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.

Screen Guild Theater – If You Could Only Cook – 1941

My Review

-A Little Too Light on the Comedy-

Honorary Radio Bogie Fix:

The Lowdown

A frustrated car executive (Adolph Menjou) meets up with a unemployed secretary (Priscilla Lane) in the park and they pretend to be married so that they can get hired on as a cook and a butler for a big time gangster (Bogart).

What I Thought

This one’s an easy listen, but there’s not much meat on the bone, even for Classic Radio fans. While I’ve never seen the original film starring Jean Arthur, its positive reviews would lead me to believe that something was lost in the translation to radio. At a mere 30 minutes, the plot is pretty bare and any thought of character development seems to have been tossed out the window.

Is it worth a listen? Maybe if you’ve got a long drive or flight and you’re a big fan of Priscilla Lane.

The Bogart Factor

Playing a foodie gangster, Bogart’s portrayal of Dan Nolin is not much more than a stock racketeer role that he could play in his sleep. While he gives it his all, the script doesn’t give him enough to make the role more than an amusing extended cameo. It’s mentioned at the end that he was out promoting The Maltese Falcon.

The Rest of the Cast

Priscilla Lane plays Joan, the unemployed secretary that pretends to be married so that she can get a job as Bogart’s cook. As I said before, there’s very little here for the cast to work with. While Lane probably has the meatiest role in the whole production, her motivations for wanting to work for a gangster and for falling in love don’t really get time to add up. That said, Lane is talented enough to make the most out of this small part and it’s not hard to see why the men in the production would find her so cute.

Adolph Menjou plays the frustrated car executive James. Perhaps the film version spends a little more time explaining Jim’s motivations for disappearing from his job (nobody seems to notice) and leaving his fiancee for days leading up to their nuptials (again, apparently unnoticed) when it merely seems like he’s having a bad day. He falls in love. Why? His fiancee is supposed to come off as a real shrew, you know, because she called him at work once.

Roger Pryor hosts the show and plays Bogart’s gangster sidekick, Flash. Normally this type of role would be comic relief, but in a light comedy where the main gangster is already playing for comic relief, Pryor doesn’t have much to do but say lines that could have been given to Bogart.

The Bottom Line

Not a complete waste of time, but probably only entertaining for die hard Priscilla Lane or Bogart fans.

Lux Radio Theater Presents – Moontide – 1945

untitled

Honorary Radio Bogie Fix:

Radio Fixes

The Lowdown

An alcoholic boatman (Bogart) rescues a suicidal woman (Virginia Bruce) and they try to use their relationship to escape the boatman’s checkered past.

What I Thought

This one’s a real hidden gem that I’d never heard of until it popped up as a recommendation on my Spotify account.

While most radio adaptions of famous films get the short shrift of 30 minutes or less, Lux gives this one plenty of room to breath with it’s 55 minute running time. Hosted by Mark Hellinger, the producer of the original 1942 film starring Jean Gabin and Ida Lupino, Hellinger was responsible for producing quite a few of Bogart’s film’s over his career.

Perhaps the most surprising moments come during the show’s intro when Hellinger describes his first encounters with a young stage comedian name Humphrey Bogart. Towards the end of the show, we get Bogart and Hellinger together again talking about Bogart’s comedic days on stage, and it’s interesting to consider that Bogart may have lived a good chunk of his life working towards roles that were the antithesis of his gun toting tough guys or ex-pat drinkers.

The broadcast also benefits from an elevation in cast as we get Humphrey Bogart over the film’s original Jean Rabin. I’m not knocking Rabin, but Bogart rarely gave anything less than his best to his radio performances, and his work here is as good as any other radio he’s done.

Bogart plays Bobo, a bait fisherman who occasionally gets blackout drunk and forgets whether or not he might have murdered someone. He plays the part with plenty of wary pause and reluctance – much like a man at the end of his his rope might behave, and the tension raised by the did he do it or not dramatics within his relationship to Virginia Bruce make the love story crackle.

Would I rather have heard Ida Lupino recreate her role? Of course. I have a big crush on Ms. Lupino, and it would have been nice to hear her voice. But then again, I can always go back to the original film, right?

There is a portrayal of an Asian bait fisherman that is insensitive by today’s standards, but other than that, this one’s worth checking out if you can find it!

Theater of Romance: One Way Passage – 1945

radio

Honorary Bogie Radio Fix:

Radio Fixes 3

The Lowdown

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

What I Thought

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe he liked the original film!

 

Stars in the Air Presents: The House on 92nd Street – 1952

house

Honorary Radio Bogie Fix:

radio-fixes-2 out of 5 radio Bogies.

The Lowdown

There are a couple mildly good reasons to listen to this broadcast –

First of all, you’ve got Betty Lou Gerson playing the role of Elsa. Anyone who’s a fan of classic Disney films will recognize that name as the original voice of Cruella De Vil. She’s very good in her role and gets to play – get this – a dastardly accented villainess!

Second, based on the true story of William G. SeboldThe House on 92nd Street is actually a very compelling piece of United States history where blind luck led the FBI into stumbling upon a group of Nazi spies sending info back to Germany.

The bad news is that this highly abridged version of the Twentieth Century Fox Film is cut so short that it’s hard to follow the story. Add into the mix that it can become a little tedious and mundane with the heavily fact-loaded narration, and it’s probably worth a listen only if your a Bogart completist.

Long story short, the FBI (which has to be pronounced at every turn as if it’s the most prestigious organization in the world) sends a man undercover to bust some stateside Nazis. Things get hairy. There’s a bit of a twist ending. The Nazis get what’s coming to them. And, oh! By the time this one’s over, you’ll never want to hear the phrase “pointed patent leather shoes” again.

Again, unless you’re an Old Time Radio die hard who just can’t get enough of Bogart, you should probably stick with the film, or even a trip into history with the real story.

The Bogart Factor

Relegated to mostly narration work, Bogart plays Inspector Briggs, the FBI man in charge of the undercover agent who’s sent into to spy on the Nazis. He’s fine, although he doesn’t have much to work with. You’d be better off popping in The Enforcer if you want a good dose of Bogie the lawman.

The Cast

Keefe Brasselle plays Bill, the undercover man for the FBI. Brasselle probably has the most to work with here as far as the script goes, but he’s still hampered by the abridged running time.

Betty Lou Gerson is your stereotypical German ice queen, Elsa. You know what, though? If you’ve got to hear a villain, it might as well be Cruella De Vil, right?

The Bottom Line

I think I’ve said it all. Although, broadcast in 1952 after Bogart’s Oscar win for The African Queen, it is fun to hear a war bonds commercial in the middle about holding onto your bonds as long as possible rather than the usual ramble about buying them!

 

The Jack Benny Show – 1947

benny

Honorary Bogie Radio Fix:

5 radio

The Lowdown

Jack Benny and his crew flash back 24 hours to show how Benny blew his chance to work with Lauren Bacall on his radio show.

What I Thought

I remember listening to this one several years ago, but apparently I never put up a post for it! It’s a real treat, and there are some great actual laughs to be had.

Benny spends the first half of the show with his regulars, Mary Livingstone, Phil Harris, Dennis Day, and Don Wilson. It’s exactly what you’d expect from Benny, with an extra dose of jokes about the recent Rose Bowl from just a few days before the broadcast. They make fun of Don about his weight. They make fun of Dennis about his crush on Mary. They make fun of Benny for being cheap. Nothing too surprising here, but there is a wonderful moment where Mary breaks character during the early moments of the show when talking about Day’s crush, and it’s a wonderfully cute moment for the always entertaining Livingstone. Day also gets a chance to sing I Love You for Sentimental Reasons.

The real meat of the show comes in the second half when Mary forces Jack to explain why Lauren Bacall isn’t going to be on the show. Cue a flashback to the day before, and we have one of the funniest Bogart radio cameos I’ve heard in a long time. Rochester finally makes his appearance in the broadcast as he banters with Benny for a bit before ushering in Bacall.

Benny wants to seduce Bacall so he asks to reenact the “You know how to whistle, don’t ya?” scene from To Have and Have Not. But guess who walks in just before he gets to the kiss? Again, it’s just a large cameo here for Bogart, but it’s a stellar use of his public persona. Bogart reenacts the scene himself, complete with kiss, until Benny finally stops him. The real treat though, comes when Mary enters and Bogart then rehearses the scene with her as well – complete with a kiss so long that it sends Benny into full meltdown mode.

Great stuff by a great cast. We get less gangster and more romantic playboy from Bogart this time around.

The Bottom Line

Check this one out. Other than the Rose Bowl jokes, it holds up well, and it’s one of the funniest Bogart radio appearances out there.

The Screen Guild Theater Presents: The Valiant – 1945

valiant

Honorary Bogie Radio Fix:

Radio Fixes

The Lowdown

Bogart was out promoting Conflict when he made this appearance for The Screen Guild Theater, and it’s a real gem.

Adapted from the play of the same name by Robert Middlemess (who also appears here as the warden), this is a tight little radio piece that actually gives Bogart his second chance to do some Shakespeare! (You can check out my other post on his first radio foray into Shakespeare as Hotspur in Henry IV here.)

The Valiant is the story of a prison chaplain (Pedro de Cordoba) and his Warden (author, Robert Middlemiss) who are deeply concerned about the curious case of a death row inmate (Bogart) who only has hours to live. They both know that something seems wrong about him. They don’t think he is who he says he is, but the inmate will not admit anything.

Enter a strange woman (Dorothy McGuire) who claims to be the inmate’s sister. She thinks she can get him to admit his true identity with a little prodding about family memories and a shared love for Shakespeare.

What I Thought

Adapted radio plays tend to be much too abridged from their original stories for my liking, but this one holds up rather well. Yes, they cut out a good chunk of the play in order to fit the time limit, but it doesn’t take away much.

Bogart’s interplay with De Cordoba, Middlemiss, and McGuire is strong, and although it’s easy to see where the story is heading, Bogart’s final lines make for a very powerful payoff to this play.

Was the relationship between McGuire and Bogart a little too romantic considering she thought that they might be brother and sister? Yeah. . . yeah, just a bit. Especially at the end where they share a kiss. Whew. It gets weird.

But this one is certainly a must listen for anyone who likes Old Time Radio or Bogart.

The Bogart Factor

Bogart plays death row inmate James Dyke, and let’s cut to the chase – Bogart has an opportunity at the end of the show to do a little bit from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and it’s really moving stuff considering how little he has to play with. Just like in Henry IV, Bogart’s delivery is strong, clear, and vivid enough that we don’t get lost in the language for a second. Plus, the lines tie in so well with the end of the play that it’ll likely haunt you the rest of the day.

The Cast

Pedro de Cordoba and Robert Middlemiss play The Chaplain and The Warden respectively, and both do a fine job. The real standout though, is Dorothy McGuire as Bogart’s possible sister, Josie. McGuire has the challenging task of playing Josie with an equal amount of love, longing, and deviousness as she tries to subtly pull Bogart’s true identity out from him. And, other than the creepy brother/sister romance that plays out, it’s really compelling stuff.

Bottom Line

Check it out.

 

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.”

The Pepsodent Show with Bob Hope – 1941

untitled

My Review

—Typical, But Fun, Bogart Guest Star—

Honorary Radio Bogie Fix:

Radio Fixes 2

The Lowdown

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

What I Thought

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

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

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

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

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

The Bogart Factor

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

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

The Rest of the Cast

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

Bottom Line

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

The Screen Guild Theater Presents: The Petrified Forest – 1940

pet forest

My Review

–Needs More Bogart–

Honorary Bogie Radio Fix:

Radio Fixes 2

The Lowdown

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

What I Thought

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bogart Factor

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

The Rest of the Cast

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

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

The Bottom Line

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