Leslie Howard

howard and bogartLeslie Howard with Humphrey Bogart in The Petrified Forest
.

Name: Leslie Howard (Steiner)

Birthdate: April 3, 1893

Number of Films Leslie Howard Made With Humphrey Bogart:  2

The Lowdown:

If you were going to make a “Top 3” list of actors that deserve to be listed under “The Usual Suspects” portion of this blog, first on the list would probably have to be Lauren Bacall.  (I’m getting to it!)  Second, perhaps, might be someone like Peter Lorre – who was not only a common collaborator, but also a close friend to Bogart.  And while other actors might be able to argue for the third spot, I would personally have to give it to Leslie Howard.

Friends with Bogart since their time together on Broadway, it’s generally accepted that Howard was the one who insisted that Bogart get the chance to play the role of ‘Duke’ Mantee in the filmed version of the play that they’d appeared together in on Broadway.  While Bogart had big roles in a number of movies prior to Forest, the role of ‘Duke’ Mantee was arguably his “breakout role.”  And while it would take another thirty or so films to cement his place into Classic Hollywood history, Bogart was so grateful for the friendship and the opportunity that Howard provided him, that he and Lauren Bacall named their daughter Leslie Howard Bogart in honor of their good friend.

Born in London to a Jewish father and a Christian mother, Howard began his theater career in London, eventually moving to the U.S. where he would go on to gain his greatest success on Broadway and in Hollywood before finally returning to his home country during World War II.  Howard’s career was unfortunately cut short when a squad of German Luftwaffe shot down his commercial airliner on a trip from Portugal to the United Kingdom.  Howard was just fifty years old.

It’s with great pleasure that I can add Leslie Howard to the growing list of “The Usual Suspects.”  Without his support, Bogart’s film career would likely have never reached the legendary heights and worldwide accolades that it did, and Classic Hollywood might have missed out on recognizing its greatest star!

The Filmography

The Petrified Forest – 1936

howard and davisBette Davis with Howard in The Petrified Forest
.

Howard plays Alan Squier, a drifter/writer/rambler who’s hitchhiking his way across the U.S. when he walks into a little gas station café in the Arizona desert for a “bar-bee-cue.”  He meets Gabby Maple (Bette Davis), the daughter of the café’s owner, and she quickly falls in love with him.  Squier knows that it’s not a good match and moves on, only to find himself returning to the gas station to use his intellect and wits to save the day when notorious gangster ‘Duke’ Mantee (Bogart) commandeers the café while on the run from the authorities.

Howard’s Squier is a depressed wanderer at heart.  He’s loaded down with emotional baggage and seems to be struggling to find a reason to keep on living.  Why is he headed to the ocean?  To throw himself in?  Perhaps. . .

Howard portrays the depressive intellectual wonderfully, and his playful banter with Bette Davis is both the heart and the backbone of the film.  We believe that Howard’s mind is stimulated by Davis’ ingénue intellectual-in-the-making.  Do we believe that he’d really turn down her advances and move on with his journey?  Well, the script says that he must, so I guess we have to believe it too.  But doggone it, I wouldn’t have been able to walk away from that smile.

Squier eventually makes the ultimate sacrifice as he strikes a deal with Duke to ensure that Gabby will be able to achieve her dream of escaping the café.

My original write up on the film can be found here . . .

Stand-In – 1937

howard and bogartHoward with Bogart in Stand-In
.

Howard plays Atterbury Dodd, the math-obsessed bank accountant who’s sent to Hollywood so that he can audit a studio.

I don’t know when Asperger’s Syndrome was first diagnosed as a legitimate condition, but I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that Atterbury Dodd has a classic case of it.  He’s completely oblivious to many common social cues, he has trouble feeling empathy, and he becomes obsessed over logic and minutia.  Howard’s great in the role, but unfortunately, all the chemistry between him and Joan Blondell suffers because, well, people who don’t feel empathy have a hard time garnering sympathy.  It’s hard to understand why Blondell is in love with him.  It’s hard to understand why he finally returns the affections for a woman that he cannot identify with.

All that being said, there are a few really great scenes in the film between Howard and Blondell, and between Howard and Bogart.  When Blondell tries to teach Howard judo, we get perhaps the greatest laugh in the film.  And when Howard finally teams up with Bogart to save a movie production, it’s the camaraderie that we’ve been waiting for since the beginning of the movie.

Also, the scene at the end where Howard is literally overrun by unemployed studio laborers, only to finally learn how to talk humanely to his fellow man, is handled very well, and it’s one of the few moments of believable character growth that we’re given for his Atterbury Dodd.

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

The Usual Suspects is an ongoing series of posts about some of Bogart’s more regular collaborators.  You can check out other entries in the series here.

Bette Davis

Dark Victory 3Bette Davis With Humphrey Bogart in Dark Victory

.

Real Name:  Ruth Elizabeth Davis

Birthdate:  April 5, 1908

Number of films Bette Davis made with Humphrey Bogart:  7

The Lowdown:

When the subject of typical Bogart costars comes up, it’s strange to me that Bette Davis is rarely mentioned, especially when you consider that they made seven different films together.  In one of the films, they only have brief cameos and don’t even meet (Thank Your Lucky Stars), and in a few more, Bogart plays minor roles and their interaction is minimum (The Bad Sister, Three on a Match), but considering how little they’re paired in cinematic conversation, these two had a few really great roles together!

The Filmography

The Bad Sister – 1931

The Bad Sister

In her very first film, Davis plays Laura Madison, a wallflower who’s stuck in the shadow of her older sister Marianne (Sidney Fox).  While Davis and Bogart share next to no screen time together, it’s still a strong early showing for both actors as they each do their fair share of scene stealing from their more established costars.  If you’re like me, you’ll spend most of the film wondering why every guy in town is going after Sidney Fox when Bette Davis is standing right there!!!  You can find my original write up on the film here.

Three on a Match – 1932

3 on a Match

Davis plays Ruth Wescott, the “good girl” next to Joan Blondell’s reformed “bad girl” and Ann Dvorak’s “bad girl” in the making.  Davis’ part is not nearly as developed as Blondell’s or Dvorak’s, and she was supposedly at odds with director Mervyn LeRoy because he didn’t like her acting, but she’s gorgeous and lots of fun in what scenes she does get.  Since Bogart doesn’t come in until the last act of the film, the two don’t meet.  But it is, once again, a strong showing from both of them.  Davis is solidifying the “girl next door” persona that she played many times early on in her career, and Bogart lays down another very strong gangster performance.  You can find my original write up on the film here.

The Petrified Forest – 1936

petrified forestDavis swoons over Leslie Howard’s intellectual loner . . .

.

Davis plays Gabrielle (Gabby) Maple, a café owner’s daughter who’s desperate to get out of the desert so that she can see the world.  Bogart is, of course, Duke Mantee, the outlaw gangster – a role that he originated on Broadway.  While Bogart spends most of his lines squaring off against Leslie Howard, he and Davis do spend much of the film in the same frame as almost all of the action takes place within the café.  Again, both actors continue to elevate their status as the “girl next door” and the tough as nails gangster, respectively.  This is, by far, my favorite film out of all seven that they made together.  You can find my original write up on the film here.

Marked Woman – 1937

Marked WomanDavis coming for Bogart’s help – a little too late . . .

.

Davis plays Mary, a nightclub “hostess” that runs afoul of her gangster boss (Eduardo Ciannelli) when her kid sister (Jane Bryan) gets caught up in her troubles.  Davis is passionate in the role, and is certainly the highlight of the film.  Bogart plays Assistant District Attorney David Graham, and while the two have several key scenes together, Bogart’s character really seems to only be around for plot advancement.  It’s a decent film, and a strong showing for Davis, but a bit of a let down for Bogart considering that it’s a smaller role than their last film together.  You can find my original write up on the film here.

Kid Galahad – 1937

Kid GalahadDavis – getting ready to watch Bogart take one on the chin . . .

.

Davis plays Edward G. Robinson’s gangster moll, Fluff, with such a sweet and naïve quality that I was left wondering for the first half of the movie how she ended up with Robinson.  There is a brief scene in a car with Wayne Morris where she alludes to a darker past, but come on, Bette!  You can do better!  Bogart and Davis don’t spend a lot of time together, as she’s usually in the background while Bogart deals with Edward G. Robinson or Wayne Morris.

bette

The first party scene in the hotel though, where she’s serving drinks in a flower print dress with a low neckline . . . whew – she is GORGEOUS!  How did Edward G. Robinson get so lucky?  You can find my original write up on the film here.

Dark Victory – 1939

Dark Victory 2Bogart and Davis in, what I would consider, their best shared scene ever!

.

Davis plays Judith Traherne, a wealthy young party girl whose life goes into a dramatic about-face after she’s diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Bogart is the Irish horse trainer (no, the accent is not as bad as you’ve heard) who’s in love with her, and the scenes they share together are some of the most dynamic in the film.  It’s a shame that Bogart’s role is so small, but he was also splitting his time between this film and The Oklahoma Kid.  Davis was reported to be dealing with a lot of personal turmoil during the film, as she was involved with costar George Brent while her marriage was falling apart.  It seems to only add to her emotional performance, as the film contains some of the most passionate and energetic acting of her career to that point.  There was also a happier ending to the film that followed Bogart to the racetrack as he led Davis’ favorite racehorse to a victory, but it was determined to be too abrupt of a tonal shift and was left on the cutting room floor.  You can find my original write up on the film here.

In This Our Life – 1942

In This Our Life

It’s the film listed in Bogart’s filmography that Bogart’s not even in!  Directed by John Huston, rumor had it that Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and a few others had appeared in the movie as background players for a scene to add a little “in-joke” for Huston fans.  Whether the scene was cut out from the film or just a hoax to begin with, none of them are visible.  So while this one is listed in their shared filmography, I’m not counting it as one of the seven they made together.

But . . . Davis plays Stanley Timberlake, a borderline-sociopathic bad girl that steals her sister’s husband.  It’s a wild role for Davis, and another big step down the road away from some of the “girl next door” roles that she’d played during the first decade of her career.  She’s a liar, a cheat, a scoundrel, and a temptress – and it’s a truly amazing performance for Davis.  You can find my original write up on the film here.

Thank Your Lucky Stars – 1943

Thank Your

Davis plays herself in this cameo-filled extravaganza that showcases a whole boatload of Hollywood’s finest performers singing and dancing for a variety show hosted by Eddie Cantor.  Davis is very good as she walks into a fancy nightclub and sings “They’re Either Too Young or Too Old” for all the gents who are drinking in the place.  Davis actually injured herself during the final take of the dance portion of the number, and you can see her holding her leg as she stands outside by her car.  Unfortunately, Davis and Bogart don’t share any screen time in this, the final film that they share together.  You can find my original write up on the film here.

The Usual Suspects is an ongoing series of posts about some of Bogart’s more regular collaborators.  You can check out other entries in the series here.

Ben Welden

top pic
Humphrey Bogart with character actor Ben Welden in Kid Galahad
.

(The Usual Suspects is an ongoing series of posts about some of Bogart’s more regular collaborators.  You can check out other entries in the series here.)

The Man

Born in Toledo, Ohio on June 12, 1901, Ben Weinblatt discovered acting while studying engineering at college, leading to a career that took him from the London theater scene (where he changed his name to “Weldon” and then later “Welden”) all the way to Hollywood where he played parts in well over two hundred films and television shows.

Working with Bogart five times, Welden solidified his long and storied career by portraying tough guys and gangsters on screen.  Against his naturally kind and generous personality, Welden became a staple character actor in Hollywood anytime the studios needed someone who could look mean, talk tough, and hold their own against some of Tinseltown’s greatest actors.  Just to name a few besides Bogart, Welden shared the screen with James Cagney, Bette Davis, Susan Hayward, Buster Keaton, Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, and countless other greats in many of Hollywood’s most celebrated films.

I was deeply honored to be able to have a chat with Ben’s nephew, Charles Weinblatt.  Charles, author of the novel Jacob’s Courage, blogs about writing on his own site here.  Charles knew his famous uncle very well, as he got to visit with him many times during the years between 1957 and 1965.  Charles wrote to me, “As Ben had no children, I was as close to that as is possible for him. We spoke at least once a week for many decades; he visited here often and Ben came to love my wife and children as his own.”

I asked Charles to answer some of the questions that I would have loved to ask Ben if I’d gotten the chance:

Bogie Film Blog:  Can you give us a little background on Ben’s life?

Charles Weinblatt:  As a child, Ben played the violin and longed to pursue a career building things.  Ben went to Carnegie Tech, where he majored in Engineering.  While there, a friend pushed him to take a theater course.  The rest is history.  Long before Ben went to Hollywood, he was on stage in London, England.  There, he made a name for himself and he was forced to change his name.  In the 1920s and early 1930s, it was not appropriate for an actor to use an obviously Jewish name, like Weinblatt.  Ben thought that he might change it into something that would brand him as a good actor.  This changed “Weinblatt” into “Well-don”, which became “Weldon,” which later became “Welden.”  In fact, I’ve seen some credits with the spelling “Weldon.”

BFB:  Was Ben a contract player for Warner Brothers at the time that he worked with Bogart?  Did he have contracts with other studios? 

CW:  As far as I’m aware, Ben was under contract with Warner Brothers for decades, [and] that’s when he worked with Bogie.  He also worked as needed for Universal and MGM.

BFB:  Did he ever get to choose his roles, or were they usually assigned to him due to the studio contract system?

CW:  Ben was the penultimate typecast actor.  While I would say that he didn’t pick and choose his roles, especially when he was very busy (1940’s through the early 60’s), I believe that the studios understood his value and they came after him when they needed a gangster.

BFB:  What role out of his more than 200, would you say that Ben was most proud of?

CW:  I never asked him this question, but I suspect in a formal sense Marked Woman was his greatest achievement.  He found it interesting to work with big name stars like Bogart and Bette Davis.  When the film arrived in Toledo, the theater was packed to standing room only.  I think every Jewish person in town was there.  In the middle of the film, Ben was supposed to take Bette Davis into a hallway and beat her up.  Of course, in those days violence in films was not graphic, as it is today.  But Ben grabbed her by the arm and shoved her into a hallway where you could hear him punching her, her crying out, and then the thumps as she was pushed down a flight of stairs.  At that very moment, my grandmother (Ben’s mom) stood up the in theater and screamed, “That’s not my Benny. He wouldn’t do a thing like that!”  As you can imagine, the audience loved it, with laughter trailing off for a minute or two.

BFB:  Do you have any specific memories of being on a set and seeing Ben interact with the cast and crew?  Perhaps even filming a memorable scene?

CW:  I never saw Ben acting on a set.  That being said, I recall being introduced to Tony Curtis and Suzanne Pleschette (40 pounds of Trouble), Ronald Reagan (Death Valley Days), Gregory Peck (To Kill a Mockingbird), Steve McQueen, Julie Andrews, Lee Marvin, and a host of directors and producers.  I recall a memorable scene watching Gregory Peck interact with the children in To Kill a Mockingbird.  The kids were inside of an old abandoned car in front of a large painting of a forest.  I recall thinking that no one will watch that movie and believe that the painting was a real forest.  Yet, when I watched the movie, I would swear that the forest was real.  That’s when I began to realize that Hollywood had some sort of magic.  I once tried to recall my Hollywood-related experiences with Ben’s career and my essay is here.

BFB:  I’ll make sure to link it to the blog!  Ben was known so well for playing heavies and tough guys.  Did he enjoy those roles?  How did they compare to his real personality?

CW:  Ben’s personality off-stage was the complete opposite of his film persona.  Instead of the cold, heartless thug that we saw in movies, Ben was a very charming, warm-hearted character in real life.  Although he never had any of his own, Ben loved children.  On one of his visits to Toledo, he went with my wife to her classroom, where he spent an entire afternoon charming the elementary students.  On film, Ben was a nasty, gruesome gangster.  In real life, he was a big softie; he could charm anyone.  As a child, this gave me an excellent perspective upon how character actors can become a completely different persona on film.

BFB:  Since this is a Humphrey Bogart blog, I have to ask – did Ben have any stories specifically about Bogart that you could share?

CW:  Ben worked with Bogie; however, he was not the best fan of Bogart.  From Ben’s frame of reference, he took direction very well.  But many of the most famous Hollywood actors did not.  There were arguments on sets in which actors told directors how they felt the scene should play out and famous directors who felt it should be played differently.  There seemed to be an increasingly arduous correlation between fame and arrogance.  The one feature that likely made Ben’s career successful for decades was that he took direction well.  He asked the director how his lines should be read and then followed through with it.  But some of the big Hollywood stars looked down upon the director and argued over how the lines should be read.  This was a director’s nightmare.  Of course, the director could then speak with Ben and hear the character actor say, “How shall I play these lines?”  It was music to director’s ears.  Instead of an argument, the director was offered an open question… “How do you think this character should be seen and heard?”

BFB:  Do you have a favorite role that Ben played while working with Bogart?

CW:  Once more, with Bogart, it’s Marked Woman.  He only spoke of working with Bogart in Marked Woman.  In a sense, their careers were fairly diverse.  Ben was making movies in Hollywood long before Humphrey Bogart became a household name.  And, Ben remained in studio and TV credits long after Bogart’s career was cut short by illness.  Bogart’s career was a shooting star, higher and brighter than Ben Welden.  But, Ben had many more credits to his Hollywood career and he appeared in more films and TV shows, even if the appearance was in Mr. Ed, The Three Stooges, Ma & Pa Kettle and The Lucy Show.    

BFB:  Do you have a personal favorite overall role that Ben played?

CW:  I loved many of Ben’s roles.  Even though he was typically a gangster or hood, each role was slightly different and required him to be someone with a different personality.  As a child, I watched virtually every TV episode of Superman, until George Reeves killed himself and his TV show simultaneously.  Similarly, I was proud to see Ben acting in episodes of the TV series Batman.  Some roles were just slapstick, including Ma & Pa Kettle, The Three Stooges and I Love Lucy.

BFB:  I very much agree that Ben was able to make each “thug” he played just a little different.  He seemed to have a great grasp on nuancing his characters.  Did he ever get the chance to play a non-gangster role?

CW:  Ben had one Hollywood role when he was not a gangster.  In fact, he was Friar Tuck in a B-movie version of Robin Hood.  It was released in the year I was born (1952), and was directed by James Yingling.  The studio required an actor who was fat, bald, and could take direction well.  As far as I am aware, that was the only time that Ben played a nice guy.  This was NOT the version starring Errol Flynn or the version starring Richard Green as Robin.  It was called Tales of Robin Hood.  I have a crappy old VHS copy of this “film” buried somewhere in my house.  You can apparently own, for seven dollars, another crappy, old VHS copy from Amazon here.  Few people have seen it, or recall that they saw it.  It’s obviously an old, low budget, shortened version of the story.  Ben was the perfect Friar Tuck.  Bald, fat, loved to drink, and jovial, Ben played the part with distinction.

BFB: Did Ben have any interests outside of acting?

CW:  When Ben neared retirement age, he and a partner opened a store in Los Angeles called Nutcorn.  This product was a scrumptious combination of popcorn, caramel, nuts and “special ingredients.”  Nutcorn became the rage of Hollywood.  Everyone who was someone was sending Nutcorn as a gift to friends and family.  Before long, Ben was sending huge boxes of Nutcorn around the world.  It was so delicious that it disappeared swiftly.  Ben was at least as successful as an entrepreneur as he was an actor.

BFB:  You mentioned that you have too many Ben Weldon stories to tell – but can you give me just one that really shows his personality?

CW:  Ben loved children.  As I mentioned earlier, he charmed children in the school where my wife taught – and they had likely never seen him on film.  As tough as his appearance was as a gangster in movies, he was that much an opposite in real life.  Ben went to Hawaii to film Ma & Pa Kettle at Waikiki Beach.  He was so profoundly in love with the islands that he spent a huge percentage of the rest of his life in Hawaii.  He took my parents and I there in 1965 and we too fell in love with the islands and the Hawaiian people.  I’ve since been there three more times, including my honeymoon and our 15th wedding anniversary.  In Hawaii, Ben was the most pleasant, polite, and gentle guy that you can imagine – a far cry from his on camera gangster persona.

BFB:  What would you want the world to know about Ben that they might not already know?

CW:  As a child, Ben played the violin.  It’s my understanding that his parents wanted him to become a concert violinist.  That doesn’t jive well with his selection of engineering as a major, or his university (Carnegie Tech).  I would want the world to know that Ben was a gentle person who loved people and children.  I would also like the world to know that Ben married a real duchess when he was on stage in England.   (If you want to read more about Ben’s marriage to the duchess, you can check out Charles’ writeup on the Jim Nolt’s Adventures of Superman tribute website here – BFB)

BFB:  Thank you so much, Charles!  I really appreciate the chance to get to talk to you about your uncle!

The Filmography

Marked Woman – 1937

marked woman 3Eduardo Cianelli with Ben Welden
.

Welden plays Charlie, the enforcer who does the dirty work for nightclub owner and gangster Johnny Vanning (Eduardo Ciannelli).  Welden does a wonderful job here as he menaces in the background, a constant, looming threat to Mary (Bette Davis) and her call-girl roommates as they come into conflict with their boss.  Perhaps his most memorable scene is left mostly to our imagination as we see him enter a room with Davis to punish her on Vanning’s behalf, and the movie-goer only gets to hear the gruesome beating.

Kid Galahad – 1937

Kid GalahadBogart with Welden
.

Welden plays Buzz Barett, the smiling enforcer for gangster and boxing promoter Turkey Morgan (Humphrey Bogart).  What I love so much about Welden in this film is that he plays essentially the same character as he does in Marked Woman, but with the addition of a large and toothy grin.  The change makes him comes off as a much more likable, albeit sometimes goofy, thug as he stands behind Bogart, backing up his boss’ every threat.

The Roaring Twenties – 1939

The Roaring TwentiesJames Cagney with Welden and Gladys George
.

Welden has a brief cameo as a Tavern Proprietor who has to deal with a drunken and down-on-his-luck James Cagney just before the climax of the film.  Cagney is chatting up Welden’s nightclub singer, Gladys George, and Welden would rather that she be doing her job.  It might be a small part, but how many actors can say that they got to give Cagney a tough time in a film?

All Through the Night – 1942

All through the nightWelden with Frank McHugh and Bogart
.

It’s another brief appearance for Welden as Smitty, the taxicab dispatcher that helps Bogart and his crew track down Kaaren Verne’s sultry nightclub singer.

The Big Sleep – 1946

bs 3Welden with Tom Fadden and Bogart
.

Welden plays Pete, one of the two henchmen helping gangster Eddie Mars (John Ridgely) as he blackmails the Sternwood family.  Teamed up with Tom Fadden, who plays the other henchman, Sidney, Welden gets a great little role as the thug who’s endlessly amused by his partner.  Fadden deadpans to Bogart left and right while Welden gets to laugh and comment, “He kills me!”  I truly enjoy Welden’s roles where he gets to smile – despite the fact that he’s a hired thug!  In a fun side note, the character names Pete and Sidney are both a nod to two other regular Bogart costars – Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet!

——————————————–

For a more in depth write up on Ben Welden’s personal life and career, make sure you check out the page that Charles wrote for him over at Jim Nolt’s tribute page for The Adventures of Superman!  Thanks Jim for allowing me to use your site as a reference and helping me get in touch with Charles!

* All research for this post was done with Jim Nolt’s Adventures of Superman tribute page, the above interview with Charles Weinblatt, A. M. Sperber’s Humphrey Bogart biography, Bogart, Stefan Kanfer’s Humphrey Bogart biography, Tough Without a Gun, Ben Welden’s Wikipedia page, Ben Welden’s IMDB 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. – BFB

The Bad Sister – 1931

Bad_Sister_poster

My Review

—A Decent Drama With Some Good Comedy— 

Your Bogie Fix:

2 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  Hobart Henley

The Lowdown

Marianne Madison (Sidney Fox) is a young woman who relishes the fact that she can have her pick of any man in town, but when she falls for a shady con man (Humphrey Bogart), Marianne soon finds herself, and her family, in an incredible amount of trouble.

What I Thought

This is a movie that can take some jarring shifts between comedy and drama, but when it really gets cooking, it does both pretty well.

It was great to see Sidney Fox in another starring role after just watching MIDNIGHT / CALL IT MURDER not that long ago. (She was the actress who had a very short career and eventually took her own life). Fox and Bogart have really wonderful chemistry, and they are given a lot more time to shine here.

A cautionary tale not unlike the one portrayed in In This Our Life, a later Bette Davis drama where Davis gets to play the bad girl, The Bad Sister focuses on an impulsive young woman who takes what she wants from life regardless of the consequences. Other than a few abrupt tonal shifts between light comedy and drama, the film is a fun watch with a number of enjoyable performances. I’m also very glad that director Henley tried to end on a happier note than what we might have been led to expect from the climax.

The only real sticking issue I had is that Marianne has such a hold over her trio of young suitors, Wade Turnball (Bert Roach), Dr. Dick Lindley (Conrad Nagel), and Valentine Corliss (Humphrey Bogart), that I began to wonder if there were any other women in town. After all, is Bette Davis really that much of a consolation prize that no one gives her a second glance until Marianne is long gone?!?

The Bogart Factor

One of his very early roles, Bogart does seem just a tad green here. He talks in a bit of a shrill voice and can be a little stiff in his movements. Valentine Corliss is another role in the same vein of Bogart characters that I’ve dubbed the young punks.  He’s definitely hiding bad intentions, but he’s also very, very skilled at charming the pants off of everyone around him.

I have to admit that I had a lot of fun watching Valentine get the better of Dr. Lindley early on in the film when he’s able to steal Marianne away from the Dr. by simply offering her a car ride home. Really, Dr. Lindley?  A woman dumps you over a car ride and you still don’t give up on her?

Bogart gets a good deal of screen time for the first three quarters of this movie, and it’s a lot of fun to see him so young and effervescent at thirty years old. For only his fourth feature film release, it’s a pretty big part.

The Cast

Sidney Fox is so cute as Marianne Madison that I was ready to forgive her for all of her nastiness right up until she loses it on her father. She and Bogart click so well together as they con everyone around them that it’s a wonder Valentine didn’t  take her on the road.  After seeing Fox for a second time, I’m definitely going to explore her filmography further.

This was Bette Davis’ first film, and as the wallflower younger sister, Laura Madison, the only drawback from her performance is that I think she’s just too doggone cute to have been ignored by all the young men in her town for so long.

Conrad Nagel is top billed as Dr. Dick Lindley even though his part isn’t that big.  Probably the best moment in the film comes when he finally kisses Bette Davis over a newborn baby to ignite their romance.

Bert Roach is the rotund young suitor Wade Turnball.  He’s got the most satisfying ending in the entire film, and his comedic touch lightens the movie at just the right moments.

David Durand plays Marianne and Laura’s kid brother Hedrick.  He does such a great job of stealing scenes and playing an impish brat that even I wanted to smack him.

The standout role here though, is none other than Zasu Pitts as the Madison’s servant, Minnie. Her timing is impeccable, and after It All Came True, I’m ready to say that she’s one of my favorite comedic film actresses from Classic Hollywood. Her continual repetition of Hmmm! whenever she gets frustrated had me smiling every time. After looking through her filmography on IMDB a bit, it looks like she was an experienced silent film actress before the talkies. I need to find more of her work!

Classic Bogie Moment

I’ve mentioned it time and time again on this blog – but Bogart can do a lot with just a little.  In A. Sperber’s Bogart biography, she talked a lot about how he would often trim back his lines and try to convey his message with as few words as possible. We get a classic example of that here as he adds a subtle pause in a line as Valentine responds to an offer from Marianne:

MarianneHow’d ya like to take a little walk, Mr. Corliss?

Valentine:  There’s nothing I’d rather do than . . . take a walk.

Just that tiny pause, with a little added smile, is more than enough to tell us that he’s got more on his mind than walking.

The Bottom Line

Much like Big City Blues, this is a film with a lot of comedic touches before it takes a sharp right-turn into a painful and heavy climax. Still, it ends on a much brighter note, and overall, the cast gels very well together. A great early role for Bogart!

In This Our Life – 1942

In this our life poster

My Review

—A Thrilling Look at a Sociopath— 

Bogie Film Fix:

NO BOGIE NO BOGIES out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  John Huston

The Lowdown

Stanley Timberlake (Bette Davis) is a woman who’s never afraid to take what she wants.  Unfortunately for her sister Roy (Olivia de Havilland), Stanley wants her brother-in-law Peter (Dennis Morgan).

What I Thought

Here’s my first major disappointment while blogging about Bogart.  While I really loved this movie, it was a huge letdown for me to discover that Bogart is nowhere to be seen within it.  According to every online and book-bound Bogart filmography available, Bogart’s credited with a small cameo in the film.  IMDB says he’s an uncredited dancer on a roadhouse table.  The official Humphrey Bogart Estate site claims that he has a cameo as a tavern owner.  After a careful, frame by frame, examination of both bar/tavern scenes, I can definitively say that Humphrey Bogart is nowhere in this picture.

Directed by John Huston, rumor had it that Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and a few others had appeared in the movie as background players for a scene to add a little “in-joke” for Huston fans.  Whether the scene was cut out from the film, or just a hoax to begin with, none of them are visible.

So!  Moving forward – while I’m disappointed that I didn’t find Mr. Bogart, I made a decision early on to blog about every Bogart film in his filmography, and this film is still listed in his credits!  (Plus, it’s a great movie and deserves as much attention as it can get!)

Bette Davis and George Brent are reunited for the second time on this blog (the first being Dark Victory) in a completely different kind of relationship.  Stanley Timberlake (Davis) is in a committed relationship with Craig Fleming (Brent), but she dumps him in a heartbeat when her brother-in-law Peter (Dennis Morgan) agrees to run away with her.

It’s a wild role for Davis, as she’s playing a much more ruthless, heartless, selfish, borderline-sociopathic role than usual.  Instead of using her girl next door charms to win over hearts, she uses them to slowly destroy her relationships with friends and family, and then to literally destroy several lives.  She’s a liar, a cheat, a scoundrel, and temptress – and it’s truly an amazing role for the young Davis.

One of the best things about the film is that we’re left to ponder one of the big unexplained mysteries of the script – why do Davis and de Havilland’s characters both have male names?  My guess (and perhaps it’s actually explained in the novel that the film is based on) is that their father wanted boys, and they were raised in a house filled with subconscious regret and resentment.  Could this have led Stanley down her road of deviousness?  Is this what hardened Roy’s heart to move on so quickly after her husband leaves her?  It’s not explained, and doesn’t need to be, but it’s a great bit to ponder long after the film is over.

This was my first viewing of In This Our Life, and I’ve never heard or seen much press on it before.  John Huston has filmed a great psychological drama/thriller, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

The Bogart Factor

He doesn’t factor in at all!  What’s the story?  How did this rumor start?  Was a scene actually filmed?  Did Huston find it too distracting to have all those famous stars in the background?  Was the scene cut from my newer copy of the film?  Is Bogart really there, but all we get is an elbow or the back of his head?  Was it a hoax started by a fan or reporter?  Does the scene exist but in a different movie?

There are two scenes that take place in a bar/roadhouse.  I watched them both on an HD screen multiple times.  If Bogart’s there, it’s so slight that it makes no difference.  Part of me wants to argue that it’s probably a hoax, as it would seem silly to get all those stars together just for a short joke.  But if they were all still under contract, they could have all been on the lot, and it might have been an easy shoot . . .

Either way, I’ve emailed the Humphrey Bogart Estate to ask them their opinion, and I’ll post it if I get a response!

The Cast

George Brent and Olivia de Havilland were excellent as the spurned lovers, Craig Fleming and Roy Timberlake.  I thought Huston handled their courtship with perfection, and it was a much more believable take on how people fall in love in the real world, rather than with cinema magic.

Dennis Morgan has plenty of angst in the role of Peter Kingsma, Davis’ wild fling that goes horribly wrong.  I need to check out his other films!

Perhaps the standout of the film is Charles Coburn as Uncle William.  There’s a great scene in his den as Bette Davis tries to ask/flirt for money.  It’s here that we get the crux of Stanley’s tragic flaw as Uncle William explains to her that they’re both cut from the same cloth.  When they want something, they just take it – regardless of the consequences.

Classic Bogie Bette Moment

I’ll give Bette Davis an honorary nod here since Bogie’s not in the film.

There was a second in the movie that I was almost ready to give Bette’s wild home-wrecker one more chance.  She’s standing by her new console radio with her shoes resting on top of it, daydreaming about some unknown mischief.  As the music plays, she subtly begins to dance the shoes with her hands in time to the music.  It’s exactly the kind of thing that would have made me fall in love with her in any other film, and it’s exactly the kind of thing that creeps you out as you watch it here with Davis in such a dastardly role.

The Bottom Line

No Bogie, but GREAT Bette.  I’ll take it.

Dark Victory – 1939

dark victory

My Review

—Pretty Good— 

Bogie Film Fix:

Full Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  Edmund Goulding

The Lowdown

A rich, young socialite (Bette Davis) and the doctor (George Brent) that diagnoses her brain tumor fall in love and struggle with the knowledge that she only has a few months left to live.

What I Thought

While I always wish that this film had a lot more Humphrey Bogart, I keep falling more and more in love with Bette Davis, so I’ll forgive director Edmund Goulding for not slipping more Bogie into the movie.

Davis, who is almost always bubbly and energetic, even in her darker roles, begins this film downright frenetic.  She’s a self-absorbed party girl who spends her nights drinking with other wealthy, young, beautiful people, and her days scolding her Irish horse trainer (Humphrey Bogart).

What’s so good about Davis’ portrayal of Judith Traherne is that she’s able to slowly tone down her wild, selfish persona – bit by bit – throughout the movie until she’s almost subdued and grounded by the end of the film.  I say almost, because a complete transformation would have been too easy for the audience.  Goulding and Davis hold back the reins on Judith’s character development just enough that there’s still a little bit of that reckless, egotistical rich girl from the beginning of the film still fighting to get out at the end.

We watch, frustrated and disappointed, as Davis sends everyone good in her life away.  Why does she choose to face the end alone?  Why send her husband away?  Why her best friend?  Even the dogs?  She can’t even keep the dogs by her side?  Is she really helping the them, or is she too afraid to face their pain alongside her own?

To have ended with a crowd of loved ones surrounding Davis’ bed would have certainly been the easy way out for this film.  To let Judith face death unaccompanied stays true to her character, while at the same time piling enormous amounts of emotional weight onto the viewer.  This film leaves me struggling with sympathy and disappointment intertwined together, and I’m left unsatisfied in the best possible way.

According to A.M. Sperber and Eric Lax’s Bogart biography, Bogart, a happy ending was filmed for the movie wherein Bogart’s Michael O’Leary wins a race with Davis’ favorite thoroughbred.  The ending was deemed unnecessary though, as it didn’t flow well following the final death scene.  I’m impressed that they didn’t hedge their bets and go with the “safe” ending!

Bette Davis was deservedly nominated for her third Academy Award for this role.

The Bogart Factor

Bogart definitely makes the most of what little time he has in this film.  There’s a short scene at the beginning where he plays the charming rogue, teasing Davis about the worth of her favorite horse, and then a longer, more dramatic scene about three quarters of the way through the movie where he gets to have a wonderful moment in the horse barn with Davis as he learns about her imminent death.

Playing  a man named O’Leary, we’re “treated” to one of only two films that I can think of (the other being Virginia City) where Bogart puts on an accent.  Is it good?  Not really, but he wisely keeps it pretty well subdued throughout the picture so that it never becomes distracting.

What I found the most interesting was the turn that Bogart’s character takes when he finds out about Davis’ prognosis.  In the barn together, we can almost watch him slip from the wisecracking horse trainer into the familiar demeanor and tone of one of his bitter, world-weary, expatriate roles like Harry Morgan or Rick Blaine as he delivers one of the most powerful moments in the film:

Bogart:  I should have lived in the days when it counted to be a man – the way I like to ride and the way I like to fight.  What good’s ridin’ and fightin’ these days?  Whatta they get you?  What do they get ya?

The Cast

Bette Davis does admirably well considering her personal life was apparently in turmoil during the making of this movie.  I would guess that the dissolution of her marriage and the ensuing affair with costar George Brent is what makes her appear so much more passionate and agitated than usual onscreen.

I really liked George Brent as Dr. Fredrick Steele, and I need to check out the rest of his filmography to see what I’ve been missing.

Geraldine Fitzgerald does a great job counterbalancing Davis as the best friend, Ann King, and she is able to hold her own against the several other, higher profile, acting greats.

One of my favorite parts of this film is Ronald Reagan’s portrayal of Alec, Judith’s drunk, young, gad about friend.  Of all his early roles, this one always strikes me as the most charming and entertaining.  I’m not a huge Reagan fan, but he really does a great job here.

And then there’s the angel, Clarence, as Dr. Parsons – Judith’s personal physician!  It’s always fun to see Henry Travers on screen!

Classic Bogie Moment

Michael O’Leary appears a few times in a rumpled, well-worn, trench coat and fedora – a look that Bogart would go on to make iconic with his most famous character – Rick Blaine.

Did You Notice…

I usually don’t notice how much people smoke in these old films – until they do it in places that seem ludicrous to modern sensibilities.  Bette Davis smokes in the doctor’s office . . . with the doctor!  She smokes in her hospital room moments before surgery.  Doctors smoke in the doctors’ lounge.  If they only knew, right?

The Bottom Line

It’s a very good film, but not a super satisfying Bogart fix.

Three on a Match – 1932

3onamatch

My Review

—VERY GOOD—

Your Bogie Fix:

1.5 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  – Mervyn LeRoy

The Lowdown 

The film follows three grade school classmates, Mary (Joan Blondell), Vivian (Ann Dvorak), and Ruth (Bette Davis), as they grow up, go their separate ways, and then reconnect at a beauty parlor.  When Vivian turns her life upside down after deciding that she’s unhappy with her marriage, Mary and Ruth stand by helplessly and watch their old acquaintance throw her life away with a long series of poor choices and a severe struggle with substance abuse.  Although Vivian’s life careens out of control, her misfortune ends up leading Mary and Ruth to a better life as they assume the roles of wife and mother that Vivian leaves behind.

What I Thought

Well, this was my first step into the Pre-Code era of Hollywood, and boy was it a doozy.  I admit, I have a number of large gaps in my cinema knowledge, and this period between the late 1920’s and early 1930’s is one of them.  I just didn’t have a lot of exposure to the films of this time until now.

That being said. . .

Within the first ten minutes of the movie, you’ll see kids showing off their “bloomers,” smoking, and dancing suggestively.  By the end of the movie, you’ll have seen adults drinking, high on drugs, wearing see-through nightgowns, and falling from several stories onto a busy street in a very realistic suicide scene.  It’s provocative filmmaking to say the least, and let me tell you, it’s captivating.

From beginning to end, this is a wild ride through the lives of three young women who start out on very different paths (bad girl, popular diva, straight ‘A’ student) and end up places that they never thought they’d be – some good, some disappointing, and some outright horrible.  It’s exciting, dramatic, occasionally funny, often stimulating, and eventually very painful to watch.

I really enjoyed this movie, but after Black Legion, Two Against the World, and now Three on a Match, let’s just say that I’m ready for more of a pick-me-up Bogart movie.

The Bogart Factor

The movie is barely over an hour and Bogart doesn’t appear until about forty-seven minutes into the film, so there’s not a lot of time spent with his character.  When he does show up however, his role largely dominates the storyline until the end of the film.

Playing Harve, the number one thug to a mobster named Ace (Edward Arnold), Bogart shows up with a gang of toughs to shake down Vivian and her new boyfriend after they kidnap Vivian’s young son Junior in an attempt to extort her wealthy ex-husband.

It’s a scene-stealing role for Bogart, as his cool and detached onscreen persona overpowers every other actor in the frame.

While not a large role for Bogie, it’s definitely worth seeking out.

The Cast 

Joan Blondell, Ann Dvorak, and Bette Davis are all superb and perfectly cast.

Blondell is so good, I can’t wait to catch up with her in other roles.  Fortunately, I won’t have to wait long as she’s apparently in a few other Bogart movies on my list.

Dvorak is able to play both high class and depravity with equal strength, and it’s a role that makes me want to explore the rest of her filmography.

Then there’s Bette Davis, who supposedly spent her time on the film at odds with Director LeRoy who didn’t appreciate her acting, which probably explains why her character is the least developed of the three.  I don’t know what Leroy was seeing, as Davis is just as gorgeous and fun as ever.  (Yes, I’m well aware that this blog is turning into a Bette Davis fanblog . . . I don’t know what to say.  She’s becoming more and more an obsession with me all the time.)

Warren William, as Vivian’s ex-husband Robert Kirkwood, is very good, and another actor with a filmography I need to explore.

Lyle Talbot plays Michael Loftus, Vivian’s shifty, flop-sweating, junkie of a boyfriend who gets into debt with Bogart’s boss.  He’s just good looking enough to con you, and just oily enough to hate.  He’s does well in the role.

Child actor Dickie Moore plays Dvorak and William’s son, Junior, and does a good job of being cute and heartbreaking at every possible moment.  (For a good piece on Moore, check out @HollywoodComet’s review of Dickie Moore’s book about being a child actor here, as she is currently in the midst of a child actor blogathon.)

Classic Bogie Moment

There aren’t a lot of scenes to pick from, but towards the end of the film, when Harve and his thugs are hold up in Vivian’s apartment, Bogart, dressed in a charcoal suit and black fedora, sits hunched in a chair, commanding the room on sheer charisma as he tells his crew about the cops canvassing the streets.

Perhaps Bogie’s best line, and maybe the most chilling line of the film, comes after Bogart strong-arms Dvorak into a room and slams the door.  Dickie Moore approaches and whimpers:

Moore:  You musn’t hurt my mama.

Bogart: (SNEERING) Okay, I’ll bear that in mind.

The Bottom Line

Although short, this is a classic gangster role for Bogart.  Even though he’s not in it for long, it’s a great film, an easy watch, and a fun early Bogart role.  If you’re really jonesing for a Bogart gangster film though, you might want to pair it up with something like High Sierra just to get a good fix.

“Producer’s Showcase” – The Petrified Forest – 1955

pet

My Review

—A Little Rough Around the Edges, but Worth It—

Your Bogie Fix:

3 Bogie out of 5 bogies!

Director:  – Delbert Mann

The Lowdown 

Nearly twenty years after Humphrey Bogart made Duke Mantee his breakout role on the silver screen, he returned to the small screen to reprise the gangster one more time for the TV show, Producer’s Showcase.  Stepping in for Bette Davis is Lauren Bacall as Gabby, and Henry Fonda plays Alan Squier, the role made famous by Leslie Howard.

You can find my previous plot synopsis here.

What I Thought

I had no idea this existed until a couple of days ago.  My mind is blown.  I knew that Bogart had reprised a lot of his more popular roles for radio adaptions, but to see one of his most famous characters brought back in a remake twenty years after the fact is such a fun discovery.  While it doesn’t live up to the original film, there’s definitely a high thrill factor in seeing Bogart become the gangster on the run again.

The entire cast is older than the original group of actors, and I thought it added a darker, bleaker flavor to the whole thing.  The chemistry between Bacall and Fonda just wasn’t there like it was for Davis and Howard.  Fonda’s version of Alan Squier seemed much more depressed and regret-filled than Howard’s charming drifter.  And unlike Davis’ wide-eyed young gal looking to get out of the desert, Bacall seems more like a woman on the verge of middle age who’s resigned to the life of an old maid.

The Bogart Factor 

The role of Duke Mantee is trimmed.  In fact, the entire movie runs about ten minutes shorter.  (While it’s listed as 90 minutes on IMDB, it’s much more like 72.) A lot of the dialogue between the captive husband and wife, Mr. and Mrs. Chisolm, is cut down and folded into one short argument towards the end of the movie.  It also seemed like many of Bogart’s lines might have been filmed separately and then spliced into the film.  (Several sources refer to this as a “live” airing, but then, how did they get the exterior shots of Fonda walking along a country road?)

Again though, I have to say that I found it captivating to watch an actor of Bogart’s caliber get the chance to reprise the role – playing Mantee twenty years older, showing a wearier, dead-eyed mobster this time around.  I think it’s a must see for diehard Bogart fans.

The Cast 

While Lauren Bacall’s version of Gabby doesn’t quite live up to Bette Davis’, I thought she handled certain scenes a little better.  Anytime she had to read or quote poetry, I thought it was much more believable than Davis.

Henry Fonda was probably a little too old to play the charming drifter, and I’d say the fault is more on him for the chemistry not working out.  He knows how to act though, and as the movie ramps up towards the climax, he does a fine job of holding his own against Bogart as he challenges Mantee to kill him.

Famous character actor Jack Warden (Google his pic, you’ll know him) plays Boze, the football wannabe gas station attendant who’s in love with Gabby.  If anyone was too old for their role, it was probably Warden here.  While it’s fun to see him so young, it was a little unsettling to see a man in his thirties still wearing his football jersey and going on about his college days.

Don’t Forget to Notice. . . 

Look out for a young Jack Klugman as well, playing Jackie, one of Mantee’s thugs.

Classic Bogie Moment

Towards the end of the movie, Mantee finds out that the girlfriend he was supposed to meet up with has not only been captured, but has ratted him out.  When Bogart plays the moment in this version, we see his mind scrambling, his eyes darting, and his jaw quivering as he can’t decide what to do next.  It’s a wonderful close-up moment on Bogart as he sputters, “Shut up, shut up, give me time to think!”

The Bottom Line

Are you a Bogie completist?  You probably need to check this out.  Even if you’re not, it would still be a fun double feature for a film club to put on, and then compare and contrast, the two versions.

A Little Extra

Hmmm.  I couldn’t find a lot of fun info on this movie, but it was apparently Lauren Bacall’s television debut!

Kid Galahad – 1937

gala

My Review

—Good, Harmless Fun—

Your Bogie Fix:

1.5 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  – Michael Curtiz

The Lowdown

Boxing promoter Nick Donati (Edward G. Robinson) and his girlfriend “Fluff” (Bette Davis) stumble across an unknown fighting phenomenon when they witness a bellhop (Wayne Morris) knock out an experienced fighter at a hotel party.  Donati immediately sees dollar signs in the bellhop’s championship potential, while his girlfriend Fluff starts to fall in love.  The only problem?  The boxer that the bellhop knocked out works for mobster “Turkey” Morgan (Humphrey Bogart), and Morgan is willing to do whatever it takes to get his revenge on the bellhop, and the fast talking Donati.

What I Thought

It’s a by-the-numbers Warner picture for the time it was made.  It’s not bad, but it’s not great.  It’s predictable, but fun. Robinson and Davis definitely save the day with their great portrayals, turning it into an enjoyable film.

The Bogart Factor 

Well, Bogart’s present, I guess.  It’s my lowest “Bogie Fix” review so far, so that should tell you something.  He doesn’t get a lot of screen time, and when he does, he’s relegated to being the stock mob-guy character.  He is able to put a slight twist on it though, making “Turkey” Morgan more of a sniveling whiner than a cutthroat gangster.  This film’s much more suited for a Robinson or Davis fix, as the viewer can go for extended periods of time with no Bogie in sight.

The Cast 

Robinson and Davis as the leads do what they do best.  Robinson is every bit the real life caricature that we’ve all grown to love, and Bette Davis is gorgeous and fun.

Davis plays ‘Fluff’ with a girl-next-door quality that left me wondering for the first half of the movie how she ended up with Robinson.  There is a brief scene in a car with Morris where she alludes to a darker past, but come on, Bette!  You can do better!

The first party scene in the hotel though, where she’s serving drinks in a flower print dress with a low neckline . . . whew – she is GORGEOUS!

bette

Wayne Morris is okay.  He’s big, and stiff, and perhaps a little more dopey than what the script called for.  Although, I was amazed at how much charm he could exude with a smile.  One smile, and you can’t take your eyes off the guy.  I can see why the studio thought he had potential as a leading man.  He’s capable enough and does his job in this movie, but if you want a better dose of him, you should check out Paths of Glory.

Jane Bryan, who played Davis’ kid sister in Marked Woman, shows up here as Robinson’s kid sister, Marie.  She plays young and naïve, and we believe she’s the country brat who falls in love with the farmboy boxer.  The more I see of Bryan, the more impressed I am as she elevates any movie she’s in – and I have to admit that I’m starting to develop a little thing for her . . .

Don’t Forget to Notice. . . 

Ben Welden, who was so good as the menacing enforcer, Charlie, in Marked Woman, appears here as Morgan’s right hand man, Buzz Barett.  Notice that with only the addition of an ear-to-ear grin, his presence goes from menacing in Marked Woman to incredibly smarmy in Kid Galahad.  This guy is so much fun to watch in the background of any scene he’s in.

Classic Bogie Moment

There was not a lot to pick from, but there is one neat shot towards the end of the movie after the climactic boxing match.  Bogart’s “Turkey” Morgan needs to lure the cops away from Robinson and Morris.  We get a wonderful shot of him lurking behind a chain link fence, cigarette dangling from his mouth – and then moments later, a great silhouette of Bogie with his gun drawn.

galahadgalahad 2

The Bottom Line

The movie is enjoyable enough that it should be on any Bogart fan’s list, but I’d advise you to double bill it with a 3+ Bogie Film Fix to make sure that you’re not jonesing for more Bogie later!  How about Petrified Forest?  Then you can spend countless nights pining away for Bette Davis just like I do now.  On second thought, that much young and gorgeous Bette Davis might be too powerful for any mortal man to handle . . . be careful!

A Little Extra

Wayne Morris’ life and career were cut short after a heart attack when he was forty-five.  Even at that young age, he still had a good, long list of credits.  Make sure you check him out in Kirk Douglas’ Paths of Glory where he gets a better role to shine with!

Marked Woman – 1937

marked

My Review

—Pretty Good—

Your Bogie Fix:

2.5 Bogie  out of 5 Bogies!

Director: Lloyd Bacon

The Lowdown

This is the third Lloyd Bacon / Humphrey Bogart movie that I’ve reviewed since starting the blog – the first being Action in the North Atlantic, and the second Brother Orchid – and again, Bacon comes off as a good, straightforward, meat and potatoes director who gets the job done.

Loosely based on the fall of gangster “Lucky” Luciano, Marked Woman is a ripped-from-the-headlines film that Warner Brothers used to love cashing in on during Bogie’s time.

Bette Davis plays Mary, a high priced “hostess” working for an exclusive nightclub called Club Intimate where she’s tasked with doing whatever it takes to distract wealthy men while they’re being overcharged for champagne and gambling away their fortunes.  Even though the most we ever see Mary or her coworkers do is kiss the men they are assigned to, hostess is apparently the code word for prostitute as it’s intimated much more might happen as the women attempt to swindle the customers.

As shady as the job is for Mary, it gets even shadier when the club is taken over by Johnny Vanning (Eduardo Ciannelli), a notorious gangster who’s been able to keep one step ahead of the law, including Assistant District Attorney David Graham (Humphrey Bogart).  Mr. Vanning makes it clear from the beginning that he’s going to be a little more strict and demanding of his employees, and the hostesses know Vanning’s murderous reputation too well to put up a fight.

Even with the new, rougher management, Mary is still on board to do the job.  You see, she’s really a “hostess” with a heart of gold as she’s only doing the work to put her little sister, Betty, through school.  She even goes so far as to help Vanning embarrass ADA Graham in court, not knowing that in a short time she’ll be returning to the attorney’s office, pleading for the government’s help.

Mary’s sister, Betty (Jane Bryan), pays a surprise visit to the apartment where Mary and the other hostesses live, and before you know it, she’s tangled up in the business at Club Intimate, and winds up dead by Vanning’s own hands.  What follows is a desperate attempt by her older sister to bring the gangster to justice.

Bogart might get second billing on the poster, but in reality, he’s fourth or fifth down the line when it comes to screen time.  While it’s fun to note that the roles of criminal and do-gooder have now switched between Bogart and Davis since Petrified Forest, I didn’t feel that the same tension and chemistry between the actors was there.

Davis does a good job in her scenes with Ciannelli, but the script leans heavily on extravagant melodrama, and the ripped-from-the-headlines tone of the film is almost too clichéd in this day and age to have the same impact it did in the 30’s and 40’s.  So while it scores well with online reviews, it’s towards the bottom of the films that I’ve done so far.  (But then again, I enjoyed Swing Your Lady far more than the rest of the world, so what do I know?)

There is plenty to appreciate in this film though, as the cast has been put together well, and it’s always fun to see Bogart and Davis looking so young in their roles.  Davis is as bright-eyed and gorgeous as she ever would be, and Bogart has got the healthiest, most filled out physique that I ever remember seeing on him.

Davis throws herself fully into the character and seems to be committed deeply to the role.  As I understand it from the DVD extras, this was her first film after a drawn out fight with the studio, and she was itching to get back in front of the camera. Her passion shows.

Whether it was originally in the script or added for Bogart, there is a conversation where ADA Graham tells Davis that they’re both from the wrong side of the tracks and it’s not too late for her to make good.  This does a little bit to explain why a man of Bogart’s stature would let his accent slip a bit earlier in the picture as he tells Vanning, “I’m going to indict you for moider!

The Great

The women making up the group of hostesses that Davis lives with are all great, especially Lola Lane as Mary’s main confidant Gabby.  Lane is able to add a sullen darkness behind her role that I’m not sure the wide-eyed and chipper Davis was ready to show yet at this age.  (Although, my pre-1937 Bette Davis knowledge is pretty slight, so feel free to guide me towards some heavier films from her early years!)

Mayo Methot is Estelle, the hostess who’s getting a little long in the tooth to be attracting the high rollers, and Methot is very good here at playing desperate and bitter.  I have no doubt that most classic movie fans will recognize her as Bogart’s third wife.  They met and fell in love on the set of Marked Woman.

Eduardo Cianelli is truly menacing as Johnny Vanning.  While it would have been fun to see Bogart take the role just to get the screen time, Cianelli holds his own and does a great job bringing the necessary intensity and intimidation to the part.

The Good

I should put this in “The Great,” and probably would have if he’d had a little more screen time, but character actor Ben Welden plays Charlie, Vanning’s right hand thug, and he does it as well, if not better, than most others could.  Stocky, grimacing, and always looming in the background, Charlie is the thug who gets the jobs that even Vanning won’t take.  Do you know how hard it is to transcend the typical movie thug?  Welden is very good!

Classic Bogie Moment

Bogart is sitting behind the desk.  The woman in distress comes in, searching desperately for help.  While it doesn’t play out quite the same here as it would four years later in The Maltese Falcon, we do get a little precursor to one of Bogart’s most famous scenes.  He’s calm, cool, and collected as he sizes Davis up, deciding whether or not the woman who’s appeared before him can be trusted.

The Bottom Line

While this is a must see for any Davis or Bogart fan, it’s not quite heavy enough on the Bogart screen time to satisfy a decent Bogart fix.

Fun Fact:

Davis apparently had a real doctor bandage her face after her beating at the hands of Charlie the thug since the makeup crew’s job wasn’t to her satisfaction.