Alexis Smith

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Birth Name: Gladys Smith

Date of Birth: June 8, 1921

Date of Death: June 9, 1993

Number of Films that Alexis Smith Made with Humphrey Bogart: 3

The Lowdown

Full disclosure – my first memory of Smith is her work on Cheers when she had an affair with Sam Malone, playing Rebecca’s old college prof. Good grief, Alexis Smith was gorgeous at every age.

Born in Canada, raised in L.A., and discovered by Warner Brothers during a college play, Smith would go on to star along some of Hollywood’s biggest names – Gable, Flynn, Grant, Crosby, and yes, Humphrey Bogart.

To be clear, I had a hard time discovering whether her birth name was really Gladys or Margret. One site says one thing. Another says something else. It does look like her mother’s name was Gladys, so . . . if anyone out there can help me out, it’d be great!

Tall, lithe, and gorgeous, Alexis Smith  was nicknamed “Dynamite Girl” by Warner Brothers despite the fact that she my not have enjoyed the name. She went from dancing at a young age, to theater as a teen, to films with some of Hollywood’s elite, to a long and successful marriage and a return to the stage with husband Craig Stevens.

I really like all three films that Smith starred in with Bogart (although in one they never met on screen) and I’m happy to add her to The Usual Suspects. From everything I’ve read, she was an easygoing, relaxed, and giving actress to work with, and many Hollywood legends had nothing but good things to say about her.

The Filmography

Thank Your Lucky Stars – 1943

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The good news – Smith gets to show off the dance skills that she honed at an early age. The bad news – this wonderfully goofy film is a star-studded war effort supporter with many, many celebrities making cameos one after another. So no, Bogart and Smith don’t meet here as they merely lend their glitz and glamour to the overall production led by a hilarious Eddie Cantor in a dual role as himself and a tour bus driver. But the film is a ton of fun and Smith looks amazing!

You can read my original post on the film here.

Conflict – 1945

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Smith plays Evelyn Turner, the younger sister of the wife that Bogart murders in this highly underrated gem. While I didn’t feel quite enough chemistry between Smith and Bogart to believe the infatuation he supposedly has for her, she is very good in the role and I couldn’t help but anxiously chew my nails as I waited for her and Sydney Greenstreet to figure out what was going on. Perhaps if she’d been characterized as a little bit more of a friendly flirt who lots of guys fall for? I don’t know. Other than the chemistry factor, I thought she was solid.

You can read my original post on the film here.

The Two Mrs. Carrolls – 1947

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In another underrated gem, Smith plays family friend and rich young socialite, Cecily Latham. It’s an incredible treat to see here play a role so opposite of the young and naïve gal she portrayed in Conflict, and seeing her put on the charm to win over Bogart makes for a lot of fun as well. Just look at that pic above. . . you can read the bad girl intentions all over her face, can’t you?

Smoldering persona. Great outfits. Strong acting. This is perhaps my favorite Alexis Smith role as it’s hard to look at anything else when she’s on the screen.

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.*

 

The Two Mrs. Carrolls – 1947

The Two Mrs. Carrolls Poster

My Review

—A Fun Thriller That Deserves a Look—

Bogie Film Fix:

3.5 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director: Peter Godfrey

The Lowdown

After losing his invalid wife, a depressed and troubled painter (Humphrey Bogart) marries another woman (Barbara Stanwyk), but the honeymoon phase of their relationship doesn’t last long.

What I Thought

My expectations were low after having seen a few poor reviews for this film, but I absolutely loved it. Bogart is creepy and menacing, Barbara Stanwyck is strong even while playing the damsel in distress, and the beautiful Alexis Smith gets time to shine as the bad girl – a far cry from the role that she played in Conflict.

What’s not to enjoy about this film? It may not be Hitchcock, but it’s still really good. There are some great tense moments between Bogart and Stanwyk, and Director Godfrey plays the plot twists with just the right touch as to not take away from the overall film. This is a very good thriller with a lot to love.

The actors are what makes this film work, and more than likely they help cover a few of the more bumpy spots in the script. Bogart’s final line makes this movie worth a viewing on its own!

Fair warning – multiple reviews that I’ve read online spoil some of the surprises, so if you don’t want to know too much, avoid them!

The Bogart Factor

Critics at the time said that Bogart was miscast as the dark and brooding artist, Geoffrey Carroll. The only thing “miscast” about this film was the art that was used to illustrate his talent. It was horrible and looked like something that I could have done with a couple of hours and a basic art set. Other than that, Bogart does very well here.

He’s creepy, conniving, prone to violent outbursts, and yet still able to come off as likable at times. He gets the chance to show a real range here, and it’s certainly a must see for any Bogart fans. If you paired this one with Conflict for a double-Bogart, double-thriller, double-feature, you’d have pretty good night of entertainment.

The Cast

Barbara Stanwyk plays Sally Morton Carroll, the woman that Bogart has a brief affair with and then eventually marries after his first wife dies. Stanwyk does a nice job of balancing strength and terror in the role, and watching Bogart’s secrets slowly dawn on her makes for some of the film’s best moments. It’s nice to see her play a more sympathetic character after just watching her scheme and murder her way through Double Indemnity.

Alexis Smith plays family friend and rich young socialite, Cecily Latham. It’s an incredible treat to see here play a role so opposite of the young and naïve gal she portrayed in Conflict, and seeing her put on the charm to win over Bogart makes for a lot of fun as well. I really like Alexis Smith and I need to explore her filmography further.

Ann Carter steals many of her scenes as she plays Bogart’s cold and distant daughter, Beatrice Carroll. If sociopathic genes are passed on from one generation to the next, then this film could be a prime example of what that looks like. Carter is one of the better child actors that I’ve seen Bogart work with, and her aloofness is chilling. She seems to want nothing more in life than a good private school where she can ignore all the trouble that waits for her at home.

Barry Bernard plays Horace Blagdon, the sniveling little pharmacist that blackmails Bogart. While it’s not a huge role, it deserves a mention here. The character isn’t that fleshed out and is used mainly to add tension to the plot when needed, but Bernard plays it well and it’s a prime example of using a solid character actor to add color to a film.

Patrick O’Moore plays Barbara Stanwyk’s ex, Charles Pennington. To be honest, I kind of forgot that he was in the film until I looked up the cast list to do this post. Not that he was bad, just not all that memorable.

Classic Bogie Moment

One of the best expressive moments of Bogart’s career! He realizes the jig is up, and almost looks directly into the camera, as he rolls his eyes in a wonderful “Oh, s**t!” moment!

Bogart Two Mrs

The Bottom Line

I’m already anxious to rewatch this one, and highly recommend it!

Conflict – 1945

Conflict Poster

My Review

—Great Hitchcock-like Thriller—

Your Bogie Film Fix:

3.5 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director: Curtis Bernhardt

The Lowdown

A wealthy engineer (Humphrey Bogart) murders his wife (Rose Hobart) hoping that he can then move on to her younger sister (Alexis Smith). The only problem? The supposedly dead wife continues to be a presence in his life. Did she survive? Is it a ghost?

What I Thought

Here’s another film that at the time of its release received some mixed reviews, but I thought was really good.

Conflict could be put with The Caine Mutiny and In a Lonely Place for a night of films themed “The Paranoia Trilogy.” This is another great performance by Bogart where we get to watch him slowly fall apart within his own mind as he begins to question his sanity.

The performances are all strong, and while I don’t want to blaspheme the great Alfred Hitchcock, I thought Conflict’s script and noir-ish feel was much akin to Hitchcock’s Suspicion, or even the earlier Rebecca. If you like suspenseful thrillers, this film will be right up your alley. The murder scene on the mountain pass is especially chilling, and it’s the first time that I’ve ever been watching a Bogart film and felt that his character was truly evil.

There are a few small hitches I found with the script. While I thought the twist was done well, it does open up a lot more questions than it answers. Without revealing too much, when you watch it, just consider how much work the final protagonist had to put in to do the things that had to be done. Cryptic enough? In particular, think about the scene where Bogart thinks he’s following his wife into the apartment building and then confronts the landlord.

On the flip side, after the film is said and done, rewind back to the initial scene where Bogart is sitting in his house with the police and Sydney Greenstreet. Rewatching that scene after knowing the crucial twist from the ending gave me an all new appreciation of Greenstreet’s ability to play subtlety.

All in all, it was great to see a film where Bogart and Greenstreet were good friends, and the direction of the film makes me excited to watch Director Curtis Bernhardt and Bogart’s other collaboration, Sirocco.

The Bogart Factor

With Bogart’s portrayal of Richard Mason, we get an even more paranoid and dangerous version of The Caine Mutiny’s Captain Queeg and In a Lonely Place’s Dixon Steele. Both Queeg and Steele were characters, who by the very nature of their true intentions, were able to garner sympathy from the audience. Mason on the other hand, is just a true sociopath. No matter how charming he might seem, once the murder takes place, we can’t forget what’s really boiling beneath the surface.

Bogart’s played characters that were unlikable before, but they were often the stock-gangster bad guys who really posed no real threat to the protagonist. Or, even if the bad guy was a more powerful central figure (Duke Mantee, Roy Earle, etc.), we find ourselves in quiet awe as we respect him in the same way that we might so many other outlaw antiheroes of cinema history. This isn’t simply a man who’s fighting his darker urges, this is a man who’s fully given over to his most evil intentions in order to redesign his entire life. The moment that Mason pushes his wife’s car over the cliff, our sympathies lie fully with Alexis Smith and Sydney Greenstreet as we hope and pray that they figure out what’s going on before it’s too late.

Overall, I thought Bogart hit all the right notes. It’s a much more subdued paranoia than he played with Queeg or Steele.

The Cast

Sydney Greenstreet plays psychologist Dr. Mark Hamilton, family friend to Bogart’s Dick Mason. How great is it to not only see Greenstreet play a good guy in a Bogart film, but to see them actually chum around a bit before things get tense? Greenstreet is so good as the warm and gregarious Dr. Hamilton that you just want to give the big guy a hug. He seems truly happy in the role.

Rose Hobart plays Kathryn Mason, the wife that Bogart murders. I thought that Hobart did a great job of playing Kathryn as the disgruntled spouse who just wants a little more love from her husband. Director Bernhardt did a fine job of portraying a realistic married couple who struggles privately while putting on a good face for the public.

Alexis Smith plays Hobart’s younger sister, Evelyn Turner – the woman that Bogart kills for. She does pretty well here, although I didn’t feel quite enough chemistry between Smith and Bogart to believe the infatuation he has for her. Perhaps if she’d been characterized as a little bit more of a friendly flirt who lots of guys fall for? I don’t know. Other than the chemistry factor, I thought she was solid.

Charles Drake plays the young professor Norman Holsworth who is pursuing Alexis Smith, potentially foiling Bogart’s plans. He was all right here, but it’s an underwritten role, and Drake is mainly used for plot advancement.

Classic Bogie Moment

How often did we get to see Bogart and Greenstreet sharing a scene as friends? Well, here they are! I’ll give this weekly spot on the blog over to a moment where we get to enjoy the two men as allies:

Bogart and Sydney in Conflict

Make Sure to Notice

Wait! What’s that just over Bogart’s head?!? Could that be the Maltese Falcon? Looks like it! Although it resembles the falcon on the novel’s cover more than the one from the John Huston film, it’s still a wonderful inside joke for this Bogart-Greenstreet collaboration:

Maltese Falcon in Conflict

The Bottom Line

Conflict is a must see and a little underrated in my opinion!