Road to Bali – 1952

Road_to_Bali_film

My Review

—Good Cameo, Rough Film— 

Your Bogie Film Fix:

.5 Bogie  out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  Hal Walker

The Lowdown

Two song-and-dance performers (Bing Crosby and Bob Hope) stumble upon a tropical island where they both fall in love with, and try to woo, an exotic princess (Dorothy Lamour), while avoiding a sea monster and unfriendly natives.

What I Thought

This completes my trilogy of posts on The African Queen after writing up the film, the radio broadcast, and now the cameo appearance by Bogart as Charlie Allnut!

When I was a kid, the local Fox affiliate would occasionally run Hope and Crosby Road movies on Saturday afternoons.  I was just old enough to enjoy the timeless jokes and just young enough to get bored by the more dated cultural jabs, so most of the films run together in my memory.

I have a very vivid memory, though, of watching this film in the living room with my mom.  When Bogart shows up for his brief cameo, I remember my mom laughing and saying something like, “That’s Humphrey Bogart from The African Queen!”   I didn’t get the reference at the time, but I knew that she was thoroughly enjoying the appearance of one of Bogart’s more classic characters.

Honestly?  I was entertained for the first half of the film.  Hope and Crosby escape from marriage proposals, take jobs that they’re not qualified for as deep sea divers, meet a princess, fall in love, find a treasure, and fight a sea monster.  It’s pretty standard, outlandish, fun and crazy, Road movie stuff.  Unfortunately for Road to Bali, all of that happens in only the first half of the movie.  There’s still another forty or fifty minutes left afterwards where the routine grows very stale.

I think Hope and Crosby are incredibly entertaining, and I LOVED their appearance in Hollywood Victory Caravan, but the last half of this script really lets them down – and that’s saying a lot considering that none of the Road films are known for their stellar screenplays.

Definitely not a must see in the Bogart canon, but if you need a couple of laughs and have some good food to distract you, I could mildly recommend this film.

The Bogart Factor

Onscreen for perhaps only four or five seconds, Bogart has a very brief cameo to say the least.  Hope, Crosby, and Dorothy Lamour are traipsing through the jungle when Lamour points out over a river/lake/small pond and says, “Look!”  Hope and Crosby look up to see Bogart, dressed in his African Queen cap, striped shirt, and a bandanna around his neck, pulling a boat through the reeds in the water.   He has no lines and he’s gone in the blink of an eye.  Our trio of comedians wonder if it was some sort of hallucination when Crosby suddenly finds Bogart’s Academy Award in the reeds and they decide it must have been the real thing.

If you’re a Bogart completist, it’s a pretty fun moment, and I’ll admit, I got just about as excited as my mom did when I saw it.  Bogart was a good sport to reprise the role for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo.  Part of me wonders though, did they just drop in a clip from the actual film?  Couldn’t they have given him one little line?

The Cast

Much like The African Queen, this film only has four major characters, and I think that’s where some of the problems stem from during the last act.  After an hour with Crosby, Hope, and Lamour, we’ve seen just about all of their jungle island gags played out, and the introduction to at least one more main character (besides the gorilla) would have been welcome.

Dorothy Lamour as Princess Lala is given very little to work with as far as the script goes.  She looks beautiful, and she gets to do a great rendition of Moonflowers, but other than watching the two fellas joke around, she’s left adrift most of the time.  I really only know Lamour from her work on the Road films, so I should probably check out the rest of her filmography sometime.

Bing Crosby and Bob Hope deliver sporadically as George and Harold, the two love-struck conmen performers.  Even in a less-than-stellar film, their chemistry is a lot of fun, and I love how Hope teases Crosby about his age while Crosby teases Hope about his weight despite the fact that they both appear to be about the same age and weight.  It’s easy to see why audiences enjoyed their routine, as they seemed to genuinely enjoy one another’s company.

Murvyn Vye plays one of Lamour’s fellow islanders, Ken Arok.  The role appears not to be based on the real life Arok, and the less said about Vye here the better.  I have a feeling that Director Walker’s only motivation for Vye was something like, You’re a mean islander!  There’s nothing for Vye to do but stand around grimacing to move the plot along.

Classic Bogie Moment

No lines and almost  no screen time, so there’s just a pic this week:

road to bali

The Bottom Line

If you’re a Hope and Crosby fan, check it out – otherwise . . . well, there’s always the real African Queen right?

Lux Radio Theater – The African Queen – 1952

African Queen Radio

My Review

—Great Way to Spend a Car/Plane Ride—

*This is post #2 in my African Queen trilogy of posts.  Post #1 on the actual film can be found here.* 

Honorary Bogie Fix:

Radio Fixes out of 5 Honorary Bogies!

The Lowdown

Canadian boat captain Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart) helps a Christian missionary(Greer Garson) leave an African village as the Germans take control during the first World War.

What I Thought

Can you imagine movie stars of this day and age promoting their films by recreating abbreviated versions for the radio?  Bogart did it multiple times, and although Katherine Hepburn is replaced by Greer Garson in the role of Rose here, it’s still a lot of fun, and a great way to kill a car ride or plane trip if you’re one of those people who prefer podcasts to music.

Taped before a live audience, Bogart and Garson crank up the roles of Charlie and Rose considerably for the audio-only crowd.  As colorful as Bogart was for the film version, he’s even more goofy and eccentric here.  It makes sense, considering the entire story now has to happen in our minds as we listen along, and both actors are forced to rely only on their spoken words to get the message across.

Intermittently, we get spots for Lux Toilet Soap (it’s how Esther Williams and Zsa Zsa Gabor keep their complexions so healthy, dontcha know!), and a teaser for the following week’s production of Les Miserables.  There’s also a short, very scripted, “off the cuff” moment with Bogart and Garson after the curtain call that is kind of a shocking reminder about how completely staged Classic Hollywood could look and sound in its “candid” moments.

Unlike a lot of radio theater from the time, there were multiple moments where I forgot that I wasn’t listening to the audio from the actual film.  I really enjoyed this broadcast.

The Bogart Factor

Bogart throws himself into the radio version of Charlie Allnut just as much as he did in the filmed version.  He’s quirky, charming, goofy, and just a little bit off of his rocker.  It all makes for a lot of fun as he and Greer Garson have decent chemistry together, and we get to re-enjoy the courtship of two great film characters.

Other than a couple very minor roles, Bogart and Garson carry the entire broadcast as they talk their way down the river, and they both seem to be enjoying themselves immensely.  I continue to maintain that Bogart was one of most professional actors I’ve ever seen, always giving 100% to every role, no matter how small or strange.

The Cast

Greer Garson plays Rose Sayer, and while she’s no Katherine Hepburn, she does a good job.  Garson’s version of the English missionary is even more prim, proper, and enunciation-obsessed than Hepburn’s, as she really plays up Rose’s stuffiness for the radio, and she capably handles herself alongside Bogart .  My only complaint would be that Garson lacks the tough side of Rose, and errs too greatly in the direction of British snob.

Classic Bogie Moment

What’s so great about Bogart in the film version is that he truly held nothing back in his quirky and eccentric portrayal of Charlie Allnut – the captain who starts a little off-his-rocker even before the river drives him over the edge.

What’s even more fun about the radio broadcast is that Bogart gets to turn it up a notch as he plays for both a live crowd, and a crowd that can only hear his voice.  This means that when it’s time to get drunk, he gets silly drunk, singing “The Bold Fisherman” with slightly more zest and bravado than the film version.  We’ve seen a slurring, droopy-eyed, drunk Bogart quite a few times in film, but this is a sloppy, giddy, off-the-wall, plastered Bogart, and it’s a blast.

The Bottom Line

Have an hour?  Take a listen.  It’s a lot of fun to hear Bogart having so much fun.

The African Queen – 1951

The African Queen

My Review

—Bogart Earns His Oscar!— 

Your Bogie Film Fix:

5 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  John Huston

The Lowdown

By turning his boat into a homemade torpedo, disheveled Canadian boat captain Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart) helps Methodist missionary Rose Sayer (Katharine Hepburn) exact revenge on the Germans for killing her brother.

What I Thought

This film is satisfying on so many levels, not the least of which is getting to watch two of Classic Hollywood’s greatest stars throw themselves headlong into roles that they truly seem to enjoy.

Boat captain Charlie Allnut is the exact opposite of everything that Rose Sayer stands for.  His very existence is a stark contrast to her life and work.  His boat whistle interrupts her hymn sing with the African natives.  His discarded cigar distracts her congregation from worship.  His booze and river water soaked stomach growls all the way through her tea time.  His boat whistle even blasts through Rose’s grief as she sits on her porch, mourning her recently dead brother (Robert Morley).

His response to completely disrupting everything in Rose’s life?

“Ain’t a darn thing I can do about it.”

Charlie Allnut is who he is, and there’s no changing it.

If opposites attract, then these two were made for each other.  It’s with incredible joy that we get to watch them boat down the river, fighting all sorts of horrible pests and dangers, as they fall in love.  Not for a second do we question why Rose begins to adore Charlie.  Neither do we wonder what Charlie sees in Rose.  They are two halves of a greater whole.  They are the perfect love story waiting to happen.  They each lack exactly what the other contains.

They complete each other.

It was Hepburn’s first color film.  It was Bogart’s Oscar win.  Everyone on the shoot got horribly sick from the water except for Bogart and Director Huston – which they attributed to their massive alcohol intake – and the pain they went through during filming only adds to its realism and enjoyment.

Is it a perfect film?  No.  But even imperfect John Huston is better than almost anything you’ll find in the theaters today.  There was some concern at the time that filmgoers wouldn’t pay to see two “old people” fall in love.  Thank goodness we all get to benefit from their lesson learned!

The Bogart Factor

To be perfectly honest, while Bogart is absolutely amazing as Charlie Allnut, it isn’t his best role – it’s just the one that he won the Oscar for.  If I had to pick a character that’s more deserving, I might offer up Captain Queeg or even Fred C. Dobbs, but knowing a little bit about how the Academy works, I’m more than happy to celebrate the win for Charlie Allnut.

Out of his entire filmography, this is Bogart’s most playful role as he seems to revel in the goofy silliness of being a slightly-off-his-rocker boatman in East Africa.  Did he ever play a character quite like this before?  There were countless young punks, gangsters, detectives, district attorney’s, and prisoners, but when else was he able to be a completely, honest-to-goodness, down to earth good guy?

There is no trace of menace or swagger in his performance.  All memories of his gun toting, alpha male tough guys are forgotten the first time we see him smile at Hepburn and “Yes, miss!” his way to more buttered bread.

Bogart deserved the Oscar for so many of his iconic roles, and I think he received it here as a nod for superb work, not only in this film, but for an entire career.

The Cast

With only four major characters, it’s another testament to the film, and Huston’s direction, that we never stop to look at our watch because we’re bored.

Katharine Hepburn is magnificent as Rose Sayer.  I can’t imagine anyone else in the role, as Hepburn is unmatched for her ability to play women who are both tough and proper at the same time.  When I really look at it, Rose is a much more layered character than you might think after first viewing.  The sister of a Christian missionary, Rose is a woman who’s given up absolutely every comfort in life in order to live chaste as she supports her brother’s ministry.  Then, when the Germans ruin everything that she’s helped to build, the peace loving church organist flips a switch and becomes the revenge seeking guerilla fighter.  Plus, I think it’s great that a forty-four year old beauty gets to flaunt her wares in a classic film:

afq

Watching Bogart watch Hepburn as she confesses their entire plot to the Germans at the end of the film is perhaps the greatest love scene from the entire movie.  How could anyone not fall in love with Rose after watching her live, love, and fight her way to the finale of this film?

Robert Morley plays Hepburn’s missionary brother, Rev. Samuel Sayer.  While Morley doesn’t get as much time to shine here as he does in Beat the Devil, his short appearance, and subsequent death, add just enough weight to kick off the storyline.  It’s easy to imagine Morley and Hepburn as real life siblings.

Peter Bull plays the German Captain of The Louisa.  Short, but sweet, Bull has one of the better jokes in the film when he condemns Bogart and Hepburn to death within a millisecond after pronouncing them man and wife.

Classic Bogie Moment

This film is a great showcase for Bogart’s talent at comedy.  The man who knew how to do a lot with just a little gets to offer up a plethora of wit that’s dryer than the gin that Rose pours overboard.  What I love most about his humor though, is that he never over-mugs for the camera.  Perhaps my favorite moment of the entire film comes when he helps Rose back onboard The African Queen after she bathes.  Just look at the expression on his face as he does his best not to look at her while she climbs over the rail:

classic

Those eyes!  Every fiber of his being is working towards doing the polite thing for Rose.  How bad must Charlie want to take a peek?  How crazy does it make him to get the chance to touch a soaking wet woman after so many months (years?) on the river without a female companion?

We can only imagine what’s going through his mind . . .

The Bottom Line

I know a number of people who say that this is their absolute favorite Bogie film.  While I might not agree, I can’t fault them for their choice.  It’s a must see with endless re-watchability!