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…

Roger Ebert’s Casablanca Commentary

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Honorary Bogart Fix:

5 Bogie

The Lowdown

Acclaimed film critic Roger Ebert overlays Hollywood’s most famous film with his own comprehensive commentary.

What I Thought

Any regular readers will know that I drank the Roger Ebert Kool-Aid a long time ago.

As a kid growing up in the Midwest without cable TV, the two greatest things that happened to me on network television (5 channels at the time) were when newbie network Fox began airing old action flicks on Saturday afternoons, and when At the Movies with Siskel and Ebert began airing around the country in syndication.

We had one rental store in town and these two cantankerous film lovers were my only pre-internet guide to making my way through the racks and racks of films that all looked good to me. It was only after I dropped my $1.25 that I’d find out you can’t always judge a film by the VHS cover art, and I needed help making the most of my money.

I continued watching and reading Roger Ebert after Gene Siskel’s unfortunate passing. I didn’t always agree with him, but when I disagreed, I could almost always understand his point. (One of the few complete disagreements I ever had came when Ebert decried that video games were not art.)

I began to love and appreciate the man even more after following his battle with cancer on his blog. It turned out that his observations on life were even more compelling than his observations on films. I devoured his book Life Itself and the loved the subsequent documentary of the same name. Then I fell especially hard for the art of film criticism after finding this little nugget in the used book store:

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To this day, the moment I finish any new film, my first instinct is always to see if Ebert agreed with my assessment, only to realize that I’ll have to make due with the massive body of work that he left behind.

Have I spent enough time building up my admiration for Roger Ebert yet? So is it any surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed his commentary over Casablanca?

Any notable film critic’s thoughts on the film would probably be fun to hear. (I’m a big fan of David Edelstein and occasionally like to read Richard Roeper. Then there’s this podcast that never fails to deliver – http://filmspotting.net/ – always a great listen.) What sets Ebert apart though, is his PhD level knowledge of Casablancas cast, director, legacy, and place within the history of American cinema.

The man led shot-by-shot breakdown’s of the film for live audiences for goodness sake. I would argue that he probably knew the film as well or better than any man or woman alive before he passed.

So what do we get with his commentary?

For starters, I’ve seen the film more times than I can remember but now I have a new appreciation for Ingrid Bergman’s acting style. Ebert gives us a masterclass on her use of “looking down” to project inner turmoil, as well as a quick lesson on the use of shadow to disguise anything on an actor that CGI would go on to take care of decades later.

He works through many of the myths and legends that have surround the film for years. Yes, Warner Brothers wanted George Raft to play Rick at one point. No, they were never really interested in Ronald Reagan. Sure, Hal Wallis influenced the film in subtle, yet significant ways – he wanted a big band, real parrots, and less hats!

Perhaps Ebert’s most stirring observations come when discussing Casablanca’s historical context, Warner Brother’s severe distaste for the Nazi’s, and the incredible amount of foreign actors that populate the film. There’s a reason this movie seems so authentic. The emotions of fear, betrayal, and anger are more than likely all too real for nearly every supporting actor and extra as they watch Hollywood Nazi’s recreate the authoritarian march of Germany’s boots through Europe that they all lived through.

Then we come to the debate of whether or not Ingrid Bergman knew which man she’d end up with at the end of the film before she filmed the final scene. I won’t give you any spoilers, but I think Ebert makes a pretty solid case that settles the question for me.

Do I disagree occasionally with his thoughts? A little. No, I don’t think Paul Henreid was nearly as wooden as Ebert makes him out to be. And on a minor quibble, revolvers have the rotating cylinder – otherwise they’re just pistols Roger!

All of this only touches the surface of what Ebert’s lifelong passion for films adds to the enjoyment of Casablanca. If you’ve seen the film so much that you can’t imagine finding anything new within it, I would highly recommend tracking down a copy with this commentary.

Roger, we miss you dearly.

Here’s Ebert’s thoughts on the film from his site in 1992 – As Time Goes By…

Stand-In -1937

Stand In Poster

My Review

—It Has It’s Moments— 

Your Bogie Film Fix:

2.5 Bogie

Director:  Tay Garnett

The Lowdown

A by-the-book accountant (Leslie Howard) audits a Hollywood movie studio and is wooed by a former child star (Joan Blondell).

What I Thought

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke describes some of the key symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome as “poor communication skills, obsessive or repetitive routines, an intense interest or fascination with specific topics, and physical clumsiness.” While behavioral science was still decades away from coining the name for the condition, Director Tay Garnett and film star Leslie Howard created a character who so perfectly exhibits the symptoms, it’s like they had a textbook from which to work.

Howard’s Atterbury Dodd is a classic case of Asperger’s if there ever was one.

He is consumed with numbers to the point that he believes all of life can be broken down as if it’s an equation waiting to be solved.  He so lacks empathy with others during conversations that he can hardly recognize the chaos he creates around himself – missing obvious social cues and/or revealing unfortunate blunt truths that most people would keep to themselves. He’s also a walking-accident as he fumbles, bumps, falls, gets walked upon, and even gets tossed over the shoulder of the young lady who’s trying to woo him.

So to what does all this lead? A man who’s so obsessed with the numbers in his head that instead of picking up on the flirtations of the young, blonde, former child star in front of him, he judo-throws her over his shoulder and against the wall. Oh, don’t worry, she doesn’t hold it against him – after all, with such a lack of able bodied men in Hollywood, a lady can’t be picky, right?

And therein lies the main problem with this film. The love story at the heart of the plot, which is meant to create the emotional core for the entire story, is just not believable.  What in the world does Joan Blondell’s administrative assistant see in Leslie Howard’s oblivious accountant? He’s handsome. Oh, and then there’s . . . well, he’s handsome, I guess.

Howard’s accountant only cares about the studio’s bottom line, never minding for a second the hundreds of employees that make their living from the films that are being made. He ignores anything resembling a compassionate thought, only displaying any desire or emotion whatsoever while making an attempt to court a ditsy Hollywood starlet (Marla Shelton) who’s only playing him for her boss (C. Henry Gordon).

To be fair, I’m being pretty hard on what’s meant to be a harmless romantic comedy. Lots of great character actors are solid in their supporting roles, and Bogart is quite good in a smaller supporting role, but shouldn’t a romantic comedy at least be built upon believable chemistry between its stars?

Not a must see by any means unless you’re a die hard Howard, Blondell, or Bogart fan. All three of them have some good bits sprinkled throughout the film, but the script just doesn’t do enough to support them.

The Bogart Factor

Playing movie producer Doug Quintain, Bogart has probably the most realistic and interesting character in the entire film. An occasionally boozy movie exec with a thing for the leading lady (Marla Shelton) of his current cinematic disaster, Bogart is a reluctant ally to Howard’s intrusive accountant – fully aware that the hopes and dreams manufactured for the silver screen by his studio are being propped up with nothing more than the flimsiest of set dressings.

Quintain is mired up to his shoulders in the silliness of Tinsel Town, but his deep passion and appreciation for the business, and the people who work within it, make him fight until the end to keep the studio afloat.

It’s a solid outing for Bogart, so while the film is probably not a must see for casual fans, those who love Bogie’s comedic side will find some good stuff here.

The Cast

Leslie Howard plays Atterbury Dodd, the aforementioned math-obsessed accountant. Howard’s good in the role, fussily obsessed with the minutia of Hollywood bookkeeping (And what the heck is the deal with the ashtrays?  Such a wonderful quirk for Howard and Director Garnett to add!), but as I stated earlier, all of his chemistry with Joan Blondell suffers because, well, people who don’t feel empathy have a hard time garnering sympathy. It’s hard to understand why Blondell is in love with him. It’s hard to understand why he finally returns the affections for a woman that he cannot identify with.

That said, there are a few really great scenes in the film between Howard and Blondell, and between Howard and Bogart. When Blondell tries to teach Howard judo, we get perhaps the greatest laugh in the film. And when Howard finally teams up with Bogart to save a movie production, it’s the camaraderie that we’ve been waiting for since the beginning of the movie.

Also, the scene at the end where Howard is literally overrun by unemployed studio laborers, only to finally learn how to talk humanely to his fellow man, is handled very well, and it’s one of the few moments of believable character growth that we’re given for his Dodd.

Joan Blondell plays former child star Lester Plum, who spends her days in this film as a stand-in for Marla Shelton and as an administrative assistant to Howard’s accountant. Other than the complete lack of logic behind her attraction for Howard’s character (he tossed her across the room for goodness sakes!), Blondell does a great job as the spunky girl-next-door who sees the humanity behind the Hollywood machine. Blondell is super cute, garners what little pathos the film’s clunky plot can muster, and is able to create laughs even when the script falls flat. Plus, her dictation scene with Howard is hands-down the best moment of the film.

Bogie Film Blog favorite Jack Carson plays the buffoonish publicist Tom Potts. I can’t believe I’m about to write this, but Carson actually achieves a level of obnoxiousness that left me disliking his character. Not that he did a bad job!  Actually, I think it’s a credit to his acting skill that he was able to make himself unlovable despite how gosh darn likable he always tends to be in every film! A great showing by a great character actor.

Alan Mowbray does a wonderful job as a thick-accented wannabe auteur, Koslosfski. If anything, the film could have benefited from a few more scenes as good as the one in which he pitches a fit over using artificial flowers on a back lot ski slope film set.

Maria Shelton plays the leading lady in Bogart’s horrible film, Miss Cheri. It’s an uphill battle for Shelton to get any attention here as she’s tasked with acting next to Bogart, Howard, Blondell, and the wonderfully over-the-top Alan Mowbray, so there’s not much room for her to shine here, but she does fine establishing herself as the pampered diva.

Henry Gordon plays Nassau, the businessman who’s trying to swindle his way into getting Howard to sell him the movie studio at a greatly reduced price. Again, not a huge role, but Gordon does well in establishing his character.

Classic Bogie Moment

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This look of death says it all, doesn’t it? There’s a desperate madman in there somewhere, always ready to spring out.

The Bottom Line

Worth a watch if it pops up on TCM, but probably not worth going out of your way to find on Amazon for thirty or forty bucks!

Down These Mean Streets Again, and Other Podcasting News!

Down Theses Mean Streets Podcast Twitter

This week, though, I would HIGHLY encourage you to head on over to the ‘Down These Mean Streets’ podcast which is a airing a double feature of episodes from Bogie and Bacall’s radio serial Bold Adventure! @MeanStsOTRPod sent me the episodes a week or two ago, and I’ve been listening to them on my travels. I’ve only heard a scant few eps of Bold Adventure, but I’m now salivating to dive in full steam.

In lieu of an extended post on the show before I’ve heard them – I’d encourage you to check out the show itself on the ‘Down These Mean Streets’ podcast. I asked @MeanStsOTRPod to give us all a little intro to the radio serials, and in his own words:

“Though they popped up regularly around the dial during the Golden Age of Radio, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall only starred in one regular series, and it’s hard to think of a project better suited to their screen personas at the time. Bold Venture blended elements of To Have and Have Not, Key Largo, and Casablanca to create a unique series. Not only did it boast the mega-wattage star power of Bogie and Bacall, but it featured a top-notch crew behind the scenes.

“Bogie was ‘Slate’ Shannon, a hotel proprietor with a shady past who also earned money as a charter boat captain. His ship – the “Bold Venture” – gave the show its title. Bacall was “Sailor” Duval, Shannon’s young ward (she was willed to him – the series was never really clear on the circumstances, but I bet that was a heck of a will-reading!). Together, they landed in and out of hot water in Havana. Throw in ‘King Moses,’ a calypso singer who hung out in the hotel and bantered with Slate and Sailor, and it’s easy to see the influence the couple’s films had in shaping Bold Venture.

“The series was developed for the couple by producer Frederick W. Ziv, a pioneer of syndicated programming. He landed Mr. and Mrs. Bogart for a salary of $5,000 a week; this was pricey for the 1950s, but a transcribed series with two of Hollywood’s biggest stars meant Ziv could (and did!) sell the series all across the country. Estimates I’ve read cast Ziv’s profits on the series at almost ten million dollars.

“The Bogarts got 78 episodes in the can before and after their trip abroad to shoot The African Queen. Ziv had an option to sign the couple for three more years, but it was Bogart who walked away. I’ve read it was the combination of offers in the wake of his Oscar win (not to mention his new fatherhood) that led him to throw in the towel. Bogie reportedly said of the show, I got tired of it. I never listened to it, but Betty did. She liked to hear her voice.

“All due respect to Mr. Bogart, but even a quick listen to Bold Venture reveals it to be exciting stuff, particularly if you’re a fan of that classic Bogart-Bacall chemistry.”

You can get the Mean Streets podcast on iTunes here, the Stitcher app here, or visit the tumblr site here. And you can read my previous interview with the podcaster himself here!

And in Other Somewhat Fun News!

I’m in the early stages of being able to announce that The Bogie Film Blog will be making it’s way to the podcast world as well! The details have not been ironed out yet, but the goal is to be up and running by the end of the year! It’s looking promising!

Thanks so much to all of you who have been regular readers and encouragers! Now head over and listen to some Bold Adventure!

Jason

 

Casablanca – 1942

Casablanca Poster

My Review

—Hollywood’s Greatest Film—

Your Bogie Film Fix:

5 Bogie

Director: Michael Curtiz

The Lowdown

An American expat (Bogart) running a nightclub in Casablanca, Morocco during World War II is surprised when his ex (Ingrid Bergman) shows up, married to the leader (Pal Henried) of Europe’s underground resistance.

What I Thought

This is it. The absolute pinnacle of Bogart films as far as I’m concerned, which is why I saved it for last. This was the cherry on the top of a year-and-a-half of Bogart film viewing.

Sure, I’ve seen Casablanca so many times that I’ve lost count, but this was the first time that I’ve sat down with a more analytical eye. Knowing that I was going to do a write-up, I asked myself, Why is this film so perfect in my mind? Why was this the film that served as my gateway into classic cinema? Why is this film remembered by many, if not most casual film fans, as Bogart’s greatest role?

I think a majority of the credit has to go to Director Michael Curtiz. From beginning to end, the city of Casablanca feels like a fully realized world. The daytime scenes are crammed from one edge of the screen to other with bustling crowds filling city streets and diversely populated nightclub scenes. The city is supposed to be overflowing with people looking to escape the war and Director Curtiz nailed it. This film is bursting at the seams with background artists, minor roles cast to perfection, supporting roles with some of Hollywood’s greatest character actors, and a handful of main characters that are handled deftly and given the time that they each need to establish their moments in the story.

Another huge chunk of credit goes to the twin Epstein brothers, Julius and Philip, who adapted the play for the big screen. There are a lot of great stories about how the Epstein’s regarded this script as just another studio assignment, how they wrote and rewrote scenes the very day that they were needed, and how they never really thought much of the finished film. (Julius was quoted as saying it not nothing more than “slick shit.” Hardly a ringing endorsement.)

The script is filled with dozens upon dozens of quotable lines. Yet at the same time, it was just incomplete and loose enough that the actors were able to fill in their own memorable moments when needed. Bogart reportedly supplied the line, “Here’s looking at you, kid,” and it was producer Hal Wallis who supposedly came up with, “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” and had it dubbed in after shooting was complete.

“Are my eyes really brown?”

“Well, there are certain sections of New York, Major, that I wouldn’t advise you to try to invade.”

“Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.”

“I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”

“I came to Casablanca for the waters.”

“You know, Rick, I have many a friend in Casablanca, but somehow, just because you despise me, you are the only one I trust.”

“I remember every detail. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue.”

“Round up the usual suspects.”

“Such watch?”

These are just a few of the lines that I try very hard to work into my daily conversations and I hope that the comments section of this post is LOADED with all the quotes that I didn’t mention.

But back to Director Curtiz. What strikes me as most interesting is that this was one of seven film collaborations that he had with Bogart. Curtiz worked on a limited number of scenes for both Black Legion and Marked Woman, and directed Kid Galahad, Angels with Dirty Faces, Virginia City, Passage to Marseille, and We’re No Angels. Some of those other collaborations are good. A few I would even consider to be great. But in my mind, none come close to Casablanca’s perfection.

The Bogart Factor

After so many viewings, this was the very first time that I’ve ever really noticed how the entire span of Bogart’s career seems to be contained within nightclub owner Rick Blaine. Since this was the last film in my Bogart journey, it probably helps that I’ve now sat through all of his other work from the beginning, no matter how small a part it might have been.

Especially during the flashbacks of France, we see an energetic, ever-so-slightly goofy and naïve character much like the ones Bogart played in Up the River, Love Affair, and Men Are Such Fools. It’s just enough “aw shucks” shoulder shrugging that I was really reminded of how wide Bogart’s range could be when we transition back to the darkened bar where he’s drinking away his memories of Ilsa and Paris.

There in the bar, we have the much more tightly wound, much angrier, much more depressed man who shows up in many of Bogart’s gangster roles, but perhaps especially films like San Quentin, Dead End, or The Petrified Forest. Films where Bogart seems to spend most of his time reflecting on how poorly his life has turned out and how desperately he wishes to move past his resentment and remorse.

And yet, at the core of Rick Blaine is the confident, loyal, trustworthy, stand-up man who will always end up doing the right thing, even if he tries to convince you that he sticks his neck out for no one! This is the type of character that we see Bogart playing later in his career – the Sam Spade’s, Rick Leland’s, and the majority of brooding expatriates that stick their necks out for everybody that filled Bogart’s filmography for the next ten plus years.

A white tuxedo. A trench coat and fedora. Cigarettes. Booze. A shady past. A mysterious woman. A broken heart. A pistol. These are the very things that Bogart helped define as icons of Classic Hollywood cinema and they’re all on display here in Casablanca. Of all his films, this is the one that I come back to again and again when I need a full and complete Bogart fix. I’ve found many other films where his performances might be more nuanced – more well-rounded – but this is definitively and understandably the role that establishes him as Hollywood’s greatest leading man.

The Cast

Ingrid Bergman plays Ilsa Lund, Bogart’s ex and the current wife of the underground resistance leader Victor Laszlo. I can’t say enough good things about Bergman here, as this is her essential performance as far as I’m concerned. I know it doesn’t have as much depth as a few of her other high profile roles, but doggone it if I still don’t know whether or not she was really ready to leave Laszlo for Blaine at the end of the film. That nighttime scene in the bar just after Rick’s first flashback . . . drunk Bogart . . . forlorned Bergman . . . so good.

Dooley Wilson plays the piano playing singer at Rick’s Café Américain, Sam. What an incredible job Wilson does here playing the greatest wingman any guy could ever hope for. It was only after viewing the film for the umpteenth time that I realized Wilson’s fingers are in no-way-shape-or-form playing that piano believably, yet it took me forever to notice because I can’t take my eyes off of his face and my ears away from his voice. The guy was a natural, and in my dream of dreams I would go through Wilson’s entire filmography just to see if he did anything else that was as close to great as his performance in Casablanca. (Did I JUST read on imdb that he’s an uncredited piano player in Knock on Any Door?!? I will see if this is true TONIGHT!) *It is 100% true! Just after the 47 minute mark, there he is playing piano and accepting a beer!!! – 8/14/14 BFB*

Paul Henreid plays the battle weary and aged-beyond-his-years resistance leader, Victor Laszlo. According to Hollywood lore, Henreid almost didn’t take the role because he wasn’t the lead and he was afraid that it would set him back in his career. Thank goodness he accepted the part, because so much of the film’s gravitas depends heavily on us not hating Laszlo even though he’s standing in Rick Blaine’s way to Ilsa. To be fair to his initial instincts, Henreid isn’t remembered as one of Hollywood’s greatest leading men, but I don’t think that’s any fault of his supporting role in this film. He’s a great actor and very handsome, but just didn’t have that uber-unique look or acting style that let him break into the upper echelon of Hollywood’s greatest legends.

Claude Rains wonderfully plays Bogart’s friend and sometime foil, Captain Louis Renault. What a testament to Rains’ talent that he can commit completely despicable deeds one moment, and have us laughing with joy the next. Rains was an insanely talented supporting actor, and I can never get enough of his work. I can’t be the only one who wants to see just a few minutes of Renault and Blaine’s post-Casablanca adventure together! Can you imagine these two guys fighting, drinking, joking, cajoling, and swindling their way through German troops as they work for the French resistance?

Conrad Veidt plays Major Heinrich Strasser, the head Nazi in charge of catching Victor Laszlo and making sure that he spends the rest of his life in a concentration camp, or dead. It’s not a huge role for Veidt, as he’s mainly used as an imposing villain to move the plot along, but as with the rest of the roles in the film, this one’s cast very well.

Sidney Greenstreet plays Signor Ferrari, Rick Blaine’s main nightclub competitor in Casablanca. Until this viewing, I never stopped to consider how cordial Ferrari and Blaine are when they’re together. I think these guys might actually be pretty decent friends – maybe even playing a few games of after-hours chess over drinks when curfew kicks in. Just consider for a moment that Blaine entrusts his entire staff, including Sam, into Ferrari’s hands at the end of the film. That’s got to be a great show of faith in a man who’s supposedly trying to beat you at your own game.

Peter Lorre plays the black market dealer Ugarte. How fantastic is this guy that he could make such a memorable contribution to this film with such a small part? I’m seriously shocked again and again as I watch this film and realize that he’s only in a hand full of scenes, yet his role looms very large over the legend and mythos of Casablanca.

S. Z. Sakall plays Carl, the host/waiter in Rick’s café. A wonderful, lovable, solid, hilarious, and incredibly talented supporting actor. The scene where he watches Rick help the young couple win at roulette is enough to make you want to hug him.

There’s Bogie Film Blog favorite Dan Seymour playing Abdul the doorman! He very few lines here in this tiny role, but he is namechecked by Rick!

And there are TONS of other supporting actors who deserve a mention, but I gotta stop somewhere!

Classic Bogie Moment

How? HOW do I pick here?!? There is too, too, too much to choose from. Trench coat and fedora? White tux? A pic with Lorre? One with Greenstreet? I gotta go with this one, because Dooley Wilson just doesn’t get enough love on this blog:

Casablanca classic

The Bottom Line

I came home from high school one afternoon and my mom was just at the beginning of this film. I’d never sat through an entire classic film before, but decided to give it a try. I’ve never looked back. After 465 days and 115 posts of my own personal nonstop Bogart movie marathon, I’ve grown to appreciate not only Bogart in a much greater capacity, but Classic Hollywood, and film as a whole.

Long live the legacy of Humphrey Bogart.

The Desperate Hours – 1955

The-Desperate-Hours-Poster

My Review

—A Gangster Icon Returns One Last Time—

Your Bogie Film Fix:

5 Bogie

Director: William Wyler

The Lowdown

Three men (Bogart, Dewey Martin, and Robert Middleton) escape prison and take an Indianapolis family hostage as they hijack their home.

What I Thought

This was the last available Bogart film out there that I hadn’t seen and I saved it for my penultimate viewing because I’d heard so many good things about it. It had been built up so much in my mind in fact, that I was afraid there was no way it could live up to its own word of mouth. Thankfully, I loved every minute of it.

Just like Bogart’s first film collaboration with Director William Wyler, Dead End, The Desperate Hours is a play brought to the big screen. Like Dead End, Director Wyler is able to widen the scope on the original source material and never make us feel as if we’re watching a “filmed play.” While 90% of the action takes place within one particular house, we get just enough exterior and other-location shots to make this feel like a fully inhabited world.

In an odd coincidence, the house used in the film is also the same one that would go on to be used for exterior shots in Leave it to Beaver. When you watch the film, it’s pretty hard not to feel a very Cleaver-ish style vibe from the family during the opening ten minutes. Director Wyler does a great job of setting up a completely tension-less, neat and tidy, suburbanite family – only to then systematically proceed to tear them apart, bit by bit.

If I had to nitpick about anything, it’d be the cast. While everyone is great in their roles, certain actors do stretch the credibility of the script just a little. So Frederic March is a 58 year old father with a 19 year old daughter and a 10 year old son. Maybe not completely out of the ordinary, as lots of couples have ‘oops’ babies later on in life. But then you have Gig Young who was over 40 playing the love interest to a character who was 19 . . . a little creepy. And when you finally factor in that Bogart and Dewey Martin play brothers separated by twenty-four years in age, you might find yourself trying to come up with a little backstory for the characters since none is provided. (So maybe they’re from one of those big Catholic families, right? And maybe they had eleven kids with Bogart being the oldest and Martin being the youngest. . . That could work, couldn’t it?) Then again, maybe I’m the only one that notices such things. March and Martin both do amazing jobs, and Bogart is so good that it’s hard to imagine a much younger actor filling the role. (I’ll cover it in ‘The Bogart Factor’ below!)

The Bogart Factor

How fantastic is it that Bogart’s first big break was as ‘Duke’ Mantee in The Petrified Forest, and then in his second to last film he returns with an almost identical character and plotline with the role of Glenn Griffin here? What an incredible double feature this would be for any classic film fans who need a great lineup on a Friday night!

So let’s talk about the elephant in the room. When the play won its Tony on Broadway, a young and much lesser known Paul Newman was the star. Half Bogart’s age, Newman’s casting makes a bit more sense when you factor in the younger brother storyline that weighs pretty heavily into plot. I can only imagine what kind of tour-de-force Newman must have been on stage, but being a celebrated Broadway actor who’d really only had bit parts on television, Newman wasn’t used for the role when it came up for grabs in Hollywood. Would it have been a better movie? Who’s to say? It would have been different for sure. It might have been an earlier launching pad for another one of Hollywood’s most celebrated actors as it would still be another three years before Newman would really break out with Somebody Up There Likes Me and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

But back to Bogart! This is his second to last film and there’s no trace of the illness that would eventually take his life on display here. He looks rough and ragged, but that’s what the role calls for. He smokes, snarls, leers, and blows his top in the most masterful of ways and it’s a captivating watch. This one’s certainly going into my top one or two ‘Older Bogie’ performances, and I can’t wait to watch it again.

The Cast

Frederic March plays Dan Hilliard, the father of the household where Bogart and his cronies hold up. March, while perhaps a bit long in the tooth for the role, does an outstanding job here going toe-to-toe with Bogart. When the tables turned and the gun was finally in his hands, don’t try to tell me you didn’t let out an audible “Shoot him!” just like I did!

Martha Scott plays Ellie Hilliard, the mother of the household. Out of all the characters, Ellie is the one who comes the closest to being portrayed as a two-dimensional stereotype, but Scott is given just enough brave moments to flesh the role out a bit.

Dewey Martin plays Bogart’s younger brother and fellow escapee, Hal Griffin. Again, Martin might be a tad too old for the role as he is expected to pine after his lost teenage years despite the fact that he’s over thirty. Yet, Martin handles the role well and we get a couple of really nice scenes between him and Bogart. Their final scene together is especially well handled by Director Wyler, and it earns both men a great deal of sympathy that they really don’t deserve.

Arthur Kennedy plays Deputy Sheriff Jesse Bard, the lawman who makes it his personal mission to track down Bogart. There is a subplot about Bogart and Kennedy having some history together that’s never fully explored, which is a shame, but perhaps it was fleshed out in the play. Kennedy does very well here as he plays a cop obsessed with one of his former collars, and it was great to see him again after playing a smaller role in High Sierra.

Robert Middleton plays the third escaped con, Sam Kobish, and I’m amazed by how much he was able to grow on me by the end of the film. As if three escaped cons isn’t enough conflict for a script already, Director Wyler finds ways to amp up the film’s tension by constantly finding new opportunities to make Middleton seem more and more unstable as the film goes on.

Mary Murphy and Richard Eyer play the Hilliard children, Cindy and Ralphie respectively, and both do a solid job of holding up their ends of the script. While neither is given too much heavy lifting, they’re both a testament to how important younger actors can be to supporting an older cast.

Gig Young plays Mary Murphy’s lawyer love interest, Chuck Wright. As I mentioned before, the age difference here is perhaps too disparaging to forgive, but Young does fine regardless.

Classic Bogie Moment

I still hold fast that no other Classic Hollywood actor was able to convey so much with so little – especially in regards to their facial expressions. In this still below, we see the very second where Bogart’s escaped con starts to crack just a bit under the pressure. It’s not a huge moment. He could have chosen to really go for the grimace or even scream, but instead, we get just the hint of desperation begin to appear in his eyes.

Desperate classic The Bottom Line

If you’re like me, and you’ve waited this long in life to catch this film – don’t wait any longer!

Breakdowns and Blowups

Breakdowns

My Review

—Some Good Chuckles and Lots of Great Personality—

Your Bogie Film Fix:

1 Bogie

The Lowdown

Outtakes from some of Hollywood’s greatest films with many of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

What I Thought

So apparently every Christmas, Warner Brothers would host an employee party and one of the treats was a special blooper reel cut together from the year’s previous films. The notion of “outtakes” is nothing new to modern day cinema enthusiasts, as many current DVD’s actually include deleted and flubbed takes as bonus content. Some comedies even include them in the closing credits.

So what’s so special about these? Quite a bit, actually.

Unused film was rarely kept – or kept in well condition, so anything that hit the cutting room floor in Classic Hollywood often also ended up in the cutting room trash can. Add into the mix that professionalism and preparedness was a coveted commodity among actors, and the outtakes from the Classic Hollywood era have a much different feel and tone to anything we’ll see as bonus content nowadays.

Especially during Bogart’s run, World War II put the squeeze on money and supplies for the entire country, Hollywood included, so film stock was too valuable to waste. With electric power being rationed out and cut off in the evening because of potential air raids, it’s easy to understand that the old adage time is money meant a little more back then. (One outtake from 1949 even includes the director yelling at Danny Kaye, only slightly seriously, about wasting film stock.) As the years go on, the actors and crews seem to loosen up quite a bit.

Many of the bloopers in these collections involve angry cursing from the actors after flubbed lines. “Goddamn it!” and “Son of a bitch” seem to be the two favorite epitaphs of most of the actors. Save for some light hearted actors like James Cagney, none of these performers seem all that amused by their mistakes. In fact, the Breakdowns’ editors do most of the comedic heavy lifting as they add in occasional sound effects (raspberries and goofy bells), and play around with the footage at the expense of the actor’s performance.

If I had to hazard a guess, the modern advances in film technology that have brought us into the digital age are a big factor in what’s made current day outtakes so readily available, and apparently more enjoyable from the actor’s point of view.

Not must sees by any stretch of the imagination, but getting to hear Jimmy Stewart say “Son of a bitch. . .” in that soft and simple laid back manner will make you glad you gave these Breakdowns a watch.

The Bogart Factor

His most enjoyable outtakes for me were from 1938’s Swing Your Lady, where he actually seems to be enjoying himself despite the mistakes.

From what I could tell, here’s a rundown of the films that Bogart outtakes appear from:

Breakdowns of 1936Bullets or Ballots, and Two Against the World

Breakdowns of 1937China Clipper

Breakdowns of 1938 – Swing Your Lady

Breakdowns of 1939 You Can’t Get Away with Murder, Dark Victory

Breakdowns of 1940 – The Roaring Twenties

Breakdowns of 1941 – ­ The Wagons Roll at Night

Breakdowns of 1942 The Big Shot

Breakdowns of 1944 – To Have and Have Not, Conflict

Blowups of 1946The Big Sleep

Blowups of 1947 Key Largo

Blowups of 1949 – Key Largo

The Petrified Forest, High Sierra, and a couple other Bogart films are featured sans Bogart flubs.

The Cast

Barton MacLane cracks up just as angrily as the characters he plays on screen!

Edward G. Robinson seems to be one of the few classic era actors that could have a little fun with a mistake, adding his own little raspberry sound to the end of flubs.

Bette Davis always seemed so composed in her Bogart collaborations that it’s kind of fun to see her lose her cool once in a while.

Allen Jenkins shows up in more than a few of the shorts, and I’ll never complain about getting to see some extra Jenkins! In the 1937 edition, enjoy watching him get goosed by an ironing board . . .

James Cagney is the one that really steals the show in most of these. Nearly every time he goofs up, he gives the camera a mischievous little smile as if he’s enjoying his outtakes more than he should! Plus, his waltz with George Raft when they should be fighting is so charming that it might just knock Raft up a few pegs on your likability meter.

Pat O’Brien comes second only to Cagney in having a pretty jocular attitude towards his line flubs, laughing most of them off. In the 1940 edition, it’s hard not to love the guy when he makes fun of his own toupee falling off!

Ronald Reagan . . . “Well that goddamned thing locked again.” Nuff said.

All I can say about Ann Sheridan is that if I would have been alive during her heyday, it would have wrecked me, wrecked me I tell ya, that I couldn’t have her. What a gal. So cute. So funny. All right, I need to go find a Sheridan film to pop in right now.

Jimmy Stewart has my favorite moment from any outtake when he slowly turns towards the camera after flubbing a line in Breakdowns of 1941 and says, “Son of a bitch . . .” So crazy to hear those words come out of his mouth in such a wonderfully resigned and cynical manner! Almost as good is his reaction after a scene in which the camera follows his exit when he wasn’t aware of it.

Director Edmund Goulding has a wonderful outtake as he slips into Joan Fontaine’s wardrobe for just a bit to show her how to act in Breakdowns of 1942.

Also appearing are George Brent, Paul Muni, Alan Hale, Miriam Hopkins, Claude Rains, Barbara Stanwyk, John Garfield, Gary Cooper, Fred MacMurray, Errol Flynn, Wayne Morris, and even Bogie Film Blog favorite Ben Welden! Plus, many, many more.

Danny Kaye will win you over and make you laugh in less than three seconds, guaranteed, in outtakes from 1949’s The Inspector General.

Classic Bogie Moment

Just try and tell me that this little moment of levity from a Key Largo outtake doesn’t warm the cockles of your heart:

Untitled

The Bottom Line

Lots of fun for any fan of classics.

The End Breakdowns