Dead Man – 1945

dead man

My Review

—Mediocre, but Still Fun—

Honorary Radio Bogie Fix:

Radio Fixes 2

The Lowdown

A train-hopping hobo (William Tracy) is haunted by the voice of a railroad bull (Bogart) after killing him.

What I Thought

Based on a short story by famed novelist and screenplay writer James M. Cain (The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity, Mildred Pierce, Algiers, etc.), this one’s worth a listen for the author’s pedigree alone. While this story doesn’t come close to his best works, its paint-by-numbers plot is still entertaining enough. And – I have no doubt that 70 years ago, this plot might have played out a little more unexpectedly to a general public that wasn’t nearly as media-saturated as we are today.

Is this production of Dead Man good? It’s okay. It’s an easy listen at half an hour and more than good enough to pass the time on a commute to work or an airplane ride. Not as good as several of Bogart’s radio film adaptions, the actors do well with what they have.

This broadcast of Dead Man was one of Bogart’s rare pre-Bold Venture dips into radio that wasn’t a cameo appearance or a film adaption. Supposedly handpicked by Bogart himself, the noir-ish feel of a story that focuses on a murderer consumed with guilt and paranoia seems right up the Hollywood legend’s alley.

The Bogart Factor

Bogart does well here as Larry Knott, the railroad bull who’s murdered. Yes, his ghostly voice sounds a little like he’s standing across the street and speaking through a bullhorn, but how much can you really do on the radio when you need to distinguish someone as an ethereal presence that also needs a good dose of tough guy added in? There are so many roles in his filmography where Bogart plays a guilt ridden ne’er-do-well that is slowly becoming mentally unhinged (Black Legion, San Quentin, Dead End, Conflict, The Two Mrs. Carrolls, etc.) that it’s kind of refreshing to hear him as the innocent conscience haunting another killer. It wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine Bogart playing the lead role himself if the story had made it to the big screen. If anyone knows the ins and outs of guilt-driven-mania, it’s Bogart for sure.

While it’s not a must listen unless you’re a Bogart completist, it’s worth a listen for anyone interested in a James M. Cain/Bogart collaboration.

The Rest of the Cast

William Tracy plays Lucky, the hobo who kills Bogart at the beginning of the story, only to be guilted into madness by his disembodied voice until he can stand it no longer. Tracy does well here with the material he’s given, more than able to give his private conversations with Bogart plenty of angst and tension.

The Bottom Line

You could do worse for old time radio. If you’re already a subscriber to an old time radio podcast, this one has either come up, or probably will eventually.

The Columbia Broadcasting System Presents: Henry IV – 1937

shakes

My Review

—Bogart’s Better Than I’d Been Led to Believe—

Honorary Radio Bogie Fix:

Radio Fixes 2

The Lowdown

It’s Shakespeare’s story of an uneasy king who’s forced to contend with borderland disputes, a ne’er-do-well son, and the revolt of some hotheaded rebels – all of which culminates in a bloody battle wherein the king’s army desperately needs to strike down an insurrection before it gets out of hand.

What I Thought

Let me just get a couple things out of the way.

I was an English major at a large state university that is not known for having an esteemed English program. I had a literature emphasis and therefore had to read every written word by Shakespeare at one point or another. I had to watch a lot of it onstage. I even had to memorize some.

That being said, I’m not a big fan.

After those 4 ½ years of undergrad, I immediately pulled the drain plug in my brain and happily let all of that Shakespearean knowledge and experience pour out, never to look back. Oh, I remember plots. I remember a few characters. I even grew to love several parts of Hamlet.

But I’ve never considered revisiting the bard. Until now.

Bogart did Shakespeare? I thought that I’d tracked down most of Bogart’s available radio appearances – mainly film recreations, a few comedic appearances, and the Bold Adventure series with Bacall. Then I jumped onto Spotify and discovered the William Shakespeare – Vintage Collection.

So apparently in the late 30’s, the National Broadcasting Company and the Columbia Broadcasting System were competing with one another for a higher class of listeners with dueling radio series starring prestige actors in the greatest works of Shakespeare. Orson Welles, Edward G. Robinson, John Barrymore, Helen Menken, Tallulah Bankhead and many others jumped at the chance to perform some of history’s most treasured stories. Bogart was eager for his chance as well.

To be clear – reading Shakespeare always paled in comparison to actually seeing it performed onstage for me. I always had a hard time keeping his typically large large cast of characters straight as I tried to follow his pre-Seinfeld multi-story arcs that wound up and down and all around until they generally met up at the end. Seeing actors actually embody the roles helped me keep things clearer so that I could spend more time wrestling with the language.

A radio production, though? Well, I think it falls somewhere in between the printed page and the stage for me. Easier to grasp than words in musty old book – not as fun to follow along with without any visual aids.

When numerous male actors are putting on affected British accents and wallowing in the joys of their own diction, I still have a little trouble distinguishing who is who. It does help, however, that Henry IV’s nearly three hour running time was shortened to just an hour here, and for anyone who likes classic film, appreciates Old Time Radio productions, or can at least tolerate Shakespeare, it’s a fun little side alley from Hollywood’s classic era to veer into for a bit.

I was actually shocked by how much I enjoyed Bogart’s part of Hotspur, the hotheaded rebel who’s causing trouble for Henry IV. The great Bogart biography written by A.M. Sperber and Eric Lax (a minor deity in Bogart history and lore) makes it sound like Hollywood’s greatest leading man made a fool of himself in the show – sounding more like a Brooklyn tough guy who can’t speak the Elizabethan language than a stage actor.

I couldn’t disagree more.

The lisp is hardly noticeable. Bogart’s diction is wonderful. And best of all, he’s one of the few actors in the whole production who’s voice makes his character easily recognizable and almost fully understandable.

Perhaps not for the casual Old Time Radio fan, this one’s definitely worth a listen for any big Bogart fans that want to have their minds blown just a little bit.

The Bogart Factor

Playing Henry ‘Hotspur’ Percy, Bogart gets a chance to do something that had almost exclusively eluded him until this moment in his career! He speaks lines during a death scene!

Prince Hal and Hotspur duel, Hotspur is on the losing end, and Bogart actually gets to lament his death!

“But that earthy and cold hand of death lies on my tongue – no, Percy, though art dust, and food for…” (death gasp)

The part isn’t huge, but he does play heavily into the beginning and the end of the two part CBS radio episode.

The Rest of the Cast

Walter Huston plays the titular Henry IV. Almost as much fun as hearing Bogart do Shakespeare, Huston is overshadowed by the larger role of Harry (Hal), the Prince of Wales played by Brian Ahearn. But to me, Walter Connolly’s Falstaff will probably make the production worth it for any Shakespeare diehards.

The Bottom Line

It’s freaking BOGART doing SHAKESPEARE! Give it a listen just to say that you did! Who knows? It might tempt you to hear Edward G. Robinson’s version of The Taming of the Shrew.

Lady Esther Presents – Casablanca – 1943

casa

My Review

—Another ½ Hour Surprise—

Honorary Bogie Fix:

5 radio

The Lowdown

It’s a classic radio adaption of Hollywood’s most classic film! You can read my original synopsis of the film here. Despite the drastically shortened run time, the film still retains almost all of its most important plot points, although Sydney Greenstreet’s role of Signor Ferrari has been completely excised and Peter Lorre’s Ugarte appears in name only.

What I Thought

With three of its top stars (Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and Paul Henreid) back to reprise their roles from the film, a lot can be forgiven for what’s left out in this greatly shortened version of Hollywood’s greatest film. Would it have been nice to hear Dooley Wilson and Claude Rains reprise their roles? Sure, but the actors that they have filling in do close enough impressions that their essence is still there. Would it have been fun to hear Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre back as well? Of course, but when you really consider how their roles were in the original film, it’s not surprising that they cut them for this brief adaption.

What makes this version work so well is that they followed the same formula used for the adaption of High Sierra – keep the love story, dump a lot of the atmosphere. We still get “As Time Goes By” and Paul Henreid once again lead’s the Café in a stirring rendition of “La Marseillaise” to shut those pesky Germans up, so I felt that this adaption has a slight edge over Lady Esther’s version of High Sierra since Sierra didn’t really have such iconic scenes to recreate.

What stuck out to me the most about this version though, was the fact that Rick Blaine really seems to be toying with Ilsa and Victor when it comes to the letters of transit. He says it’s purely business, but he refuses to give them to Victor despite the offer of a large monetary sum. He says he doesn’t want to give Captain Renault any reason to close down the nightclub, yet he doesn’t turn the papers over when given the chance. He tells Victor he’ll save Ilsa. He tells Ilsa that he’ll help her ditch Victor. He takes Renault to the airport with them instead of keeping him in the dark until Victor has escaped as if he wants the good Captain to know exactly how bad he’s been fooled. (Would anyone have questioned a forged signature on the papers?)

With just the audio to tell the story, is seemed much clearer to me that Rick was enjoying himself as he played games with all of the people involved – moving them around his own personal chess board – not sure of which way he wanted the game to play out. He had his own personal grudges and amusements to satisfy before even considering what might be the right thing to do. I would even say that there was a sense in this broadcast that he might not make the “right” choice in the end despite the fact that I knew what was going to happen.

Bogart and Bergman

How come these two didn’t make more films together?!? I hate to say it, but Bergman really steals the show here – recapturing her performance straight from the film. Their scene together as they remember their time in France is especially well done.

Again, Bogart delivers on his lines just as if you’re hearing audio from the movie. It wasn’t until hearing this version though, that I realized how much of his performance from the film is visual. The white tux. The smoking. The drunken sorrow at the table after hours. The contemplative chess. The thousand-yard stare as he holds a gun at the end. Much of his humor has been removed as well, so the character’s not nearly as mischievous as he was on the big screen. Still, I have a feeling that no one will be disappointed with his performance here.

The Rest of the Cast

No names for the supporting actors were given, but the actors playing Sam and Captain Renault do a great job of making us think Dooley Wilson and Claude Rains are back!

The Bottom Line

This one will make you want to watch the film again ASAP.

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

 

Lady Esther Presents – High Sierra – 1946

High Sierra Lady Esther

My Review

—Surprisingly Well Done— 

Honorary Radio Bogie Fix:

Radio Fixes

The Lowdown

You can read my original synopsis of the film here, but this adaption has been edited down so drastically that many of the supporting characters have been axed in order to focus almost solely on the relationship between ex-con Roy Earle (Humphrey Bogart) and his moll-in-the-making, Marie (Ida Lupino).

What I Thought

The best radio film adaptions are able to pare down a 90+ minute film into just under an hour, giving us a heavy dose of the most dramatic moments and letting the main stars take over almost all of the focus. Here though, High Sierra is wheedled down to under 30 minutes and some of the film’s major supporting characters have been completely removed from the story altogether.

Gone are Henry Travers as the traveling farmer looking for a break in California and his young daughter who catches Bogart’s eye and provides much of the motivation for Roy Earle at the end of the film. Forget the long romantic conversations under the stars and the father/son relationship bonding. That whole subplot has been sliced out. Roy Earle’s sidekicks Red and Babe have been trimmed down quite a bit as well, as has Earle’s mentor and boss, Big Mac.

What’s left?  Well, there’s still a robbery. The thieves still meet in cabins in the woods. The mountain top standoff is still the climatic ending. But what the adaption spends 99% of its time on is the relationship between Bogart’s Roy Earle and Ida Lupino’s Marie. This entire radio program hinges on the ability of the two main actors’ to convince us that their relationship is more important than anything else in the script.

The verdict? It works wonderfully well.

When I saw that the show only lasted 28 minutes, I was ready for a real stinker, but the Lady Esther crew wisely keeps what we love most about Bogart and Lupino’s characters and shifts the script a bit to make their motivation to fall in love happen much more quickly and naturally than it does in the film. With no other woman for Bogart to fall in love with, Lupino’s encouragement and bravery impress him. He’s not looking for jewels, he’s looking for a life beyond crime – something that he sees potential for in Lupino. Lupino is on the run from her painful past and knows that the men she’s traveling with aren’t it. She meets Bogart. She likes Bogart. Bogart is her way out. With the other characters relegated to tiny bit parts, the heist becomes inconsequential and the story becomes more about whether or not these two multi-time losers can get away with their crime and actually enjoy a quality life together.

It’s better than it has any right to be, and at just under ½ an hour, it’s a great listen for your daily commute.

Bogart and Lupino

I would dare say that these two have more spark as a couple in the radio adaption than they do in the film. The script is trim and tight, both actors are performing so well that you’ll think you’re listening to audio from the film, and the short running time will leave you longing for more – in a good way.

Bogart comes off a bit softer here with his ‘crew’ than he does in the film. Instead of having an outside love interest, his story is contained neatly within his relationship with Lupino. It gives the character of Roy Earle a greater sense of maturity and loneliness that leads us to really pulling for him to fall in love with Lupino. To be honest, I really missed, “The Gun went…” *tap, tap, tap* scene, but I can let that go.

Lupino also comes off as much more sympathetic than she did in the film. This version of Marie is a woman that we can root for. Life has dealt her a bad hand, but perhaps this one job with this one guy can turn it around.

The Rest of the Cast

As per usual, we’re not given the names of any of the other cast members. But whoever they had filling in for Willie Best as Algeron was so spot on with his impersonation that they could have just as easily given Best credit. Likewise, the voice actor filling in for Barton MacLane as the ex-cop turned bad guy, Jake Kranmer, was another spot-on substitute.

So what if the sound man playing the part of Pard the dog sounds more like a man than a dog when he barks? That’s part of the charm of Old Time Radio, right?

The Bottom Line

Short, sweet, and surprisingly good.

Lux Radio Theater – The Treasure of the Sierra Madre – 1949

Untitled

My Review

—Huston and Bogart are Awesome—

Producer: William Keighley

Honorary Bogie Radio Fix:

5 radio out of 5 Bogies!

The Lowdown

Two down-on-their-luck men pool their resources with an old prospector to search for gold in Mexico. You can read my original write up on the film here.

What I Thought

Lux Radio Theater pulled off a really well done adaption of the film this time around, as Walter Huston and Bogart both reprise their original roles. Of all the radio versions of films that I’ve covered for the blog so far, this one’s got to come close to most listens on my iPod, perhaps only rivaled by Bogart and Greer Garson’s adaption of The African Queen.

Essential to this greatly shortened adaption (coming in at less than an hour) is the choice to have Walter Huston’s character, Howard, narrate the story rather than some stock radio announcer. It gives the listener a much stronger character insight into Huston while serving as more than just plot advancement for the portions of the film that had to be removed.

There are a handful of actors portraying Mexican children, bandits, and natives that probably over-stereotype the accents a bit, but I suppose it’s forgivable considering the era in which it was produced. I only wish that we could have a resource for the complete cast lists of these adaptions as I would love to give credit to some of the other actors besides Bogart and Huston. The actor who took over the role for Tim Holt does a great job here, but I wasn’t able to find his name anywhere.

The Bogart Factor

With a much shorter running time, I thought it was a lot of fun to discover a slightly tweaked character for Bogart’s Fredd C. Dobbs here. With a shortened script comes more compact lines, and this leads us to see Dobbs as a much more unstable character far earlier into the story than what we saw in the film. It completely changes the character dynamics between Dobbs and Huston’s old prospector (which I’ll dive into a bit deeper below) and it makes a wonderful complimentary piece to the original film.

I’ve said it for every Bogart radio performance so far and I’ll say it again, he knew how to bring 100% to these audio versions of his films and it’s a joy to hear him recreate the roles!

The Cast

Walter Huston reprises his role as Howard, the crusty old prospector that’s been parodied countless times over the years since he gave his amazing performance for this film. Just like Huston steals the silver screen version, this entire adaption is his playground to rule as well. He sounds like he’s having a ton of fun as he holds nothing back narrating the story and interacting with Bogart and the other actors. The final scene in which he and the other actor realize that the gold is gone and they begin to laugh has a wonderful moment in which they stop for just a fraction of a second, we think it’s over, and then they begin to howl again. It was a great choice to make and Huston seems to be playing for a slightly crazier version of the film’s original character.

I also noted in my film write up that Bogart and Huston seem to be playing the devil and angel on Tim Holt’s respective shoulders as they show him both sides of humanity’s potential for greed and madness. Here though, Huston’s portrayal comes off as much more unstable, leading us to believe that the third young prospector, Curtain, is not only the most sane man in the mountains, but also a less important character overall.

I would love to be able to credit the men who played both Curtain and Cody, and perhaps some Old Time Radio lover out there can lead me to complete cast list!

Classic Bogie Moment

It must have been a real thrill to see Bogart live on stage recreating his most famous roles. One fun little surprise from this adaption was the actual crowd laughter that followed this line:

Bogart: Fred C. Dobbs ain’t a guy that likes being taken advantage of. We got no real choice at all. Bump him off!

They’re clearly not laughing because Bogart’s playing it for laughs. It’s just such a wonderfully shocking reading of the line that gives us a full perspective of how far Bogart’s willing to go in order to keep his full interests in the gold. No one could threaten a life as well as Bogie!

The Bottom Line

Probably the best radio adaption of a Bogart film that I’ve heard so far.

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

Across the Pacific Poster

My Review

—Drastically Abridged, but It Works!— 

Honorary Bogie Fix:

Radio Fixes 3 out of 5 Radio Bogies!

The Lowdown

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

What I Thought

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bogart Factor

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

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

The Cast

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

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

Classic Bogie Moment

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

The Bottom Line

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

The Screen Guild Theater Presents: The Maltese Falcon – 1943

SGT Maltese Falcon

My Review

—A Poor Adaption Leads to a Decent Climax—

Radio Fixes 2 out of 5 radio Bogies!

The Lowdown

For my Maltese Falcon synopsis, you can read my original write up on the film here. And if you really want to try and follow the plot in this heavily condensed radio version of the story, you’d better watch the film first, or you’ll be lost!

What I Thought

I was really looking forward to listening to this broadcast after writing up the 1946 Academy Award Theater Presents: The Maltese Falcon last week. I mean, this version had to be better, right? It’s adds Peter Lorre into the mix, reprising his role as Joel Cairo! While the still unknown radio player that portrayed Cairo in last week’s version was good, no one can stand alongside of Lorre and look good, right?

Hmmm.

This broadcast was a bit of a mess. Lorre was not only hardly used, but his best scene from the film, the one where they first meet and Lorre wants to search Bogart’s office, isn’t even in the broadcast! It’s completely cut out and only briefly referenced when Sam Spade tells Brigid O’Shaughnessy that he knows Cairo. Ugh. Lorre was right there! That would have been some easy magic to recreate!

The other big change from the show that I reviewed last week is that this version of the script uses a radio announcer to narrate the story rather than Sam Spade himself. This means that there’s much less Bogart. For some reason, it also means that any action from first ¾ of the story is summed up in the narration rather than heard, as the broadcast steamrolls past any actual plot to get us to the very well written final scene between Spade, O’Shaughnessy, Kaspar Gutman, and Joel Cairo. If you can make it through the first 20 minutes of bland dialogue, that final scene is worth a listen, but if I were you, I’d skip right to it.

In an interesting twist on the 1941 film, one of the four main characters ends up dead at the end of this version. Even considering that interesting changeup, the script still holds true to its lackluster form and we don’t actually get to ‘witness’ it happen . . .

The Bogart Factor

To be honest, I actually enjoyed this version of Bogart’s performance better. He seems to have slipped into character a little bit more and he doesn’t sound like he’s reading his lines quite as much as he does in the later 1946 version. Unfortunately, there’s just not enough script coherence or decent direction for me to recommend this show fully. This one’s just for Bogart completists.

The Cast

Mary Astor reprises her role from the film as the femme fatale, Brigid O’Shaughnessy. Unlike the 1946 radio version, Astor seems much less interested in performing here and if I hadn’t been told that it was Astor, I probably wouldn’t have noticed. She’s not bad, but compared to the film and the 1946 radio broadcast, she just seems flat.

Sydney Greenstreet reprises the role of Kaspar Gutman, the “fat man” who’s chasing the bird around the world. Even in the last scene where it seems that the reins are finally taken off of the actors, his performance seems caged compared to the 1946 version. The laugh is there, but little else. It’s not his fault though, the script just offers him nothing to work with.

In the biggest disappointment of all, Peter Lorre reprises his role as Joel Cairo, one of the criminals chasing after the bird, only to be relegated to the sidelines for the entire show. Although, saying that he’s “relegated to the sidelines” would be a generous metaphor to use, and I might better say that he’s more of a third string waterboy in the storyline as his part is miniscule and it doesn’t even sound like they let him stand near the microphone!

Classic Bogie Moment

He does his best, but all of the bite that Sam Spade has in the film is taken away when so much of his dialogue is spent recapping action instead of showing it. That being said, Bogart really does light up when he gets to bounce his performance off of Greenstreet, and with only a limited number of performances shared by the two greats, I’ll take what I can get. Bogart again gives 100% to this role, even if it is just a sad and condensed version of the classic film.

The Bottom Line

If you’ve got nothing else to listen to in the car, go for it. I might make it sound a little worse than it is, but the 1946 version is definitely a step up!

Academy Award Theater Radio: The Maltese Falcon – 1946

MT1

My Review

—A Fun/Flawed Abridged Version—

Director: Dee Engelbach

Honorary Bogie Fix:

Radio Fixes 3 out of 5 Radio Bogies!

The Lowdown

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

What I Thought

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bogart Factor

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

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

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

The Cast

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

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

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

Classic Bogie Moment

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

The Bottom Line

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

The Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy Show – 1943

McCarthy, Bergen

My Review

—A Very Funny Guest Appearance—

Honorary Bogie Fix:

Radio Fixes out of 5 Radio Bogies!

The Lowdown

Sponsored by Chase & Sanborn Coffee, Bogart shows up to chat with Charlie McCarthy about opening up a new “high class” prison while promoting his latest film, Conflict.

What I Thought

This show might tie the Lux Radio Theater broadcast of The African Queen as my favorite radio appearance by Bogart so far. While he opens the show with Charlie McCarthy to shill war bonds, Bogart later reappears in the show to play up his mythic gangster persona in a sketch (as himself) with McCarthy where they discuss buying a prison and running it for elite criminals. The Graystone Plaza, perhaps? The Handcuffed Arms?

While the piece has a couple of jokes that most would consider groaners, it’s actually pretty clever and Bogart doesn’t shirk away one bit from pretending that he’s just as much a hood in real life as he is in the movies. It might sound odd, but even though it’s just audio, Bogart has amazing chemistry with McCarthy. Should ventriloquism work this well on the radio?

I’ve always been a fan of Bergen’s act in my limited exposure to it, and this show is an easy listen with some great comedy writing. Even if you didn’t know that half of Bergen’s act is a puppet, you’d still have a few good laugh-out-loud moments.

On top of that, Bergen and McCarthy do a sketch about McCarthy’s salary, Dale Evans shows up to sing They’re Either Too Young or Too Old, and there’s a pretty funny sketch about an old man who wants to become America’s next singing sensation.

The Bogart Factor

Good grief did this guy know how to cameo! It never ceases to amaze me that Bogart seemed so willing to keep his tough guy image going. And it’s not just that he plays himself as tough, he actually claims to be a gun toting, bank robbing, murderous crook just like in his films. McCarthy thinks that they’ll need a high profile criminal to really make their prison work, and Bogart is honored to be a big enough “rat” to be considered.

If you really love to hear Bogart flexing his comedic muscles, this might be the best place to do it. His timing and chemistry with McCarthy is perfect, and true to form, Bogart works in a promotion for supporting the war effort right off the bat. This one is a must hear for any Bogart diehards out there!

The Cast

Edgar Bergen plays himself and Charlie McCarthy. When I first started this post, I actually listed McCarthy separately as another cast member . . . Yup, I’m a sucker for ventriloquism. Bergen is at his finest here, and it must have been a thrill for the studio audience to see two entertainment legends interact like this. Bergen’s timing is outstanding, especially considering that he’s essentially having a conversation with himself, and with Bogart, as a completely separate person.

Dale Evans plays herself as she sings They’re Either Too Old or Too Young. It’s cute enough. I don’t know much about Evans other than her partnership with Roy Rogers, but she has a good voice.

Classic Bogie Moment

He plays a hood, cracks wise at his own expense, and seems to be putting 100% into the script. What more do you want from a cameo? Bogart definitely steals the show here as he asks McCarthy to shake hands by asking him to “Mitt me, pal” and “Pump the palm.” But my favorite exchange comes with the way that Bogart is able to set up McCarthy for a punch line by overplaying his backstreet accent:

Bogart: Now look, see.

McCarthy: Ya.

Bogart: I made a high class joint, see.

McCarthy: Ya.

Bogart: Cater to a more refined class of crooks, see.

McCarthy: Oh, si, si, si!

The Bottom Line

It’s one of the few podcasts that I’ve downloaded onto my Ipod that I plan on keeping forever.