The Private Detectives

For my money, there was one character type that Bogart was born to play. Gangster? Convict? Escaped Convict? Ex-pat loner struggling against the Axis powers? Naw. For me, no one could play a Private Detective wrapped up inside a Film Noir nearly as well as Bogie. Guns, dangerous women, back alley crooks, illicit affairs, hand rolled cigarettes – Bogart could juggle them all with laid back ease.

For a great breakdown of the history behind the “whys” and “hows” of Bogart’s historical place within Classic Hollywood as a Film Noir detective, you should definitely check out Sheri Chinen Biesen’s book Blackout. Not only is it a wonderful primer on Film Noir, but it goes into great detail about Biesen’s belief that Bogart’s age, wartime rationing, and a lack of leading men in Hollywood led to Hollywood’s greatest icon getting the chance to play characters like Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe.

It’s kind of crazy to consider how few private eye films Bogart made considering how much he’s associated with the genre. Only two officially – but I throw in three more “Honorary Mentions” because I think you can get a good Bogie detective fix from them if you really need to! Let me know if you disagree.

The Private Detectives

The Maltese Falcon – 1941

This is the stuff that Film Noir dreams are made of.

Warner Brother’s originally assigned George Raft to the role of Sam Spade – not because they really wanted him for the role, but because they wanted Henry Fonda for another film and Fonda worked for Twentieth Century Fox. So, follow this . . . Raft didn’t want to do The Maltese Falcon. He supposedly hated the script and didn’t want to work with first time Director John Huston. (Huston didn’t want him either. Bogart was always Huston’s first choice.) So Warner Brothers, knowing that Raft would balk at Falcon, gave him the option of going on ‘suspension’ so that he could go over to Fox and Fonda could come over to Warner Brothers. Guess who’s left to reap the benefits? Mr. Bogart.

Playing the cynical and embittered Private Detective, Sam Spade. A beautiful femme fatale hires him for a case. His partner gets killed. Shady characters and gun play abound. And it all orbits around a priceless statue that has the ability to make people lose their scruples about going down some dark paths.

Bogart’s interactions with Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, and Elisha Cook Jr. show a man who seems to be in complete control of every emotion and physicality in an actor’s toolbox, and there’s a level of confidence on display that I don’t think Bogart hit so highly in any of his previous films.

Add in Director Huston, and I cannot see how this film could have been anything less than a classic.

You can read my original write up on the film here.

The Big Sleep – 1946

I’m ready to declare this the coolest Bogart role in his filmography.  Private Eye Philip Marlowe is king.

In Philip Marlowe we get an über playful Bogart as he smiles, quips, flirts, and drinks his way out of every situation. The sunglassed bookstore nerd . . . the prank phone call to the police where he and Bacall switch roles so fast that they end up playing their own parents . . . the way Bogart uses his charm more powerfully than his gun against the bad guys . . .  This was a role that Bogart was born to play. He carries this film and makes it look easy. How can you keep from rooting for a guy who wants the truth above everything else, including his own life?

This film, and especially Bogart’s performance, is remarkable. The Big Sleep is my favorite Film Noir of all time. (And no, it doesn’t matter to me that all of the plot isn’t laid bare by the end – real life is messy and mysterious, so why can’t this film be as well?)

You can read my original write up on the film here. You can also read my write up on the pre-release edit of the film from the year before here.

Honorary Mentions

All Through the Night – 1942

Bogart plays Gloves Donahue, a New York city racketeer that has to track down the man/men who murdered his favorite cheesecake baker. Yes, he’s a gangster. Yes, the bad guys are Nazis. But there’s quite a bit of private eye-like atmosphere in this comedic gangster spoof. Clues are followed. Bogie goes undercover. Peter Lorre is skulking around. Bogart has to work with, and around, the police. The femme fatale is beautiful and potentially dangerous. It’s in my top three favorite Bogart films, so check it out!

You can read my original write up on the film here.

Dead Reckoning – 1947

Bogart might be playing paratrooper Captain ‘Rip’ Murdock, but this film is all noir as Bogart falls away from the military man persona and quickly takes on the air of a hardened detective. Bogart narrates the viewer through the story, walking us along as Murdock pieces together a military buddy’s disappearance.

Of note is one particular scene that plays opposite of our typical expectations for Bogart as he sits and listens to a nightclub singer. This might be the first film I’ve ever seen where we get the Bogie drinks while the femme fatale sings’ scene, and Bogart shows no interest whatsoever in the woman. In fact, he spends most of the song looking down at his drink, ignoring Lizabeth Scott’s suggestive glances. Out of the many movies where Bogart’s played through this scenario, has there ever been another one where he shows such little interest?

There are so many great long shots of Bogart sitting, thinking, lying in bed, and drinking, that if nothing else, I feel like Director John Cromwell should be thanked for his work towards recording Bogart’s great visage for posterity!  If the entire movie had been the above shot for two hours, I would probably have still enjoyed it!

You can read my original write up of the film here.

The Enforcer – 1951

Bogart plays Assistant District Attorney Martin Ferguson. Running on little sleep and next to no time,Ferguson and his right hand man, Captain Frank Nelson (Roy Roberts), are suddenly faced with a ticking clock. Ferguson has to be in court within eight hours, and his main piece of evidence against the ringleader of a hit man crew is no longer breathing. But wasn’t there something he missed? Some small piece of evidence that’s lurking in the dark recesses of his mind? Something that he didn’t think he’d need to remember?

Even though he’s on the government payroll, Bogart certainly goes on a Film Noir journey that feels every bit as lowdown and seedy as the first two films mentioned in this post. I think this one’s a real hidden gem that a lot of people haven’t seen, and it’s well worth a watch!

You can read my original write up on the film here.

*This post is another write up in the Character Reference series on The Bogie Film Blog where we break down some of Bogart’s most well known genres and character types. You can read the rest of the entries here.*

 

 

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Barton MacLane

MacLane

Birth Name: Ernest Barton MacLane

Date of Birth: December 25, 1902

Date of Death: January 1, 1969

Number of Films Barton MacLane Made with Humphrey Bogart: 6

Barton MacLane is a memorable guy. Large, gruff, and generally projecting a face that makes you assume that his stomach has been sour for several hours, MacLane was a staple tough guy in Hollywood films and television for five decades.

While many recognize MacLane from his role as Lieutenant MacBride in the Torchy film series, or his extended run as General Peterson on I Dream of Jeannie, I would guess that most casual Classic Film fans know him from his work alongside of Bogart in The Maltese Falcon, High Sierra, and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

MacLane has been an actor that I’ve long planned on placing into The Usual Suspects. While most of his characters in Bogart films – either crooks or cops – tend to have the same gruff demeanor and bleak outlook on life, MacLane is one of those actors that made a long and successful career out of playing exactly the man you’d expect him to be based on his appearance.

That’s not to say that MacLane didn’t have a few surprises up his sleeve. Yes, he played college football, but did you also know that he could play the violin? Sure he played a cowboy for film and television and lived up to that Western persona as he worked his own cattle ranch in his down time, but did you know that he also attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, wrote and performed on Broadway, and was married to the talented and beautiful actress Charlotte Wynters?

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Regardless of how you might know Barton MacLane, the one thing I know for sure is that he was never miscast in a Bogie film. Gangster or Detective. Prison Guard or Conman. MacLane elevated every film he starred in with his commanding presence and his well-honed acting skills. (Plus, he and Bogart were both Christmas babies!) So today we welcome Barton MacLane into The Usual Suspects!

The Filmography

Bullets or Ballots – 1936

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MacLane plays racketeer Al Kruger, the man who tries to lure Edward G. Robinson into a life of crime after a scandalous dismissal from the police force. Despite the fact that the movie might not be the best, this is perhaps MacLane’s most likable role in a Bogart film. Playing “the thinking man’s gangster,” MacLane is able to elicit sympathy from both the film’s hero (Robinson) and the tough-guy gangster (Bogart) who tries so desperately to convince him that Robinson is a no good double dealer. If he’d only listened to Bogart! Why, Al, why? Definitely my favorite MacLane role on this list.

You can read my original post on the film here.

San Quentin – 1937

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MacLane plays prison guard Lieutenant Druggin who just wants to be the captain of the yard if not for Pat O’Brien’s meddling ways. MacLane’s Druggin wants hard-nosed justice. Prisoners should be put in their places, forcefully, the moment that they step out of line. O’Brien’s dashing prison captain believes in a much more subtle approach – respecting the prisoners as men in their own rights who deserve the benefit of the doubt. It’s a role that calls for the gruffest and sourest that MacLane has to offer, and he’s perfectly cast in the film.

You can read my original post on the film here.

High Sierra – 1941

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MacLane plays Jake, the right hand man to Donald MacBride who plays the ailing ringleader of Bogart’s robbery crew. The part is a bit smaller than the previous two in his Bogie filmography, but MacLane does well as he spends his time giving Bogart the suspicious eye while trying to muscle in on MacBride’s soon-to-be open position.

You can read my original post on the film here.

The Maltese Falcon – 1941

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MacLane plays Lieutenant of Detectives Dundy in a semi-friendly role to Bogart’s private detective, Sam Spade. Most of the film’s sparse comic relief comes from MacLane’s one-step-behind pursuit of Bogart, and both men seem to be enjoying their time on screen together as they appear to be on the verge of smiling at each other’s faux tough guy antics. Probably MacLane’s most well know Classic Film, his perfectly cast supporting role only adds to the iconic status of this movie.

You can read my original post on the film here.

All Through the Night – 1942

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MacLane plays Marty Callahan, one of Bogart’s rival gangsters that ends up coming to help when it’s time to punch some Nazis. MacLane’s best moments in this small role come when he has to deal with Bogart’s frazzled mother as she storms his nightclub looking for the murderer of a local baker. Again, not a huge role, but MacLane’s involvement is just another piece of this great ensemble cast that makes the film great.

You can read my original post on the film here.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre –1948

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MacLane plays McCormick, a less-than-reputable foreman who cheats Bogart and Tim Holt out of some very hard earned wages. It’s a chance for MacLane to be a bit more blowhard, and a bit less tough than how we usually see him in the rest of his Bogart filmography, and it all leads to a great great bar fight between MacLane, Bogart, and Holt that’s brutal, bloody, and incredibly satisfying when it comes to enacting revenge on the man who stole their paychecks!

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 Maltese Falcon

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Birth Name: The Maltese Falcon

Date of Birth:  October 18, 1941

Date of Death: STILL OUT THERE SOMEWHERE…LEADING MEN AND WOMEN DOWN A DANGEROUS ROAD OF GREED AND DESIRE…

Number of Films that The Maltese Falcon Made with Humphrey Bogart: 3

The Lowdown

I couldn’t be fonder of you if you were my own son. But, well, if you lose a son, it’s possible to get another. There’s only one Maltese Falcon.” – Kasper Gutman, The Maltese Falcon

To be fair, there are more than one of those little beauties out there. Sydney Greenstreet marred one with his pen knife for the film. Several extras were made of varying weights for backups. Bogart supposedly even dropped one and dented the tail. Several years ago, one came back into the spotlight when Leonardo DiCaprio purchased it at auction for a little over $300,000. (Nearly the original budget of the film.)

Oh, I knew that the Falcon made a quick cameo in 1945’s Conflict as a little nod to the reunion of Bogart and Greenstreet, but imagine my surprise and delight when I stumbled across its presence in yet another film! A film that I’d seen at least a dozen times! A film that is in my Top 5 Bogie favorites! How could I have been so blind?

Two appearances would have been enough to warrant an entry into “The Usual Suspects,” but three makes its inauguration a must. So today, we welcome The Maltese Falcon into the pantheon of The Usual Suspects!

The Filmography

The Maltese Falcon – 1941

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This is where it all began. The world’s greatest MacGuffin brings together a small crew of the world’s most nefarious deal makers and a little known detective named Sam Spade.

It’s the stuff that dreams are made of. It’s the object of desire that men and women will kill for. It’s the treasure worth chasing all over the world until there’s not a cent left in your pockets.

In my dreams, I like to imagine that Kasper “The Fatman” Gutman, Joel Cairo, and Brigid O’Shaughnessy are all still out there, desperately scheming for one last chance to get the bird… Not far behind is Sam Spade, smirking and shaking his head. Will they never learn?

You can read my original post on the film here.

All Through the Night – 1942

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I mean . . . that can’t really be what I think it is lurking in the shadows next to Peter Lorre, can it?

I don’t know what to think here. I’ve seen this movie so often and I’ve never noticed this shadow before. The film only came out about three months after The Maltese Falcon. Is that enough time to have slipped in a cameo? Next to Peter Lorre, the man who played Joel Cairo no less?!?

I’ve googled, read, searched, and even listened to the director’s commentary from Vincent Sherman and NO ONE MENTIONS IT!

What are the odds? I know, I know. You’re going to tell me that it’s more than likely a massive coincidence. But here’s the thing about coincidences, see? When the Falcon’s involved – there ain’t no coincidences. There’s only desperate people with desperate minds. . .

You can read my original post on the film here.

Conflict – 1945

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Yes, he seems to have grown an inch or two and lost a little bit of weight, but supposedly that’s The Maltese Falcon looming large behind Bogart in this murder mystery reunion with Sydney Greenstreet. He’s got his talons deep into them, ya see? He ain’t gonna let go for nothin’!

You can read my original post on the film here!

*The Usual Suspects is an ongoing feature on the blog where we discuss some of Bogart’s more frequent collaborators. When I post, you’ll take it, and you’ll like it! You can read the other entries here.*

The Bogart Film Affair

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In lieu of the typical blog post this week, we have a fun announcement from here at ‘The Bogie Film Blog’ headquarters. This week we’re kicking off the release of ‘The Bogart Film Affair,’ a bi-monthly (with occasional bonus episodes) podcast highlighting the films, costars, radio appearances, and directors from Bogart’s career. So, from this point forward, the blog will more than likely also go bi-monthly, switching back and forth between a blog post and a podcast each week.

Why a podcast you ask? That’s a valid question! To be honest, it was always an early dream when I started the blog to someday jump into the world of podcasting. I absolutely LOVE to read Classic Film blogs, but due to my two-job/family/travel schedules, I’m always a month or two behind on my blog subscriptions. I do, however, spend a lot of time in the car and occasionally on airplanes and I listen to hundreds of hours of podcasts a year.

There’s something very satisfying to me about listening to someone talk about one of my niche interests for awhile – especially the niche interests that most of my friends and family don’t share. It’s as if I get to have a conversation (albeit one-sided) with someone about a topic that I don’t get to talk about very often.

I’ve become very thankful for all of the blog followers, Twitter friends, interviewees, and email pals that I’ve built up since starting the blog, and I’m hoping that at least a few of them will enjoy a twice-a-month conversation with me on Bogart’s career.

This first episode focuses on All Through the Night, which was the first film I ever wrote up for the blog. It’s just under 25 minutes, and I hope you’ll enjoy it. If nothing else, you get to put a voice to the writing on this site, and you also get to laugh every time the heat ventalation kicks on and off in the background. The audio is not perfect, and it does improve upon further episodes, but it is on par or better than a few of the other podcasts I listen to.

For a few episodes, it’ll just be me talking – but I hope to get some real live guests on the show sooner than later! (Anybody want to do a live recording in which we sample Bogart’s soon-to-be-released gin?)

So take a listen. Subscribe if you’re kind enough. Leave a positive comment if you’re feeling especially generous. I hope to have as much fun and meet as many new people with the podcast as I have with the blog! Some of you Twitter folks who responded to my questions a few weeks ago also get a mention!

You can find ‘The Bogart Film Affair’ here on iTunes, or just by searching for the name.

You also find it here on podomatic.com.

Have a great week!

Vincent Sherman

vincentsherman

Birth Name: Abraham Orovitz

Birthdate: July 16, 1906

Number of Films that Vincent Sherman Made with Humphrey Bogart: 5

The Lowdown

Born and raised in Georgia, Vincent Sherman started his show business career acting on Broadway before making the transition to small parts in Hollywood, and then eventually writing and directing for some of Tinseltown’s biggest stars.

There are a number of good interviews with Sherman available on YouTube that are easy to find if you search for his name. (Forgive me if I don’t link them directly, but I’m not sure of their legality and I try my best to keep ‘The Bogie Film Blog’ on the straight and narrow!) A couple of them give some great insights into Sherman’s work with Bogart and Sherman talks about how Warner Brothers tasked him with taking a well-known heavy (Bogart) and trying to do something else with him – including trying to make him a leading man. While Bogart had received some great reviews for High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon, Sherman says that more than a few people questioned Bogart’s ability to “get the girl” when Sherman was asked to direct the actor in All Through the Night.

In short, I really love and appreciate all five of the films that Sherman and Bogart collaborated on together. Other than Across the Pacific, I think one of the defining aspects of all the films that Sherman worked on with Bogart is that he was able to insert an incredible sense of humor into all of the stories, giving them a camp-like feel as he took well-worn genres (horror, gangster) and turned them on their heads.

From both of their interviews, it sounds like Sherman and Bogart admired and respected each other greatly, even if Sherman says Bogart “groused” a lot about the scripts.  It’s a relationship that paid off well onscreen and left us a few of Bogart’s most unique roles.  . It’s also fun to note that Sherman was on both sides of Bogart’s transition from B-films (The Return of Doctor X) to more A-list affairs (Across the Pacific).

Both men also did their fair share of battling with The House Un-American Activities Committee, although Sherman got the shorter end of the stick as he was eventually punished by being blacklisted.

The Filmography

Crime School – 1938 (Screenplay, Dialogue Director)

Crime School Poster

Credited for the screenplay alongside of Crane Wilbur, this is probably my least favorite film out of all the collaborations that Sherman had with Bogart. It’s a fairly pedestrian script that is incredibly reminiscent of an earlier Bogart film (San Quentin), and it doesn’t have as much of Sherman’s humor injected into it like the next three films. Not a terrible movie, but probably not a must see unless you’re a Bogart completist, or you really like The “Dead End” Kids who appear in a few solid roles. You can read my original write up on the film here.

King of the Underworld – 1939 (Screenplay, Dialogue Director)

King of the Underworld Poster

Credited for the screenplay alongside of George Bricker, this one’s a step up from Crime School, but suffers quite a bit tonally as Director Lewis Seiler can’t seem to decide whether or not we’re supposed to laugh at, or fear, Bogart. I have a suspicion that since both Sherman and Seiler had a penchant for funny gangster films (Seiler would go on to direct It All Came True) they couldn’t help but add a little too much humor into this one. One of the best moments – and one of my all-time favorite comedic moments for Bogart, comes in this film when Kay Francis, playing a doctor, diagnoses Bogart’s gangster kingpin as “the moronic type.” Being a bit dimwitted, Bogart takes the diagnosis as if it might be a life threatening disease. (And perhaps it could be argued that it is for him in this film!) Again, not a must see, but there’s a lot of fun to be had in this script. It’s a bit reminiscent of The Petrified Forest as there’s a traveling writer who’s taken hostage by gangsters and eventually falls in love; but it’s not so close as to ruin the film by comparison. You can read my original write up on the film here.

The Return of Doctor X – 1939 (Director)

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After reading everything written about Sherman’s directorial debut, I fully prepared myself to hate this one. Sherman said that he was given the choice to do this horror film or a comedy, and chose this one as the lesser of two evils. Bogart supposedly hated the movie. Critics hated the movie. The script was supposedly awful. There was surely no way this was going to be enjoyable was there? I loved it. I’m not kidding; this film is a campy blast. Sherman shows a great eye for scene setup and playing soap opera melodrama for full effect. Yes, the script was bad, but Sherman seems to be filming every moment with a tongue-firmly-placed-in-cheek style humor. To follow up just two years later with All Through the Night, I have to believe that Sherman was intentionally playing with clichéd horror movie tropes, poking fun at the very fans that were paying to see this film. Fortunately, he does it with such style that I couldn’t help but thoroughly enjoy myself for all 62 minutes of this feature. You can read my original write up on the film here.

All Through the Night – 1942 (Director)

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With a star-studded cast that included Bogart, Peter Lorre, Conrad Veidt, Kaaren Verne, Frank McHugh, William Demarest, Jackie Gleason, Phil Silvers, Barton McClane, Ben Welden, and Jane Darwell, a hilarious script, and wonderful action scenes, this is easily my favorite film out of all the Sherman/Bogart collaborations. There are multiple laugh-out-loud moments. Lorre plays one of the best creepy villains of all time. Bogart gets to sock Nazis! What else do you need? Watching Bogart and Demarest go undercover into a secret Nazi meeting as munitions experts is so stinking funny that it’s worth owning the DVD for that scene alone. A gangster chasing down a gang of Nazis for killing his favorite baker? It’s a preposterous plot, but Sherman never takes the film seriously long enough to let you think about it. The way he’s able to balance action, drama, and comedy all in one film makes me wonder why this one’s not more talked about. It’s definitely in my top five re-watchable Bogart films and it should be in yours too. You can read my original write up on the film here.

Across the Pacific – 1942 (Director, Final Scenes)

Across the Pacific

Directed by John Huston and reuniting an amazing acting trio (Bogart, Astor, and Greenstreet) from The Maltese Falcon’s cast, Sherman was only brought in at the very end to finish up the last few scenes when Huston had to go off to make documentaries for the U.S. during World War II. If you didn’t know about the director switch ahead of time, you’d never notice. Sherman does fine with his few minutes, making them blend in seamlessly with Huston’s work. As the story goes, the day Sherman came in to take over, Huston was filming the scene where Bogart is trapped in a movie theater at the end of the film. When Sherman asked Huston how Bogart gets out, Huston told him it was his problem to figure it out. He was off to the war! Whether it’s true, or (more than likely) just the stuff of Hollywood legend, it’s a fun story, and it shows the respect that Sherman had earned over his years as a director to be called in to finish such a big film. You can read my original write up on the film this Sunday.

*The Usual Suspects is a portion of the blog where I highlight some of Bogart’s multi-film collaborators. It’s usually anyone who has struck my fancy. The only rule is that I have to have reviewed/posted all of their films before writing them up. You can see the rest of the growing list of suspects here.

Frank McHugh

Virginia city

Name: Francis Curray McHugh

Birthdate: May 23, 1898

Number of Films Frank McHugh made with Humphrey Bogart: 5

The Lowdown

I have yet to talk to anyone that doesn’t love Frank McHugh. Every time he pops up in a film, no matter how large or how small the role, McHugh always makes it better.

Starting out in the theater as a child before going on to work with nearly every big named star at Warner Brothers over the span of his lifetime, McHugh was a gifted character actor with incredible comedic chops and a face built for registering any emotion.

I honestly can’t remember the first time I saw McHugh in a film, but I know that every time he appears in one of Bogart’s, I can’t take my eyes off of the guy. Is it possible that he was as sweet, goofy, and personable in real life as he was on the big screen? I don’t know. But that laugh! Good grief, that slow, donkey-ish, I’m running out of breath, staccato laugh was so great!

I defy you to find anyone that knows who he is and still says that they don’t like him . . .

The Filmography

Bullets or Ballots – 1936

Bullets or BallotsWith Joan Blondell . . .

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McHugh plays Herman, Joan Blondell’s numbers-running sidekick. The part is small, but McHugh works really well with Blondell as he mugs his way to stealing nearly every scene that he’s in. This film is a great example of how just a little dose of McHugh lends a lot of great comic relief to a movie. You can read my original write up on the film here.

Swing Your Lady – 1938

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With Leon Weaver, Bogart, and Allen Jenkins . . .

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McHugh plays Popeye, one of the trainers that helps Bogart pull off a professional wrestling match out in the sticks of rural USA. The film’s gotten a lot of criticism for its over-the-top ridiculousness over the years, but I loved it. McHugh is great alongside Bogart and Allen Jenkins as they do a slightly subdued combination of The Three Stooges and The Marx Brothers. So often, McHugh played comic relief for semi-serious films, so for me it was a hoot to see all these guys playing for laughs in a screwball comedy. You can read my original write up on the film here.

The Roaring Twenties – 1939

Roaring TwentiesWelcoming Cagney Home . . .

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McHugh plays Danny, best friend to James Cagney’s returning war veteran. Out of all of Bogart’s films, this is probably McHugh’s most grounded role, as he seems to be playing realistic camaraderie with Cagney rather than outright comic relief – and it’s my favorite McHugh character that I’ve reviewed for the blog. Wouldn’t anyone like a best friend like Danny? I think a little piece of me died during McHugh’s final scene. . . You can read my original write up on the film here.

Virginia City – 1940

virginia city 2With Miriam Hopkins and Bogart . . .

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McHugh appears briefly as Mr. Upjohn, a very nervous insurance salesman who gets robbed by Bogart on a stagecoach with Errol Flynn and Miriam Hopkins. While this film is probably best known to Bogart fans as the one with the HORRIBLE accent, his scene with McHugh is good for a few laughs, and even though it’s a tiny role, it’s always fun to see McHugh pop up. You can read my original write up on the film here.

All Through the Night – 1942

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McHugh plays Barney, one of Bogart’s three sidekicks alongside William Demarest and Jackie Gleason. A gangster/WWII crossover spoof, I can’t say enough good things about this film. The comedy with McHugh, Demarest, and Gleason hits all the right notes, and McHugh’s nervous-nelly newlywed is one of the big highlights of the film. You can read my original write up on the film here.

*The Usual Suspects is a regular feature on the blog where some of Bogart’s best collaborator’s are given their own spaces to shine. You can read the rest of the entries here.

Peter Lorre

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Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre, The Maltese Falcon, 1941

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The Usual Suspects:

Early on during the first few weeks of this blog, I had the idea to start a section where I would write about some of Bogart’s more regular collaborators and costars – actors, directors, writers, etc. – that worked with him on multiple films.  Given the contract system of the movie studios, casts and crews often overlapped from one film to another.  Character actor Eddy Chandler, for instance, costarred in thirteen different pictures with Bogart, almost exclusively in tiny bit parts, often uncredited.  But there were also those artists that Bogart had deep personal friendships with, and sometimes, strong working relationships – people that often appeared repeatedly by choice, supporting Hollywood’s most famous leading man to make some of the greatest films in cinema history.

Dubbed The Usual Suspects, this first post is in response to the “Dynamic Duos” Blogathon over at Classic Movie Hub (@ClassicMovieHub) and Once Upon a Screen (@CitizenScreen).  What better way to begin, I thought, than by kicking it off with one of Bogie’s most famous costars and close friends, Peter Lorre.

The Man

Born in Rózsahegy, Hungary, László Löwenstein began his acting career by sacrificing everything he had in life to devote himself to the theater, eventually moving to Germany to study under playwright Bertolt Brecht.  Brecht latched onto Lorre right away and knew how to use him, bringing the unique looking actor much acclaim during their long and productive collaboration together.  Adopting the stage name Peter Lorre in 1925, Lowenstein received his big break in the starring role of his second movie, playing a child murderer in Fritz Lang’s M.

When the Nazis fully took power of Germany in 1933, Lorre left, traveling Europe and eventually arriving at London.  His performance in M got him noticed by director Alfred Hitchcock and led to a role in Hitchcock’s film The Man Who Knew Too Much.  After working with Hitchcock, Lorre would make his move to Hollywood where he found great success with his unique look and soft speech pattern playing an assortment of bad guys and shady characters.

Lorre would go on to star in the Mr. Moto movie series in which he played a Japanese detective in eight different films.  He also became a longtime collaborator with actor Sydney Greenstreet, making nine films with the English stage legend.

Lorre is perhaps best known, though, as the five-time costar and good friend of Humphrey Bogart.  Working together on some of Hollywood’s most legendary classic films, Bogart and Lorre left behind some great stories of onset pranks, drinking revelry, and a deep friendship that reverberate through Hollywood lore to this day.

It was at Lorre’s house where Bogart would sleep off many a drunk night rather than go home to face his third wife, Mayo Methot.  It was also at Lorre’s ranch where Bogart and Lauren Bacall would hideaway for weekend rendezvous when they needed to stay out of the limelight as they courted.  And perhaps most famously, it was Lorre who gave this advice when Bogart fretted that he was too old for Lauren Bacall – “Five good years are better than none!”

THE FILMOGRAPHY

The Maltese Falcon – 1941

joel cairo 2

Lorre plays Joel Cairo, an associate of Sydney Greenstreet’s Kasper ‘The Fatman’ Gutman.  Both men make attempts to hire Sam Spade (Humprhey Bogart) to acquire a valuable jewel-encrusted falcon statue – perhaps the most famous cinema ‘MacGuffin’ of all time.  Cairo, who’s portrayed overtly gay in the novel on which the film is based, has his homosexuality toned down considerably in this film due to the Hay’s Code of film censorship.  Instead of direct references, Cairo’s sexuality is inferred through his effeminate fussiness, and occasional physicalities with his cane:

Reportedly, the cast and crew got along very well during the filming of this movie, and would go out for drinks at the end of the day as they were often ahead of production schedule.  They were also a very close knit and private group, unappreciative of outside influence either from the studio or the public.  One particularly famous story relates that one of the main actors, either Bogart or Lorre, played a joke on a visiting women’s club as they walked by the set.  One of the two actors supposedly exited Mary Astor’s trailer, zipping up his fly, and calling out “Bye, Mary!”  A. M. Sperber credits the story as happening to Lorre in her Bogart bio, Bogart (p 160), while Stefan Kanfer names Bogart as the perpetrator in his Bogart bio, Tough Without a Gun (p 65).  Neither author cites specifically where they got the story, but I suppose what’s most important is not the actual culprit, but the reputation that the cast had earned as ornery tricksters and close friends.

All Through the Night – 1942

pepi

Lorre plays Pepi, the Nazi hitman and sometimes piano accompanist to Kaaren Verne’s Leda Hamilton.  Pepi kicks off the storyline by murdering “Gloves” Donahue’s (Humphrey Bogart) favorite cheesecake baker, setting off a chain of events that leads New York’s most notorious gangsters up against the Third Reich in this comedy thriller.

Lorre enters the film walking through the door of a baker’s shop, eerily humming a tune before teasing the poor baker and then beating him to death.  Referred to as “the goggle-eyed little rat,” by ‘Gloves,’ Lorre is wonderful, and one of the true highlights of the film.  Only two actors are capable of smoking in such a way as to defy gravity – Lorre and Bogart – as their cigarettes dangle at an impossible 90 degree angle from their lips.

Karen Verne would go on to leave her husband for Lorre, becoming Lorre’s second wife, although their marriage would prove to be tumultuous and short lived.

Casablanca – 1942

ugarte and rick

Lorre plays Ugarte, a black marketeer who hides valuable letters of transit with Bogart’s Rick Blaine before being arrested by the police.  Ugarte’s plan is to sell the papers for a small fortune in order to pay for his escape from Casablanca.  His relationship with Blaine seems to be one of mutual loathing and respect.  They don’t necessarily like each other, but they occasionally find one another valuable.

Just before giving Blaine the transit papers, Ugarte tells him “You know, Rick, I have many a friend in Casablanca, but somehow, just because you despise me, you are the only one I trust.”  Blaine tells Ugarte that he’ll hold the papers for him, but doesn’t want them in his nightclub overnight.  We then get perhaps the most ominous moment in the film when Ugarte lightly puts his hands upon the papers and gently tells Rick “Don’t be afraid of them. . .”  The papers are Casablanca’s ‘MacGuffin,’ and once again Peter Lorre is here to play a hand in the treasured objects of fate.  Men died for Ugarte to obtain the papers, and more people would die before they are finally used.  As the objects of everyone’s desires, even Blaine himself contemplates stealing the papers to run away with Ilsa.

Lorre’s part in the movie was small and shot so quickly that he had no idea how much the role would go on to help define his place in cinema history.  On the set, he supposedly carried a hidden dropper of water that he would use to extinguish Director Michael Curtiz’s cigarette with when he wasn’t looking.  (Kanfer, 79)

Passage to Marseille – 1944

marius

Lorre plays Marius, one of Bogart’s fellow escaped convicts from Devil’s Island.  I found this to be one of Lorre’s most likable roles, as he’s a full-on action partner to Bogart in the film, teaming up to both escape from prison, and then later to take down a Nazi bomber as it attacks their ship.  Seeing both men take their shots at the German plane with machine guns, occasionally stopping to wave to one another and smile, is one of my favorite moments in Bogart / Lorre cinema history.

marius 2

There’s a lot of delight to be had watching both men squint, smoke, and plot together as they make their way back to France.  This is the only film out of the five in which they are on completely friendly terms, and their chemistry is superb.

As the story goes, Bogart and Lorre took great fun in pranking Director Michael Curtiz on the set.  Both would take turns stalling shots as they told long and tedious anecdotes.  The monologues would only end when they got a laugh from Curtiz.  No laugh from the director meant more jokes and stories from Bogart and Lorre.  (Kanfer, 96)

Beat the Devil – 1953

devil

Lorre plays Mr. O’Hara, a member of the criminal ring that’s in league with Bogart to obtain and exploit some African land that’s rich with uranium.  Bogart and Director John Huston wanted Lorre on this film as they believed that he was a lucky talisman for Bogart after The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca. (Kanfer, 175)  Not to mention the fact that Lorre and Bogart were good drinking friends, and always enjoyed each other’s company.  Huston and Bogart asked Lorre to take a significant pay cut in order to keep the budget low, and Lorre accepted the role in order to work with a good friend.

Lorre’s costar, Robert Morley, on the other hand, considered Lorre to be “an intensely tiresome little chap with quite the foulest vocabulary I have ever had the misfortune to listen to.” (Kanfer, 178)

Sporting some extra weight and a short crop of blond hair, Lorre is great as the smooth-talking little crook that is excited for the swindle, but always ready to cower behind one of the other criminals if things look rough.

If you haven’t seen it in a while, the film is a lot of fun, and it’s great to hear Lorre’s distinctive speech pattern saying lines written by scriptwriter Truman Capote:

O’Hara:  “Time, time, what is it?  The Swiss manufacture it, the French hoard it, Italians want it, Americans say it’s money, Hindus say it does not exist.  You know what I say?  I say time is a crook.”

Truer words were never spoken as you consider the fact that this was the last pairing of the two great Classic Hollywood actors.

In Closing

Five films.  All of them are classics in their own right.   One of them is considered by many to be the greatest film of all time.  The friendship and working relationship of Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre has etched a large and permanent mark onto the landscape of cinema history.  Powerfully gifted apart, but even greater together, I can’t think of a better duo to kick off the inaugural post for The Usual Suspects portion of this blog.

Bonus Lorre Facts:

He was the very first actor to play a bond villain when he portrayed Le Chiffre in the 1954 TV version of Casino Royale!

When asked by the House Un-American Activities Committee to name the names of anyone he considered suspicious and possibly a communist, Lorre gave them a list of everyone he knew.  The same group would go on to assemble a thick file on Bogart and cause him considerable mental turmoil over the years despite the fact that he was a diehard U.S. patriot.

The Boo Berry ghost mascot from General Mills was inspired by Lorre.

*All research for this post was done with Stephen D. Youngkin’s Peter Lorre biography, The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre, A. M. Sperber’s Humphrey Bogart biography, Bogart, Stefan Kanfer’s Humphrey Bogart biography, Tough Without a Gun, Peter Lorre’s Wikipedia page, The Maltese Falcon’s Wikipedia page, the official website of The Humphrey Bogart Estate, and various movie entries on IMDB.  All screen caps were done by the author and are intended for review/criticism of the films mentioned.  Any portion of this post that could not be correlated with at least one other source is credited specifically within the post.