Allen Jenkins

Jenkins Amazing Dr clitterhouse 2

Birth Name: David Allen Curtis Jenkins

Date of Birth: April 9, 1900

Date of Death: July 20, 1974

Number of Films Allen Jenkins Made With Humphrey Bogart: 7

The Lowdown

When I started ‘The Usual Suspects’ portion of the blog, I would occasionally get tweets or emails asking when I was going to do a write-up on so-and-so. Peter Lorre. Sydney Greenstreet. Lauren Bacall. But surprisingly, the actor that I received the most requests about was Allen Jenkins.

Born to parents who both had experience as singers and actors, Jenkins started his career next to James Cagney on Broadway before heading west to become one of Hollywood’s most talented scene stealers. Often playing a secondary thug or menial laborer (his usual duties in most Bogart films), Jenkins had an amazing gift of timing and line delivery. His addition to the supporting cast of any film automatically upped the quality of the picture considerably.

And have I mentioned yet that he was the voice of Officer Dibble on Top Cat for Hanna-Barbera?

The first Bogart film I saw with Jenkins was Brother Orchid, where he had a small but unforgettable role as a murderous henchman who was getting a little R&R as he laid low in a sanitarium. That funny, but all too brief, appearance marked him in my mind as a notable talent, and then he just kept popping up again and again as I made my way through the rest of Bogart’s filmography.

Looking back now over the seven films that they shared together, only one of them (Dead End) would probably be deemed as a Classic by most critics and fans, but despite the quality of the other six films, Jenkins was able to consistently deliver the goods and make the most out of each of his roles.

The Filmography

Three on a Match – 1932

Three on a Match Jenkins

Jenkins plays Dick, one of Bogart’s lackeys. It’s a pretty small part as Bogart’s crew of thugs doesn’t show up until the last act, but even with just a few minutes, Jenkins is able to convey an incredible amount of confidence onscreen as he makes his supporting role look effortless. It’s an excellent use of a character actor to bolster the quality of a film – even in a tiny role. You can read my original write up on the film here.

Marked Woman – 1937

Marked Woman Jenkins

Jenkins plays Louie, the somewhat shady wardrobe supplier for Bette Davis and her nightclub escort roommates. He’s a bit gangster and a bit fashion designer. Hey, what else are you going to do if you’re a street smart black marketer who just happens to have a good eye for color palettes? Jenkins has a great exchange with Mayo Methot when he first appears, knocking on the door and then immediately entering the gals’ apartment.

Methot: (SITTING UP FROM THE COUCH WHILE NURSING A HANGOVER AS JENKINS KNOCKS AND ENTERS) Don’t you believe in knocking twice?

Jenkins: Don’t you believe in praying once?

Methot: No.

Jenkins: So we’re even!

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

Dead End – 1937

Dead End Jenkins

Jenkins plays Bogart’s right-hand henchman, Hunk. It’s another fantastic supporting role, that while not integral to the overall film, really lifts the quality of a film that’s already full of numerous character actors from the classic era. While this role leans a little more on melodrama rather than the comic relief that Jenkins was so good at, it’s a real testament to his talent that we believe he’s the heavy that he’s supposed to be. You can read my original write up on the film here.

Swing Your Lady – 1938

Swing Your Lady Jenkins

Jenkins plays Shiner, one of Bogart’s trainers (con men?) that’s charged with helping Bogie turn Nat Pendelton into a professional wrestling box office draw. It’s a solid little supporting role alongside of Frank McHugh, and while most of the comedic heavy lifting is given to the film’s hillbillies, Jenkins still gets some time to mug around and get some laughs. You can read my original write up on the film here.

Racket Busters – 1938

Racket Busters Jenkins

Jenkins is one of the few bright spots in the film, playing trucker, ‘Skeets’ Wilson, who opens up his own tomato company during a trucking racket controversy. He has a few nice scenes with Penny Singleton who plays his wife in the film, but even with these two comedic dynamos, the writers weren’t able to give the couple more than one or two mild laughs. You can read my original write up on the film here.

The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse – 1938

Jenkins Amazing Dr Clitterhouse

Jenkins plays Okay, one of the henchmen under the thumb of Bogart, and then eventually Edward G. Robinson, as Robinson turns from practicing medicine to studying the psyches of criminals. He spends most of his screen time horsing around with Max Rosenbloom, and it’s another solid performance for Jenkins. (The crew uses the guise of a string quartet to lay low, which is a pretty great ruse as far as I’m concerned.) You can read my original write up on the film here.

Brother Orchid – 1940

Jenkins Brother Orchid

Jenkins plays Willie the Knife, one of Edward G. Robinson’s gangster buddies that’s laying low in an asylum “pretending to be crazy” as he waits to see how things with Robinson shake out. He’s one of the first people Robinson turns to when he needs to take his turf back from Bogart and his old crew who edged him out. The character really ends up going nowhere, but all you have to do is tell me, “Allen Jenkins has a small role as a knife-happy thug who’s hiding in an insane asylum” and I’m THERE! You can read my original write up on the film here.

*The Usual Suspects is an ongoing feature at The Bogie Film Blog where we highlight the actors and directors who share more than one film with Bogart. You can read the rest of the entries here.*

Racket Busters – 1938

Racket Busters Poster

My Review

—Ugh—

Your Bogie Film Fix:

1 Bogie

 

 

 

Director: Lloyd Bacon

The Lowdown

A truck driver (George Brent) has to rally his fellow drivers when a gangster (Bogart) threatens to turn their union into a mob controlled racket.

What I Thought

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.

Director Lloyd Bacon is by no means a shoddy director. Working with Bogart on seven different films – Marked Woman, San Quentin, Racket Busters, The Oklahoma Kid, Invisible Stripes, Brother Orchid, and Action in the North Atlantic – this film is by far the weakest out of all of their collaborations together. And that’s saying something, considering how maligned The Oklahoma Kid has become for casting Bogart as a black hat villain against James Cagney’s white hat good guy. (Although, in the spirit of full disclosure, I really, really liked The Oklahoma Kid.)

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 Brent’s friend and mentor played by George O’Shea – you know, maybe just put him in a coma – our sympathies for Brent’s heroic revival might have been achievable.

As it is, I found it very challenging to root for Brent at all. I was just waiting for someone, including his main gal, played by Gloria Dickson, to stand up and shout, “Uh, thanks! But where you a few days ago when everyone wasn’t injured or dead?”

Am I being too hard on this film? Maybe. Maybe I’m just sore because Bogart is used in only the most basic and bland ways as the lead villain. But this one sure seems like a big misstep between an actor and a director that worked pretty well together.

The Bogart Factor

Playing gangster John ‘Czar’ Martin, this isn’t a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it part for Bogart, but it’s not much more. He makes a brief appearance every once in a while in order to boss his goons around, but I’d be shocked if any of his scenes here last more than forty-five seconds.

Considering that this is another one of his tough-as-nails gangsters, you would think that it’d be a slam dunk to let Bogart do some of the heavy lifting with the beat downs and the gunplay. Instead, I think the most dramatic scene that he’s involved in before the final shootout involves a massage table and some snarky dialogue.

This one’s not a must see for anybody.

The Cast

George Brent plays Denny Jordan, our main truck driving protagonist. It’s no fault of Brent’s that this one is a lemon. He showed us some good stuff alongside of Bette Davis in Dark Victory and In This Our Life, but the script here completely fails him. On a positive note, he does a great job pulling off a more blue collar role than I’ve seen him in before.

Gloria Dickson plays Brent’s wife, Nora, and that’s about all you really need to know about this underwritten role.

Allen Jenkins is one of the few bright spots in the film, playing another trucker, ‘Skeets’ Wilson, who opens up his own tomato company during the trucking racket controversy. Still, the writers weren’t able to give a guy as amazing as Jenkin’s more than one or two mild laughs.

Bogie Film Blog favorite Penny Singleton plays Jenkin’s wife, Gladys. She’s another small bright spot in the film, but her part’s even smaller than Bogart’s.

Oscar O’Shea plays the truck driving foreman, Pops. O’Shea comes out the best here, as you’ll like his character so much by the time that he dies that you’ll want to give up on the film just for being so cruel. Yes, small spoiler there. But you need to prepare yourself for one of the dumbest script choices in Bogart’s filmography.

Fifteen time Bogart collaborator John Ridgely shows up for a tiny role as a truck driver who calls Brent “yellow.”

Classic Bogie Moment

There’s very little to pick from here, but Director Bacon has a mildly creative crime montage where Bogart is superimposed in the background, smoking and smirking. I guess it’s kind of interesting:

Racket Buster Classic

The Bottom Line

For Bogart completists only.

Dead End – 1937

Dead End Poster

My Review

—A Strong Cast Makes This a Classic—

Your Bogie Film Fix:

4 Bogie

.

out of 5 Bogies!

Director: William Wyler

The Lowdown

A down on his luck architect (Joel McCrea) is pulled between two women (Sylvia Sidney and Wendy Barrie), a gangster on the run (Bogart) visits his old stomping grounds, and a group of street kids (The ‘Dead End’ Kids) make the best out of their lives in the slums of New York.

What I Thought

Based on the hit Broadway play of the same name, Dead End is theater brought to the big screen in the best possible ways. An ensemble piece that takes it’s time letting characters interact in more private, high-stake conversations, Director William Wyler keeps the most important essence of any great stage drama alive; the audience gets to watch people struggle through life-altering decisions in real time right before their eyes. Dialogue is king here, giving the top billed stars plenty to chew on as they pinball between one another, sorting out their lives while altering the lives of everyone around them at the same time.

Key to much of what works here is Art Director Richard Day as he does an amazing job creating a studio set that looks like the real New York, but at the same time retains the claustrophobic feeling of a large group of people struggling to be noticed on a theatre stage. The atmosphere brings the caged mood of the slums to life – characters can see the wonder and shine of the world beyond their neighborhood, but they know that they’ll never get there.

It’s the film that earned The ‘Dead End’ Kids their name, having been brought from New York where they originated their roles on stage. Many of the film’s strongest moments come between the boys and Bogart as he takes an interest in them after recognizing his own childhood reflected in their behavior. It would lead to a multi-film collaboration between the kids and the soon-to-be superstar, but make no mistake, this is their strongest film together.

Director Wyler does a great job of letting each character, no matter how small the role, shine in their own moments without stealing the overall focus of the film. (See Claire Trevor below.) Does Bogart outshine the film’s actual leads? Maybe, but it’s not his fault. The role is written so well that I don’t think his charisma could have been bottled up any more than it already was. I’m excited to write up Wyler’s future Bogart collaboration, The Desperate Hours.

A must see gangster role for Bogart, there’s more than enough here to please any classic film fan.

The Bogart Factor

Playing ‘Baby Face’ Martin, this is one of Bogart’s most fleshed-out gangster roles. While on paper it might not look like much – a criminal running from the cops who stops by to see his old flame and his mother one more time – a lot of expectations get turned on their heads when both interactions don’t follow the typical Hollywood formula.

It’s a role where we get to see Bogart thinking out loud, saying just as much with his facial expressions and mannerisms as he does with his dialogue. Perhaps one of his best portrayals of internal turmoil, I’m a little surprised that this part isn’t more talked about when people list his greatest performances. ‘Baby Face’ Martin seems like a younger, ever-so-slightly more hopeful, version of Duke Mantee just as he turns the corner from confidence to fatalism.

For the scenes between Bogart and his mother (Marjorie Main reprising her role from the original play), as well as Bogart and Trevor, this film’s an acting clinic for how to handle disappointment with a character in film. Both scenes are incredibly strong moments that give us a great glimpse of Bogart’s skill at listening and reacting to his costars onscreen.

And how many roles has Bogart played where he’s a gangster who’s gotten plastic surgery to hide? I smell a future post coming up. . .

The Cast

Joel McCrea plays Dave, the unemployed architect who’s taking odd jobs to make ends meet while he courts Kay Barrie and keeps Sylvia Sidney on the line just in case. McCrea if very good here, and it’s no fault of his that the rest of the cast is so strong that we forget his storyline until he shows up now and again. His character arc is one of the best of the film, and his final confrontation with Bogart and Allen Jenkins is just about as taut and suspenseful as a film climax can get.

Sylvia Sidney plays Drina, the lower class gal that’s sweet on McCrea and can’t stand the fact that he’s after a woman of higher means. Again, Sidney is great here, but it’s not one of the roles from the film that you’ll remember as the overall cast is just too good. I’m excited to see her again in The Wagons Roll at Night where she gets a little more of the spotlight on her own.

Wendy Barrie plays Kay, the upper class woman who seems to think that McCrea is a diamond in the rough. Barrie and McCrea have good chemistry together, and you can feel the desperation in each performance as both seem to see each other as more of a ‘rescue’ than a life partner.

Claire Trevor plays Francey, Bogart’s ex who’s turned to prostitution to make ends meet. The scene they share coupled with the scene of Bogart being chastised by his mother are, I believe, two of the most powerful scenes from Bogart’s entire career. Director Wyler had to leave out the overt references to both prostitution and syphilis in the scene she shares with Bogart here, but what’s left unsaid is even more powerful. Their sexual tension is off the charts. When they stand an inch away from one another before Bogart tries to kiss her, it feels like someone’s hold back two magnets from clanging together. Yes, Trevor is only in the film for a few minutes, but it was such a strong showing that she was nominated for an Oscar. That should be all you need to know!

Allen Jenkins plays Bogart’s right hand henchman, Hunk. What can I say? I really love Jenkins, and it pains me a little bit that I can’t put him into The Usual Suspects portion of the blog yet. (I only enter folks after I’ve seen all of their Bogart collaborations, and Racket Busters is indefinitely unavailable!) I might just have to do a partial write up sometime because Jenkins is a go-to character actor for solid performances. While this role leans a little more on the melodrama than the comic relief that Jenkins was so good at, it’s a real testament to his talent that we believe he’s the heavy that he’s supposed to be.

The ‘Dead End’ Kids turn in an incredibly strong performance as they recreate the roles that they played on Broadway. Billy Halop, Huntz Hall, Bobby Jordan, Leo Gorcey, Gabriel Dell, and Bernard Punsly seem to have a natural chemistry, and it’s easy to see why they were able to parlay this film into a career together.

Classic Bogie Moment

Come on, it’s Allen Jenkins and Bogart as two of the best dressed gangsters in New York! How could I not go with a pic from these two?

Bogart Jenkins

The Bottom Line

If my Bogart DVD collection had to be cut in half, I’d probably want this one in the mix.

The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse – 1938

Amazing Dr C Poster

My Review

—Worth a Watch—

Your Bogie Film Fix:

2.5 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director: Anatole Litvak

The Lowdown

A wealthy physician (Edward G. Robinson) moonlights as a gangster to do research on the criminal mind.

What I Thought

Go ahead and get all the giggles out over the name of the film. Yes, even Bogart referred to this movie with a less than flattering parody of the title. (For those of you who are Seinfeld fans, it rhymes with ‘Delores.’)

What we have here is a pretty entertaining dark comedy that tends to err more on the side of dark and less on the side of comedy, but other than that, I really have no complaints about the film. I think casting Robinson and Bogart as two of the leads lends a little more gravitas to the script than was originally intended. Even though both men could play comedy very well, it’s easy to forget that there are laughs to be had during this film until some over-the-top slapstick or hijinks ensue.

Director Anatole Litvak spent most of his career doing heavy drama, and perhaps that touch was hard to leave behind for a more ‘comedic’ film, but Litvak’s still a very capable director and he gives us a lot of great shots of some of Hollywood’s most interesting faces. Was it his choice to have Robinson and Bogart play their roles straighter than the original play? I don’t know. Regardless, it doesn’t completely spoil the fun, and it’s still a must see for Robinson fans.

The Bogart Factor

It’s not a huge part for Bogart, but he nails it. Playing ‘Rocks’ Valentine, we see the two-dimensional gangster that Bogart was often assigned for his minor antagonist characters, and yet he still elevates the material like only he can.

It seems to be a trend in Bogart’s bad guys that, once again, he’s the only one in the gang who’s aware that something’s not right. He doesn’t trust Robinson’s intentions, but no one will believe his doubts. And so for about the fourth or fifth movie, everyone who might have survived in the end is dead because they didn’t listen to Bogie!

While the script doesn’t give Bogart a lot to work with, he makes sure to add his own flourishes so that ‘Rocks’ makes a big impact. I’ll rest my case on the Classic Bogie Moment below . . .

The Cast

Edward G. Robinson is great here as Dr. Clitterhouse. Yes, I wish that he’d been a little less thoughtful and subdued so that more comedy could have seeped into the role, but the guy is just so doggone watchable onscreen that it’s hard to criticize anything he does. He gets to have some great scenes with both Claire Trevor and Bogart – especially their final confrontation together in his office. If you’re a Robinson fan and you haven’t heard about it yet, you should check out this Spanish blog by Gonzalo. He’s posting on Robinson in a similar vein to The Bogie Film Blog. (I use Google translate since I don’t speak Spanish.)

Claire Trevor plays Jo Keller, the jewel fence that Robinson turns to when he needs to move some diamonds. Trevor is a lot of fun here, and a great double bill would be to watch The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse back to back with Key Largo in order to enjoy Trevor, Robinson, and Bogart taking on wonderfully varied roles. Trevor’s unrequited pining for Robinson is great as we truly believe she’s fallen in love with the mind behind the man.

Donald Crisp plays Inspector Lane, the investigating officer into Robinson’s heists. I thought the chemistry between Crisp and Robinson was great, and their scenes as good friends were especially well done. It leads to a great climactic finish when the arrest is finally made. Crisp and Robinson also share some really good scenes in Brother Orchid as well, and I need to do a cross reference and see if they did any more films together.

Max ‘Slapsie Maxie’ Rosenbloom plays Claire Trevor’s right-hand man, Butch, and he’s very good in the role. Perhaps the most sympathetic character in the film, I was probably more worried about Butch’s outcome than any other character!

A number of other great character actors fill out Bogart’s gang, most notably is Bogie Film Blog favorite Allen Jenkins as Okay. He spends most of his screen time mugging around with Max Rosenbloom, and it’s another solid performance for Jenkins. I’m anxious to see the rest of his Bogart films so that I can add Jenkins to The Usual Suspects!

Classic Bogie Moment

If you’re going to get held up and forced to be the front for a criminal empire, wouldn’t you prefer to have it done in style by this man?

Bogart Amazing Dr Classic

The knee over the arm of the chair is the perfect choice! One of the little flourishes that Bogart adds to the role to elevate it above a typical thug.

The Bottom Line

There’s enough to enjoy from both Robinson and Bogart to make up for anything lacking in the script or tone.