Battle Circus – 1953

Battle Circus Poster

My Review

—A Solid War Dramedy—

Your Bogie Film Fix:

3 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director: Richard Brooks

The Lowdown

Major Jed Webbe (Humphrey Bogart) deals with the stress of being a surgeon during the Korean war by drinking heavily and bedding nurses. When Lieutenant Ruth McGara (June Allyson) is assigned to his mobile hospital, he begins to fall in love even though he knows he doesn’t want a long term commitment.

What I Thought

This is the second Richard Brooks film that I’ve reviewed for the blog, the first being Deadline U.S.A., and the man is clearly a talented and very competent director.

Battle Circus is another one of those films that I found entirely watchable and very entertaining, despite the fact that the critics have been a little hard on it. No, the chemistry between Bogart and Allyson doesn’t click as well as it could have. Yes, Director Brooks can get a little lost in the minutia of the hospital’s daily grind.

But I think what was so exciting to me about this film, was that it must have been an influence on Richard Hooker’s novel MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors, and surely a subtle influence on Alan Alda’s portrayal of Hawkeye Pierce on the subsequent television series. The number of similarities between Battle Circus and all the incarnations of MASH that followed are overwhelming:

The Korean War is treated with humor . . .

There’s a surgeon who keeps above the stress with booze and women . . .

A hospital crew bends over backwards to save a dying Korean boy . . .

Surgeons and nurses deal with an enemy soldier who has a grenade in the O.R . .

A surgeon massages a patient’s heart until it beats again . . .

I think a great double feature would be to pair Battle Circus with Robert Altman’s MASH, and then perhaps even top it off with the first episode of the television series. While Battle Circus might not be in Bogart’s top ten, it’s certainly solid enough to warrant a viewing by any Bogart or classic film fan.

The Bogart Factor

Bogart plays the line between drama and comedy perfectly. Major Jed Webbe is a slightly different spin on his dismissive and fatalistic role of Sgt. Joe Gunn from Sahara. I love the fact that Director Brooks and Bogart didn’t hold back in making Webbe look like an unabashed cad – having Bogart trying to romance Allyson in the back of a moving truck alongside other nurses with whom he’s surely tried the same moves before.

While the script is flawed, this is a good solid Bogart fix. A. Sperber’s Bogart bio Bogart talked a lot about how he really wanted to serve in the military beyond his stint in WWI, and his roles as service men were the best contribution that he could make. He always does his military roles justice, playing the scenes for honesty and pain, especially in the roles where he might not have been the perfect bright and shiny soldier.

So Battle Circus isn’t a groundbreaking film and it occasionally dips into wartime cliché? So what? It’s good Bogart, and if there were another dozen movies like it added to his filmography, I wouldn’t complain.

The Cast

June Allyson plays Bogart’s love interest, Lt. Ruth McGara. Her chemistry pales in comparison to some of Bogart’s previous leading ladies, but Allyson is still very good in the role. I can never get enough of that smoky voice coming out of that cute and naïve looking face. Allyson does very well here playing the part of an overwhelmed nurse caught up in the middle of a horrifying situation. Her scene with the Korean soldier and the grenade is one of the best in the film.

Keenan Wynn plays Bogart’s right hand man, Sgt. Orvil Statt. I loved Wynn in the role, and he added a lot of heart in his side story with the wounded Korean boy. This film certainly made me want to check out the rest of his filmography.

Robert Keith plays Bogart’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Hilary Whalters. (IMDB lists it as “Walters” despite the film’s credits spelling it “Whalters.”) Keith is good here as the tough-but-understanding CO, and I have no doubt that the role of Henry Potter from the television series dipped a little bit into this character’s bucket for Harry Morgan’s portrayal.

Classic Bogie Moment

There are lots of great little bits of classic Bogart humor throughout the film – not the least of which is his facial reaction when Allyson mentions the word “marriage.” But one of the quick little scenes that stuck with me the most happens early in the film when Bogart is helping to load a wounded soldier onto a chopper near enemy lines. As he’s helping the soldier into the cockpit, machine gun fire draws a line in dirt just a few feet behind him. Bogart turns, quickly and coolly, back to glance at the bullet spray before carrying on with his job.

The man could show a wonderful grace and nonchalance under pressure!

The Bottom Line

Like Sahara? You’ll like this. Plus, who can ever get enough of June Allyson?!?

Report from the Front – 1944

rftfrftfredcross

My Review

—A Short PSA from Hollywood’s Greatest Asset— 

Honorary Bogie Film Fix:

Red Cross 3 out of 3 Red Crosses!

Producer:  Gordon Hollingshead

The Lowdown

Reporters meet Humphrey Bogart and Mayo Methot as they arrive home after a trip to see the American Red Cross in action during World War II.

rfthbogmayo

What I Thought

At 3 minutes and 18 seconds, Report from the Front is more of a brief time capsule of Hollywood’s WWII support than it is a Bogart film.  Shot to support the Red Cross for The Office of War Information, Bogart is only visible for a few moments at the beginning, and then again at the end, as he makes a plea for movie-goers to donate to the Red Cross.  The rest of the video is footage of U.S. servicemen fighting, relaxing, and being cared for by the Red Cross while Bogart narrates.

According to A. M. Sperber’s Bogart, Bogart arrived on the Warner set with his four page monologue memorized and insisted on Methot being included in the shot with the fake plane as he is approached by reporters.  He had even made a few rewrites to the script to make the final plea for donations a little stronger.  (Sperber, 252, 253)

The short film is powerful, as just before the footage of soldiers and aid workers begins, Bogart looks straight into the camera and talks about what he’s witnessed overseas.  His voice is steady and authoritative, and I’m sure his request was effective as movie theater ushers passed donation plates through the aisles.  Who wouldn’t listen to a fedora and trench-coated Bogart as he looks you in the eye and tells you to help ailing servicemen?

The Bogart Factor

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In his most iconic Hollywood costume, and with a plane very similar to the one from the final scene of Casablanca, it’s pretty clear that The Office of War Information was trying to squeeze out every drop of goodwill that audiences had for Bogart at the time.  It’s no-nonsense and played for utter sincerity, and Bogart has the chops to pull it off.

The Cast

It’s just Bogart and Mayo Methot, although Methot has no lines.  But she does look very pretty!

Classic Bogie Moment

Despite how badly the House Un-American Activities had beaten up and smeared Bogart over the years, he actually had a long and detailed history of supporting the U.S. troops – even travelling overseas to entertain them with his best gangster shtick as he put on shows for servicemen and visited the wounded in hospitals.  It’s that sincerity that gives this short more of an authentic documentary feel than other PSAs from the time.  Multiple interviews with Bogart and those who knew him talk about his disappointment at not being able to serve during WWII due to age, and it’s heartwarming to know that he went the extra mile to do what he could.

The Bottom Line

Not a must see, but a great moment for Hollywood during a trying time.

The Return of Doctor X – 1939

drx

My Review

—A Campy Blast—

Bogie Film Fix:

My Sign  (Un-ratable – an honorary 3 Undead Doctors!)

Director:  Vincent Sherman

The Lowdown

When reporter Walter Garrett (Wayne Morris) stumbles across the body of a murdered actress and calls the police, he soon finds himself in hot water after the body disappears and he’s accused of making a false report.  Later, when the dead actress shows up alive, Garrett loses his reporting job and teams up with a doctor (Dennis Morgan) to investigate a series of mysterious deaths that involve a mad scientist (John Litel) and his undead assistant (Humphrey Bogart).

What I Thought

I don’t know what else to say except I absolutely loved this film.  I had heard and read so much about it over the years (it’s terrible camp, the script is awful, Humphrey Bogart hated it, he was forced into the role by the studio, it’s unwatchable, etc. . .) that I might have over-prepared myself to dislike this movie.

I’m not a huge fan of films that are considered “so-bad-they’re-good.”  It might get me a lot of hate email to write this, but I went to showings of Plan 9 from Outer Space and The Rocky Horror Picture Show in college and I left disappointed both times.  What was the big deal?  How can someone watch and rewatch movies that are so bad?  If I’m going to spend a large portion of my time at the cinema, I’d much rather see something good!

I think the difference with The Return of Doctor X is the fact that this is a horrible movie that’s actually directed very well.  Vincent Sherman’s first film as a director, The Return of Doctor X is a fast paced one hour and two minutes of well shot silliness.  The cinematography is great, the actors are committed, and the production value is high.

The only real problem with this film is the script . . . and yes, I realize that a terrible script is a pretty big problem to have.  But it’s terrible in a slap-your-forehead-funny kind of way.

Dr. Rhodes (Dennis Morgan) wants to help reporter Walter Garrett (Wayne Morris) investigate the murders, but he has a date with a nurse (Rosemary Lane)!  He can’t cancel the date because that would be impolite, so what does he decide to do?  Bring her along, of course!  Even though bringing her along means that all she does is sit in the car until one a.m. and then go home, but it’s better than letting the poor woman sit at home alone, right?

Then there’s the moment that reporter Garrett convinces Dr. Rhodes that he should help him investigate the possible resurrection of a mad scientist.  They need to run over to the cemetery to see if Humphrey Bogart’s Dr. X is really dead.  (Don’t worry, Garrett has a friend who’s a caretaker at the cemetery and he’ll apparently let them dig up any body that they want, no questions asked – cause, you know, reporters should be able to do that kind of thing.)  The whole conversation is this simple:

Garrett:  The burial took place at Greenlawn Cemetary.  Okay, let’s go out to the cemetery and find out tonight.

Dr. Rhodes:  (SHRUGGING NONCHALANTLY, AS IF JUST ASKED OUT FOR COFFEE)  All right.

No argument.  No conversation.  No exclamations or questions of, “Are you mad man?  Digging up corpses in the middle of the night?  You’re a reporter and I’m a respected surgeon!  What are you thinking?!?”  Just a simple, “Yeah, you betcha.  Let’s go!”

And, of course, there’s the final gun fight, where the police apparently deem it appropriate to give guns to a doctor and a reporter that they were ready to arrest only moments before.  Every hand in a gun fight helps, right?

Plus, we get lines like:

Garrett:  (ON THE PHONE, REPORTING THE INITIAL MURDER) There’s nobody here except a monkey, and he couldn’t have done it!

Exactly why does a retired actress have a pet monkey?  It’s not explained, and apparently doesn’t need to be.  That’s just what retired actresses do.  (I’m guessing there was a monkey on the studio lot that day and director Sherman figured, Aw, what the heck, why not?)

Then there’s Dr. Flegg discussing his undead assistant, Quesne (pronounced “Cane”):

Flegg:  (WISTFULLY) His interest in blood almost equals my own.

This seems like a perfectly acceptable thing to say when you’re in a conversation with another doctor, as Rhodes doesn’t respond with, “That’s the creepiest doggone thing I’ve ever heard!  What’s up with that forked goatee and the weirdly suspended monocle?”

Do you know what this film reminds me of?  One of those standalone episodes of The X-Files where the humor was intentional and dark, and the series took a moment to satirize itself.  (It even has an obsessed investigator teamed up with a skeptical doctor!)  The Return of Doctor X, after more than seventy years, came off to me more like a self-aware spoof of a mad scientist horror movie than a film trying to take its genre seriously.  While this may not have been the original intention, the film’s tone gives it a little more room to breathe within its own absurdity.

Director Vincent Sherman would also go on to direct Bogart again in All Through the Night in 1941, a comedy gangster film where Bogart fights the Nazis in New York.  With the tone of that movie leaning so closely to spoofing gangster films, I have to wonder how much of The Return of Doctor X isn’t done with tongue firmly placed in cheek.

The Bogart Factor

Bogart may have hated this film, but you have to give him credit, he threw himself into the role.  There’s no sense that he’s sleepwalking through his lines or dissatisfied with his character.  The Return of Doctor X is another reason that I’ve come to deeply appreciate Bogart’s work ethic as an actor.  Regardless of what role he plays, he always seems committed.  If you’re going to force him to play an undead mad scientist, then he’s going to play an undead mad scientist!

I realize that I’m looking through the lens of someone who is a huge Bogart fan and that I’m seven decades removed from the film’s original theatrical release, but isn’t it great to see a Hollywood legend take a role like this?  A zombie doctor!  Is there anyone else of Bogart’s stature that even tried a character so outlandish?  Stewart?  Grant?  Flynn?  At most, they might have played a villain, but nothing close to sci-fi horror.

Check out his entrance in the film as he strokes a rabbit in full mad scientist gear, and greets Wayne Morris:

drx

“Looking for something?  Perhaps I can help you. . .”

Surely James Bond’s nemesis, Ernst Blofeld, was borrowed just a bit from Bogart’s Doctor X?

The Cast

After not giving him much credit for his character in Kid Galahad, I was happy to see Wayne Morris do such a good job with his Wichita-hick-moved-to-the-big-city reporter Walter Garrett.  Morris seems like a good natured guy in real life, and was an actual WWII war hero, so I’m happy to see him do good work here.  He’s bumbling, affable, naïve, and just charming enough to make his character fun.  If you want to read a little more about him, I’d suggest you check out a quick write up on the guy at Comet Over Hollywood here.

Dennis Morgan, as Dr. Michael Rhodes, comes off as the type of melodramatic physician that would fit perfectly into an afternoon soap opera, and I thought he was a great choice for the role.  He’s able to deliver dialogue that has little or no motivation behind it in a believable and engaging way.  I’d like to check out more of his filmography.

Rosemary Lane as Nurse Vance seems to have been a bit of a throwaway role – her character really only existing as a plot device.

John Litel as Dr. Flegg is good and appropriately creepy.  It helps that they went all out on his character design – giving him a monocle (How does that thing stay in place???) and a strange, forked goatee.

Classic Bogie Moment

This character was so out of Bogart’s normal realm that I thought it was going to be tough to find a “Classic Bogie Moment,” but then we came to the film’s climactic gun fight.  As you watch Doctor X attempt to shoot his way out of the cabin, just try and tell me that you’re not reminded of Duke Mantee’s final gunfight in The Petrified Forest!  Bogart even uses the same physicality of holding his hands at his waist in both roles.

The Bottom Line

You need to make some good food, invite a bunch of classic film fans over, and have a good time with this movie.  You could make a drinking game out of it, taking a swig every time Wayne Morris and Dennis Morgan look dramatically over their shoulders at one another, but you’d probably be dead from alcohol poisoning based on the last fifteen minutes of the movie alone.

For another fun write up on The Return of Doctor X, you should check out this post on Balladeer’s blog!

And for a great insight into some post-silent film stars who make an appearance in the film, check out this post by @moviessilently!

The Roaring Twenties – 1939

roaring twenties

My Review

—Great Film—

Your Bogie Fix:

3 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  Raoul Walsh

The Lowdown

Eddie Bartlett (James Cagney) returns from fighting in World War I and finds that the only way he can make a decent living is by selling homemade liquor.  Soon Bartlett is running a bootlegging operation, in love with a naïve young singer (Priscilla Lane), and teaming up with two old war buddies (Jeffry Lynn and Humphrey Bogart) to deliver cheap booze to as many speakeasies as he can muscle.  Before long though, Bartlett finds that his unrequited love and his jealous partner are more than he can handle while running a business.

What I Thought

This film is a whole lot of fun.  While it may not be Cagney or Bogart’s best gangster movie, it’s still fantastic and well worth the watch.

Cagney gets to run the gamut from celebrated soldier boy to big time gangster, and then all the way down to flat broke drunk.  I use the word charisma a lot on this blog when I talk about Bogart’s command of the big screen, but Cagney is another one of those actors that you just can’t take your eyes off of.  He looks great in a uniform, a tuxedo, and a bum’s clothes.  He can switch from coy and charming one minute, to fierce and ruthless the next, and it always plays believably.  Plus, he has a great sense of comedic timing and isn’t afraid to let his costars shine.  Good guy or evil, it’s hard not to root for him in any role.

While the story of bootlegging gangsters might not be new or groundbreaking, it is quite layered, weaving many different characters in and out of the life of Cagney’s returning war veteran, Bartlett.

Many gangster movies of the time were satisfied with introducing one female lead to hold the main hood’s coat and be a good little mobgirl stereotype – The Roaring Twenties gives us two, and neither one of them turns out to be the typical squeaky moll that we might expect.

The young singer that Bartlett adores won’t return his loving glance, let alone his proposal ring.  All the while, the older speakeasy madam is quietly pining away for him, but Bartlett can’t bring himself out of his puppy-love daze long enough to notice.

Then there are Bartlett’s two pals that would give him the shirt off their backs and all he does is lead them down a dangerous and tragic path.  Bartlett’s roommate Danny (Frank McHugh) is willing to do absolutely anything to help his buddy make it, and it costs him big when Bartlett continually puts him in harm’s way.  And Bartlett’s old war buddy, Lloyd (Jeffry Lynn), who’s now a lawyer, barely makes it out of Bartlett’s racket by the skin of his teeth.

What sets this film apart from so many gangster of the time is that director Raoul Walsh gives us a story that’s more epic in nature than what we’ve come to expect from these sorts of crime films.  These are three dimensional characters that all have interests and desires that, like in real life, don’t all orbit around one central character so that everything wraps up nicely before the credits.

Cagney’s Bartlett is a man with a serious tragic flaw – he can’t always put aside his own ambition to see the bigger picture.  It costs him in the end when he passes up one too many chances to take care of his business partner, and rival, George Hally (Bogart), leaving us with a bittersweet finale after Bartlett finally does the right thing, albeit a little too late.

The Bogart Factor

Bogart’s got a strong first ten minutes in the film and then disappears until about halfway through.  It’s not as well rounded a character as Cagney has to play with, as Bogart plays a slightly more typical bad guy, but it does have its moments.

Director Walsh is able to misdirect us a bit, making Bogart’s George Hally a borderline likable guy.  There’s an inkling here and there that Hally could go bad, but we really don’t know for sure until the final act of the film.

Small scenes are given to Bogart’s character that are able to show his menace, while at the same time giving us motivation for his eventual turn on Cagney.  In particular, Walsh crafts a great little side story where Hally comes across his old, belligerent army Sergeant (Joe Sawyer) as the bootleggers are committing a robbery.  Through just a few lines earlier in the movie, we know that Hally feels as if he’s been mistreated by the Sergeant, a man that Hally has always felt superior to.  At both points in the film, we don’t yet know that Bogart’s going to turn on Cagney, and so it’s not hard for us to understand Hally’s satisfaction in getting revenge on his old tormenter. It also adds a little color to Bogart’s character as we learn that he doesn’t like taking orders from anyone – which ends up being George Hally’s tragic flaw.

The Cast

Priscilla Lane is very good as Jean Sherman, the teenage girl who writes Cagney during the war and then steals his heart when he gets home.  She very convincingly plays ignorant to Cagney’s advances, and it’s easy to believe that she’d fall for a character like Jeffrey Lynn’s stand-up Lloyd.

Perhaps my favorite moments of the film happen with Frank McHugh’s portrayal of Cagney’s best friend, Danny.  McHugh’s comic timing and expressive face inject a lot of good nature and levity into the early part of the movie, and he works very well with Cagney.  McHugh pops up here and there in a lot of Classic Hollywood films, and I need to further explore his filmography.

Another high point is Gladys George (Iva Archer in The Maltese Falcon) as a speakeasy hostess who has a thing for Cagney.  She takes the role well beyond the caricature that it could have been, and gives the audience a strong character that we can relate to as she watches Cagney spin out of control.

Don’t Forget to Notice

A number of Bogie regulars show up in character roles – Joe Sawyer as the Sergeant, Ben Welden as a bar owner, and Eddie Acuff as a taxi driver.  My goal before this blog is done is to create a cross referenced list of all the actors who pop up in Bogart’s movies again and again.

Classic Bogie Moment

The scene that sticks out to me most is one that comes early in the film and shows Bogart’s skill at mixing humor and menace in the same moment.  Bogart, Cagney, and Lynn are all in a firefight, taking shots at Germans just before the war ends.  Lynn lines up a man in his sights, but can’t bring himself to fire:

Bogart:  What’s the matter Harvard?  You lose the Heinie?

Lynn:  No, but he looks like a kid about fifteen years old.

Bogart:  (TAKES THE SHOT AND SNEERS) He won’t be sixteen . . .

The Bottom Line

This is a great film, and while it might not be one of Bogart’s most iconic roles, he plays his part very well and gives us a heavy that can stand up against Cagney as a believable threat.

Two Against the World / The Case of Mrs. Pembroke / One Fatal Hour – 1936

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Note:  The film reviewed for this entry was the TCM version, One Fatal Hour, which is about seven or eight minutes shorter than the original theatrical release of Two Against the World.

My Review

—Pretty Good—

Your Bogie Fix:

3 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director – William C. McGann

The Lowdown 

When a radio station decides to dramatize a twenty year old murder in a grab for ratings, a debate breaks out between the station manager, Bertram Reynolds (Robert Middlemass), and his news director, Sherry Schott (Humphrey Bogart), about the irresponsibility of sensationalizing a real life tragedy.  The matter is complicated when it’s discovered that the murderer in question, Martha Carstairs (Helen Mackellar), is only days away from marrying off her own daughter to a family that has no idea about her tragic past.

What I Thought

I have to admit, anytime I see a movie with multiple titles listed, it usually doesn’t bode well for the quality.  Add to the fact that the runtime for this film is less than an hour (or shortly longer in the full version), and I was well prepared to sit through some awful dreck.  So I was surprised to find that Two Against the World / One Fatal Hour was actually a very tight and enjoyable film.

Based on the play Five Star Final, the story holds up very well as the subject of sensationalized media is as relevant today as it was almost seventy years ago.  Director McGann does a great job of letting us see so many angles of the central argument played out through different pairs of characters – the murderer and her current husband (Helen Mackellar and Henry O’Neill), the oblivious daughter and her fiancé (Linda Perry and Carlyle Moore Jr.), Schott and Reynolds (Bogart and Middlemass), and best of all, Schott and his secretary, Alma Ross (Bogart and a wonderful Beverly Roberts).

The Bogart Factor 

While Bogart is given the lead billing, it doesn’t mean that he dominates the screen time.  Bogart’s presence is heavy towards the beginning of the film and especially again at the end, but most of the middle is taken up with the drama surrounding the Carstairs family.  That being said, when Bogart is on screen, he dominates.

Sherry Schott could be seen as an early prototype for Bogart’s Deadline U.S.A. editor, Ed Hutcheson – an ethical business man who tries to keep his company on the moral high ground amidst less disciplined men.  I always think it’s a real credit to Bogart’s talent that he could play killers and business professionals with equal believability and apparent ease.

His final rant against the station managers shows a passion and fervor that make it easy to see how this was a standout role for a young Bogart.  Sherry Schott is a man of deep, ethical convictions – the type of character that Bogart would go on to play in his more iconic roles over the next two decades.

The Cast 

Carlyle Moore Jr., as the young fiancé, Malcolm, has a rare chance to shine here in a Bogart film.  Playing bellhops in Marked Woman and Kid Galahad (where he had an especially funny moment on an elevator with Wayne Morris) and reporters in several other films, I wonder why Moore suffered through so many small and uncredited roles when he shows such obvious charisma in a movie like Two Against the World.  He certainly plays every father’s dream son-in-law.

Harry Hayden plays the minister, Dr. Martin Leavenworth, who’s hired to write the radio series on the murder, not because of his skill, but because a minister will add some class and credibility to the project.  He does well playing the small and mousey weasel who doesn’t mind taking advantage of a woman who’s trying to put her past behind her.

Much of the rest of the cast (Helen MacKellar, Henry O’Neill, Linda Perry) are adequate, but not outstanding.

The real fun comes with Beverly Roberts as Bogart’s spunky secretary, Alma Ross.  Seemingly always a few drinks ahead of the rest of the world, Ross is quick to act as the none-to-subtle conscience of her boss as she never hesitates to offer her opinion on whatever debate’s on hand.  It’s a role that definitely makes me want to track down her other films.

Classic Bogie Moment

How great is this?  Towards the end of the movie, a dejected Bogart heads to the bar with his secretary in tow.  He barks at the bartender about the radio to, “Shut that thing off!”  After taking a slug of whiskey, he asks the bartender, “Tommy, you ever kill a man?”

It’s as if we’re seeing Ed Hutcheson and Rick Blaine suddenly cross worlds and blend together.  A tough and embittered Bogart drinking in a bar is always magic in film.

The Bottom Line

Short and sweet, this is a solid role for Bogart.  Be warned, though, this is not a happily-ever-after movie.  I have to imagine that the closing violence and condemnation of sensationalist media had to make this film a bit controversial for its time – especially considering that the movie seems to be coming out against the type of entertainment that was promoted so heavily by Warner Brothers’ (the movie’s own company) ripped-from-the-headlines style of filmmaking.

A Little Extra

The movie is also a remake of 1931’s Edward G. Robinson’s vehicle, Five Star Final.

“Producer’s Showcase” – The Petrified Forest – 1955

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My Review

—A Little Rough Around the Edges, but Worth It—

Your Bogie Fix:

3 Bogie out of 5 bogies!

Director:  – Delbert Mann

The Lowdown 

Nearly twenty years after Humphrey Bogart made Duke Mantee his breakout role on the silver screen, he returned to the small screen to reprise the gangster one more time for the TV show, Producer’s Showcase.  Stepping in for Bette Davis is Lauren Bacall as Gabby, and Henry Fonda plays Alan Squier, the role made famous by Leslie Howard.

You can find my previous plot synopsis here.

What I Thought

I had no idea this existed until a couple of days ago.  My mind is blown.  I knew that Bogart had reprised a lot of his more popular roles for radio adaptions, but to see one of his most famous characters brought back in a remake twenty years after the fact is such a fun discovery.  While it doesn’t live up to the original film, there’s definitely a high thrill factor in seeing Bogart become the gangster on the run again.

The entire cast is older than the original group of actors, and I thought it added a darker, bleaker flavor to the whole thing.  The chemistry between Bacall and Fonda just wasn’t there like it was for Davis and Howard.  Fonda’s version of Alan Squier seemed much more depressed and regret-filled than Howard’s charming drifter.  And unlike Davis’ wide-eyed young gal looking to get out of the desert, Bacall seems more like a woman on the verge of middle age who’s resigned to the life of an old maid.

The Bogart Factor 

The role of Duke Mantee is trimmed.  In fact, the entire movie runs about ten minutes shorter.  (While it’s listed as 90 minutes on IMDB, it’s much more like 72.) A lot of the dialogue between the captive husband and wife, Mr. and Mrs. Chisolm, is cut down and folded into one short argument towards the end of the movie.  It also seemed like many of Bogart’s lines might have been filmed separately and then spliced into the film.  (Several sources refer to this as a “live” airing, but then, how did they get the exterior shots of Fonda walking along a country road?)

Again though, I have to say that I found it captivating to watch an actor of Bogart’s caliber get the chance to reprise the role – playing Mantee twenty years older, showing a wearier, dead-eyed mobster this time around.  I think it’s a must see for diehard Bogart fans.

The Cast 

While Lauren Bacall’s version of Gabby doesn’t quite live up to Bette Davis’, I thought she handled certain scenes a little better.  Anytime she had to read or quote poetry, I thought it was much more believable than Davis.

Henry Fonda was probably a little too old to play the charming drifter, and I’d say the fault is more on him for the chemistry not working out.  He knows how to act though, and as the movie ramps up towards the climax, he does a fine job of holding his own against Bogart as he challenges Mantee to kill him.

Famous character actor Jack Warden (Google his pic, you’ll know him) plays Boze, the football wannabe gas station attendant who’s in love with Gabby.  If anyone was too old for their role, it was probably Warden here.  While it’s fun to see him so young, it was a little unsettling to see a man in his thirties still wearing his football jersey and going on about his college days.

Don’t Forget to Notice. . . 

Look out for a young Jack Klugman as well, playing Jackie, one of Mantee’s thugs.

Classic Bogie Moment

Towards the end of the movie, Mantee finds out that the girlfriend he was supposed to meet up with has not only been captured, but has ratted him out.  When Bogart plays the moment in this version, we see his mind scrambling, his eyes darting, and his jaw quivering as he can’t decide what to do next.  It’s a wonderful close-up moment on Bogart as he sputters, “Shut up, shut up, give me time to think!”

The Bottom Line

Are you a Bogie completist?  You probably need to check this out.  Even if you’re not, it would still be a fun double feature for a film club to put on, and then compare and contrast, the two versions.

A Little Extra

Hmmm.  I couldn’t find a lot of fun info on this movie, but it was apparently Lauren Bacall’s television debut!