The Private Detectives

For my money, there was one character type that Bogart was born to play. Gangster? Convict? Escaped Convict? Ex-pat loner struggling against the Axis powers? Naw. For me, no one could play a Private Detective wrapped up inside a Film Noir nearly as well as Bogie. Guns, dangerous women, back alley crooks, illicit affairs, hand rolled cigarettes – Bogart could juggle them all with laid back ease.

For a great breakdown of the history behind the “whys” and “hows” of Bogart’s historical place within Classic Hollywood as a Film Noir detective, you should definitely check out Sheri Chinen Biesen’s book Blackout. Not only is it a wonderful primer on Film Noir, but it goes into great detail about Biesen’s belief that Bogart’s age, wartime rationing, and a lack of leading men in Hollywood led to Hollywood’s greatest icon getting the chance to play characters like Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe.

It’s kind of crazy to consider how few private eye films Bogart made considering how much he’s associated with the genre. Only two officially – but I throw in three more “Honorary Mentions” because I think you can get a good Bogie detective fix from them if you really need to! Let me know if you disagree.

The Private Detectives

The Maltese Falcon – 1941

This is the stuff that Film Noir dreams are made of.

Warner Brother’s originally assigned George Raft to the role of Sam Spade – not because they really wanted him for the role, but because they wanted Henry Fonda for another film and Fonda worked for Twentieth Century Fox. So, follow this . . . Raft didn’t want to do The Maltese Falcon. He supposedly hated the script and didn’t want to work with first time Director John Huston. (Huston didn’t want him either. Bogart was always Huston’s first choice.) So Warner Brothers, knowing that Raft would balk at Falcon, gave him the option of going on ‘suspension’ so that he could go over to Fox and Fonda could come over to Warner Brothers. Guess who’s left to reap the benefits? Mr. Bogart.

Playing the cynical and embittered Private Detective, Sam Spade. A beautiful femme fatale hires him for a case. His partner gets killed. Shady characters and gun play abound. And it all orbits around a priceless statue that has the ability to make people lose their scruples about going down some dark paths.

Bogart’s interactions with Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, and Elisha Cook Jr. show a man who seems to be in complete control of every emotion and physicality in an actor’s toolbox, and there’s a level of confidence on display that I don’t think Bogart hit so highly in any of his previous films.

Add in Director Huston, and I cannot see how this film could have been anything less than a classic.

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

The Big Sleep – 1946

I’m ready to declare this the coolest Bogart role in his filmography.  Private Eye Philip Marlowe is king.

In Philip Marlowe we get an über playful Bogart as he smiles, quips, flirts, and drinks his way out of every situation. The sunglassed bookstore nerd . . . the prank phone call to the police where he and Bacall switch roles so fast that they end up playing their own parents . . . the way Bogart uses his charm more powerfully than his gun against the bad guys . . .  This was a role that Bogart was born to play. He carries this film and makes it look easy. How can you keep from rooting for a guy who wants the truth above everything else, including his own life?

This film, and especially Bogart’s performance, is remarkable. The Big Sleep is my favorite Film Noir of all time. (And no, it doesn’t matter to me that all of the plot isn’t laid bare by the end – real life is messy and mysterious, so why can’t this film be as well?)

You can read my original write up on the film here. You can also read my write up on the pre-release edit of the film from the year before here.

Honorary Mentions

All Through the Night – 1942

Bogart plays Gloves Donahue, a New York city racketeer that has to track down the man/men who murdered his favorite cheesecake baker. Yes, he’s a gangster. Yes, the bad guys are Nazis. But there’s quite a bit of private eye-like atmosphere in this comedic gangster spoof. Clues are followed. Bogie goes undercover. Peter Lorre is skulking around. Bogart has to work with, and around, the police. The femme fatale is beautiful and potentially dangerous. It’s in my top three favorite Bogart films, so check it out!

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

Dead Reckoning – 1947

Bogart might be playing paratrooper Captain ‘Rip’ Murdock, but this film is all noir as Bogart falls away from the military man persona and quickly takes on the air of a hardened detective. Bogart narrates the viewer through the story, walking us along as Murdock pieces together a military buddy’s disappearance.

Of note is one particular scene that plays opposite of our typical expectations for Bogart as he sits and listens to a nightclub singer. This might be the first film I’ve ever seen where we get the Bogie drinks while the femme fatale sings’ scene, and Bogart shows no interest whatsoever in the woman. In fact, he spends most of the song looking down at his drink, ignoring Lizabeth Scott’s suggestive glances. Out of the many movies where Bogart’s played through this scenario, has there ever been another one where he shows such little interest?

There are so many great long shots of Bogart sitting, thinking, lying in bed, and drinking, that if nothing else, I feel like Director John Cromwell should be thanked for his work towards recording Bogart’s great visage for posterity!  If the entire movie had been the above shot for two hours, I would probably have still enjoyed it!

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

The Enforcer – 1951

Bogart plays Assistant District Attorney Martin Ferguson. Running on little sleep and next to no time,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 the ringleader of a hit man crew 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?

Even though he’s on the government payroll, Bogart certainly goes on a Film Noir journey that feels every bit as lowdown and seedy as the first two films mentioned in this post. I think this one’s a real hidden gem that a lot of people haven’t seen, and it’s well worth a watch!

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

*This post is another write up in the Character Reference series on The Bogie Film Blog where we break down some of Bogart’s most well known genres and character types. You can read the rest of the entries here.*

 

 

The Gangsters

It doesn’t matter how you remember Bogart. It doesn’t matter which role is your favorite. Rick Blaine? Charlie Allnut? Captain Queeg? Philip Marlowe?

In the grand scope of film history, his persona was cemented during his early career as the tough guy gangster.

How do I know? Just look at any one of the numerous film cameos, radio appearances, or personal appearances for the troops throughout his life – when Bogart showed up, the public wanted to see him play the gangster regardless of what was going on in his career.

Bogart seemed to enjoy it as well, dishing out the tough talk and never afraid to give his all to cameo as a threatening menace to comedians, radio hosts, or cheering soldiers in Europe. Even now, when someone impersonates Bogart for film or television, the visual is often Rick Blaine from Casablanca, but the talk is all New York gangster.

It wasn’t until I started this post that I realized just how many times Bogart played a gangster, racketeer, mobster, or hood. Depending on which films you count (I left off The Bad Sister because he’s more of a con artist than a gangster, and numerous prison films like Up the River, San Quentin, and We’re No Angels because they’re more “convict” roles than “gangster” roles, per se… I also left out The Oklahoma Kid since I consider that more of a “cowboy” role in a Western film), Bogart made more than a dozen and less than 20 films where he played a big city tough with and without a gun in hand.

The most famous films of the genre, The Petrified Forest and High Sierra, are surely the foundation for Bogart’s legacy as an actor who could add that crucial third dimension to what could have been a typical cliched tough guy. In other slightly less acclaimed films, Dead End and The Roaring Twenties, Bogart’s portrayals as a gangster added great depth and authenticity to movies that would have been sorely lacking without his presence.

Add to all of the that the numerous B-movie gangster films that Bogart starred in, often the only bright spot in several forgettable duds, and it’s no wonder that the world still celebrates Bogart as Hollywood’s greatest dark-suited, wise cracking, gun wielding tough guy.

The Gangsters

Three on a Match – 1932

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

Playing the number one thug to a mobster named Ace (Edward Arnold), Bogart shows up with a gang of toughs to shake down the mother of a young boy that they’ve kidnapped in an attempt to extort her wealthy ex-husband.

It’s a scene-stealing role for Bogart, as his cool and detached onscreen persona overpowers every other actor in the frame. While not a large part, it’s definitely worth seeking out, especially when you add in Joan Blondell, Ann Dvorak, and Bette Davis in costarring roles!

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

Midnight/Call It Murder – 1934

Bogart does a great job here, making the most of what little time he has on screen playing Gar Boni, a small time hood that falls for Sidney Fox’s Stella Weldon. There are certainly seeds of his later gangster roles – a cool and collected gunman that’s smooth with the ladies and talks a good game. The film opens at a court trial where we meet the young lovebirds as they watch Stella’s father chair the jury for a murder case. The moment that they share together, as Gar Boni insults the jury before realizing who he’s sitting next to, is sweet and funny. While they could have used some more scenes between the two young actors, the film is worth a watch.

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

The Petrified Forest – 1936

Bogart physically inhabits the violent, desperate, and dangerous gangster, Duke Mantee, in what many consider to be one of his greatest roles – and certainly the first role that really put him on the map. From the moment that he appears on screen (about 35 minutes into the film), he is a rubber band wound tight, and the viewer is just waiting for his inevitable snap.

He walks hunched with his hands held slightly out at the waist, giving you the impression that he’s either going to draw his gun, or strangle someone at any moment – a mannerism that he would continue to use for countless films during tense moments.

I cannot imagine any other actor playing the role of Duke Mantee as well as Bogart does. It’s clear that he worked hard to embody the gangster from top to bottom. I almost began to wonder if he was even able to sweat on command as the movie ramps up to its violent, dramatic conclusion.

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

Bullets or Ballots – 1936

You have to give Bogart’s “Bugs” Fenner credit in this film. Out of a couple dozen gangsters in a room, he was the only one that really seemed to know that Edward G. Robinson was double crossing his boss, Barton McLane. I found myself wanting to yell at his fellow heavies multiple times to just shut up and listen to him for a minute.

Bogart is able to take a pretty cliched gangster role and elevate it here. His portrayal of Fenner is intimidating, ruthless, and downright chilling. Even though I was pretty sure that Robinson was going to come out on top (doesn’t he always when Bogie’s the bad guy?), I was surprised by how much tension was built between the two men as Fenner relentlessly chased down Robinson’s Blake in an attempt to exact revenge.

It’s roles like this that make me understand why the studio thought they should keep Bogart typecast as the bad guy. The tough thug parts may not have utilized his full potential as an actor, but he was dang good in them.

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

Kid Galahad – 1937

Despite Bogart’s menacing role as Turkey Morgan, two great stars in Edward G. Robinson and Bette Davis, and a handsome young lead in Wayne Morris, this uneven dramedy never really hits its stride. Bogart doesn’t get a lot of screen time, and when he does, he’s relegated to being the stock mob-guy character that exists only to further the plot. The most interesting thing of note might be that Bogart makes Morgan more of a sniveling whiner than a cutthroat gangster as he’s constantly embarrassed and thwarted by Robinson.

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

Dead End – 1937

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

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

For the scenes between Bogart and his mother played by Marjorie Main, as well as Bogart and Claire Trevor, this film’s an acting clinic for how to handle disappointment with a character on film. Both scenes are incredibly strong moments that give us a great glimpse of Bogart’s skill at listening and reacting to his costars on screen.

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

Racket Busters – 1938

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

Considering that this wasn’t his first go-round as a tough-as-nails gangsters, you would think that it’d be a slam dunk to let Bogart do some of the heavy lifting with the beat downs and the gun play. Instead, I think the most dramatic scene that he’s involved in before the final shootout involves a massage table and some snarky dialogue.

This one’s not a must see for anybody. You can read my original write up on the film here.

The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse – 1938

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

It seems to be a trend in Bogart’s bad guys that, once again, he’s the only one in the gang who’s aware that something’s not right. He doesn’t trust Edward G. Robinson’s intentions, but no one will believe his doubts. We’ll just have to wait until Key Largo for Bogart to give Robinson his “just due.”

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

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

Angels with Dirty Faces – 1938

Bogart plays James Frazier, a lawyer who goes into business for himself as a racketeer after he swipes a hundred thousand dollars off of James Cagney after Cagney is sentenced to a long prison stint. Most of the role is spent sniveling into a phone, or sniveling to his partner in crime (George Bancroft), or just plain sniveling for his life from Cagney.

Bogart’s trying, but there’s literally nothing here to work with. Why have two crooks in Bogart and Bancroft? Why not just consolidate them into one role and give it a little more meat? It’s probably the biggest shortcoming of the script that we don’t get a better antagonist to work against Cagney’s attempt at creating a new criminal empire.

All that said, Cagney is great in the film, and it has one of the most haunting endings of any film I’ve seen.

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

King of the Underworld – 1939

Bogart could be comedic, dramatic, romantic, threatening, subdued, and whimsical – and while several of those are attempted at various points here with his gunman Joe Gurney, the performance comes off as inconsistent. In some scenes he’s wonderfully despicable. In others, his comedic timing is flawless. While that kind of varied personality works well in some films (see All Through the Night, High Sierra, The Roaring Twenties), it comes off as fragmented and uneven here.

Still, Gurney is incredibly interesting and has so much potential. The story of a gangster obsessed with Napoleon, yet too shortsighted to see that they share the same tragic flaws, should lead to a much more satisfying character arc than it does here. Especially when you add in the relationship with the historical author who’s on hand to chronicle it all. But wait, there’s a convoluted love story to contend with. And a side story about unapproving townsfolk. Then there’s the out for justice/revenge plot that keeps disappearing and reappearing, grabbing for our attention. It’s just too many under-developed story fragments in too short of a film.

All of that said, I’d still say this one is probably a must see for die hard Bogart fans as so many of the elements that made him a great ‘bad guy’ are here on display in various moments.

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

Invisible Stripes – 1939

Playing ex-con Chuck Martin, this might be one of the most likable gangsters that Bogart ever got to play. Right up until his final scene, we have to appreciate and respect Martin’s attempts to help George Raft’s Cliff pull himself up by his bootstraps – even if it’s not by legal means.

The part is small, so there are long droughts throughout the film where Bogart’s presence isn’t felt, but when he’s onscreen, he pops. Could they have used him more? Probably, but it wouldn’t have fit with the story. The film needed to spend its time building up the relationship between Raft and his on screen brother William Holden. So I guess that if I’m going to watch someone play a likable bad guy, it’s a treat that it gets to be Bogart, even if the role is smaller than I’d like.

You can read my original post on the film here.

The Roaring Twenties – 1939

Bogart’s got a strong first ten minutes in the film and then disappears until about halfway through as he plays James Cagney’s war buddy turned crime partner, George Hally. 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 Raoul Walsh does a great job playing Bogart and Cagney off of each other as friends and eventual enemies, using Bogart’s brief scenes 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 he and Cagney are committing a robbery. The scene is a crucial piece of the puzzle that is Bogart’s tragic flaw in the film. He doesn’t like playing second fiddle to anybody, see!

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

It All Came True – 1940

This was truly the first time that Bogart spoofed his iconic gangster image, playing gunman-on-the-lam, Chips Maguire. Watching him stumble around his bedroom, gasping and gaping at all the stuffed birds and monkeys, is almost enough to make you forget that he’s blackmailing poor old Tommy (Jeffrey Lynn).

Add in his relationship with the motherly boarding house proprietors, Una O’ Connor and Jessie Busley, and Maguire becomes downright lovable as he begrudgingly accepts their tender loving care while he “recuperates” in bed.

Bogart was very, very good at comedy, and I think this film is a perfect showcase for it.  Surrounded by a wonderful cast, you get a great taste of Bogart’s dry wit as he enthusiastically dances, sings, and mugs his way through this film. (That’s right, you get to see him do a little jig, sing a chorus of “Strolling Through the Park One Day,” and take target practice at a stuffed monkey.)

Not even a year later, we get to see him play a very similar character, “Gloves” Donahue, in the comedy gangster thriller All Through the Night, but this was his first step towards turning some of his more notable personas on their ear.

It seems like he’s really enjoying himself in the role. You can read my original write up on the film here.

Brother Orchid – 1940

Bogart doesn’t get a ton of time to shine here in his role as gangster, Jack Buck, but a couple things popped out to me.

In Robinson’s opening speech to his gang, Bogart sits back in his chair, taking it all in, as he slowly taps and rotates a sharpened pencil on his leg – eraser, point, eraser, point.  A wonderfully menacing touch to a scene where he could have just sat passively by and listened.

And one of the subtlest, most satisfying bits of comedy comes when Ann Sothern is asking if Bogart could possibly make up with Robinson. Bogart replies, “Johnny don’t like me no more . . . makes me feel bad too . . .”  It could come off as pathetic, or creepy, or evil and conniving, but Bogart uses his great comedy chops to pull it off playfully like a wounded puppy, adding a nice touch of humorous vulnerability.

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

High Sierra – 1941

Bogart layers the role of Roy Earle so deeply that you’re instantly sucked into not only empathizing with the character, but actually forgiving him when he commits his crime and is forced to shoot a security guard. I’m amazed and impressed with how much character development was given to Bogart’s role as he’s allowed to build deep and authentic relationships with Henry Travers’ Pa, Ida Lupino’s Marie, Joan Leslie’s Velma, and Donald McBride’s Big Mac. So often in crime films of this era, much more time is given over to the action and adventure, and little effort is spent on building a solid three-dimensional character. Director Raoul Walsh gives Bogart plenty of scenes to build a great foundation here though, and it makes for a riveting performance.

Bogart appears to be enjoying himself, and it’s a lot of fun to see him acting against his real life dog, Zero, in the film’s lighter moments. If you’re looking for a solid Bogart fix, this one’s a must see as it’s undoubtedly some of his best work. You won’t be able to take your eyes off of him.

High Sierra was the last film that Bogart made where he wasn’t given top billing, and it’s easy to see why this role made him an undeniably top-tiered star.

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

All through the night – 1942

Playing racketeer “Gloves” Donahue, you get to hear Bogart say the lines, “Hiya” and “Hello, Joe, whatta ya know?”  Seriously, what more can you ask from a Bogie movie?

In this, Bogart’s second gangster film spoof, we get New York’s toughest thugs battling the Nazi’s in an attempt to save the USA from certain doom. An all star cast that includes Conrad Veidt, Peter Lorre, Frank McHugh, William Demarest, Jackie Gleason, Phil Silvers, Barton MacClane, and Ben Welden make this one a must see for it’s incredible characters and flawless comedic timing.

The most classic of classic Bogie moments happens early in the film when Bogart is called to a nightclub by his mother to investigate a woman who might know something about a murdered cheesecake baker. Kaaren Verne plays Leda Hamilton, Bogart’s questionable ally and love interest – who also happens to be a nightclub singer because . . . well . . . of course she is.  Aren’t they all?

Has there ever been an actor who can make listening to live music look more captivating and cool than Bogart? Seeing him casually walk to a table while never taking his eyes off of Verne is a scene replayed many times throughout his filmography with different actresses, and only Bogart could pull it off with such a sparkly-eyed charisma that it never grows old.

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

Producer’s Showcase – The Petrified Forest – 1955

Bogart comes back one more time to remake the gangster film that put him on the map as gunman-on-the-run, Duke Mantee! This time though, it’s for the small screen and Lauren Bacall steps in for Bette Davis and Henry Fonda takes over for Leslie Howard.

Mantee’s role is trimmed here. In fact, the entire movie runs about ten minutes shorter.  (While it’s listed as 90 minutes on IMDB, it’s much more like 72.) It also seems like some of Bogart’s lines might have been filmed separately and then spliced into the film.  (Several sources refer to this as a “live” airing, but then, how did they get the exterior shots of Fonda walking along a country road?)

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

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

The Desperate Hours – 1955

How fantastic is it that Bogart’s first big break was as ‘Duke’ Mantee in The Petrified Forest, and then in his second to last film he returns with an almost identical character and plotline with the role of Glenn Griffin here? What an incredible double feature this would be for any classic film fans who need a great lineup on a Friday night!

So let’s talk about the elephant in the room. When the play won its Tony on Broadway, a young and much lesser known Paul Newman was the star. Half Bogart’s age, Newman’s casting makes a bit more sense when you factor in the younger brother storyline that weighs pretty heavily into plot. I can only imagine what kind of tour-de-force Newman must have been on stage, but being a celebrated Broadway actor who’d really only had bit parts on television, Newman wasn’t used for the role when it came up for grabs in Hollywood. Would it have been a better movie? Who’s to say? It would have been different for sure. It might have been an earlier launching pad for another one of Hollywood’s most celebrated actors as it would still be another three years before Newman would really break out with Somebody Up There Likes Me and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

But back to Bogart! This is his second to last film and there’s no trace of the illness that would eventually take his life on display here. He looks rough and ragged, but that’s what the role calls for. He smokes, snarls, leers, and blows his top in the most masterful of ways and it’s a captivating watch. This one’s certainly going into my top one or two ‘Older Bogie’ performances. It’s a must see for an Classic Film fan or Bogart die hard!

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

*Character Reference is an ongoing feature on The Bogie Film Blog where we break down some of Bogart’s most famous genres and characters. You can read the rest of the entries here.*

 

The Attorneys

Marked Woman

*Character Reference is an ongoing segment of The Bogie Film Blog where we dissect the different recurring genres and characters from Bogart’s filmography. You can find the rest of the entries here.*

The Lowdown

Bogart played every angle on both sides of the law during his career. Petty criminal. Gang Boss. Convict. Corrections officer. Private Eye.

And yes, even a lawyer a few times.

An actor who could play good or evil with equal ease, the role of an attorney fits Bogart just like any other. The suits are a little less flashy, the dames don’t fall for him as hard, and nobody gets plugged, but doggone it, Bogart knew how to play a crusader who fought for justice at any cost.

While none of Bogart’s attorney films probably rank in your “Top 10 Bogie Movies of All Time,” they are all three worth a watch. I would even consider one of them a rarely talked about gem.

The Attorneys

Marked Woman – 1937

marked

Bogart plays Assistant District Attorney David Graham, the man trying to capture and convict a powerful mob boss who’s running a ring of high-priced “hostesses” at nightclubs, among other nefarious illegalities. Bette Davis is one of the “hostesses” in question, trying to stay out of trouble from both Bogart and the mobster as she makes her way through life.

Bogart is still pretty young, even letting his previously over-used gangster accent slip out a bit when he tells his nemesis, “I’m going to indict you for moider!” Overall though, he gives a strong performance as the lawyer who’s pulled himself up by his bootstraps from his own dark past to make sure that justice is served.

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.

There’s a great moment when Davis enters Bogart’s office in a desperate moment of need that rings with a bit of Maltese Falcon-ness with Bogart coolly sitting behind his desk as the lady pleads for help.

You can read my original post on the film here.

Knock on Any Door – 1949

Knock On Any Door Poster

Bogart’s wonderful here as Defense Attorney Andrew Morton, the man set to defend a young hoodlum (John Derek) that’s accused of killing a cop.

He has some great scenes as he attempts to mentor his young client, and it’s a lot of fun to see him battling it out in the courtroom with the District Attorney (George Macready) in a battle of wits as they attempt to sway the jury over the young defendant’s life. Bogart’s personality and presence are so strong, he could probably convince a jury that the sun only rises at night if he worked hard enough.

Quiet, reflective, occasionally torn and brooding, Bogart plays this one close to the chest and it works. I loved the fact that he didn’t initially want to take the case, but was sort of guilted into it by his girlfriend (Candy Toxton). This worked in the film’s favor as at several points, Bogart’s reluctance is conveyed through the doubt he carries about his client.

This one’s definitely worth a look. You can read my original post on the film here.

The Enforcer – 1951

Enforcer

My personal favorite attorney role from his filmography, Bogart is Assistant District Attorney Martin Ferguson. Ferguson is a man in desperate need of sleep when the movie opens, and even more desperate need when it wraps up. The key witness in the biggest trial of his life just died and he has to spend all night going over the evidence to find a new lead on a gangster (Everett Sloane) that’s about to walk free.

Ferguson and his right hand man, Captain Frank Nelson (Roy Roberts), reopen the case from the beginning, and we the viewers get to flashback to the first moments that the gangster’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!

This one’s a must see, and an underrated gem in my opinion. You can read my original post on the film here.

*Character Reference is an ongoing segment of The Bogie Film Blog where we dissect the different recurring genres and characters from Bogart’s filmography. You can find the rest of the entries here.*

The Journalists

Bogart Classic The Harder They Fall

*Welcome back to the second installment of Character Reference, a new segment on the blog where we discuss the genres and character types that Bogart played over his career. How many times did he play a jailbird? An escaped jailbird? A detective? A cop? A soldier? A cowboy? Those and many more will hopefully be covered in the posts to come!*

The Character – Journalist

When you think about it, Bogart playing a reporter, editor, or journalist of any sort makes perfect sense. In a way, journalists are like private detectives without the guns. They have a story, but not all the details. They need to find witnesses. They need to follow clues to track down the real facts behind some sort of mystery. And if they’re not careful, they end becoming part of the story they’re trying to crack.

While journalist isn’t the first character type that some people think of when it comes to Bogart, he’s had some great roles in the category.

The Journalists

Two Against the World / The Case of Mrs. Pembroke / One Fatal Hour – 1936

two

When a radio station decides to dramatize a twenty year old murder in a grab for ratings, a debate breaks out between the station manager, Bertram Reynolds (Robert Middlemass), and his news director, Sherry Schott (Humphrey Bogart), about the irresponsibility of sensationalizing a real life tragedy.

While Bogart is given the lead billing, it doesn’t mean that he dominates the screen time.  Bogart’s presence is heavy towards the beginning of the film and especially again at the end, but most of the middle is taken up with the drama surrounding the family involved in the murder. That being said, when Bogart is on screen, he dominates.

Sherry Schott could be seen as an early prototype for Bogart’s Deadline U.S.A. editor, Ed Hutcheson – an ethical businessman who tries to keep his company on the moral high ground amidst less disciplined men. I always think it’s a real credit to Bogart’s talent that he could play killers and business professionals with equal believability and apparent ease.

His final rant against his station managers shows a passion and fervor that make it easy to see how this was a standout role for a young Bogart. Sherry Schott is a news man of deep, ethical convictions – the type of character that Bogart would go on to play in his more iconic roles over the next two decades.

You can read my original post on the film here.

Passage to Marseille – 1944

Passage

Journalism plays a back seat here to being an escaped con and a resistance fighter, but Bogart plays a French reporter named Jean Matrac. We find out through a series of flashbacks that Matrac ended up a prisoner on Devil’s Island after being framed for murder. Matrac saw the corruption of the French government growing long before the rest of the world did during the war, and is shipped off to the prison after printing a series of tell-all articles in his paper. His goal after the escape? Make it home to his wife, played by Michèle Morgan, who worked side by side with him in the newspaper office until it was shut down. Matrac also has a son he’s never met, who we meet before the flashback, anxiously waiting for a letter from his father to be dropped from a bomber after a raid.

Again, the reporter side of Bogart’s character only appears mid-film for his back story, but it’s enough to make you want to see an entire film about Jean Matrac. Bogart’s the-truth-at-any-cost newspaper man scenes add a heartbreaking backstory to a husband and a father that just wants to get home and see his family.

You can read my original post on the film here.

Report from the Front – 1944

rftf

This one’s a real-life journalism role for Bogie. 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 the Sperber/Lax bio Bogart, Bogart arrived on the Warner set with his four page monologue memorized and insisted on his then wife, Mayo Methot, being included in a shot where they disembark from a fake plane as he is approached by reporters. Bogart had even made a few rewrites to the script to make the final plea for donations a little stronger.

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-coat clad Bogart as he looks you in the eye and tells you to help ailing servicemen?

You read my original post on the short here.

Deadline U.S.A. – 1952

deadline usa

In what I would consider his best journalistic role, Bogart plays Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper editor Ed Hutcheson as he fights for one last big story before his paper is sold out from underneath him and scheduled to be shut down.

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! 

That doesn’t sound like modern journalism at all, does it?

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 threats and strong armed retaliations.

This is a fantastic film that should be a must see for any Bogie fan! You can read my original post on the film here.

The Harder They Fall – 1956

The Harder They Fall Poster

Bogart plays an out of work sportswriter who grows desperate enough for a paycheck that he takes a job from an underhanded boxing promoter (Rod Steiger) at the expense of his own integrity. Bogart is the cynical, older, almost-defeated writer that’s just as close to giving up as he is to trying again when Steiger puts him on the payroll to help promote his new fighter, even if the fighter and the fans might get swindled in the process.

Bogart let’s himself revel a little bit in the gray areas of life, almost as if it’s not completely un-enjoyable to take advantage of the big naive boxer in order to make a little extra dough. Does he come around at the end? Of course, but it’s worth the ride.

Being Bogart’s last film before his death, there are numerous reports that he had a hard time filming this one with lots of breaks for coughing fits. None of that is evident here, and Bogart is able to end his career on the best possible note.

I’d be remiss not to mention that this one’s a great example of old school “say the lines, kid” acting (Bogart) squaring off with the new school “method” style (Steiger) that was about to break loose in Hollywood.

You can read my original post on the film here.

*Character Reference is an ongoing segment where we look at the different genres and character types that Bogart played over his career. You can find the rest of the entries here.*