Thank Your Lucky Stars – 1943

ThankYourLuckyStars

My Review

—Wonderful, Goofy Fun— 

Your Bogie Film Fix:

Full Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  David Butler

The Lowdown

Two Hollywood dreamers (Joan Leslie and Dennis Morgan) crash a war effort variety show in order to get their music heard.

What I Thought

Much like Hollywood Victory Caravan, this is a film with a script that’s devised to move the plot along from one musical number to another. Fortunately for us, the script is pretty doggone good. Who knew that Eddie Cantor was the gatekeeper to making it in Hollywood? If you wanted a career, you apparently had to go through him!

We get songs from Jack Carson and Alan Hale, John Garfield, Dinah Shore, Ann Sheridan, Hattie McDaniel, Errol Flynn, Bette Davis, and a few others. The production budget is big, the dances are great, and everyone seems to be having a really good time as dozens of celebrities make their short and sweet cameos along the way.

The stand out performance by far though, is Eddie Cantor playing a double role as himself and an aspiring actor who’s stuck driving a tour bus. The best part? The tour bus driver can’t stand his lookalike counterpart, and he’s disgusted when he has to imitate him.

If you like musical comedies, Classic Hollywood, or you just have a heartbeat, you’ll probably enjoy this film as an entertaining night of popcorn fun.

The Bogart Factor

Despite his high billing, Bogart doesn’t show up until an hour into the film, and even then he’s only onscreen for a minute or two. That being said, his minute or two is really great.  In a dark suit, snap brim hat, and five o’clock shadow, Bogart accosts one of the show’s producers (S. Z.  Sakall) about his part in the variety show. The producer, already at the end of a very long day, gives Bogart a tongue lashing like few others in film ever have. After the producer leaves, a security guard approaches Bogart and asks:

Security Guard:  Let the old man bulldoze ya, huh? 

Bogart:  (VISIBLY SHAKEN) Ya, dat ain’t like me. Gee, I hope none uh my movie fans hear about this . . .  (SLINKS AWAY MEEKLY)

Is it a must see? For the Bogart portion? No. But for the overall quality and fun of the film?  Yes.

The Cast

There are so many good performances to name here, so I’m just going to touch on the bigger roles . . . 

Eddie Cantor is the true star of the show as he plays himself and bus driver Joe Simpson. He capably pulls off playing both the egotistically narcissistic Hollywood star (as himself), and the goofy nobody who’s desperate for a shot in show business (as Simpson). Cantor grabs the most laughs throughout the film, and if you want a great snapshot of his style of comedy, this is a good movie to see it.

Joan Leslie plays Pat Dixon, an aspiring young song writer who’s willing to do anything to get her music heard by the world. Leslie is a lot of fun in the role, although it’s a kind of underwritten. She adds a nice little physical mannerism to Pat in that every time she starts to get a great idea, she tucks her head down and pounds on her temples. It’s also a lot of fun to see her impersonate James Cagney’s “My mother thanks you, my father thanks you. . .” speech from Yankee Doodle Dandy, considering that she’s the one who costarred with him in the film!

Dennis Morgan plays Tommy Randolph, the singer who wants to get out of the bush leagues and make it big. He does fine here, but it’s not really a role written to earn him leading man status. His character seems to exist to connect the dots between Joan Leslie, Eddie Cantor as the bus driver, and Eddie Cantor as himself. I will say that Morgan gets to show a little more depth here than he did in The Return of Doctor X though!

Edward Everett Horton and S. Z. Sakall play the two high strung producers of the variety show, Farnsworth and Dr. Schlenna. They serve their purpose well, and both men are so talented with comedy that I never tire of seeing them pop up in good roles.

I’m also a big Spike Jones fan, so if I didn’t give a mention to him and his band, I’d be deeply remiss. They deliver big with their short time in the film. Jones is one of those genius performers that I fear will eventually be forgotten with time.

For a better write-up on the song and dance numbers, you should check out @hollywoodcomet’s review of the film here.

Classic Bogie Moment

The reason that Bogart was so good at making cameos as himself was that he always seemed willing to play up his mythic persona to the hilt. Just look at this costume and that five o’clock shadow:

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Is this how he went around Hollywood in his free time? Of course not. But it’s how we want to see him, and in almost all of his cameos, it’s how he appears. Thanks for keeping the dream alive, Bogie!

The Bottom Line

The cameo is short and sweet, but the film is worth a watch on its own merits!

In a Lonely Place – 1950

lonely place

My Review

—Amazing Film, Amazing Role— 

Your Bogie Film Fix:

5 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  Nicholas Ray

The Lowdown

Screenwriter Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart) falls under suspicion of murder after a woman he invites to his apartment winds up dead.  A small time actress (Gloria Grahame) provides Steele’s only alibi, and they begin to fall in love after she becomes his typist.

What I Thought

There could be a great film lecture solely devoted to the subject of paranoia and anger as it relates to the two main characters in The Caine Mutiny and In a Lonely Place.  Here again, much like Captain Queeg, Dixon Steele is a brilliant and respected man who’s brought low by his personal demons and tragic flaws.  Any hope that he can rise above his problems is repeatedly dashed by the friends and acquaintances around him who will not let him forget his shortcomings.

Director Nicholas Ray gets a superb performance out of Bogart, and other than a final act that lasts a few minutes longer than it should, this is a tight and thrilling movie.  Like Queeg, we think that we know the facts behind Steele’s situation.  Didn’t we see Mildred leave his apartment?  Shouldn’t we be sure that he had nothing to do with her death?   We should, but Director Ray plays Steele’s behavior so sporadically violent that even we start to question his possible involvement in the girl’s death despite what we’ve seen.

What is so interesting to me about this film and The Caine Mutiny is that they both raise questions about the responsibility that society bears on handling the behavior of unstable people.  Both Queeg and Steele are valuable members of society with a lot to contribute.  Both men could have continued to thrive during their personal struggles with the proper support from their peers.  Both men though, eventually crash – falling into deep states of rage and distrust for those around them, finally sabotaging their personal relationships and careers.

Nicholas Ray is certainly a very gifted director and has assembled a capable cast, a tight script, and a solid eye for using his main star to anchor this great film.

The Bogart Factor

I hate to read that Bogart talked poorly of this film in his later years.  Several of his biographies credit his dislike of the film to the fact that the character of Dixon Steele might have been too close to his own reality.  Both Steele and Bogart are incredibly charming and talented men who struggled to contain a deeper, sometimes alienating, bitterness.

Bogart’s negative feelings could also have been residual bitterness from the fact that Warner Brothers refused to loan his production company, “Santana Productions,” the services of Lauren Bacall for the film.  I would imagine that missing out on working with his wife, as well as the knowledge that their real-life relationship could have added an incredible weight to the film, might have made him a little sour on the experience.

All that being said, this is absolutely some of Bogart’s very best work, as he plays Steele’s societal detachment as a double edged sword that both aids his charm, while still leaving his character open for question when it comes to the murder.  We don’t want to believe that Steele’s guilty, but we have to admit that he’s probably capable.

Bogart is just so doggone charming that you want to hang out with him, share a drink, and shoot the bull.  At the same time, there’s such a painful vulnerability in Bogart, especially during his final scene with Gloria Graham as he leaves her apartment, that we can hardly look at him without great pity.  We see the face of a man, again like Queeg, who’s left stripped of everything he once thought important – an open wound of emotion with nowhere left to turn.

It says a lot about the enduring love for Casablanca, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and The Caine Mutiny that this performance for Bogart isn’t mentioned more often.  Everything key to his talents and onscreen presence is displayed here.

The Cast

Gloria Grahame plays Laurel Gray, the woman who falls for Steele and begins to doubt his innocence and stability as the film progresses.  Knowing that Gray could have been played by Bacall is a big shadow to hang over the role, but Grahame is very, very good.  She’s pretty, charming, and even though it’s not overtly stated, her character is obviously dealing with her own baggage in life.  It’s a suitably understated performance, and it makes me want to see more of her filmography.  (Other than her much treasured role as Violet in It’s a Wonderful Life of course!)

Frank Lovejoy plays Detective Brub Nicolai, Steele’s good friend and the investigating officer of the murder.  He is great in the role, and has good chemistry with Bogart.

Art Smith is Steele’s aging agent, Mel Lippman.  Used mostly for comedic effect, Smith does have an amazing scene with Bogart in a restaurant bathroom after being slapped during one of Steele’s rage-filled outbursts.

Robert Warwick is Charlie Waterman, an aging actor and friend of Steele’s who has fallen into the bottom of a bottle after his career has flat lined.  According to A. Sperber’s Bogart, Warwick worked with Bogart early on in his stage career and was a big encourager for the young actor to keep at his craft.  (p. 434).  For that alone, I’ll give Warwick a big nod here!

Classic Bogie Moment

When Bogart wants to flip a switch from amiable to crazed, I’m always amazed at how fast he can make the transition.  One moment in particular comes when Dixon Steele is explaining to Detective Brub and his wife about how the murder might have taken place.  Much like the mental breakdown during the cross examination scene of The Caine Mutiny, there comes a moment when the character seems to lose himself within his own rationalizations, and a wild-eyed look takes over:

in a lonely place 2

There was also a specific moment at the end where we see a very common mannerism that Bogart would use in multiple films for his characters when they begin to become crazed –

in a lonely classic

The open hands at the hips, as if he’s ready to draw a gun or strangle someone, often come out when Bogart’s characters are at their most physically dangerous, and it’s a little trait that adds an extra dimension of tension here.

The Bottom Line

Undeniably one of the best performances in Bogart’s very rich filmography.

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!

Peter Lorre

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Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre, The Maltese Falcon, 1941

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The Usual Suspects:

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

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

The Man

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

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

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

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

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

THE FILMOGRAPHY

The Maltese Falcon – 1941

joel cairo 2

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

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

All Through the Night – 1942

pepi

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

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

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

Casablanca – 1942

ugarte and rick

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

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

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

Passage to Marseille – 1944

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

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

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

Beat the Devil – 1953

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Closing

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

Bonus Lorre Facts:

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

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

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

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

Deadline U.S.A. – 1952

deadline usa

My Review

—A Very Solid Drama— 

Your Bogie Fix:

4 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  Richard Brooks

The Lowdown

Pulitzer prize winning newspaper editor Ed Hutcheson (Humphrey Bogart) fights for one last big story as his paper is sold out from under him and scheduled to be shut down.

What I Thought

There’s no rush here as director Richard Brooks takes us inside The Day, a fictional big city newspaper run by the last honest editor in town.  The story is laid out for us piece by piece, leaving no doubt as to where it will end up, and for a crime drama done skillfully, that’s a good thing.

The Day is being shut down . . .

The staff is staying on despite the fact that they only have two weeks of pay left . . .

Murderous gangster Tomas Rienzi (Martin Gabel) is about to escape prosecution if no one steps up to stop him . . .

Editor Ed Hutcheson decides that the story is still going to be written whether it makes a difference for the paper or not . . .

If you’re going to have a tough-as-nails crusader that decides to make a last stand for the public good, it might as well be Humphrey Bogart, because no one else is going to do it better.  This is a film that’s filled with one grandiose speech after another, all about the importance of honest journalism, freedom of the press, and the public good – almost all delivered by Bogart, and almost all hitting the exact right chords to drum up the maximum enthusiasm from the supporting cast (and movie goer).

Ed Hutcheson:  (LAMENTING THE SURGE OF TABLOID JOURNALISM) It’s not enough anymore to give’em just the news – they want comics, contests, puzzles!  They want to know how to bake a cake, win friends, and influence the future.  Ergo, horoscopes, tips on the horses, interpretation of dreams – so they can win on the numbers lottery, and, if they accidentally stumble on the first page – news! 

Hutcheson is a no-nonsense, old-school journalist who wants nothing more or less in his paper than the plain facts.  When a young reporter asks permission to chase down mob boss Tomas Rienzi, Hutcheson is quick to crack down on him:

Reporter:  I’d like to stay with the Rienzi story. 

Bogart:  You’re wasting your time, baby. 

Reporter:  Not if we can prove he’s guilty! 

Bogart:  It’s not our job to prove he’s guilty!  We’re not detectives and we’re not in the crusading business! 

But guess who’s quick to join the “crusading business” when his back’s to the wall and the paper’s about to be broken up?  We get a front row seat as Hutcheson breaks some of his own journalistic code and personally joins the fray as his paper goes after Rienzi, despite the threats and strong armed retaliations.

Are we ever truly afraid for Bogart’s safety?  Maybe for a few minutes towards the end, but that’s not the point.  Brooks is more concerned about presenting a story with a firm grip on journalistic realism than he is about making a tight and gripping melodrama.  Fortunately for us, his style works, and we get the best of both worlds.

The Bogart Factor

He’s great here.  I thought there were an enormous amount of similarities between this film and Bogart’s The Enforcer which came out the year before.  Both portray strong and aloof heroes who are pressed for time to complete a grueling job.

Again, no one plays stoic and world weary nearly as well as Bogart does.  This was a great role for him, as the character of Ed Hutcheson doesn’t seem that far removed from the aging Hollywood star that was portrayed in the A. Sperber biography Bogart.  Both the character and the actor had reached an age where they felt as if they were being forced out of their profession, despite the great work they had done, in lieu of a crop of younger, more flashy talent.

As he’s in nearly every scene, this is Bogart’s film to carry, and it’s obvious that he put the effort in to do the role justice.  I can’t imagine another actor being able to handle the repeated grandstanding that was necessary for the character as time and again Bogart stops to lecture, chide, or instruct a room of people on the moralistic duty of the press.

A definite must see for casual and hardcore fans alike.

The Cast

Ethel Barrymore is excellent as Margaret Garrison, the widow who’s selling the paper.  She and Bogart have possibly the best scene in the film towards the end as they talk about the changing landscape of journalism over drinks.  It ends with Bogart proposing.  We know it’s a joke, but both actors have enough chemistry that we want it to be real.

Kim Hunter plays Bogart’s estranged wife, Nora Hutcheson.  Of all the places this film could have fallen into cliché, it was with the wife of the tireless reporter.  That’s not what we get, though, as the script plays the role believably, and we don’t have to spend time wondering if there will be a reconciliation while Bogart burns the midnight oil at the paper.

Ed Begley plays Frank Allen, Hutcheson’s right hand man and confidant at The Day.  Based on my own experience in a newsroom, Begley is perhaps the most believable journalist out of the bunch and is solid in the role.

Martin Gabel is mobster Tomas Rienzi.  He doesn’t get a lot of time to shine in this film, as his main role is to play the villain for Bogart to rail against, but the two men do have a great scene towards the end in Rienzi’s car.  It’s the first moment in the film where I realized that there was a good chance Bogart might not make it out alive.  I appreciate the fact that Richard Brooks had enough self-control to hold off on this nail biting moment until it would be most effective for the story.

Don’t Forget to Notice

Regular Bogie Film Blog favorite, Joe Sawyer, as one of the henchmen that roughs up troublemakers for Rienzi!

Classic Bogie Moment

No one plays a better drunk than Bogie.  We’ve seen him dance, sing, slur, fight, stumble, and speechify, but here, we see him play the piano!

In another little nod to the film’s overall campaign towards life, liberty, and the pursuit of the free press, we get a scene where Bogart is tickling the ivories after a night of mourning over the soon-to-be-defunct newspaper.  He’s not particularly good, as he takes his time to hunt and peck his way across the keys, but it’s a great character moment, and an important transition in the film.  What does he play?  The Battle Hymn of the Republic.  The song would go on to punctuate almost every momentous scene for the rest of the movie.

Now stop for just a moment and think to yourself, how often has a piano played a key role in a Bogart film?  How many of his movies would be completely changed if the instrument was removed?  Was it a planned use of a Bogart-film trademark, or just a happenstance of scriptwriting at the time?  I’m not sure, but it’s a wonderful scene in this film, and one of the best quiet moments we get with Bogart’s character.

The Bottom Line

This is a very solid movie and a great role for Bogart.

Beat the Devil – 1953

beat

My Review

—A Cult Classic— 

Bogie Film Fix:

3.5 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  John Huston

The Lowdown

Four crooks (Humphrey Bogart, Robert Morley, Peter Lorre, and Marco Tulli) meet up with a British couple (Edward Underdown and Jennifer Jones) as they all make their way from Italy to East Africa in order to obtain, and exploit, uranium rich land.  Billy Dannreuther (Bogart) finds himself pinballing between the three crooks he’s travelling with, his wife (Gina Lollobrigida), and the con woman (Jennifer Jones) who continually feeds him lies while simultaneously professing her love for him.

What I Thought

(This post was written in response to @NitrateDiva’s 2013 Italian Film Culture Blogathon, and you should check out the rest of her great entries here.)

While Beat the Devil can be one of those polarizing cult classics (I happen to love it), I think everyone across the board can admit that it’s one of the most eclectic and eccentric casts and crews that Bogart ever worked with.  You’ve got the wild and hard-drinking director, John Huston, the flamboyant and witty writer, Truman Capote, the Italian sex bomb, Gina Lollobrigida, the thick-accented Hungarian-American, Peter Lorre, and academy award winning actress, Jennifer Jones.  Whether you’re an avid supporter of Devil’s cult status, or you simply find it a convoluted mess, there’s no denying that the film fascinates movie buffs and casual fans on multiple levels.

Filmed on location in Ravello, Italy, the first half of the film is almost stolen by the backdrop of the Mediterranean cliffs and seacoasts.  Italy’s not just the setting for this film as much as it is a supporting character.  The viewer is treated to a constant tour of Ravello’s plazas, piazzas, cafés, villas, and tunnel filled, mountainous roads.

Huston uses the Ravello location to its fullest, tying several key plot developments directly into his locations:

-Bogart’s car flies off a cliff and into the Mediterranean Sea, causing a busload of locals to claim that they witnessed his death.

-Several big scenes are shot in an Italian villa and a restaurant owned by Bogart’s character as he earns the trust of the young British couple, claiming to be a wealthy U.S. expatriate.

-Almost every significant conversation is shot outdoors in a café over drinks, on a cliff overlooking the sea, or inside of Bogart’s car as it tours around the Italian countryside.

In fact, one could argue that it’s the Ravello setting itself that seems to be desperately trying to keep the film’s main players from leaving.  Their ship breaks down while in port.  They lose their car into the sea on their way to the airport.  The lure of the romantic countryside keeps a swooning Jennifer Jones in love with Bogart, tempting him to leave his scheme behind and run away with her.

It’s not until the group finally sails away from Italy that things turn dangerously sour in a hurry.  Forced into a life raft after their ship breaks down, they are adrift overnight, finally washing up somewhere on the African shore.  Once beached, they’re immediately arrested, interrogated, and roughed up by the local authorities, until it’s finally discovered that the land they were trying to swindle has been swindled away from them by the least conniving man among them.

If they’d only stayed in Ravello, right?  Yet, the whole time they’re in the picturesque Italian town, all they can do is verbally degrade it as they desperately try to escape it.  Their greed for the uranium land blinds them to the surrounding paradise.

Perhaps my favorite bit of movie lore about this film comes from the fact that a young Peter Sellers was hired to dub some of Bogart’s lines.  After missing a hairpin turn on one of Ravello’s winding roads, Bogart’s driver crashed into a stone wall, sending Bogart face first into the front seat.  After several broken teeth and a new false dental bridge, Bogart’s lisp was stronger and more distracting than usual.  Huston hired Seller’s to help out during postproduction by re-recording several lines of Bogart’s dialogue.  Seller’s impression was so spot-on that Huston and Bogart were reportedly the only ones who could really tell the difference.  After watching the film a half a dozen times, I honestly can’t discern which lines aren’t spoken by Bogart.

The Bogart Factor

I’m a big Capote fan, so for me, hearing his droll and playful dialogue come out of Bogart’s mouth is an incredible treat.

“I was an orphan until I was twenty.  Then a rich and beautiful lady adopted me.”

“The only thing standing between you and a watery grave is your wits, and that’s not my idea of adequate protection.”

“They’re English, going out to the British East.  They have a coffee plantation. . . there’s a certain type of Englishman that goes off to coffee plantations without caring if there’s any money in it or not.  Relatives leave them coffee plantations and they go out to them.”

There’s no doubt that Bogart’s the star of this movie, and his character, Billy Dannreuther, is in complete control of every situation – even when all control seems lost.  It’s a wonderful exhibit of the confidence that Bogart was able to display onscreen.  He plays a man who can always keep his cool – talking his way in, and out, of practically any situation that arises.

It’s tough to learn that Bogart considered this film “a complete mess” after it was finished.  I would have loved for him to see the future and know how many people revere it now.  If nothing else, he could at least read Roger Ebert’s take and have a little satisfaction that Beat the Devil wasn’t a waste of his time!

The Cast

Robert Morley plays Mr. Peterson, the apparent ring leader of Bogart’s crew of criminal rascals.  It’s a complete about-face from his role as the missionary brother to Katherine Hepburn in The African Queen, and it’s great to see him get to show a more devious side.  There’s an especially fun scene where Jennifer Jones tells him that she and her husband are headed to East Africa on a spiritual journey in an attempt to exorcise their lifetime of sins.  Whether it was in the original story, or thrown in as a nod to Morley’s character from The African Queen, it plays out very funny as we watch his face go aghast at the thought that Jones is using religion to con him.

Jennifer Jones is very convincing as the sweet, young con girl who really seems infatuated with Bogart.  She hits all the right notes as Gwendolen Chelm, the unhappy English wife who’s actively trying to escape one relationship by starting another.

Gina Lollobrigida plays Maria Dannreuther, Bogart’s bored and gorgeous wife who begins to fall in love with another man (Edward Underdown) while her husband is falling for Jennifer Jones.  Lollobrigida agreed to the role after being promised top billing in Europe, and I thought she did fine here despite her tepid reception by critics at the time.

Edward Underdown is Henry Chelm, the prim and proper English husband to Jennifer Jones.  What’s so great about Underdown is that his stuffy and upper-class British persona is as close as we get to a moral character in the film.  It’s not that he’s a good person (which he’s not, as he continually ignores and belittles his wife, abandoning her emotionally, as well as physically, until she runs into the arms of Billy), as much as it’s the fact that he’s a person who simply believes people should behave with a constant air of dignity, despite the feelings of others.  By not asking us to root for Underdown, Huston gives us full permission to enjoy his downfall – and then sets us up to be suckered by the final con in the film, right alongside of Bogart and Jones.

Peter Lorre . . . what can I say?  This was his last collaboration with Bogart, and while it’s not a huge role, Lorre gets to do what he does best – squirm, smoke, and connive his way through the film while looking for his chance at glory.  Perhaps my favorite moment in the movie comes when Lorre is lecturing Bogart and Jones on the value of trustworthiness, all the while doing his best to sneak out the door and hurry on to the next part of his dirty dealings.

Classic Bogie Moment

One of the best aspects to many of Bogart’s expatriate loner characters is that they struggle so hard between doing the right thing and looking out for number.  And so, when Bogart and his crew are arrested and subjected to a little rough treatment, we get the following exchange that always makes me smile:

Jennifer Jones:  Are you going to allow them to bully you in this way?  Why, it’s, it’s, it’s simply-

Bogart:  Shocking?

Jones:  Harry wouldn’t have let them do it.  He had a sense of dignity.

Bogart:  (RESIGNED) Well, I have a sense of survival. . .

The Bottom Line

I admit that it took more than one viewing of this film for me to “get it,” but I’m okay with that. I think some of the best films in history often need a chance to grow on us as viewers, and as more time goes by, I respect and enjoy this film more and more.

The Roaring Twenties – 1939

roaring twenties

My Review

—Great Film—

Your Bogie Fix:

3 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  Raoul Walsh

The Lowdown

Eddie Bartlett (James Cagney) returns from fighting in World War I and finds that the only way he can make a decent living is by selling homemade liquor.  Soon Bartlett is running a bootlegging operation, in love with a naïve young singer (Priscilla Lane), and teaming up with two old war buddies (Jeffry Lynn and Humphrey Bogart) to deliver cheap booze to as many speakeasies as he can muscle.  Before long though, Bartlett finds that his unrequited love and his jealous partner are more than he can handle while running a business.

What I Thought

This film is a whole lot of fun.  While it may not be Cagney or Bogart’s best gangster movie, it’s still fantastic and well worth the watch.

Cagney gets to run the gamut from celebrated soldier boy to big time gangster, and then all the way down to flat broke drunk.  I use the word charisma a lot on this blog when I talk about Bogart’s command of the big screen, but Cagney is another one of those actors that you just can’t take your eyes off of.  He looks great in a uniform, a tuxedo, and a bum’s clothes.  He can switch from coy and charming one minute, to fierce and ruthless the next, and it always plays believably.  Plus, he has a great sense of comedic timing and isn’t afraid to let his costars shine.  Good guy or evil, it’s hard not to root for him in any role.

While the story of bootlegging gangsters might not be new or groundbreaking, it is quite layered, weaving many different characters in and out of the life of Cagney’s returning war veteran, Bartlett.

Many gangster movies of the time were satisfied with introducing one female lead to hold the main hood’s coat and be a good little mobgirl stereotype – The Roaring Twenties gives us two, and neither one of them turns out to be the typical squeaky moll that we might expect.

The young singer that Bartlett adores won’t return his loving glance, let alone his proposal ring.  All the while, the older speakeasy madam is quietly pining away for him, but Bartlett can’t bring himself out of his puppy-love daze long enough to notice.

Then there are Bartlett’s two pals that would give him the shirt off their backs and all he does is lead them down a dangerous and tragic path.  Bartlett’s roommate Danny (Frank McHugh) is willing to do absolutely anything to help his buddy make it, and it costs him big when Bartlett continually puts him in harm’s way.  And Bartlett’s old war buddy, Lloyd (Jeffry Lynn), who’s now a lawyer, barely makes it out of Bartlett’s racket by the skin of his teeth.

What sets this film apart from so many gangster of the time is that director Raoul Walsh gives us a story that’s more epic in nature than what we’ve come to expect from these sorts of crime films.  These are three dimensional characters that all have interests and desires that, like in real life, don’t all orbit around one central character so that everything wraps up nicely before the credits.

Cagney’s Bartlett is a man with a serious tragic flaw – he can’t always put aside his own ambition to see the bigger picture.  It costs him in the end when he passes up one too many chances to take care of his business partner, and rival, George Hally (Bogart), leaving us with a bittersweet finale after Bartlett finally does the right thing, albeit a little too late.

The Bogart Factor

Bogart’s got a strong first ten minutes in the film and then disappears until about halfway through.  It’s not as well rounded a character as Cagney has to play with, as Bogart plays a slightly more typical bad guy, but it does have its moments.

Director Walsh is able to misdirect us a bit, making Bogart’s George Hally a borderline likable guy.  There’s an inkling here and there that Hally could go bad, but we really don’t know for sure until the final act of the film.

Small scenes are given to Bogart’s character that are able to show his menace, while at the same time giving us motivation for his eventual turn on Cagney.  In particular, Walsh crafts a great little side story where Hally comes across his old, belligerent army Sergeant (Joe Sawyer) as the bootleggers are committing a robbery.  Through just a few lines earlier in the movie, we know that Hally feels as if he’s been mistreated by the Sergeant, a man that Hally has always felt superior to.  At both points in the film, we don’t yet know that Bogart’s going to turn on Cagney, and so it’s not hard for us to understand Hally’s satisfaction in getting revenge on his old tormenter. It also adds a little color to Bogart’s character as we learn that he doesn’t like taking orders from anyone – which ends up being George Hally’s tragic flaw.

The Cast

Priscilla Lane is very good as Jean Sherman, the teenage girl who writes Cagney during the war and then steals his heart when he gets home.  She very convincingly plays ignorant to Cagney’s advances, and it’s easy to believe that she’d fall for a character like Jeffrey Lynn’s stand-up Lloyd.

Perhaps my favorite moments of the film happen with Frank McHugh’s portrayal of Cagney’s best friend, Danny.  McHugh’s comic timing and expressive face inject a lot of good nature and levity into the early part of the movie, and he works very well with Cagney.  McHugh pops up here and there in a lot of Classic Hollywood films, and I need to further explore his filmography.

Another high point is Gladys George (Iva Archer in The Maltese Falcon) as a speakeasy hostess who has a thing for Cagney.  She takes the role well beyond the caricature that it could have been, and gives the audience a strong character that we can relate to as she watches Cagney spin out of control.

Don’t Forget to Notice

A number of Bogie regulars show up in character roles – Joe Sawyer as the Sergeant, Ben Welden as a bar owner, and Eddie Acuff as a taxi driver.  My goal before this blog is done is to create a cross referenced list of all the actors who pop up in Bogart’s movies again and again.

Classic Bogie Moment

The scene that sticks out to me most is one that comes early in the film and shows Bogart’s skill at mixing humor and menace in the same moment.  Bogart, Cagney, and Lynn are all in a firefight, taking shots at Germans just before the war ends.  Lynn lines up a man in his sights, but can’t bring himself to fire:

Bogart:  What’s the matter Harvard?  You lose the Heinie?

Lynn:  No, but he looks like a kid about fifteen years old.

Bogart:  (TAKES THE SHOT AND SNEERS) He won’t be sixteen . . .

The Bottom Line

This is a great film, and while it might not be one of Bogart’s most iconic roles, he plays his part very well and gives us a heavy that can stand up against Cagney as a believable threat.

Hollywood Victory Caravan – 1945

hc1945

My Review

—Short and Fun— 

Your Bogie Fix:

.5 Bogie out of 5 Bogies

Director – William D. Russell

The Lowdown

A young woman in Hollywood is unable to visit her wounded, war veteran brother in Washington D.C. because there’s no transportation to get there.  Discovering that a train load of celebrities is headed to D.C. to sell war bonds, she crashes the front gate at Paramount Pictures to beg and plead her way to Bing Crosby, who might just be able to secure her a place on the train.

What I Thought. . .

Filled with celebrities that are still household names today (Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Barbary Stanwyk, etc.) and a few that time has kind of left behind (Carmen Cavallaro and Olga San Juan), at least half of the twenty minute running time is song and dance routines.  There are also a few fun bits with a campy train station agent (Franklin Pangborn), a disgruntled Paramount security guard (William Demarest) and a number of very funny moments with Hope and Crosby.  All in all, it’s a variety show in the guise of a half hour sitcom that ends up as a commercial for the US government.

It’s a fun little time capsule into 1940’s pop culture, and worth checking out.

The Bogart Factor

Playing himself, Bogart takes no part in the running story of the woman and her war veteran brother.  His sole job is to walk out onstage during the final celebrity packed show and make a pitch to buy bonds.  He looks fantastic – very healthy and sharp – and I’d have to say that if I’d been in the audience, I might have bought a war bond after hearing his short pitch.  Then again, he was charismatic enough that he could have sold me just about anything he wanted.

The Cast 

By far the best part of the show comes when Hope and Crosby are forced to share a berth on the train to D.C.  Having the most screen time out of all the celebrities in the show, there are lots of great moments for each man, but the sight of them spooning in bed, fast asleep, as Hope drapes his arm around Crosby’s waist is priceless.  Then, when Crosby begins to dream about his racehorse Bluefoot (?) and starts reaching around and slapping Hope on the backside while saying, “Giddyup!” I had an actual laugh-out-loud moment.  It’s every bit as fun as the hotel bed scene in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and it makes me very excited to eventually review Road to Bali, as Bogart makes a cameo in that film as well.

Classic Bogie Moment

He’s not acting, so there are no classic tough guy lines or actions, but the classic Bogie stance does make an appearance.  If you’ve seen any Bogart movies at all, you know the stance I’m talking about.  Bogart stands up straight, puffs his chest, pops his hips out just a bit, and then tucks his thumbs into the waistband of his pants as he talks.

The Bottom Line

This is probably not a must see unless you’re a completist, but there are a few good chuckles and at least one guaranteed laugh from Hope and Crosby.  If you’re a fan of Classic Hollywood, you won’t mind spending twenty minutes enjoying this little piece of Cinema history.

The Enforcer – 1951

Enforcer

My Review

—A Decent Thriller—

Your Bogie Fix:

3.5 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  Although Bretaigne Windust is credited, Raoul Walsh was brought in after only a few days of filming when Windust was taken to the hospital, seriously ill.  Windust would not return in time to finish the picture.

The Lowdown

Well, I think I’m finally ready to start writing a book entitled Where Have All the Character Actors Gone?  While the old school studio system with its contract players might not work in today’s world, it sure did produce a heck of a lot of solid men and women who could play side roles so well that an entire movie could be elevated.

Bogart is Assistant District Attorney Martin Ferguson, a man in desperate need of sleep when the movie opens, and even more desperate need when it wraps up.  (What are the odds that I’d randomly pull two movies in a row where Bogart’s a desperate District Attorney?  How many can there be?)

ADA Ferguson is one night away from going to trial with Albert Mendoza (Everett Sloane), a man that he believes to be the mastermind behind a criminal ring of hitmen, and the police have just brought in the one and only witness that can make the case stick.

Ted De Corsia plays Joseph Rico, Mendoza’s second in command, and he’s the last chance that ADA Ferguson has left to put Mendoza in prison.  Rico has other ideas though, as he knows that there is nowhere he can run to escape Mendoza’s grasp.  Rather than rat out his boss and pay the consequences, Rico makes a break from a third story window, and then makes a lot of breaks as he hits the ground after losing his balance on a ledge.

Ferguson and his right hand man, Captain Frank Nelson (Roy Roberts), are suddenly faced with a ticking clock.  Ferguson has to be in court within eight hours, and his main piece of evidence against Mendoza is no longer breathing.  But wasn’t there something he missed?  Some small piece of evidence that’s lurking in the dark recesses of his mind?  Something that he didn’t think he’d need to remember?

Ferguson and Nelson reopen the case from the beginning, and we the viewers get to flashback to the first moments that Mendoza’s men slip up, and the crime syndicate flashes onto ADA Ferguson’s radar.

Imagine an extra-long episode of Law and Order, except the cast is made up of classic Hollywood actors.  It’s a murder mystery who-done-it in which we get to watch Bogart track down one lead after another, only to find out that every new witness he needs has just turned up dead.

There’s also a nifty twist at the end that I’ll admit, I should have seen coming.  But twist endings weren’t as common in classic Hollywood, so I wasn’t expecting it!  It’s not my fault, see!  The clues were there but I wasn’t paying close enough attention!  I’ll wager that even if you do see it coming, it’ll still be pretty satisfying – I’ll say no more just in case you haven’t seen it yet!

Oh!  And Zero Mostel plays “Big Babe” Lazick, one of the hit men that Bogart has to flip for the prosecution!  So we get some great work between the two actors as Ferguson leans his full force onto Lazick’s hefty shoulders, using every bit of threat and intimidation that he can muster into getting the poor dope to turn over Mendoza – even coldheartedly using Lazick’s wife and child.

And just to show you how cliché it’s become in the modern day to have hitmen as a part of our cultural entertainment, there’s a number of scenes in the movie that actually take the time to explain what the words “contract” and “hit” mean.  Some of that lingo is so commonplace now that I wouldn’t be surprised if my six year old knew it.  Can you even imagine being unaware of how a hitman works in this day and age?

The Great

This cast is so much fun.  Zero Mostel and Ted de Corsia are standouts for sure, but even the smallest parts – King Donovan as Sgt. Whitlow – are so well cast that every actor on screen is fighting for your attention with even the smallest line.  Jack Lambert as the crazy killer, “Philadelphia” Tom Zaca, and Tito Vuolo as Tony Vetto, help round out the killing crew – both scene stealers in their own right.

Everett Sloane’s portrayal of the hit man gang’s ringleader Albert Mendoza is expertly down played until the final act of the film, and when he finally appears in a scene with de Corsia, it’s chilling and wonderful.

Bogart gets a “great” mention as well.  A perfect double feature would be to pair this film with Marked Woman.  In Marked Woman, Bogart’s the young, idealistic ADA who’s fighting for justice through a web of rules and regulations.  In The Enforcer, we see a Bogart who’s aged and weary, just as ready to lob a right hook at a suspect as he is an interrogation question.  Ferguson is a weary soul, and Bogart gives the character his just due.

The Good

While there’s nothing groundbreaking with this script by Martin Rackin, it is a very solid mystery / thriller.  Once the flashback starts, the viewer is pulled through multiple twists and turns along the case with Bogart until the big reveal at the end.  There’s no romance thrown in to pander to the date crowd, and Bogart gets to play Ferguson as a flawed and frustrated man who isn’t afraid to bend the rules a bit to get the job done.   A remake of this today, if done well, would be a solid summer popcorn flick.

Classic Bogie Moment

The cops lead Rico into the station to meet ADA Ferguson.  The office door opens and inside the darkened room is Bogart, sitting behind his desk, hunched over and smoking a cigarette.  He doesn’t have to say a word for us to know his state of mind.  He’s tired and edgy.  Did he sleep last night?  Probably not.  Will he sleep this night?  More than likely he won’t, and he knows it.

Someone should put together a montage of all the “Bogie smoking behind a desk” moments from cinema history.

The Bottom Line:

This is an very satisfying police procedural.  Not as dark and noir-ish as Bogart’s private detective roles, but a fun look at a more by-the-book type of lawman from Bogart.  (Even though he’s not all that by-the-book at times!)  Very rewatchable, especially the second time when you get to reexamine the scenes that hint towards the twist.

Fun Fact:

Just for fun, sometimes I like to go through the full cast and crew to see what the overlap between Bogart movies might be.  So go to IMDB’s page and then scroll down through the cast until you get to a guy by the name of David McMahon, who happens to play a police officer in this movie, although he was “uncredited.”  Now click through to his filmography and see a long list of “uncredited” roles that McMahon played throughout his career.  Bartenders, cops, deliveyrmen, Taxi Drivers – if there was a small role or background character to be played, this guy played it – and more than likely he was “uncredited” at the time.

This was an era in Hollywood when you could be a contracted working actor with a career made up of dozens and dozens of movies and TV shows, and yet you might still be completely unrecognizable to the public at large.  It wasn’t until the end of McMahon’s career, when began to appear as a regular on a few TV series, that he might have finally gained some notoriety.

How many times do you think this guy heard, “Hey!  Don’t I know you from somewhere?” only to run through his long list of bit parts until the befuddled fan finally came up with, “The Virginian!  Yeah!  Yeah!  That’s right!  You’re the conductor on The Virginian!”

David McMahon!  We salute you!  It was actors like you who brought years of experience to small roles in order to elevate a movie’s credibility!

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.