Great Performances – Bacall on Bogart – 1988

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Honorary Bogie Fix:

5 Bogie

Director: David Heely

The Lowdown

Clips, interviews, stills, and personal memories are given by the woman who knew Bogart the best – Lauren Bacall.

What I Thought

With interviews from John Huston, Richard Brooks, Ingrid Bergman, Katherine Hepburn, Julius Epstein, and Lauren Bacall herself, this is surely the definitive Bogie TV bio that any casual-to-hardcore fan would love.

I think what I enjoyed the most was the time spent on some of Bogart’s lesser known films. While many books and TV bios gloss over a lot of his early duds, Bacall takes a moment to comment on, and even show clips from, films most people aren’t acquainted with. She even spends a little extra time on my personal favorite cult classic, The Return of Doctor X.

For sure, the biggest treat here is Lauren Bacall’s on and off screen narration. The woman is as beautiful and captivating as ever, and that smoky voice is more-than-easy to listen to as she segues between her own personal reflections, interviews with Hollywood legends, and clips of Bogart’s work.

I covered A&E’s Biography on Bogart a few days ago, and this one’s as much of a heavyweight history lesson as that one was an entertaining afternoon diversion. Clocking in at just over an hour, what makes this one so much deeper and informative is obviously the involvement, guidance, and knowledge of Bacall.

Insider perspective on Bogart’s family, early frustrations, behind-the-scenes hi jinks, behind-the-scenes fights, behind-the-scenes love affairs, personal war on McCarthyism, and painful death is powerful and pointed along every step of the way. Perhaps the most telling moments come at the end as Katherine Hepburn recalls her final moments with Bogart after a visit with Spencer Tracy. It was the last time that they saw their good friend alive, and if it doesn’t make your eyes water, you have no business being a Classic Film fan.

The Cast of Interviewees

This one is all about Lauren Bacall as she very proudly leads us through the life of the man she loved. There is a great deal of admiration and loyalty on display, and the word “classy” just does not do Bacall justice on her work here. It’s a great piece of Bogart’s legacy to leave behind for the world.

I’ve mentioned Katherine Hepburn above as she really steals the show, but this is also a WONDERFUL treasure trove of personal insight from some of the collaborators that shaped Bogart into the man we love – Director John Huston, Actress Ingrid BergmanCasablanca scribe Julius Epstein, and Actor Van Johnson.

The Bottom Line

Bacall’s involvement makes this one a must see for anyone who likes the real stories behind Hollywood icons. If only every star had someone to take such great care of their legacy after they passed.

 

A&E Biography – Bogart – 2003

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Honorary Bogie Film Fix:

2.5 Bogie

The Lowdown

Perhaps television’s most entertaining and digestible history program chronicles Hollywood’s greatest legend.

What I Thought

Can you believe that this show has over 1,000 episodes?!? It started back in 1987 and it took until 2003 to do an episode on Bogart? Sometime when I have the time to search through hundreds of old episodes, I’ll check to see if this was merely an updated episode from a previous airing.

But on to the important stuff –

For the casual fan of Classic Hollywood, this episode of A&E’s long running bio-show hits all the major notes from Bogart’s life. They cover the struggle to make the leap from Broadway to Hollywood. They touch on how The Petrified Forest and High Sierra made him a household name. They cover the major directors (Huston and Hawks) who carved him into the star we love. They cover the Bacall love affair, marriage, and eventual children. And while they might underplay the severity of the situation, they even touch on Bogart’s work against the House Un-American Activities Committee. For the most part, it’s all here.

For anyone who’s read a Bogart biography or seen another biographical TV show, there’s nothing really new to latch onto. Certainly, anyone who’s read the Sperber/Lax, Kanfer, or Stephen Bogart bios will glean little unknown info here.

But that’s not to say that there aren’t some treats to be had.

Of all people, Art Linkletter shares some great insight into Bogart’s life as he spent some time as a next door neighbor.

Also, Stephen Bogart’s wistful recollection of his father’s final months is just as heartbreaking as one would imagine as he mentions not getting to see his father very often, and occasionally watching him being lowered to the main floor in the dumbwaiter when Bogart was too weak to walk the stairs. His stories are played over some rarely seen shots of the two together, and it put a lump in my throat.

The Cast of Interviewees

While Art Linkletter and Stephen Bogart might have been the standout interviews here, there’s no denying that it’s fun to watch and hear Roger Ebert speak when he was still somewhat healthy. Man, I miss Siskel and Ebert desperately.

John Huston’s ex Evelyn Keyes offers good insight, as well as film critic and writer Foster Hirsch. And I’d be remiss not mentioning the fun of getting to hear Martin Scorsese, perhaps Hollywood’s directorial Bogart-equivalent, wax on about Bogie.

The Bottom Line

Even if you’ve already got all the info from a dozen other sources, you’ll still probably enjoy this episode of Biography. If you’ve got a long plane ride and you can find it on YouTube, there are worse ways to pass the time!