Lloyd Bacon

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Birth Name: Lloyd Francis Bacon

Date of Birth: December 4, 1889

Date of Death: November 15, 1955

Number of Films that Lloyd Bacon Made with Humphrey Bogart: 7

The Lowdown

The son of an actor, Lloyd Bacon would follow in his father’s footsteps into vaudeville before moving on to act in silent films, and then finally directing some of Hollywood’s greatest legends on the big screen.

From all reports, Bacon was an incredibly capable director who could work well with actors, bring a film in on time, and stay within the allotted budget. From performing stunts, to acting on the stage, to being in front of and behind the camera, Bacon spent a life learning the craft of film making, and while he wasn’t known as a flashy or incredibly famous director, Warner Brothers saw him as more than able to handle a long string of films in many different genres.

Bacon’s work with Bogart alone saw films with gangsters, cowboys, lawyers, prisoners, monks, and navy seamen. No, none of the films they collaborated on are remembered as classics, but almost all of them hold up as a decent pictures in their own rights. Bogart was supposedly happy to work underneath him as a director, so that tells you a lot right there!

There is a line in the Sperber/Lax Bogart bio that says Bacon directed Bogart seven times before their final film Action in the North Atlantic. Researching on my own, I only have them working together seven times in total, so if anyone has any info on whether or not this was a mistake in the bio, let me know!

But today, let’s welcome Lloyd Bacon into The Usual Suspects!

The Filmography

Marked Woman – 1937

marked

This one’s really grown on me over time. Part of the that is a growing appreciation for some of the other actors in the film (Ben Welden, Bette Davis, Mayo Methot, etc.), part is the appreciation that I now have for Director Lloyd Bacon. Warner Brothers used Bacon for several “ripped from the headlines” films, including this one, and Bacon comes off as a good, straightforward, meat and potatoes director who gets the job done.

Loosely based on the fall of gangster Lucky Luciano, there is plenty to appreciate in this film. The cast has been put together well, the script is tight, and it’s always fun to see Bogart and Davis looking so young in their roles. Davis is as bright-eyed and gorgeous as she ever would be, and Bogart has got the healthiest and most filled out physique that I ever remember seeing on him.

You can read my original post on the film here.

San Quentin – 1937


san quentin

Almost all of the ingredients are here for a great film– great actors, capable director, great cinematographer, etc. – but the one thing lacking is an interesting script. Through no fault of Pat O’Brien, Ann Sheridan, Humphrey Bogart, or Joe Sawyer, there’s just not much excitement or drama to be had in this film. Everyone seems to be sleepwalking through their parts, especially O’Brien, who was more than capable of carrying a good role if he got one.

Perhaps it’s the fact that O’Brien’s Captain Stephen Jameson is just written too blandly to evoke any sympathy. His range of emotion shifts back and forth between mildly uncomfortable and slightly content. Perhaps it’s the fact that every time some real motivation for drama occurs, all the tension is quickly let out of the scene with a few lines of dialogue that wraps up any conflict before it takes off.

Bacon’s direction feels a little more loose here, especially in some of the final chase scenes that could have been tighter.

Am I being too hard on the film? Maybe. I’ll check it out again sometime, but it is a great showcase for regular Bogart collaborator, Joe Sawyer!

You can read my original post on the film here.

Racket Busters – 1938

Racket Busters Poster

Let me sum this one up for you quickly to save some time:

A brave man stands up to a gangster. The gangster starts hurting people. The brave man instantly caves and joins the gangster’s racket. One of the brave man’s friends dies. The brave man returns . . . a little too late in my opinion . . . and finally saves the day.

I thought this was the weakest collaboration out of all of work that Bacon did with Bogart. The main problems with this film are firmly rooted within the script. It’s pretty hard to root for a hero that abandons his friends until they start to get beat up and die. Maybe if they’d stopped short of actually killing George Brent’s friend and mentor played by George O’Shea – you know, maybe just put him in a coma – our sympathies might have held out.

There’s a reason this one is harder to find! You can read my original post on the film here.

The Oklahoma Kid – 1939

Kid Poster

If you’re any sort of regular reader here on the blog, you know that I’ve written about this one numerous times. Should Cagney and Bogart have played cowboys. No. Should we still enjoy the film? Yes! It’s actually not half bad! Add into it that Cagney and Bogart have an awesome fight scene at the end, and it’s well worth your time! You even forgive the fact that it’s pretty obvious when the two icons switch places with their stunt doubles.

This film will show you two things about Director Bacon. First – he could helm a Western pic with great skill. Second – his work as a stuntman really shines through in his directing here!

You can read my original post on the film here.

Invisible Stripes – 1939

Invisible Stripes

The cast of George Raft, William Holden, Jane Bryan, Flora Robson, and Bogart is are a very good ensemble, and all the character relationships really crackle – especially Raft and Robson who give us most of the heart in this film. Director Bacon handles them so well, especially in the quieter, character building moments of love and loss with Raft’s family. Raft’s final line to Robson is so subtly done that I almost missed it, even though it’s an incredibly heart wrenching moment.

I can see why this movie might not have gotten the most glowing reviews. The story of an ex-con trying to go straight had been done so many times before this that it must have felt like old cliché. Bogart does his absolute best with the role that he’s given, but he’s underused, and a young William Holden still seems a little green as it’s only his fourth film. All that aside though, the film is entirely watchable and keeps the drama and action chugging along at a pace that held my interest even on multiple viewings.

You can read my original post on the film here.

Brother Orchid – 1940

brother orchid

This one’s a comedy crime drama that can’t quite seem to decide whether it wants to be more comedy or more lighthearted drama. While you don’t get a great Bogart fix, Director Bacon does get a lot out of Edward G. Robinson and the wonderful Ann Sothern.

The standout of the film for me, Sothern has a wonderful moment in the film during a scene after she hangs up on a phone call with Robinson. She slowly sits back in her seat, lightly biting her bottom lip. Director Bacon and Sothern do a great job with that small moment of satisfaction.

Plus, it’s the only movie, out of the five that they made together, that neither Robinson nor Bogart dies!  You can check out my original post on the film here.

Action in the North Atlantic – 1943

action

My favorite film from their collaboration, this one is probably most notable for Bacon as he was dismissed with a quarter of the filming left due to the fact that he couldn’t agree on a new contract with Warner Bros. He was replaced by Byron Haskin, but you don’t notice any obvious shift in the final act.

Although it could easily be considered a WWII propaganda film, Action in the North Atlantic does a fine job of transcending the clichéd patriotism that we might expect from a film like this, and gives us a lot more character depth and nuance than most propaganda films can muster.

Bacon makes some bold choices in direction – especially in regards to some longer scenes on the German U-boat where the viewer can go several minutes only hearing German. There is clearly a lot of trust on the part of Director Bacon that we’ll be able to understand the gist of the scenes even though no English is used, and it works well. The scenes effectively elevate the tension as the viewer begins to understand a little German shorthand for what’s going on with the Nazi sailors.

Again, attributing all the directorial choices to Bacon may not be a safe bet as he was replaced by Haskins, but since he directed a majority of the film, I’ll give Bacon as much due as I can!

You can read my original post on the film here.

*The Usual Suspects is an ongoing section of the blog where I highlight some of Bogart’s more regular collaborators. You can read the rest of the write ups here.*

Raymond Massey

Massey Action in the North Atlantic

Birth Name: Raymond Hart Massey

Birthdate: August 30, 1896

Number of Films Raymond Massey Made with Humphrey Bogart: 2

The Lowdown

A veteran of the Canadian Army from World War I and World War II, Massey had a long and distinguished career in film and television – and even achieved the honor of having a drink named after him in his hometown of Toronto, Ontario! (A ‘Raymond Massey’ is comprised of 5 ounces of Champagne, 2 ounces of Canadian Rye Whiskey, and ½ ounce of Ginger Syrup. Shake the whiskey and syrup over ice, remove the ice, and add the champagne. You’re welcome!)

It’s funny to me how many different ways people seem to remember Massey. Whether it was one of his multiple portrayals of Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Gillespie on Dr. Kildare, Anton the Spymaster on I Spy, or Jonathon Brewster in Arsenic and Old Lace, Massey’s furrowed brow and distinctive jowls have created countless fond memories for fans of Classic Film and Television.

It’s great to know that Bogart and Massey were good friends off screen. Stephen Bogart has a great anecdote in Bogart, In Search of My Father where Massey hides in the Bogart’s bathtub along with several other friends to surprise Bogie on Christmas Eve for his birthday. Only sharing the screen with Bogart twice, Massey played father figures to Bogart both times, albeit with two very different motivations.

The Filmography

Action in the North Atlantic – 1943

Massey Action in the North Atlantic 3

Massey plays Captain Steve Jarvis, commanding a Merchant Marine tanker with Bogart as his second in command. Both men share a very good-natured relationship here as Massey gently nudges Bogart to step up for more responsibility in his life while Bogart repeatedly advises Massey that times are changing and sailing the seas is a young man’s game. Perhaps the best part of the whole film is Massey’s onscreen marriage to Ruth Gordon. Every moment that they’re together is wonderful and their brief scenes alone are worth giving this film a chance! You can read my write up on the film here.

Chain Lightning – 1950

Massey Chain Lightning

Massey plays Leland Willis, the man in charge of the aviation company that’s building planes designed by Richard Whorf and flown by Bogart. Massey is about as close to a bad guy as we get in the film as he helps fuel Bogart’s ambitions, indirectly crushing Whorf’s dreams and driving a wedge between the two friends. Massey is just subdued enough in his greed and determination that it’s an uncomfortably realistic portrayal of a driven entrepreneur who’s begun to lose sight of the human cost that can come at the expense of big business. You can read my original write up on the film here.

The Usual Suspects is an ongoing series on The Bogie Film Blog that highlights some of Bogart’s regular collaborators. You can find the rest of the write ups here.

Alan Hale

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Alan Hale with Johnnie Pulaski in Action in the North Atlantic

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Birth Name: Rufus Edward MacKahan

Birthdate: February 10, 1892

Number of Films Alan Hale Made with Humphrey Bogart: 4

The Lowdown

Probably like most folks from my generation, I learned of Alan Hale’s son, Alan Jr., long before I knew of the talented and distinguished character actor himself.

Hale’s legend seems to grow greater for me every time I dig a little deeper. He studied opera, invented folding theatre seats, starred as Little John alongside of Douglas Fairbanks, Errol Flynn, and John Derek in three different Robin Hoods, directed as well as acted, was great friends with Errol Flynn, and fathered the one and only Skipper for goodness sakes!

It’s impossible to see Hale in a film and not enjoy every moment. Larger than life, good natured, and wonderfully talented, Hale will forever be remembered as one of Classic Hollywood’s best character actors, and a member of ‘Warner Brother’s Stock Company.’

Along with Frank McHugh, Alan Hale was one of the actors that I was most excited to (re)discover while putting posts together for this blog.  While he barely shared any screen time with Bogart, Hale was definitely part of the glue that held several of his films together.

The Filmography

Virginia City – 1940

Hale Virginia City

Hale with Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams

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Alongside of Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams, Hale plays one of Errol Flynn’s sidekicks, Olaf ‘Moose’ Svenson. Hale, Williams, and Flynn are Union soldiers trying to root out an underground shipment of gold headed for the Confederate army. I loved Hale in this film, as he and Williams create so much of the comic relief that it’d be an entirely different movie without them. It’s a true showcase of how to use supporting actors to elevate the quality of a script. You can read my original write up on the film here.

They Drive by Night – 1940

Hale Raft They Drive by Night

Hale with George Raft . . .

Hale plays Ed Carlsen, the fun loving and hard drinking owner of a trucking company that hires George Raft after a trucking accident. Ed’s the trucker who made good, finally opening his own company, and it’s a crime – A CRIME, I TELL YA! – when his onscreen wife, Ida Lupino, bumps him off. What kind of monster thinks that it would be a better world without Alan Hale?!? It’s insanity in its purest form! Hale is so doggone likable in this film, that it’s a wonder any truck driver in this world wouldn’t want to work for him. Sharing some great scenes with both Raft and Lupino, Hale gets to do what he does best – joke, laugh, shout, drink, and love. It’s my favorite Hale/Bogart collaboration out of all four films, and it really gives Hale a chance to show how great of an actor he really was! You can read my original write up on the film here.

Action in the North Atlantic – 1943

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Hale at the Deployment Office with Some of His Crew

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Hale plays ‘Boats’ O’Hara, one of the crewmen under Bogart’s command as they survive a German U-Boat attack during WWII. Hale gets some great time to shine as he holds the ship’s crew together, leading by bravado and example while they wait to get redeployed. The scene where Hale plays cards with his shipmates in the deployment office is one of the strongest in the film, and this one’s a must see for Hale fans who like both the comedic and dramatic sides of the character actor. You can read my original write up on the film here.

Thank Your Lucky Stars – 1943

Hale and Carson

Hale with Jack Carson

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Hale does a song and dance routine with Jack Carson in this film about a variety show fundraiser. Singing “Going North,” we get to hear just a glimpse of Hale’s very solid singing voice, and it really makes me wish that I could hear him sing some of the opera that he trained for when he was younger. Plus – he dances! And he does it very well! For a big guy, he’s very light on his feet as he trots around the stage with Carson, clearly enjoying himself. While it’s only a short scene in the film and he’s never together with Bogart, this one’s a must see for Hale fans, as we don’t get the typical goofball lummox that he played quite often in movies. You can read my original write up on the film here.

Action in the North Atlantic – 1943

action

My Review

—A Very Good Film—

Your Bogie Fix:

4 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  Lloyd Bacon (Byron Haskin finished the film after Bacon was dismissed when the studio could not renegotiate a new contract.)

The Lowdown

Bogart is Lt. Joe Rossi, second in command on a Merchant Marine tanker that is sunk by a German U-boat during World War II.  After a harrowing escape in which the Germans ram the sailors’ lifeboat, Rossi and his crew are rescued and taken back to the U.S.

Safely back at home, it doesn’t take long for Rossi to find himself a new love interest when he meets nightclub singer Pearl O’Neill, played by Julie Bishop.  Against his hard drinking and woman-in-every-port image, Rossi and O’Neill get hitched.  You see, Rossi’s aging, and being a Merchant Marine is becoming a young man’s game, so he’s aware that his days for sewing wild oats and tempting death are drawing to a close.

Unfortunately for Rossi’s new bride, Rossi’s Captain, played wonderfully by Raymond Massey, is knocking on the door with a new mission – take a shipment of tanks, planes, and supplies to Russia with a fleet of other ships through U-Boat infested waters.

Rossi accepts the mission, as does the rest of his surviving crew, and before you know it, their new ship, The Sea Witch, is knee deep in U-boats and fighting for its life.

In an attempt to divert one of the U-boats away from the rest of the fleet, Jarvis and Rossi break away from the pack and begin a game of cat and mouse with the sub – including several nail biting scenes of silence as The Sea Witch attempts to “go dark” in silence to evade its pursuer.  After the sub calls in a Luftwaffe attack, Capt. Jarvis is injured, and suddenly Rossi finds himself in charge of a ship for the first time – a job he could have had a long time ago, but he never wanted the responsibility.

Although it could easily be considered a WWII propaganda film, Action in the North Atlantic  does a fine job of transcending the clichéd patriotism that we might expect from a film like this, and gives us a lot more character depth and nuance than most propaganda films can muster.

Bacon makes some bold choices in direction – especially in regards to some longer scenes on the German U-boat where the viewer can go several minutes with only German being spoken.  There is clearly a lot of trust on the part of the director that we’ll be able to understand the gist of the scenes even though no English is used, and it works well.  The scenes effectively elevate the tension as the viewer begins to understand a little German shorthand for what’s going on with the Nazi sailors.

Attributing all the directorial choices to Bacon may not be a safe bet though, as apparently producers pulled him from the last ¼ of shooting due to his expired studio contract and failed renegotiations, replacing him with Byron Haskins.

The Great

There are multiple stand-out performances from the cast here.

Bogart really shows his subtle side as the aging sailor who’s aware that his best days are almost behind him.  When Capt. Jarvis keeps complaining about the young, untested sailors that the ship is assigned, Bogart reminds him that times are changing and they need to change with them.  The movie is series of constant challenges for Bogart’s character to move on, step forward, and begin to think about the next phase of his life.

Dane Clark as Johnnie Pulaski does a great job of playing the conflicted sailor who has to weigh his priorities between his country and his family.  In a scene at the Merchant Marine’s recruiting center, we see Bogart’s crew tread a fine line between comedy and melodrama as Pulaski’s crewmates verbally rough him up, questioning his patriotism as they play a round of cards.  Bacon does a great job of putting the moviegoer in Pulaski’s mindset as we understand both sides of his dilemma – does he do his patriotic duty, or live to see another day with his wife and kids?

A young(er) Ruth Gordon, as Capt. Jarvis’ wife Sarah Jarvis, doesn’t get a lot of screen time, but what she gets makes me want to dig up more of her older movies.  The role of the forlorned sailor’s wife might all too easily have fallen into the realm of  formula for such a film, but Gordon makes a lot out of what could have been a throwaway role.

The Good

Bogie’s supporting cast here is stellar.  Raymond Massey, Alan Hale, Dane Clark, and Sam Levene are all strong supporting presences.  If you’re an Alan Hale appreciator, this is an especially fun supporting role.

Classic Bogie Moment(s)

Here we go again!  Bogart enters a nightclub, a beautiful woman is singing, and we watch his mind begin to work as he sits on a bar stool with a drink.  Not a word is spoken, but we know . . . he’s captivated, so we’re captivated.

But my favorite Bogart moment comes when another nightclub patron begins talking too loud and too long about recent US ship movements.  Bogart, following the old adage that loose lips sink ships, diplomatically tries to get him to stop.  When the blowhard doesn’t take the hint, Bogie uses a quick uppercut to put him out of commission without drawing too much notice from the rest of the club.  Then we get the following exchange:

Bogart:  (TO THE BARTENDER)  Hey Charlie, I think our friend has had a little bit too much to drink, don’t you?

Bartender:  Yeah . . . did you hurt your hand?

Bogart:  (COOLLY) Never do.

The Bottom Line

This is a strong, audience friendly, Rah!  Rah!  America!  film that doesn’t tip too heavily into the propaganda bucket for its emotional effect.  Bogart has a chance to play his character with an understated subtly that isn’t always common for this style of film.

Fun Fact

The Russian pilot at the end of the movie is revving his engine in Morse code to say “V” for victory.