a funny bit about Bogart not wearing a tie, but most of the Bogie magic comes from his scenes in The Big Sleep when he’s on the phone – therefore giving Martin ample opportunity to make it seem as if he’s on the other line with the great detective. Supposedly there’s a great deleted scene that was added back for television where Martin gives Bogart a verbal dressing down for being an old fogey as the new generation of private eyes is taking over, but my $5.00 Walmart discount bin copy didn’t contain any extras, so I’m going to have to seek out the alternate version.

The Cast

Steve Martin plays private eye Rigby Reardon. Interviews quote Martin as saying that he didn’t want to watch any classic films before he performed so that he wouldn’t “act like Bogart,” but you can still see quite a bit of influence in his portrayal. The comedy works here because Martin plays even the most outlandish situations deadpan straight – unlike The Jerk where his over-the-top performance is what generates most of the laughs.

Rachel Ward plays the femme fatale here, Juliet Forrest, who hires Martin to find out why her father died and also serves as the main love interest. Ward has a classic look and acting style that could have easily fit into films from the 30s and 40s, but as this one’s a comedy, almost all of the character development takes a back seat to achieving laughs. She’s good here, but doesn’t have a ton to work with.

Carl Reiner appears as the villain Field Marshall VonKluck, and I won’t ruin too much about the end by going into his involvement with the plot, but rest assured, everything you love about Reiner’s wit and acting style is here.

Reni Santoni has a small, but hilarious part towards the end of the film as a South American policeman who is dead set on making sure Martin has clean pajamas.

And I’d be remiss not to mention that this was the last film that acclaimed costume designer Edith Head worked on. Head’s career spanned decades back to the Classic Hollywood era, where she even worked on In a Lonely Place with Bogart!

Classic Bogie Moment

Okay, so Bogart wasn’t actually in the scene here, but it’s nice to know that the world’s greatest hard boiled detective has a sensitive side! Who knew that Marlowe was such an accomplished cross stitcher?

Marlow Crosssticth Marlowe Cross Sticth 2

The Bottom Line

If you’re a comedy fan, classics fan, or Bogart fan, this one’s well worth it!

 

 

 

 

The Wagons Roll at Night – 1941

Wagons Roll at Night Poster

My Review

—An Enjoyable Retread—

Your Bogie Film Fix (Out of 5 Bogies):

3 Bogie

 

 

 

Director: Ray Enright

The Lowdown

A circus promoter (Bogart) replaces his lion tamer (Sig Ruman) with a small town rube (Eddie Albert) in the hopes of boosting ticket sales.

What I Thought

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 diehards? 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 rested 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. Director Ray 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 big cats. It’s these life-or-death situations that lend an extra dose of gravitas to this film while Kid Galahad tended to lean more towards the lighter side of drama.

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 now has top billing and appears in a majority of the scenes – but entertainment wise, I think this one has an edge over its boxing predecessor.

The Bogart Factor

In his first ever top billing, Bogart plays Nick Coster, the owner/operator/promoter of the circus. It’s an interesting role as the script seems to be calling for him to be a somewhat-sympathetic protagonist at one moment, and a less-than-desirable villain the next. Is the script confused? I’m not sure. In Kid Galahad, Robinson played the overeager somewhat good guy lead to Bogart’s dark mobster bad guy. Here though, both roles seem combined into one. It creates a much darker, and possibly more well-rounded character than Robinson’s Nick Donati in Kid Galahad, although I’m sure that Nick Donati and Nick Coster would get along rather well if they ever went out for drinks.

It’s another slick huckster role for Bogart in the same vein as the ones he played in Midnight and Swing Your Lady, and it’s a role that he can do well. We believe that he has a heart and actually cares about the people around him, but at the same time, we’re not surprised when he’s willing to turn on them if it means making some quick money or getting a little bit of revenge.

Probably not a must see for most casual Bogart fans, but the film is entirely watchable and doesn’t overstay its welcome even if the ending is a little more predictable than it should be.

The Cast

Sylvia Sidney plays Flo Lorraine, the circus’ fortune teller and the main squeeze of Bogart’s circus promoter. Sidney’s very good here even if she is in the shadow of Bette Davis’ performance in Kid Galahad. Sidney has a more convincing look as a gal from the wrong side of the tracks, and her adoration of Eddie Albert’s showbiz naivety seems a little more rooted in reality. What I really enjoyed about her performance here was the relationship with Bogart. They truly seemed like one of those couples that’s been together forever but are just waiting for an excuse to move on. It was fun to see her get an expanded role from Dead End where she plays a somewhat similar character but with less to do.

Eddie Albert plays the grocery store clerk turned lion tamer, Matt Varney. In one of the film’s best moments, we get to see Albert catch a runaway lion in his store and then relay the adventure to an ecstatic group of kids who hang on his every word. It’s a wonderful scene that does a great job of setting up exactly who Varney is, and who he is to become. Albert is solid here, and as most of my exposure to him comes from Green Acres, I’m a little curious to visit his other film roles now.

Joan Leslie plays Bogart’s baby sister, and the main love interest to Albert, Mary Coster. The last time we visited Leslie on this blog, she was playing the young disabled gal in High Sierra that broke Bogart’s heart. She’s a little more sympathetic here, but doesn’t really have a whole lot to work with. Director Enright’s instructions may well have been, “Look cute and fall in love with Albert. That’s all you need to know.”

Sig Ruman plays the drunken lion tame that loses his job to Albert, Hoffman the Great. He does well as the big blowhard who seems to forget when he’s on or off stage. His fight with Albert amongst the lion cages has some of the most convincing punches I’ve seen in a Bogart film as well.

And then there’s ‘Bogie Film Blog’ favorite Charliy Foy as Snapper, the right hand man to Bogart’s circus promoter. After Swingtime in the Movies and King of the Underworld, Foy has really stuck out to me as a talented character actor, and here he gets his best chance to shine alongside of Bogart. In perhaps my favorite scene from the film, Bogart refunds a customer’s ten dollars after being accused of employing pickpockets at the circus. He then immediately instructs Foy and another man to escort the customer off the grounds. Seconds later, Foy returns, hands a ten dollar bill to Bogart, and says, “Here’s your ten back, boss.” This guy’s going into ‘The Usual Suspects’ soon.

Classic Bogie Moment

He’s fought cops, mobsters, cowboys, convicts, street thugs, Nazis, bootleggers, AND giant octopuses. Why wouldn’t he face down a man-eating lion?

Bogart Wagons Classic

Yup, that’s just how Bogart rolls.

The Bottom Line

Don’t force yourself to pick between this one and Kid Galahad. Watch them back to back as a double feature on a Friday night and enjoy the best of both!

 

 

 

Lady Esther and the Screen Guild Players – Across the Pacific – 1943

Across the Pacific Poster

My Review

—Drastically Abridged, but It Works!— 

Honorary Bogie Fix:

Radio Fixes 3 out of 5 Radio Bogies!

The Lowdown

For my synopsis of the storyline from Across the Pacific, you can read my original write up on the film here.

What I Thought

I know that I probably don’t need to say this, but you should definitely watch the film before listening to the broadcast.  Some of the bigger plot twists and character motivations are given away in the opening segment by the narrator.  From the very beginning we know who’s who and what they’re after.

That being said, I can’t really explain why this radio broadcast works so well.  Almost all of the actual action has been removed from the story except for two key scenes – one in which Bogart is knocked unconscious, and the big shoot out at the end – but the conversations between the three main leads keep things humming along at a crisp enough pace that you don’t notice.

We also get another taste of Bogart as the narrator, albeit briefly, when his character of Rick Leland breaks the fourth wall and interrupts the actual narrator to move the story along at the beginning.  It’s not nearly as much narration as he had during The Maltese Falcon broadcast a few weeks ago, but it’s kind of fun, despite the fact that he essentially spoils all of the film’s big surprises in order to jump ahead in the story.

What really makes this radio broadcast work is the chemistry and conversations between the three main leads.  Bogart and Astor seem to be just as smitten as in the original film, and Bogart and Greenstreet share so many sparks while working alongside one another that they could probably read the phone book and it would be captivating.  While this version of the story may not be as action packed as its source material, the writing is sharp and it gives us some of the best bits of dialogue from the film.

The Japanese stereotyping is still here, as it’s pretty central to the story, but it’s not nearly as heavy as it was in the film since we don’t get a visual on the characters.  Although, when Rick’s buddy Sam shows up, the accent is more than a little over the top.

All in all, if you’re a fan of the film you’ll find this an easy listen at just a little over half an hour.

The Bogart Factor

I downloaded this one from the Warner Archive Podcast, and unlike a lot of other classic radio broadcasts that survive from that era, this one’s crystal clear.  There’s a few times we hear the studio audience (see below for one example), and it reminds me again how lucky these folks were to have the chance to see these cinema legends firsthand recreating iconic roles.

There are no stutters or dropped lines here, as Bogart seems especially laid back behind the microphone.  Again, he’s brought his A-game to the broadcast and gives 100%.

The Cast

This is the film that sold me on Mary Astor, and while her part is significantly shortened for the radio, she’s great here.  I love the fact that she can deliver her lines in such a way that I feel like I can actually hear when she’s smiling.  Out of the three Astor broadcasts that I’ve listened to thus far, this one’s been my favorite as she really sounds just as attractive as Bogart’s dialogue makes her out to be.

Sydney Greenstreet is the real scene stealer here as so much of Bogart’s time is spent in exposition.  His laugh is much more subdued than it was in The Maltese Falcon radio broadcasts, but there is such joy in the delivery of his lines that I am once again envious of everyone who ever got to see him do live theater.

Classic Bogie Moment

Well, it seems that every classic Bogart film has at least one drunk Bogie scene.  I’m ready to state that every great Bogart radio appearance has at least one knocked out Bogie groan.  Not only does he get knocked out, but it takes two hits from Greenstreet’s goon, so we get double the groans before he hits the floor!  Unlike the knockout in the Falcon broadcasts though, the audience here giggles a bit.  What happened on stage to make them titter?  We’ll never know!

The Bottom Line

This certainly won’t quench a healthy thirst for a Bogart Fix, but it’s a nice way to spend a short drive.

Academy Award Theater Radio: The Maltese Falcon – 1946

MT1

My Review

—A Fun/Flawed Abridged Version—

Director: Dee Engelbach

Honorary Bogie Fix:

Radio Fixes 3 out of 5 Radio Bogies!

The Lowdown

For my Maltese Falcon synopsis, you can read my original write up on the film here. No major plot-altering details have been changed for the radio version, so it should suffice! Besides, if you’re reading this post and you haven’t seen the film yet . . . what’s your deal?!

What I Thought

This is one of three radio versions of The Maltese Falcon that Bogart performed over the years after the film’s initial release. I’m reviewing this one in particular because good friend of the ‘Bogie Film Blog,’ @MeanStsOTRPod, podcasted this episode of Academy Award Theater last Sunday on his Down These Mean Streets podcast. (Go listen to it right now. It’s okay. I’ll wait for you to come back.) If you’re a podcast listener and a fan of classic film, you should probably subscribe to this guy’s feed on iTunes. It’s always worth it. Somewhere down the line the Bogie Blog will cover the other Falcon broadcasts on Thursday posts.

Produced on CBS for Academy Award Theater by “The House of Squibb” (Bristol-Meyers Squibb now), this is a very abridged version of the film wherein Bogart gets to sum up and skip over about ¾ of the film with voiceover narration. So we lose some key scenes from the film, but we get lots of extra Bogart voice work instead. Is the tradeoff worth it? Not quite. It feels a bit rushed and the plot is a little tougher to navigate, but can you really complain when we get to hear Bogart, Mary Astor, and Sydney Greenstreet back together again? While the script may not be top notch quality, it’s definitely worth a listen.

Unlike previous live radio broadcasts that I’ve posted about, the audience doesn’t seem miked as well, so we only hear them react/laugh a few times in the show when Bogart or Greenstreet have a particularly good line or reaction. So other than a few minor line flubs by Bogart, you’d hardly even know that they did this one before an audience.

Despite the shortened run time and the exclusion of some of The Maltese Falcon’s best moments, the interplay between Bogart and Greenstreet is amazingly fun. The relationship between Bogart and Astor seems slightly tweaked from the film as well, but I’ll cover that more in the cast review below.

My only question – who played Peter Lorre’s part as Joel Cairo? I can’t seem to find the answer with my typical lackluster research, so if anyone out there in blogland has the answer, let me know! While he’s no Lorre, he still did well!

Make sure you pay attention to how the phrase Why not? is used multiple times by multiple characters throughout the broadcast! I just watched the film and I can’t remember if they did the same thing with those two words or not. It’s a fun little usage of the question as it’s repeated back and forth in several scenes for various reasons and emotions. Maybe as an English major I’m a sucker for little things like that, but I thought it was fun.

The Bogart Factor

We get to hear Bogart do a ton of voiceover narration as they obviously have to condense the plot considerably to fit it into a half hour time slot, so it’s fun to hear him tackle a pretty tried-and-true private eye trope.

Being in front of an audience on a live broadcast also means that he only gets one take to do his lines, and as anyone’s who’s seen the Breakdowns outtakes knows, Bogart could have a bit of a temper when he flubbed a line and let loose with an occasional curse. Here though, he’s very professional when he drops a word or repeats a phrase, and it’s hardly noticeable.

If nothing else, you’ve got to give this one a listen just to relive the chemistry between Bogart and Greenstreet. Both of them amp up their respective character’s senses of humor – especially in initial conversation with each other, and it’s a whole lot of fun.

The Cast

Mary Astor reprises her role from the film as the femme fatale, Brigid O’Shaughnessy. For the original film, Director John Huston reportedly had Astor run around the set before scenes in order to give her a breathy and flustered demeanor. We don’t get that here and it seems to take a little bit of the edge off of her performance, but we do get something a little more subtle and interesting. Great emphasis is placed upon Brigid being a “liar” by all of the broadcast’s characters, and when Astor acknowledges it, there’s a wonderful personality shift that takes place. Astor plays Brigid a little more naïve and naughty until Bogart calls her out on her manipulative behavior – then she instantly switches over to a more cold and calculating – borderline sociopathic­ – demeanor. I liked it a lot even though it wasn’t as fun as the filmed version.

Sydney Greenstreet reprises the role of Kaspar Gutman, the “fat man” who’s chasing the bird around the world. Check out how much he’s revved up his laugh for this radio adaption! His giddiness is so over the top that his laugh is able to generate a few of the audible audience laughs throughout the show. He seems to be having a lot of fun as he dives back into his Oscar nominated role, and it’s well worth the time of any Greenstreet fan to give it a listen.

Like I said earlier, I’m still trying to track down the man behind Joel Cairo for this show. He had pretty big boots to fill as he stepped in for Peter Lorre, and he does well. He sounds similar, but is clearly not trying to do a Lorre impression which is nice. His accent is subdued to the point that it’s not distracting. And his chemistry with Bogart is one of the best parts of this broadcast.

Classic Bogie Moment

In all of his pre-superstar days in B-films and small roles, no one could die onscreen like Bogart. You have to check out the moment here where he only has audio to use when he’s drugged and has to pass out. Between his slurred speech and the thud that follows, it creates a pretty realistic loss of consciousness – and it’s a bit reminiscent of all those painful grunts as he slumps to the ground after being shot in his early films!

The Bottom Line

Not quite as good as the earlier broadcast that included Lorre, but an easy listen and time well spent with three of cinemas greats! Listen to it on a car or plane ride and have fun.

Tales from the Crypt S6 Ep15 – “You, Murderer” – 1995

You Murderer Comic Bogart

My Review

—Much More Fun Than I Remember!— 

Bogie Film Fix:

3 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!  (Yup, here come the emails.)

Director:  Robert Zemeckis

The Lowdown

A criminal (Robert Sacchi’s voice, Bogart’s face from past films) undergoes plastic surgery to look like Humphrey Bogart in order to hide his true identity.

What I Thought

I remember that there was a lot of hubbub when this episode originally aired.  There was a small controversy during the nineties about computer technology having advanced to the point where long dead celebrities could be “resurrected” so to speak in modern films and television shows.  Forrest Gump put Tom Hanks with a number of well known people.  Dirt Devil vacuums had Fred Astaire dance with one of their floor units.  And Robert Zemeckis brought back Humphrey Bogart from a number of old films to star in a brand new short film for Tales from the Crypt.

At the time, I was in college and only a fledgling fan of classic film.  It seemed like a lot of people smarter than me were upset about Bogart’s usage, so I decided that I should be as well.  Shouldn’t the actor have a say in being used in a film?  Would human actors eventually be eliminated altogether in favor of CGI recreations?  Might we eventually see Bogart star next to Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood in a buddy cop film?

Oddly enough, having forgotten that this episode was directed by Zemeckis, it’s funny to look back and see that this was being argued about even before Zemeckis started messing around publicly with the technology that led to Tom Hanks being CGI’ed multiple times in The Polar Express.  All the shots were done by George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic studio as well, just a few years before he’d stir up his own CGI usage controversy in the Star Wars prequels.

So what do I have to say after this viewing?

I loved it.  I really did.  After seeing nearly every Bogart film made, it was a lot more fun this time as I recognized a lot of the ‘in jokes’ that were being tossed around.  The whole episode is an outright homage to Dark Passage with its First Person point of view and its storyline centering around a reconstructed face.  (Other than a brief flashback scene, we only see Bogart when he’s reflected in a mirror.)  Isabella Rossellini gets the chance to shine with some of her mother’s own lines from Casablanca.  And I honestly think that Zemeckis’ sense of humor in this episode is so in line with Bogart’s own cameo appearances from the 40’s that I imagine Bogart would have been quite tickled with the idea of how his footage was used.

More than likely, from what I’ve read, Bogart wouldn’t have cared nearly as much about his face being used as much as he would have cared that a big fat check showed up in his mailbox for it.

It’s funny, the CGI looks really good for the time that this episode was made, and it’s a real kick to try and guess where each piece of footage from Bogart’s scenes came from.  Plus, it was supposedly the first time a dead actor had been given top billing in a TV show or film.

And!  There’s a special appearance by a very famous (and also dead) director of horror!

The Bogart Factor

The novelty of seeing Bogart alongside of modern day stars is the real draw here, but doggone it if it doesn’t actually work pretty well.  Zemeckis used footage from Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, Conflict, All Through the Night, and Key Largo to recreate Bogart as the criminal-in-hiding Lou Spinelli.  Seeing Bogart go up against John Lithgow and Isabell Rossellini had me smiling the whole time.  What can I say?  After all this time, I was just happy that Zemeckis pulled it off so well that I got a few laughs from my favorite actor again.

Well known Bogart impersonator Robert Sacchi does all the voice work, though.  Sacchi got famous for a short bit of time with his Bogart stage show and his big starring role in The Man with Bogart’s Face – essentially a full length version of this TV episode.  Sacchi did the impersonation better in the film, as there are a few times the voice doesn’t quite live up to the legend, but it’s more than passable and gets the job done.

If you’re not some kind of film purist, I think you’ll give Zemeckis a pass here and just enjoy Bogart’s post-mortem appearance.

The Cast

Isabella Rossellini plays Bogart’s wife, Betty Spinelli.  She truly seems to be enjoying herself here as she steps into her mother’s shoes and even has a chance to use some of her lines from Casablanca.  It’s been a while since I’ve seen Rossellini pop up and it reminded me how much I always enjoy her performances.

John Lithgow plays Bogart’s plastic surgeon, Dr. Oscar Charles.  Lithgow was the perfect choice for the role as he gets to ham it up and play the villain as only he can, and it’s easy to imagine Sydney Greenstreet in the same nefarious part.  It must have been a pretty big thrill for Lithgow to see himself on the screen alongside of Bogart.

Sherilyn Fenn plays Bogart’s executive assistant, Erika.  Fenn is one of those faces that’s easily recognizable as she’s been a consistently strong character actress in film and television for several decades now, and she does great in the role.

And of course there’s Robert Sacchi as Lou Spinelli’s voice.  Sacchi had his chance to shine pretty brightly for a few years, and I can imagine that it was a lot of fun to finally have his voice coming out of Bogart’s real face.

Classic Bogie Moment

There were a lot of fun moments to choose from as Zemeckis picked a lot of classic bits from Bogart’s films, but I’ll go with a shot of him alongside Rosselllini in his Casablanca tux:

You Murderer Bogart

The Bottom Line

Come on, it’s all in good fun!  Well worth a watch if only for Lithgow’s villainous genius!

They Drive By Night – 1940

They Drive By Night Poster

My Review

—Some Decent Melodrama— 

Bogie Film Fix:

3 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  Raoul Walsh

The Lowdown

The Fabrini brothers (George Raft and Humphrey Bogart) do their best to maintain a living as long distance truckers despite the constant threats of dangerous roads, sleep deprivation, and bosses who try to swindle them at every turn.

What I Thought

Okay.  I’m on board with George Raft.  He reminds me a lot of a more subdued version of James Cagney.  Both guys are small in stature, good looking, and great actors.  Don’t get me wrong, Raft isn’t nearly as charming and charismatic as Cagney, but he does a great job of playing men who are wound tight and ready to explode.

The chemistry here within the entire cast is superb.  Raft and Bogart work well together playing brothers with a very believable sibling dynamic.  Raft and Alan Hale have a lot of fun moments as they fall into business with one another.  Raft and Ann Sheridan make a great couple.  (Full disclosure – I’d pay to see Ann Sheridan watching paint dry, so I’m a little biased.)  And Raft gets to squirm alongside of Ida Lupino in some of the film’s best moments of dramatic tension.

My only real hang-up with the film comes with the ending when it devolves into a “he said/she said” courtroom drama.  The melodrama dial is already set at a “9” here, so I shouldn’t be surprised that they went with the old “murder trial” convention to decide the fates of all involved, but I do feel like it was a bit of an unrealistic cop out for the film to end that way.  I think it might have been more in line with the characters and the story to have Lupino and Raft’s final confrontation be a more privately painful moment.

But there’s so much right with Raoul Walsh’s direction here that I can’t fault the film for too much.  Walsh is one of my absolute favorite Bogart directors having worked on Women of All Nations, The Roaring Twenties, They Drive By Night, High Sierra, Action in the North Atlantic (uncredited), and The Enforcer (uncredited).  He knows how to build a story, get the most out of his actors, and frame each shot like it could be a movie still worth hanging on your wall.  I’m excited to add him to The Usual Suspects soon.

The Bogart Factor

Bogart plays a regular joe with his portrayal of Frank Fabrini.  It’s essentially a “good guy” version of the blue collar role that he played in Black Legion, and Director Walsh makes sure that he has plenty of time to flesh out his character despite the fact that he’s only the fourth billed actor in the film.

Raft and Bogart get the opportunity to build a good natured brotherly relationship before the plot gets dark, and we’re given ample time with Bogart’s Frank and his wife Pearl (Gale Page) as we see him torn between providing for his wife and fulfilling her dreams of a having a baby.  When the Fabrini’s truck is finally wrecked and Frank loses his arm, Bogart has created a deep enough character that it’s a gut wrenching moment to watch him tell his brother that he should have been left behind in the burning vehicle.

It’s not Bogart’s show to steal here, but he does a great job with a large supporting role.

The Cast

George Raft plays Bogart’s brother and trucking partner, Joe Fabrini.  Raft is authentic and relatable as the industrious trucker who’s willing to work hard in order to get ahead.  Besides this film, Invisible Stripes, and Some Like it Hot, I’m not familiar with Raft’s work, and I feel the urge to start exploring the rest of his filmography.  Raft’s biggest talent as an actor is the ability to play his emotions close to his chest until it’s time for the drama to really kick in.  I think I’m a big enough man to finally let his off screen tension with Bogart go . . .

Ann Sheridan plays truck stop waitress Cassie Hartley who falls for Raft after he’s more than a little persistent.  Sheridan does a good job of giving us the impression that she’s a good girl who’s perhaps done some dark things in her past, and she has some really nice scenes with Raft as they share a hotel room for a night before eventually falling in love and making a life together.  I can’t get enough of Sheridan, and this is one of her best Bogart film appearances.

Ida Lupino is Lana Carlsen, the femme fatale that bumps off her husband so that she can go after Raft.  Lupino is lots of fun here as she smolders away, doing whatever it takes to keep the money she married into while making advances on a man who wants nothing to do with her.  The moment where she makes the decision to leave her husband in the garage with the car running is done to perfection.  Just a moment of realization flashes across her eyes – then there’s a short pause before passing the garage door sensor – Director Walsh and Lupino put together a wonderful little murder scene.

Alan Hale plays Lupino’s gregarious husband, Ed Carlsen.  Ed’s the trucker who made good, finally opening his own company, and it’s a crime – A CRIME, I TELL YA! – when Lupino bumps him off.  What kind of sick mind thinks it would be a better world without Alan Hale?!?  It’s insanity in its purest form . . .

Roscoe Karns plays the good natured, pinball-addicted, milk truck driver for Ed Carlsen, Irish McGurn.  Karns is a scene stealer in the best possible way, and it’s a real treat to have him in the film.  The moments between Karns and Hale when they play drunk are laugh-out-loud good.

Classic Bogie Moment

In a rare turn, Bogart gets to play both goofy and dramatic here.  One of his very best mugging moments from any film comes when he’s trying to mime his excitement about a sale to George Raft behind the back of a prospective client (George Tobias) which gives us this great pic for your classic moment from the film:

They Drive By Night Bogart

The Bottom Line

I’d go ahead and make this one a must see.  It’s not a perfect film by any means, but it’s a great supporting role for Bogart where he gets to explore a lot of character depth and nuance.

Love Affair – 1932

Love Affair Poster

My Review   

—A Great Addition to Any Bogart Library— 

Your Bogie Film Fix:

3 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  Thornton Freeland

The Lowdown

Carol Owen (Dorothy Mackaill) is a wealthy young socialite who falls for a local flight instructor (Humphrey Bogart), while at the same time keeping a rich older suitor (Hale Hamilton) on the side.  Unknown to Owen and the flight instructor, the rich older suitor is also having a private affair with the flight instructor’s sister (Astrid Allwyn) who’s trying to swindle him out of enough money to stage a play.

What I Thought

I was more than pleasantly surprised by this film.  Being Bogart’s first real leading role, and having heard very little about it, I expected that Love Affair might be a little bit of a mess.  My copy came from the TCM Humphrey Bogart: The Columbia Pictures Collection, and it’s one of my favorite Bogart DVD purchases so far.  The print is great, Ben Mankiewicz gives the film a nice introduction, and the overall quality of the film should offer plenty of entertainment to even the casual Bogart fan.

One of the biggest pros about the film, that could have easily become a major con, is the overly complicated plot.  See if you can follow this – Dorothy Mackaill is kind of in love with Bogart while at the same time entertaining the idea of getting married to Hale Hamilton.  Hamilton, on the other hand, has been seeing another woman on the side, played by Astrid Allwyn.  Allwyn, though, isn’t really interested in Hamilton, she’s just using him so that she can get a payoff for a new play she wants to star in.  Coincidentally, Astrid just happens to be Bogart’s sister.  So Bogart’s sister is dating the boyfriend of the woman that’s dating Bogart.  On top of that, there’s a side plot where Mackaill convinces Hamilton to secretly invest in Bogart’s plane engine, because Bogart refuses to take money directly from Mackaill.  Oh!  And Mackaill only thinks she’s rich, but it turns out that Hamilton has been secretly keeping her bank account afloat so that she doesn’t know that she’s really broke . . .

Catch all that?

It might seem complicated, but Director Thornton Freeland does a great job of keeping all of those balls in the air as he switches between plots, using fadeouts at the most critical moments of each scene just as we’re learning key information.  It’s a little trick that works well to build the tension and keep us hooked from one storyline to another.

I also have to give kudos to the sound editor, as some of the early plane flight scenes have such great audio that I could feel the engine rumble in my chest on a subpar set of television speakers.  I would have loved a little more flying, but it’s a minor complaint for a pretty good film.

The Bogart Factor

Bogart’s nice guy portrayal of Jim Leonard falls somewhere just short of 3-dimensional, but it’s far deeper than some of his other “nice guy” roles in films like Crime School and China Clipper.  I truly enjoy hearing Bogart chuckle when there’s no intended menace behind it, and doggone it, the guy’s pretty charming when he wants to be.

Still in his early thirties, Bogart looks great, sounds great, and seems happy.  With so many of his most famous roles still a decade away, it’s great to see him so vibrant and energetic.

The Cast

Dorothy Mackaill plays Carol Owen, the wealthy young woman with a wandering eye for Bogart.  I really liked Mackaill in the role, and even though it’s not a groundbreaking character, Mackaill more than capably pulls off the part with plenty of chemistry alongside Bogart.  She has a real modern beauty, and I’m more than a little interested to see some of her other filmography, especially a more developed role.

Hale Hamilton plays Bruce Hardy, the wealthy older suitor to Dorothy Mackaill.  It’s clear that Hamilton doesn’t have the looks or the youth to run with either of the women that he pursues in the film, but he’s allowed to openly acknowledge it in character and still come off as a fairly sympathetic “sugar daddy.”  Hamilton grew on me more and more as the film went on, and his final confrontation with Bogart is played to an amiable, and very satisfying, end.

Astrid Allwyn plays Bogart’s younger sister, Linda Lee.  The character’s thin, as her only motivations seem to be greed and ditziness, but that can’t be blamed on Allwyn.  She’s fine in the role, holds her own against Bogart, and helps the plot move from point A to point B without detracting from the film.

Halliwell Hobbes plays Dorothy Mackaill’s butler Kibbee.  It’s a tiny part, but he and Mackaill get a nice scene together at the end when Hobbes gets to help Mackaill follow her conscience.

Bradley Page plays Astrid Allwyn’s theater producer (boyfriend?) who’s helping her swindle money from Hale Hamilton.  It’s another small part in the film, and it’s an underwritten character, but Page does fine as the sleazy bum who’s fast-talking his way to a quick buck.

Classic Bogie Moment

He’s young and looks sharp in everything from an aviator outfit to this suit:

Bogart ClassicAstrid Allwyn with Bogart and Bradley Page. . .
.

Revel in the coolness of Bogart!  The man never looked better.

The Bottom Line

The print looks great.  The film is very watchable.  Bogart is great.  It’s the first really big role for Hollywood’s greatest actor.  What’s there not to enjoy?  It’s not Casablanca, but it should be on the list for any Bogart fan, and it’s plenty of fun for any classic film fan.

Chain Lightning – 1950

Chain Lightning Poster

My Review

—Deserves a Better Reputation— 

Your Bogie Film Fix:

3 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  Stuart Heisler

The Lowdown

Veteran war pilot Matt Brennan (Humphrey Bogart) returns home to take a job as a test pilot and ends up working with/for an old war acquaintance (Richard Whorf) who happens to be dating Brennan’s wartime ex-girlfriend (Eleanor Parker).

What I Thought

A lot of the things that I didn’t like about China Clipper are fixed up in Chain Lightning.  While both movies deal with pushing the boundaries of aviation, China Clipper peters out about halfway through when all character development seems to stall, while Chain Lightning is able to keep the stakes high right up to the very end.

Watching on TCM, I was a little puzzled as to why Robert Osborne lent so much credibility to the notion that this film is one of many attempts to recapture Casablanca’s magic.  Yes, Bogart once again crosses paths with an old flame who’s now with a new man . . . but for me, that’s where the similarities stop.

Lt. Col. Matt Brennan is not Rick Blaine.  Not by a long shot.  Whereas Blaine lives by his own code of loyalty, Brennan is a bit more of a maverick, willing to double cross the man who gave him a job in order to gain a little fame, money, and possibly the heart of his wartime gal.  Brennan’s not a bad guy, he’s just in a darker place than Blaine is when their respective films start.  Add to the fact that there’s no looming Nazi threat – no real antagonist at all, other than Bogart’s own flawed personality – and I was left with a much different feeling watching this film than Casablanca.

Chain Lightning is by no means a classic, but it’s a solid drama that does an adequate job of building tension all the way to the end.  It’s entirely watchable, and the cast hits all the right notes throughout.  The high-tech jet plane technology gimmick feels dated, and Director Heisler gets a little heavy handed with the “Judas” reference towards Bogart when he undercut’s Whorf’s agenda, but it doesn’t ever ring false.  Bogart’s betrayal of Whorf leads us to the very believable ending where Brennan makes a risky choice in order to make amends for his earlier shortcomings.

In the end, it’s probably not a must see for most fans, but Chain Lightning is made well enough for most Bogart and Classic Hollywood fans to enjoy.  I would probably compare it to a film like Dead Reckoning in the fact that it’s a flawed picture with a lot of really good performances.

The Bogart Factor

Matthew Brennan is a slightly different spin on Bogart’s catalog of “expatriate loners” that pop up from time to time.  When he’s back in the states, Brennan is left a bitter and lost after the war is over.  His motives are superficial and it’s not until the end that he’s willing to risk himself for more than a payoff or a woman.

If anyone is good at being bitter – it’s Bogart.  He plays the role with ease and believability, and getting to see him use the song Bless’em All to torture Eleanor Parker once they’re reunited is an especially fun bit of needling to watch.

There’s nothing groundbreaking here, as Bogart doesn’t have to stretch too far to play a character that’s a composite of a lot of his previous roles, but he’s good at what he does, and he’s a big part of why the dramatic tension works in the film.

The Cast

Eleanor Parker plays Joan “Jo” Holloway, Brennan’s ex-girlfriend that comes between the veteran pilot and his friend/coworker.  While the part was underwritten, what I did enjoy was the fact that Parker didn’t spend a lot of time pining over which man to pick.  It was pretty clear that she was ready to go back to Bogart, despite his arrogance and flaws.

Richard Whorf plays Carl Troxell, the aviation designer, old war acquaintance, and third corner to the love triangle between Parker and Bogart.  I thought Whorf made a strong showing here and did an especially fine job at the end when he puts his life on the line in a race against Bogart to prove which plane is better fit for the military.

Raymond Massey is Leland Willis, the man in charge of the aviation company that’s building the planes that Whorf designs and Bogart flies.  He’s about as close to a bad guy as we get in the film, and even then his choices are motivated enough in reality to be believable.  It’s always fun to see Massey turn up in a film.

Classic Bogie Moment

This was an easy one the moment I saw the scene.  Bogart was always great at playing the charming cad.  While quite a few of the characters in his filmography were “bad” guys, it’s hard to blame the women who end up with him because he was always able to play off his ugly side with an easy going humor.  In my “classic” moment for this post, I give you the scene where Bogart’s Brennan and Parker’s Jo are getting reacquainted on a car ride as they carefully broach the topic of why they lost touch after the war:

Bogart:  I wrote you a couple of times . . . 

Parker:  I never got them . . . 

Bogart:  (PLAYFULLY) I never sent them . . .

Did he really write?  I don’t know.  I’m guessing he didn’t, but he was so sincere when they almost got married earlier in the film, so maybe there’s a chance that he did.  It’s the thought that counts, right?  It’s the first moment that I think he’s really planting a seed in Parker that he might not be a lost cause.

The Bottom Line

It’s a decent drama, and definitely not as bad as a lot of the user and critic reviews would lead you to believe.