Dead Man – 1945

dead man

My Review

—Mediocre, but Still Fun—

Honorary Radio Bogie Fix:

Radio Fixes 2

The Lowdown

A train-hopping hobo (William Tracy) is haunted by the voice of a railroad bull (Bogart) after killing him.

What I Thought

Based on a short story by famed novelist and screenplay writer James M. Cain (The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity, Mildred Pierce, Algiers, etc.), this one’s worth a listen for the author’s pedigree alone. While this story doesn’t come close to his best works, its paint-by-numbers plot is still entertaining enough. And – I have no doubt that 70 years ago, this plot might have played out a little more unexpectedly to a general public that wasn’t nearly as media-saturated as we are today.

Is this production of Dead Man good? It’s okay. It’s an easy listen at half an hour and more than good enough to pass the time on a commute to work or an airplane ride. Not as good as several of Bogart’s radio film adaptions, the actors do well with what they have.

This broadcast of Dead Man was one of Bogart’s rare pre-Bold Venture dips into radio that wasn’t a cameo appearance or a film adaption. Supposedly handpicked by Bogart himself, the noir-ish feel of a story that focuses on a murderer consumed with guilt and paranoia seems right up the Hollywood legend’s alley.

The Bogart Factor

Bogart does well here as Larry Knott, the railroad bull who’s murdered. Yes, his ghostly voice sounds a little like he’s standing across the street and speaking through a bullhorn, but how much can you really do on the radio when you need to distinguish someone as an ethereal presence that also needs a good dose of tough guy added in? There are so many roles in his filmography where Bogart plays a guilt ridden ne’er-do-well that is slowly becoming mentally unhinged (Black Legion, San Quentin, Dead End, Conflict, The Two Mrs. Carrolls, etc.) that it’s kind of refreshing to hear him as the innocent conscience haunting another killer. It wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine Bogart playing the lead role himself if the story had made it to the big screen. If anyone knows the ins and outs of guilt-driven-mania, it’s Bogart for sure.

While it’s not a must listen unless you’re a Bogart completist, it’s worth a listen for anyone interested in a James M. Cain/Bogart collaboration.

The Rest of the Cast

William Tracy plays Lucky, the hobo who kills Bogart at the beginning of the story, only to be guilted into madness by his disembodied voice until he can stand it no longer. Tracy does well here with the material he’s given, more than able to give his private conversations with Bogart plenty of angst and tension.

The Bottom Line

You could do worse for old time radio. If you’re already a subscriber to an old time radio podcast, this one has either come up, or probably will eventually.

Lux Radio Theater – The African Queen – 1952

African Queen Radio

My Review

—Great Way to Spend a Car/Plane Ride—

*This is post #2 in my African Queen trilogy of posts.  Post #1 on the actual film can be found here.* 

Honorary Bogie Fix:

Radio Fixes out of 5 Honorary Bogies!

The Lowdown

Canadian boat captain Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart) helps a Christian missionary(Greer Garson) leave an African village as the Germans take control during the first World War.

What I Thought

Can you imagine movie stars of this day and age promoting their films by recreating abbreviated versions for the radio?  Bogart did it multiple times, and although Katherine Hepburn is replaced by Greer Garson in the role of Rose here, it’s still a lot of fun, and a great way to kill a car ride or plane trip if you’re one of those people who prefer podcasts to music.

Taped before a live audience, Bogart and Garson crank up the roles of Charlie and Rose considerably for the audio-only crowd.  As colorful as Bogart was for the film version, he’s even more goofy and eccentric here.  It makes sense, considering the entire story now has to happen in our minds as we listen along, and both actors are forced to rely only on their spoken words to get the message across.

Intermittently, we get spots for Lux Toilet Soap (it’s how Esther Williams and Zsa Zsa Gabor keep their complexions so healthy, dontcha know!), and a teaser for the following week’s production of Les Miserables.  There’s also a short, very scripted, “off the cuff” moment with Bogart and Garson after the curtain call that is kind of a shocking reminder about how completely staged Classic Hollywood could look and sound in its “candid” moments.

Unlike a lot of radio theater from the time, there were multiple moments where I forgot that I wasn’t listening to the audio from the actual film.  I really enjoyed this broadcast.

The Bogart Factor

Bogart throws himself into the radio version of Charlie Allnut just as much as he did in the filmed version.  He’s quirky, charming, goofy, and just a little bit off of his rocker.  It all makes for a lot of fun as he and Greer Garson have decent chemistry together, and we get to re-enjoy the courtship of two great film characters.

Other than a couple very minor roles, Bogart and Garson carry the entire broadcast as they talk their way down the river, and they both seem to be enjoying themselves immensely.  I continue to maintain that Bogart was one of most professional actors I’ve ever seen, always giving 100% to every role, no matter how small or strange.

The Cast

Greer Garson plays Rose Sayer, and while she’s no Katherine Hepburn, she does a good job.  Garson’s version of the English missionary is even more prim, proper, and enunciation-obsessed than Hepburn’s, as she really plays up Rose’s stuffiness for the radio, and she capably handles herself alongside Bogart .  My only complaint would be that Garson lacks the tough side of Rose, and errs too greatly in the direction of British snob.

Classic Bogie Moment

What’s so great about Bogart in the film version is that he truly held nothing back in his quirky and eccentric portrayal of Charlie Allnut – the captain who starts a little off-his-rocker even before the river drives him over the edge.

What’s even more fun about the radio broadcast is that Bogart gets to turn it up a notch as he plays for both a live crowd, and a crowd that can only hear his voice.  This means that when it’s time to get drunk, he gets silly drunk, singing “The Bold Fisherman” with slightly more zest and bravado than the film version.  We’ve seen a slurring, droopy-eyed, drunk Bogart quite a few times in film, but this is a sloppy, giddy, off-the-wall, plastered Bogart, and it’s a blast.

The Bottom Line

Have an hour?  Take a listen.  It’s a lot of fun to hear Bogart having so much fun.

Thank Your Lucky Stars – 1943


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:


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!

The Oklahoma Kid – 1939

Kid Poster

My Review

—Better Than You’ve Been Led to Believe—

Your Bogie Film Fix:

2 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  Lloyd Bacon

The Lowdown

Jim ‘The Oklahoma Kid’ Kincaid (James Cagney) is an amiable outlaw who really only steals from people who deserve it.  When his father and brother are put in harm’s way by a ruthless land thief (Humphrey Bogart), Kincaid looks to set things right.

What I Thought

I had heard so many bad things about this film that I’d prepared myself for the worst.

I’d heard that it was “the film with the two shortest cowboys of all time.”  True enough, but I did think that nicknaming Cagney ‘The Oklahoma Kid’ helped a lot.  And who cares if the bad guy’s short?  Lots of famous bad guys are short!

I’d also heard it was “the film with the cowboys that have gangster accents.”  This complaint is a bit more understandable considering that everyone in the film besides Cagney and Bogart seemed to have more Midwestern accents, if not full out drawls.  Our two stars though, sound just as if they’d plopped right down outta The Roaring Twenties.

I’d also read from multiple sources that it was “the cowboy film with goofy outfits,” as even Bogart himself thought that Cagney’s costume made him look like a big mushroom:


Although when you consider Bogart’s chapeau:


It makes me wonder, were they out of medium sized hats that day???

I had a lot of similar feelings watching this film as I did when I watched The Return of Doctor X.  It may not be the best use of Bogart’s talents, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable film.  Cagney especially seems full of endless joy as he grins and charms his way through this movie.

This is my fifth Lloyd Bacon film for the blog after Brother Orchid, Action in the North Atlantic, Marked Woman, and San Quentin, and out of the five, I actually think it’s the film where Bacon has taken the biggest risks.  With about twenty minutes left of the movie, I anticipated that it was about to wrap up in the standard, Hollywood cliché, cowboy film way – with Cagney blasting the pistols out of evil doers’ hands and roping everyone up into prison.  Much to my surprise, I ended up watching a film that could be labeled as an early precursor to Eastwood’s Unforgiven.  (In the tone of the final act only, mind you!)

Director Bacon doesn’t hold back as multiple main characters start to meet violently disturbing ends.  Cagney’s Oklahoma Kid responds in kind, finally living up to the reputation that we’ve heard about for the entire movie but hadn’t yet seen, as he systematically begins to take apart Whip McCord’s (Humphrey Bogart) gang one by one.

It made me wish that we could have seen a darker side to Cagney throughout the first three quarters of the film when Director Bacon really seemed to be leaning harder on the comedy while the end of the film probably needed a bit more of a dramatic setup.  Quite a few times you’ll wonder, Why exactly are they working so hard to track down The Oklahoma Kid when there are much worse gangsters already destroying everything?  

Is it a perfect film?  No, definitely not.  Is it a great western?  No, not really.  But it is a decent movie with lots of fun moments, and it has two Hollywood legends playing outside of their normal wheelhouse of roles.  With only a finite amount of Cagney and Bogart films to enjoy, I’ll lend The Oklahoma Kid a lot of grace for its lack of credibility.

The Bogart Factor

Whip McCord is a pretty two-dimensional bad guy for Bogart, and there are several times during the film when the character disappears for extended periods.  Any shortcomings, though, stem more from the script than from Bogart’s performance.  He does his best with a limited role, and he even looks comfortable on horseback.  His lack of screen time might have partially been due to the fact that he was concurrently filming Dark Victory with Bette Davis while he was making this film.

We do get to see, what I would consider, the greatest fistfight that I’ve seen in a Bogart movie to date when Bogart and Cagney finally have it out at the end of the film.  Starting on the second landing of the saloon, both men (and their stunt doubles) get to the main floor the hard way.  Check out the way that Bogart high-kicks Cagney right in the face and then goes after him with a broken bottle!  It’s a gritty, violent, and incredibly enjoyable Western fistfight if there ever was one.

If nothing else, we get to see Bogart dressed in black and riding a horse – that’s worth the price of admission alone, isn’t it?

The Cast

James Cagney is pretty good as Jim Kincaid.  Did this guy ever do a bad role?  Cagney is endlessly watchable onscreen and seemed to be enjoying himself as he flirts, cons, shoots, and rides his way through the film.

Rosemary Lane is Jane Hardwick, Cagney’s love interest.  Much like The Return of Doctor X, I found her capable, but incredibly underwritten.  How is it that the same gal gets shortchanged in both of Bogart’s wildest genre films?

Harvey Stephens and Hugh Sothern play Ned and John Kincaid, Cagney’s brother and father, respectively.  Both men are solid, holding up a majority of the film when Cagney’s not present.  Stephens plays especially earnest and honorable as he rallies a group of men against Bogart’s outlaw with this great line:

Ned Kincaid:  “Shootings, killings, robberies, and a mighty orgy of drunkenness!  Gambling and vice!  All directly traceable to McCord’s influence!”

Hugh Sothern’s exit from the film shocked me, and added the first real emotional weight to the film as it switches gears from lighthearted western to dark revenge tale.

Don’t Forget to Notice 

Ray Mayer, who made a career out of showing up in films as a piano player/musician, has one of the funniest moments in the film as Cagney makes a request for a song in the saloon, despite the fact that there’s a man nearby who happens to be trying to kill him.

Classic Bogie Moment

I think that what makes Bogart so great and believable as a bad guy is that even when he’s given a two-dimensional role, he’s able to add some realistic vulnerability.  When a typical film villain hears bad news from a henchman, what does he do?  He might grimace and grit his teeth.  He might furrow his brow and clench his fists.  He might snarl and bark with spittle flying in all directions.  Not Bogart.  While getting bad news in two scenes in particular, he does exactly what an actor is supposed to do.  He listens.  And while he listens, we can see him actually thinking about what’s being said:


Bogart slowly turns away from the other actor, looking upset, confused, stressed, and even a little scared as he’s forced to adjust his plans in dealing with Cagney and his family.  It’s a little trait that I recognize from a lot of his other films, and it’s used well here.

The Bottom Line

If you like Cagney, you need to see this film.  If you’re more than a casual fan of Bogart, you’ll find a lot to love about The Oklahoma Kid despite its flaws.

Report from the Front – 1944


My Review

—A Short PSA from Hollywood’s Greatest Asset— 

Honorary Bogie Film Fix:

Red Cross 3 out of 3 Red Crosses!

Producer:  Gordon Hollingshead

The Lowdown

Reporters meet Humphrey Bogart and Mayo Methot as they arrive home after a trip to see the American Red Cross in action during World War II.


What I Thought

At 3 minutes and 18 seconds, Report from the Front is more of a brief time capsule of Hollywood’s WWII support than it is a Bogart film.  Shot to support the Red Cross for The Office of War Information, Bogart is only visible for a few moments at the beginning, and then again at the end, as he makes a plea for movie-goers to donate to the Red Cross.  The rest of the video is footage of U.S. servicemen fighting, relaxing, and being cared for by the Red Cross while Bogart narrates.

According to A. M. Sperber’s Bogart, Bogart arrived on the Warner set with his four page monologue memorized and insisted on Methot being included in the shot with the fake plane as he is approached by reporters.  He had even made a few rewrites to the script to make the final plea for donations a little stronger.  (Sperber, 252, 253)

The short film is powerful, as just before the footage of soldiers and aid workers begins, Bogart looks straight into the camera and talks about what he’s witnessed overseas.  His voice is steady and authoritative, and I’m sure his request was effective as movie theater ushers passed donation plates through the aisles.  Who wouldn’t listen to a fedora and trench-coated Bogart as he looks you in the eye and tells you to help ailing servicemen?

The Bogart Factor


In his most iconic Hollywood costume, and with a plane very similar to the one from the final scene of Casablanca, it’s pretty clear that The Office of War Information was trying to squeeze out every drop of goodwill that audiences had for Bogart at the time.  It’s no-nonsense and played for utter sincerity, and Bogart has the chops to pull it off.

The Cast

It’s just Bogart and Mayo Methot, although Methot has no lines.  But she does look very pretty!

Classic Bogie Moment

Despite how badly the House Un-American Activities had beaten up and smeared Bogart over the years, he actually had a long and detailed history of supporting the U.S. troops – even travelling overseas to entertain them with his best gangster shtick as he put on shows for servicemen and visited the wounded in hospitals.  It’s that sincerity that gives this short more of an authentic documentary feel than other PSAs from the time.  Multiple interviews with Bogart and those who knew him talk about his disappointment at not being able to serve during WWII due to age, and it’s heartwarming to know that he went the extra mile to do what he could.

The Bottom Line

Not a must see, but a great moment for Hollywood during a trying time.

The Bad Sister – 1931


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

maltese falcon pic
Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre, The Maltese Falcon, 1941


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 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


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


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

marius 2

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

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

Beat the Devil – 1953


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.

Big City Blues – 1932

Big City Blues

My Review

—A Good Comedy Turns Ugly— 

Your Bogie Fix:

1 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  Mervyn Leroy

The Lowdown

Small town boy Buddy Reeves (Eric Linden) takes a train bound for New York in order to follow his dreams, but it’s not long before his swindling cousin Gibby (Walter Catlett) lands him in hot water after they throw a party with tragic consequences.

What I Thought

This one was a must see for me since it was Bogart’s first film with Warner Brothers, the studio that would eventually turn him into a worldwide star.  With a running time of just over an hour, it’s a quick watch, which works in the movie’s favor as any more time spent with these two-dimensional characters would probably start to become a little taxing on the viewer.  While I did find a few good things to like about Big City Blues, it seemed like a film that was confused with its own genre.

Is Big City Blues a warm-hearted fish out of water story?  It certainly begins that way.  As we watch Buddy Reeves leave his dog behind and wander around the big city in search of the American dream, we can’t help but get a little caught up in his wide-eyed naiveté.  Two grandfatherly train station agents give Buddy a ribbing about his high hopes for New York and send him on his way with a pat on the back.  Then, when we meet his fast talking, money leeching cousin, Gibby, we’re ready to watch Buddy learn a few hard lessons about trust, before finally mastering the fine art of big city survival through a little earned cynicism.

Is Big City Blues a comedy?  Yes!  There are all sorts of great comedic moments, many stemming from the wonderfully funny character work done by Walter Catlett as Cousin Gibby.  This was a role that Catlett was born to play.  He’s a tornado of energy and bravado as he whirls through each scene, keeping the other characters spinning like plates in the air as he spews out one flattering lie after another in an attempt to garner as much cash and freebies as possible.  Throw in the two European waiters that sound exactly like an Andy Kaufman routine, the floozy party girl who bats at her own image in the mirror like a cat, and the drunken hotel detective, and you’ve got the makings of a great comedic ensemble.  The opening New York montage even feels like a much broader vaudeville-like series of sketches as we see construction workers and businessmen caught up in the Big Apple’s zany rat race.

Is Big City Blues also a graphically shocking tragedy where a horrific murder happens out of the nowhere and throws the rest of the movie into a depressing tailspin?  Uh . . . yep.  For about twenty minutes towards the end it is, and that’s where I found the biggest problem with the film.

The murder that occurs is so dreadful and out of sync with the rest of the movie that when Buddy valiantly predicts a return to New York in the end, it seems a little calloused and borderline sociopathic.  Really?  The murder of an innocent woman and Buddy’s near execution for someone else’s crime didn’t permanently scare him away?  He was able to shrug it off that quickly?

Okey-dokey . . .

Oh!  And I almost forgot to mention that the day is triumphantly saved when a man gruesomely takes his own life in a closet!  That’s how the case is finally closed so that Buddy and his friends can go free.  Thank goodness for suicide, right?  (And no, don’t stop to question the lackadaisical detective work done with the murder evidence!  No finger prints needed!  If the broken bottle fits, you must acquit!)

The Bogart Factor

Playing Shep Adkins, one of the party goers involved in the murder, Bogart gets a role that falls somewhere between cameo and bit part.  With perhaps ten lines of dialogue in the whole picture, he doesn’t get much time to shine.

That being said, what few lines he has are pretty good:

Bogart:  (READING THE PAPER) Nope, the old town ain’t what it used to be.  Look’it here now – cops grab a fella for a stick up.  He’s got two guns and a butcher knife in one pocket, and a powder puff and a lipstick in the other! 

And then when the party’s about to move to a nightclub, one of the women jokes that she should call home for permission:

Party Girl:  I should call my mother!

Bogart:  Quit your braggin’!  We all got mothers! 

At thirty-three years old, and at the very beginning of a long and storied career, Bogart looks young, vibrant, and ready to take on the world.  Just don’t go to the bathroom or you might miss his smiling face in this film!

The Cast

Eric Linden as Buddy Reeves is about as stereotyped a character as you can get for a small-town-boy-heads-to-the-big-city story.  That being said, he’s very likable, and most of the character’s flaws can be chalked up to weak writing.  The Aw, gee shucks routine does start to get a little old . . .

Walter Catlett is amazing as Cousin Gibby.  He’s so good at being a conniving sleaze that you just want reach through the screen and slap him.  Try not to smile the second time he says, “Just an old fashioned hitch!” 

Joan Blondell plays Vida, the showgirl that Cousin Gibby uses to con a little more money out of Buddy.  I know that we’re supposed to believe that she actually falls for Buddy a little bit, but I don’t know if I ever truly bought it.  It’s not Blondell’s fault, though.  She just doesn’t have much of a character in the script to work with.

Guy Kibbee portrays the drunken Hotel Detective and he plays the line between competent and bumbling just well enough to serve his purpose.

Classic Bogie Moment

Again, there wasn’t a lot to work with here, but there was one great moment towards the end where we get a little bit of classic Bogart when Shep Adkins refuses to give the proper gravity to a dire situation. The whole party crew has been rounded up at the police station to be grilled and possibly tried for murder.  While everyone mills around fretting, Bogart’s Shep leans over to Buddy and cracks, “Meant to ask you, Mr. Reeves.  Now how do you like New York?”  Pretty calm for a guy who could easily have been convicted as an accomplice for murder!

The Bottom Line

Not a must see unless you’re a completist, or perhaps a huge Joan Blondell fan.  A few good laughs, but largely forgettable.

China Clipper – 1936


My Review

—Starts Strong, Ends Weak— 

Your Bogie Fix:

2 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  Ray Enright

The Lowdown

Dave Logan (Pat O’Brien) is a veteran war pilot who becomes obsessed with the globalization of commercial air transport.  Unfortunately, his passion comes at the cost of his wife, friends, and coworkers.

What I Thought

There was a moment about fifteen minutes into this film where I thought I might have found a real hidden gem.  China Clipper isn’t widely available to watch or purchase, and I was just getting ready to write my complaint email to Warner Brothers when I suddenly understood the lack of enthusiasm behind the film.

This is the second Bogart picture from director Ray Enright that I’ve watched for the blog.  The first, Swing Your Lady, was a lot of silly fun, but certainly had its issues.  China Clipper is a complete dramatic reversal in tone from Lady, and while it starts strong, it eventually peters out, overstaying its welcome by a good thirty minutes.

We watch as Pat O’Brien’s retired war pilot, Dave Logan, passionately decides to follow his dreams after seeing Lindbergh cross the ocean.  He believes that oceanic commercial air travel is the future, and he’s willing to gamble everything to get it.  Perhaps the strongest scene in the film comes with Logan lying in bed with his wife (Beverly Roberts) just after learning that she wants to leave him.  O’Brien pulls her close, apologizes for neglecting her, and then convinces her to stick it out just a little longer.  It’s touching moment, and O’Brien plays it wonderfully.  In fact, the first half of this movie is some of the best work I’ve ever seen O’Brien do, especially when he confronts, and moves on from, his wife leaving him.

The problem comes about midway through the film.  Dave Logan seems to hit the peak of his character arc and just kind of flat lines.  He learns his lesson on why he shouldn’t abuse his friends, family, wife, and coworkers, and he makes his apologies.  Unfortunately, there’s still a good forty minutes left in the movie, and the character apparently has nowhere left to go.  Not only that, but whatever growth supposedly took place is quickly ignored as he reverts back to old habits.  Except now, no one questions him.

If you like to watch repetitive shots of an airplane flying through clouds, maybe you’ll like the ending better than I did, but once O’ Brien’s character began to lose steam, I did too.

The Bogart Factor

Bogart’s enjoyability in this film runs parallel to the movie’s.  For the first half, he’s great to watch as Hap Stuart, Logan’s old war buddy who comes looking for a job with the new airline company.  He’s wry, witty, and loyal – traits not unfamiliar to some of his best roles.  But again, once the film shifts to extended scenes of the final plane flight, we’re relegated to fairly static shots of Bogart sitting behind the controls, doing his best to look focused and alert.

There are a few good moments here, but overall, it’s not a must see performance.

The Cast

Beverly Roberts is good as Dave’s wife, Jean Logan, but there’s not a whole lot of meat in the script for her to work with.  She has a solid scene towards the end, though, when she has a great fight with Dave about working for his airline.

Ross Alexander plays Dave’s closest friend, Tom Collins, and he was the stand out performance for me in this film.  He adds a lot of humor, has a great side story with a ditzy girlfriend, and is able to hold his own on screen with both O’Brien and Bogart.  I was saddened to learn that Alexander’s career was cut short after he took his own life at a young age due to personal turmoil.  I’m going to have to see what else is in his filmography though, as he’s very good.

Henry B. Walthall as Dave Logan’s father, Dad Brunn, is another standout for the film.  He plays Dad as the loving father who’s willing to break his back for his son, and it’s a very sympathetic role.  I was also saddened to learn that he died during the making of this film, and had to be written out.  Ironically, scenes involving Dad Brunn’s weak heart were already shot, and are included in the movie.

Classic Bogie Moment

There’s a scene midway through the film where Bogart takes O’Brien out to a hallway to scold him for his calloused behavior while their coworkers look on.  Watch as Bogart builds up to the big punch after he resigns from the airline.  We get a close up on Bogart’s face, and right before he loses his temper, we see his lips part just a bit and tighten up against his teeth.  It’s a little physicality that I recognized from countless other Bogart movies.  (And a great tell if you were ever in a fistfight with the guy!  If his lips tighten, duck!)

The Bottom Line

While O’Brien has a handful of great scenes, and several actors in his supporting cast are stellar, this one won’t give you a great Bogie fix.  In fact, you’ll find yourself shaking your fist at the screen, wondering why they didn’t just put a mannequin in that danged pilot’s seat for the last twenty minutes of the film.