The Friars Club Roast of Humphrey Bogart – 1955

My Review

-Don’t Waste Your Time-

Bogie Radio Fix:

The Lowdown

Just to be clear, the only reason this one even gets 1/2 a Bogie fix is because Lauren Bacall steals the show with the only two, all too brief, bright spots in the program. Bogart is almost nonexistent. You can hear him laughing off-mike for most of the show, and he has a short “thank you” speech at the end, but don’t listen for any sort of Bogie-appreciation.

Let me also say early on, anyone who knows me personally wouldn’t consider me a prude. Most of my favorite comedic films, comedians, and television shows would fall into the “R Rated” category of grownup entertainment. Swearing doesn’t bother me unless it’s used pointlessly for no other reason than the material that it resides within could not hold up on its own.

All of that said, The Friars Club Roast of Humphrey Bogart is a long, hard, obnoxious slog of a show that spends 90% of it’s time on homophobic and misogynistic comedy that has NOTHING to do with Bogart. In fact, almost all of the presenters make it a point to mention that they not only haven’t worked with Bogart in films, but they also don’t really know him personally.

Hosted by Roastmaster Red Buttons (one of the few presenters to have some good material), the show is one “roaster” after another using every conceivable slang term for the male anatomy – usually in reference to oral sex. (I know, I know – I sound like a real prude…but trust me, it’s over done.

Alan King, Charles Coburn, Lou Holtz, Phil Silvers, and Jan Murray are just a few of the presenters who show up to throw out penis jokes, talk about everything except Bogart, and admit they prepared little or no material for the show.

Before you start your replies below, I know how Friars Club Roasts work. I’ve seen lots of them – both the Dean Martin incarnations and some of Comedy Central’s celebrity hi-jinks. This one suffers from age, though. Women weren’t allowed in the room. More time is spent pointing out local celebs in the room than roasting the honoree. And, as I mentioned before, the comedy painfully does not hold up. Not solely because it’s offensive (that’s what the Friars Club is supposed to do, right?), but because the presenters have nothing else to rely on except the offensive stuff.

On the other hand, Lauren Bacall is able to upstage the entire panel in her first appearance at the roast when Buttons plays an audio tape of a message she pre-recorded since women weren’t allowed in the room. Bacall covers the same-exact tasteless topics as the men do, but her jokes are much better written – relying on word play and innuendo specifically tailored to Bogart and his career. Of note, the whole “grab my gun” joke is probably the best piece of business in the whole show, although that’s not saying much.

Bacall also makes an in-the-flesh appearance at the end of the show after Bogart gives his brief thanks, and again steals the show even though she didn’t have prepared material and was put on the spot to speak.

Have I been hard enough on the show yet? If you really want to listen, go for it. It was released on vinyl and is currently available on YouTube. But I’d say it’s probably not worth your time except for those interested in hearing Lauren Bacall show a room full of desperate men how to really do a roast.

The Love Lottery – 1954

the_love_lottery_uk_1954_poster

Bogie Film Fix:

Sliver of a Bogie (Barely There)

Director: Charles Crichton (Perhaps best known for the wonderful A Fish Called Wanda?)

The Lowdown

Hollywood’s biggest heartthrob (David Niven…yes, I know…) tries to escape the public eye and ends up being blackmailed into raffling himself off for marriage.

What I Thought

While trying to track this film down, I’d been warned by another Classic Film fan, “No spoilers, but don’t expect too much from Bogart’s cameo.” That was certainly the understatement of the year as he’s barely in the film for more than a few seconds.

That being said, I actually enjoyed the film quite a bit. Sure, David Niven is a bit long in the tooth and not quite as good looking as he needs to be to play Hollywood’s biggest heartthrob – certainly not enough to warrant hundreds of girls trying to rip him to shreds at every appearance – but it’s a goofy musical comedy and he’s David Niven, so we can forgive a lot.

Director Crichton excels here with the musical dream sequences that plague Niven’s sleep as he slowly begins to crack under the pressure of his own stardom. It’s not hard to imagine that this could have been Leonardo DiCaprio if not for Martin Scorsese, or even George Clooney if not for his eventual hunger for stronger scripts and the director’s chair. Strange, just a touch gruesome, and very well choreographed, Niven’s dreams are the standout scenes from this film.

It’s the conventional script that holds this one back. So a movie star wants to raffle themselves off for marriage? Most casual film fans could probably fill in the blanks and come up with a similar script. A young and infatuated fan wins, but then isn’t sure it’s what she truly wants. A woman within the Lottery organization eventually begins to fall for the actor despite her logistical mathematician’s view of the world.

A + B = C…

Still, it’s worth a watch and might make a good double feature with Director Crichton’s cult classic, A Fish Called Wanda.

The Bogart Factor

Bogie has no lines at all here and is only on screen for mere moments at the very end of the film, but without spoiling the joke, his appearance is worth a laugh! If you’re only here for Bogart recommendations that are worth watching, I’ll save you the time of tracking this one down:

bogie-lovelottery

The Cast

David Niven plays Rex Allerton, the Hollywood dreamboat that every girl on earth wants to maul. Niven is Niven, so he’s very good in the role and very funny. If you can get past the fact that he’s miscast as Hollywood’s most sought-after hunk, you can enjoy his performance.

Anne Vernon plays June, the mathematician brainiac who crunches the numbers for “The International Syndicate of Computation.” You see, the Syndicate is this Illuminati-like organization that makes millions of dollars by arranging for…uh, never mind. It never makes a ton of sense and simply acts as the McGuffin that puts Vernon’s character in the same room as Niven’s. Vernon is a bit underwritten, but in her early scenes of seduction over Niven, she does very well.

Herbert Lom plays Amico, perhaps the most interesting character in the entire film. Amico runs the syndicate of numbers that employs Vernon, and he’s the one who arranges to blackmail Niven into the “love lottery.” Lom comes off as low-level Bond villain, and even after watching the film twice, I’m not sure I grasp his (or his company’s) true motivations for putting Niven into such a tailspin. That being said, he’s got a great screen presence and is a good foil for Niven.

Peggy Cummins plays Sally, the young fan who wins the raffle and gets Niven. She’s fine, but her subplot is introduced late into the film and given very little time to develop. All in all she holds her own, but it could have been a much deeper role.

The Bottom Line

If you’re a Niven fan, or a fan of musicals and haven’t seen this one yet, it might be worth a watch. If you’re looking for any sort of Bogie fix – forget about it…

Suspense Radio Theater – Love’s Lovely Counterfeit – 1948

suspenseradiotheatertheme

Honorary Radio Bogie Rating

5-radio

The Lowdown

Based on the novel by James M. Cain, a wannabe racketeer (Bogart) helps rig a mayoral election so that he can win the girl (Laureen Tuttle) and take over the town’s nefarious activities.

What I Thought

The story suffers heavily from being abridged to the extreme. A few important subplots have been axed, the plot takes awhile to grasp, and character turns that might have been exciting, or at the very least intriguing, tend to fall flat.

I’ve heard that there’s a James Cagney version of the show. Perhaps it’s more interesting?

Totally skippable except for Bogart completists.

The Bogart Factor

Out to promote To Have and Have Not, the part of racketeer Benny Grace fits Bogart well in this story, unfortunately, the radio script is severely lacking.

Bogart gets to play Benny in the “gray” areas of life as he shifts between good, bad, and somewhat indifferent to his city and his girlfriend. According to reviews, the original novel suffered from an overly melodramatic ending, and Bogart seems saddled with the same problem here.

How exactly does the end make sense? I’m not sure. . . at all. There’s a wedding that exonerates one character from another character’s damning testimony . . . but that character soon dies . . . so how does that save the new spouse???

The Rest of the Cast

Laureen Tuttle plays June, Bogart’s love interest. To say that her part is underwritten would be a disservice to the word underwritten. The role is for plot advancement only.

The Bottom Line

One of the very few pieces of Bogart work that I’d probably say, “Don’t bother.”

I Am an American – 1944

I Am an American Title Card

My Review

—Don’t Blink or You’ll Miss the Stars—

Your Bogie Film Fix:

Sliver of a Bogie

 

 

Just a SLIVER of Bogie here . . .

Director: Crane Wilbur

The Lowdown

A Polish couple immigrates to the United States and sires generation after generation of children who all enlist and serve in the US military from the Civil War on through World War II.

What I Thought

While the story plays out like one of your typical Rah! Rah! Go America! Hollywood shorts meant to bolster American morale and sympathies towards our military men and women, there is a deeper theme on display here. Director Wilbur Crane is really lifting up the countless foreign immigrants who came to the United States only to spend the rest of their (often short) lives, defending the freedoms that they immigrated to enjoy. Even after losing their limbs, or even lives, in various wars, the descendants of these immigrants would go on to defend Lady Liberty out of a deep debt of gratitude to both their ancestors and their country.

At just around 16 minutes it’s a short watch, and it won’t come close to filling out a night of entertainment, but there’s a little more substance here than in some other WWII shorts of the time. It should also be noted that all of the Hollywood stars listed in the credits appear for only a fraction of a second in archival footage as they spoke for fundraising events. Dennis Morgan’s speech does seem to be recreated for this short, though.

The Bogart Factor

I didn’t officially time it, but I’m going to guess that Bogart’s on screen for less than two seconds here. He’s giving a speech about the war effort and there’s no audio, so he really contributes nothing to this film other than his name.

The Cast

Gary Gray plays one of the Polish descendants, Thomas Jefferson Konowski. Nearly all of the acting is done here with voiceover narration, so there’s not a lot to be said about the performances. I couldn’t find any source that listed who played the original Polish couple that immigrates.

Danny Kaye, Joan Leslie, Knute Rockne, Dennis Morgan, and President Woodrow Wilson also appear as themselves. Morgan gets a decent chunk of time in what appears to be a projection screen recreation of a war rally event where he’s speaking.

Jay Silverheels shows up as a Native American!

Classic Bogie Moment

Not much to see here folks – so I’ll give you his cameo in its entirety:

Bogart Classic I Am an American

The Bottom Line

I guess if you’re a fan of war effort shorts, this one’s not bad. Otherwise, this one’s not even for Bogart completists.

 

 

 

 

Swingtime in the Movies – 1938

Swingtime

My Review

—Short, Harmless Fun— 

Bogie Film Fix:

.5 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  Crane Wilbur

The Lowdown

A film director (Fritz Feld) finds the replacement for his leading lady in a new Western after visiting the studio commissary and stumbling across a waitress (Kathryn Kane) who’s perfect for the role.

What I Thought

Any longer than twenty minutes, and this short would have probably gotten old, but as it is, it’s a lot of fun and a good vehicle for two very talented comedic actors, Fritz Feld and Charley Foy.

A story as old as Hollywood itself, Kathryn Kane is plucked from obscurity and made into a star in a fictional Western film helmed by the very nervous Mr. Nitvitch.  I’m a little shocked that this one wasn’t made into a full length feature since it’s written and directed as well as any other clichéd old Hollywood film that I’ve seen.

Director/Writer Wilbur turns out to have quite a notorious filmography behind his name (House of Wax anyone?), and this was the second short that he wrote and directed with Bogart – the other being I am an American which will be reviewed on this site soon.  Director Wilbur also wrote the Bogart/’Dead End’ Kids collaboration, Crime School, which probably explains their very brief cameo in this film.

In fact, all of the celebrity cameos are brief.  George Brent, the Lane sisters, Pat O’Brien, and Bogart and the ‘Dead End’ Kids all flash by the screen in a heartbeat during the film studio commissary scene and none of them have any lines, so don’t expect the star power to add much to this film.

The real treat is watching Fritz Feld and Charley Foy interact while making their musical Western. The two men have great chemistry, and this is the second or third time that I’ve seen Foy pop up in a Bogart film.  After I re-watch The Wagon’s Roll at Night, I’m going to have to add him to ‘The Usual Suspects’ portion of this blog as he did a really great job here and he has such a fun and unique look about him.

The Bogart Factor

He’s only on the screen for a few seconds, keeping a watchful eye over the ‘Dead End’ Kids while they eat lunch.  Bogart’s tiny and wary interaction with the kids here looks to back up the claim that he soured a bit on working with them after they threw fire crackers into his dressing room on set one afternoon.

If you’re looking for a Bogart fix, this film ain’t it.

The Cast

Fritz Feld plays the film director, Mr. Nitvitch.  His timing is great, the accent is great (real or exaggerated), and this short lives or dies based on his involvement in any given scene.

Charley Foy plays Feld’s right hand man on the movie set, Sammy.  Foy is great, and just the little bit of research that I’ve done on him is enough to tell me that this guy has to go into ‘The Usual Suspects’ as one of those actors that probably never got the recognition he deserved.  He’s a super solid, very funny side man here alongside of Feld – especially the scene where he and Feld teach Kathryn Kane and John Carroll how to kiss on screen!

Kathryn Kane plays Joan Mason, the young waitress who’s discovered on the job and thrust into the limelight.  It’s a pretty two-dimensional role for Kane, but she’s charming enough.

John Carroll plays actor Rick Arden, the star of Feld’s musical Western.  Again, he doesn’t really have much to do except stand there and look good in a hat, so he fills the role just fine.

Classic Bogie Moment

Um . . . well.  Here’s the entirety of his scene. 

Bogart Dead End Swingtime

The Bottom Line

If you like musicals, want a couple laughs, and have twenty minutes to spare, there are certainly worse ways to do it than by watching this short film.

Men are Such Fools – 1938

Men are Such Fools Poster

My Review

—Good Charisma, TERRIBLE Script—

Bogie Film Fix:

.5 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director: Busby Berkeley

The Lowdown

Jimmy Hall (Wayne Morris) grows jealous when his girlfriend Linda (Priscilla Lane) starts advancing in her advertising career and becomes the object of attention for several of the men that she works with.

What I Thought

My brother occasionally helps me out with this blog, giving me access to his satellite dish for TCM when I need to watch a film that’s not available on DVD. He watched Men are Such Fools before I did and his review was, “It’s horrible!”

How bad could it be? I thought, It’s got Wayne Morris, Priscilla Lane, Penny Singleton, Bogart, and was directed by Busby Berkeley! I just figured that my brother wasn’t as cultured with the classics as I am. Maybe he’s just not as good at identifying the wonderful qualities in the older, more obscure, films.

Turns out he was dead on. It’s pretty bad.

Don’t get me wrong, all of the actors come off as well as they can. Wayne Morris is incredibly charming. Priscilla Lane is gorgeous and witty. Bogart is playing a slightly more redeemed version of the con man that he played in some of his earlier films. It’s just the script that stinks here. It’s horrible. Truly, terribly, bad and horrible.

What’s missing? Motivation. Any motivation whatsoever is nowhere to be found for any of the characters.

Wayne Morris is in love with Priscilla Lane. She wants none of it. Suddenly she falls desperately in love with him after he’s been nothing but a nagging pest. What changed? Nothing. For the plot to advance their love needed to happen, so it does.

Lane goes from secretary to ad exec wunderkind! How? She has one good idea about an ad campaign. Before the campaign even fully comes to fruition, everyone in town knows her name and she’s appearing in the newspaper as an advertising genius. How does everyone hear about her and come to such an esteemed opinion of her talents? It’s not really explained, but for Morris to get jealous of the time she spends with other men, it needed to happen so it just does.

Lane’s boss (Hugh Herbert) is all grabby and creepy-old-manish towards her, obviously interested in something besides her talent. What turns him from a sexual predator into a friend? Uh, I guess Wayne Morris shows up and then Herbert just decides to turn over a new leaf when he sees how much Morris loves her?

Then there’s the fact that Lane seems to find it perfectly acceptable to flirt and lead men on to get ahead in her career – making Morris wait on the sideline while she makes time with Bogart’s radio exec, Harry Galleon. Sure, go ahead Director Berkeley, lose any sympathy for Lane that we might have as we actually feel kind of bad for Morris even though we’re apparently supposed to be in awe of Lane’s female empowerment.

Ugh. If there had been any sort of baseline believable plot for this one, just a hint of promise in the screenplay, this could have been a quaint little romantic comedy. Instead, lots of wonderful talent is wasted on a herky-jerky plot and poor character development. I feel bad being this hard on a film, but I’d probably sit through Isle of Fury again twice before going back to this one.

The Bogart Factor

Bogart’s here with a decent amount of screen time as radio man Harry Galleon. What can I say though? He does his best with what little he has. There’s a slightly promising side story with Bogart’s second love interest, Marcia Ralston, and how Director Berkeley handles the subtleties of a long term relationship on the rocks, but other than that, there’s no real meat to Bogart’s character.

He looks good, I guess. We get to see him in an old school men’s two-piece bathing suit . . .

The Cast

Wayne Morris plays Jimmy Hall, the loving and supportive man behind Priscilla Lane’s successful woman. It kills me that out of all the collaborations Morris had with Bogart, he shows the most onscreen charisma here, but he has nothing to do with it other than to stand around and look good. If nothing else, he does get a few chances to play brooding and jealous alongside of Lane and Bogart.

Priscilla Lane plays Linda Lawrence, the young secretary turned advertising genius. It was great to see Lane again after enjoying her so much alongside James Cagney in The Roaring Twenties. She’s pretty, upbeat, and comes off well onscreen, but again, like everyone else here, her character is flimsy, often unlikable, and makes numerous unmotivated decisions. If nothing else, this film makes me want to go rewatch Arsenic and Old Lace so that I can see Lane at her finest.

Hugh Herbert plays Lane’s boss, Harvey Bates. Good character actor, but again, see my complaints for the previous two stars.

Perhaps my favorite role in the whole film is played by Marcia Walston as Wanda, the jealous woman in Bogart’s life. It’s a small role, but at least her choices are motivated and understandable!

And don’t forget Penny Singleton! I could watch that woman do anything . . . and I might have a little crush on her.

Classic Bogie Moment

Are you kidding me? This guy even wears swimsuit robes that look like trench coats! Is this as close as we’ll ever get to seeing Rick Blaine relaxing by the pool?

Men are Such Fools Classic

The Bottom Line

This one’s for Bogart completists only.

Isle of Fury – 1936

Isle Poster

My Review

—Well, I did promise to watch them all…—

Your Bogie Film Fix:

.5 Bogie out of 5 bogies!

Director: Frank McDonald

The Lowdown

A newly married pearl trader (Humphrey Bogart) in the South Pacific becomes fond of a man (Donald Woods) that he saves from a shipwreck, only to find out that his new friend might severely complicate his life . . .

What I Thought

I tried to be specifically vague with my description of the film because almost every other plot synopsis that I’ve read gives away a major plot twist without even mentioning that it’s a plot twist. That being said . . .

This might be the worst Bogart movie that I’ve watched for the blog so far. Is it unwatchable? No. There are a few fun bits tucked away here and there. There’s an outrageously goofy fight between Bogart and an octopus that clearly marks Isle of Fury as a B-movie. There’s also a little bit of chemistry to be had between Donald Woods and Margaret Lindsay. I’d even give a nod to some decent work from E.E. Clive as Dr. Hardy. Beyond that – this movie doesn’t have a lot going for it.

I put almost all of the blame on the plot. When the twist is revealed, you might think that this film had a lot more potential than it delivered. But even the twist comes too late, as its set up occurs at the very end of the film, just before the big reveal.

It’s also pretty tough to feel any sort of sympathy whatsoever for Bogart’s pearl merchant, Val Stevens. So you’re telling me that there’s only one marriage-aged bachelor on this island and one marriage-aged bachelorette, and the moment that another young man arrives, the recently betrothed husband doesn’t get a little bit nervous? Bogart spends most of the film practically throwing his new bride at Donald Woods shipwrecked stranger.

Within moments of acknowledging that he doesn’t know a thing about Woods, Bogart asks him to walk his wife back to her hut through the dangerous jungle. Later, Bogart encourages Woods to dance with his wife because he doesn’t like dancing. Then comes a scene where Bogart asks Woods to drop in on his wife once in a while because he works so often and she gets lonesome. And let’s not forget Bogart asking Woods to carry his wife through hip deep water so she won’t get wet – despite the fact that Bogart is also walking through the water and could carry her just as easily.

We get it. The plot requires Donald Woods and Margaret Lindsay to fall in love. But Director McDonald seemed to feel the need to beat the notion into us to the point of absurdity. Even after all of that, even when Bogart seems to suspect that Woods and Lindsay might have feelings for each other, Bogart offers Woods a job because, well . . . he really likes him!

I hate talking badly about any Bogart or Classic Hollywood film because we only have a limited supply to last us for the rest of eternity! Isle of Fury though, is probably only a must see for Bogart completists.

On a more positive note, the special effects are a treat. The storm scenes raise the bar for what I expect from a B-movie, and the giant octopus fight is so over-the-top bad that it’s enjoyable.

Isle of Fury is a remake of 1933’s Douglas Fairbanks Jr. vehicle – The Narrow Corner. While I haven’t seen The Narrow Corner, it does receive slightly better reviews than Isle of Fury, so I’m intrigued. The plot has enough potential to work if executed well, so I can see why the studio wanted to give it another run.

The Bogart Factor

Bogart supposedly hated this film so much that he even denied making it on occasion. It’s certainly a bad film, but once again, he has nothing to be ashamed of except for his mustache and wardrobe:

costume

Bogart, as always, throws himself into the role with full gusto, but the script and the direction let him down in the end. Like Crime School, Bogart’s character is so squeaky clean and nice that there’s no room for any character development. That can work for a character if they’re in a smaller side role, but not for the lead. It’s not until the end of the film that we find out there was really something darker lurking beneath Val Stevens. Unfortunately, it comes too little and too late for any sort of decent exploration.

The Cast

Margaret Lindsay plays Bogart’s wife, Lucille Gordon. She looks great, but the part is underwritten and left with absolutely no subtext whatsoever. When it comes time to build the relationship between Lindsay and Woods, Director McDonald wastes no time with subtlety.

Donald Woods plays Eric Blake, the shipwrecked man that complicates Bogart’s life. Again, much like Lindsay, there’s little for Woods to do here as his part is poorly written. He has a few nice moment of chemistry with Lindsay despite the poor script, and a nice scene with E. E. Clive

E. E. Clive plays Dr. Hardy, close confidant and personal physician to Bogart and everyone else on the island. If anyone besides Bogart has a chance to shine here, it’s Clive. With the most well rounded character in the whole film, Clive does well holding together what few good scenes Isle of Fury can claim.

Classic Bogie Moment

This film was low on what I would consider “classic” Bogart scenes. BUT! There was one moment, just before boarding a boat, that Bogart straps a gun to his waist. When Lindsay asks him what the firearm is for, Bogart replies, “I’m so used to wearing one of these things, I feel undressed without it!”

classic

It’s a small, and I’m sure unintentional, nod to all of his great gangster and detective roles that would follow, but I’ll take what I can get!

The Bottom Line

It’s not hard to figure out why this film is so hard to find. . . but that poster! That almost makes it worth it, doesn’t it?