The Maltese Falcon

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Birth Name: The Maltese Falcon

Date of Birth:  October 18, 1941

Date of Death: STILL OUT THERE SOMEWHERE…LEADING MEN AND WOMEN DOWN A DANGEROUS ROAD OF GREED AND DESIRE…

Number of Films that The Maltese Falcon Made with Humphrey Bogart: 3

The Lowdown

I couldn’t be fonder of you if you were my own son. But, well, if you lose a son, it’s possible to get another. There’s only one Maltese Falcon.” – Kasper Gutman, The Maltese Falcon

To be fair, there are more than one of those little beauties out there. Sydney Greenstreet marred one with his pen knife for the film. Several extras were made of varying weights for backups. Bogart supposedly even dropped one and dented the tail. Several years ago, one came back into the spotlight when Leonardo DiCaprio purchased it at auction for a little over $300,000. (Nearly the original budget of the film.)

Oh, I knew that the Falcon made a quick cameo in 1945’s Conflict as a little nod to the reunion of Bogart and Greenstreet, but imagine my surprise and delight when I stumbled across its presence in yet another film! A film that I’d seen at least a dozen times! A film that is in my Top 5 Bogie favorites! How could I have been so blind?

Two appearances would have been enough to warrant an entry into “The Usual Suspects,” but three makes its inauguration a must. So today, we welcome The Maltese Falcon into the pantheon of The Usual Suspects!

The Filmography

The Maltese Falcon – 1941

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This is where it all began. The world’s greatest MacGuffin brings together a small crew of the world’s most nefarious deal makers and a little known detective named Sam Spade.

It’s the stuff that dreams are made of. It’s the object of desire that men and women will kill for. It’s the treasure worth chasing all over the world until there’s not a cent left in your pockets.

In my dreams, I like to imagine that Kasper “The Fatman” Gutman, Joel Cairo, and Brigid O’Shaughnessy are all still out there, desperately scheming for one last chance to get the bird… Not far behind is Sam Spade, smirking and shaking his head. Will they never learn?

You can read my original post on the film here.

All Through the Night – 1942

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I mean . . . that can’t really be what I think it is lurking in the shadows next to Peter Lorre, can it?

I don’t know what to think here. I’ve seen this movie so often and I’ve never noticed this shadow before. The film only came out about three months after The Maltese Falcon. Is that enough time to have slipped in a cameo? Next to Peter Lorre, the man who played Joel Cairo no less?!?

I’ve googled, read, searched, and even listened to the director’s commentary from Vincent Sherman and NO ONE MENTIONS IT!

What are the odds? I know, I know. You’re going to tell me that it’s more than likely a massive coincidence. But here’s the thing about coincidences, see? When the Falcon’s involved – there ain’t no coincidences. There’s only desperate people with desperate minds. . .

You can read my original post on the film here.

Conflict – 1945

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Yes, he seems to have grown an inch or two and lost a little bit of weight, but supposedly that’s The Maltese Falcon looming large behind Bogart in this murder mystery reunion with Sydney Greenstreet. He’s got his talons deep into them, ya see? He ain’t gonna let go for nothin’!

You can read my original post on the film here!

*The Usual Suspects is an ongoing feature on the blog where we discuss some of Bogart’s more frequent collaborators. When I post, you’ll take it, and you’ll like it! You can read the other entries here.*

Alexis Smith

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Birth Name: Gladys Smith

Date of Birth: June 8, 1921

Date of Death: June 9, 1993

Number of Films that Alexis Smith Made with Humphrey Bogart: 3

The Lowdown

Full disclosure – my first memory of Smith is her work on Cheers when she had an affair with Sam Malone, playing Rebecca’s old college prof. Good grief, Alexis Smith was gorgeous at every age.

Born in Canada, raised in L.A., and discovered by Warner Brothers during a college play, Smith would go on to star along some of Hollywood’s biggest names – Gable, Flynn, Grant, Crosby, and yes, Humphrey Bogart.

To be clear, I had a hard time discovering whether her birth name was really Gladys or Margret. One site says one thing. Another says something else. It does look like her mother’s name was Gladys, so . . . if anyone out there can help me out, it’d be great!

Tall, lithe, and gorgeous, Alexis Smith  was nicknamed “Dynamite Girl” by Warner Brothers despite the fact that she my not have enjoyed the name. She went from dancing at a young age, to theater as a teen, to films with some of Hollywood’s elite, to a long and successful marriage and a return to the stage with husband Craig Stevens.

I really like all three films that Smith starred in with Bogart (although in one they never met on screen) and I’m happy to add her to The Usual Suspects. From everything I’ve read, she was an easygoing, relaxed, and giving actress to work with, and many Hollywood legends had nothing but good things to say about her.

The Filmography

Thank Your Lucky Stars – 1943

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The good news – Smith gets to show off the dance skills that she honed at an early age. The bad news – this wonderfully goofy film is a star-studded war effort supporter with many, many celebrities making cameos one after another. So no, Bogart and Smith don’t meet here as they merely lend their glitz and glamour to the overall production led by a hilarious Eddie Cantor in a dual role as himself and a tour bus driver. But the film is a ton of fun and Smith looks amazing!

You can read my original post on the film here.

Conflict – 1945

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Smith plays Evelyn Turner, the younger sister of the wife that Bogart murders in this highly underrated gem. While I didn’t feel quite enough chemistry between Smith and Bogart to believe the infatuation he supposedly has for her, she is very good in the role and I couldn’t help but anxiously chew my nails as I waited for her and Sydney Greenstreet to figure out what was going on. Perhaps if she’d been characterized as a little bit more of a friendly flirt who lots of guys fall for? I don’t know. Other than the chemistry factor, I thought she was solid.

You can read my original post on the film here.

The Two Mrs. Carrolls – 1947

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In another underrated gem, Smith plays family friend and rich young socialite, Cecily Latham. It’s an incredible treat to see here play a role so opposite of the young and naïve gal she portrayed in Conflict, and seeing her put on the charm to win over Bogart makes for a lot of fun as well. Just look at that pic above. . . you can read the bad girl intentions all over her face, can’t you?

Smoldering persona. Great outfits. Strong acting. This is perhaps my favorite Alexis Smith role as it’s hard to look at anything else when she’s on the screen.

You can read my original post on the film here.

*The Usual Suspects is an ongoing section of the blog where I highlight some of Bogart’s more regular collaborators. You can read the rest of the write ups here.*

 

Sydney Greenstreet

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Birth Name: Sydney Hughes Greenstreet

Birthdate: December 27, 1879

Date of Death: January 18, 1954

Number of Films Sydney Greenstreet made with Humphrey Bogart: 5

The Actor

The son of a leather merchant, Sydney Greenstreet spent some time working in both the tea industry and a brewery before finally finding his calling on the stage in England as the villain in an adaption of a Sherlock Holmes play. Adept at comedy, musicals, and Shakespeare, Greenstreet worked in both Europe and America, holding out against the call from Hollywood until he finally accepted the role of Kaspar “The Fat Man” Gutman in 1941’s The Maltese Falcon at the age of 61.

It’s pretty astonishing to consider that Gutman was Greenstreets first film role, as he seems just as comfortable in front of the camera as he supposedly was on the stage. I’m incredibly jealous of all the audiences that got to see him live and in person for years before he finally gave in to Tinsel Town’s beckoning and headed west. From his numerous pairings with Peter Lorre to his five iconic roles with Bogart, I firmly believe that there hasn’t been a big-man actor with such a commanding presence onscreen since Greenstreet’s last film over 60 years ago.

Did they really base the character of The Kingpin from Daredevil comics on Greenstreet? Was George Lucas actually inspired to model Jabba the Hut after the 300+ pound actor? Hollywood myth and legend says so, and I’m inclined to believe it because Greenstreet was certainly worthy of every praise and accolade that came his way!

This entry into “The Usual Suspects” portion of the Bogie Film Blog is long overdue, and doggone it, I think I’m going to pop in Passage to Marseille tonight just to get another dose of my favorite cinematic big man.

The Filmography

The Maltese Falcon – 1941

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Greenstreet plays Kaspar “The Fat Man” Gutman, the treasure seeking heavy that’s following the falcon around the globe. What an incredible film debut! Greenstreet steals nearly every scene that he’s in with his amazing laugh and exuberant confidence. His constant amusement over Bogart’s confusion is wonderful, and it’s a real shame that it took so long to get this man to the big screen, “By gad!” The scene where he turns on his henchman Wilmer is so painfully funny and well done that it might be my favorite bit from all of his films. A villain who so believably loves life while committing dastardly crimes at the same time is the best kind of bad guy a film could ever hope for. Greenstreet also reprised his role numerous times for radio adaptions of the film, which you can check out here and here. You can read my original write up on the film here.

In This Our Life – 1942

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Directed by John Huston, rumor had it that Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and a few others had appeared in the film during a tavern scene as background players to add a little “in-joke” for Huston fans. Whether the scene was cut out from the film or just a hoax to begin with, none of them are visible. Is the film still worth a watch? You bet! Bette Davis is always worth spending an evening with! Just don’t get your hopes up for this superstar cameo that doesn’t deliver! You can read my original write up on the film here.

Across the Pacific – 1942

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Greenstreet plays the cagey Dr. Lorenz, a passenger who seems to have untoward intentions as he shares an oceanic voyage with Bogart and Mary Astor. What I really loved about Greenstreet here is that his character is an incredibly wealthy world traveler, meaning Greenstreet is dressed to the nines and drenched with a slightly more authentic sophistication than he was in The Maltese Falcon. One of my all-time favorite Greenstreet-Bogart scenes occurs when Greenstreet needles Bogart’s history out of him with an endless supply of booze. Any classic Bogart film has at least one drunk Bogie scene in it. Adding Greenstreet into the mix just makes it all the better! Greenstreet reprised his role for a radio adaption, and you can read my original write up on the film here.

Casablanca – 1942

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Greenstreet plays Signor Ferrari, Bogart’s main nightclub competitor in Casablanca. Whenever I consider this film from memory, Bogart and Greenstreet always seem like enemies. But every time I view it, I’m reminded that these guys might actually be pretty decent friends – maybe even playing a few games of after-hours chess over drinks when curfew kicks in. Just consider for a moment that Blaine entrusts his entire staff, including Sam, into Ferrari’s hands at the end of the film on nothing more than a handshake deal! That’s got to be a great show of faith in a man who’s supposedly trying to beat you at your own game. It’s an amazing testament to Greenstreet’s presence here that most casual fans seem to remember this as his signature role, even though his part isn’t that big! You can read my original write up on the film here.

Passage to Marseille – 1942

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Greenstreet plays French officer Major Duval, who happens to be traveling on a boat with a number of recently escaped french convicts trying to get to England as word breaks that Germany now occupies France. The ever-so-snarky Major Duval doesn’t feel very patriotic to his homeland, and can’t get back to France quickly enough to show his support to the Nazis as he turns over the prisoners to the proper authorities. The real story in the cast here is the alliance between Bogart and Peter Lorre as they get to play outright friends as opposed to enemies or even tense allies, but Greentstreet’s presence certainly makes this one an underappreciated classic! You can read my original write up on the film here.

Conflict – 1945

Bogart and Sydney in Conflict

Greenstreet plays psychologist Dr. Mark Hamilton, family friend to Bogart’s murderous Dick Mason. How great is it to not only see Greenstreet play a good guy in a Bogart film, but to see them actually chum around a bit before things get tense? Greenstreet is so good as the warm and gregarious Dr. Hamilton that you just want to give the big guy a hug. He seems truly happy in the role, and when you view the film for the second and third times, it’s a lot of fun to see him subtly tipping his hat towards the twist ending. Definitely a must see collaboration between Bogart and Greenstreet! You can read my original write up on the film here.

-“The Usual Suspects” is an ongoing feature at the Bogie Film Blog where we dive a tad bit deeper into some of Bogart’s most recurring collaborators. You can find the rest of the posts here.-

Conflict – 1945

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My Review

—Great Hitchcock-like Thriller—

Your Bogie Film Fix:

3.5 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director: Curtis Bernhardt

The Lowdown

A wealthy engineer (Humphrey Bogart) murders his wife (Rose Hobart) hoping that he can then move on to her younger sister (Alexis Smith). The only problem? The supposedly dead wife continues to be a presence in his life. Did she survive? Is it a ghost?

What I Thought

Here’s another film that at the time of its release received some mixed reviews, but I thought was really good.

Conflict could be put with The Caine Mutiny and In a Lonely Place for a night of films themed “The Paranoia Trilogy.” This is another great performance by Bogart where we get to watch him slowly fall apart within his own mind as he begins to question his sanity.

The performances are all strong, and while I don’t want to blaspheme the great Alfred Hitchcock, I thought Conflict’s script and noir-ish feel was much akin to Hitchcock’s Suspicion, or even the earlier Rebecca. If you like suspenseful thrillers, this film will be right up your alley. The murder scene on the mountain pass is especially chilling, and it’s the first time that I’ve ever been watching a Bogart film and felt that his character was truly evil.

There are a few small hitches I found with the script. While I thought the twist was done well, it does open up a lot more questions than it answers. Without revealing too much, when you watch it, just consider how much work the final protagonist had to put in to do the things that had to be done. Cryptic enough? In particular, think about the scene where Bogart thinks he’s following his wife into the apartment building and then confronts the landlord.

On the flip side, after the film is said and done, rewind back to the initial scene where Bogart is sitting in his house with the police and Sydney Greenstreet. Rewatching that scene after knowing the crucial twist from the ending gave me an all new appreciation of Greenstreet’s ability to play subtlety.

All in all, it was great to see a film where Bogart and Greenstreet were good friends, and the direction of the film makes me excited to watch Director Curtis Bernhardt and Bogart’s other collaboration, Sirocco.

The Bogart Factor

With Bogart’s portrayal of Richard Mason, we get an even more paranoid and dangerous version of The Caine Mutiny’s Captain Queeg and In a Lonely Place’s Dixon Steele. Both Queeg and Steele were characters, who by the very nature of their true intentions, were able to garner sympathy from the audience. Mason on the other hand, is just a true sociopath. No matter how charming he might seem, once the murder takes place, we can’t forget what’s really boiling beneath the surface.

Bogart’s played characters that were unlikable before, but they were often the stock-gangster bad guys who really posed no real threat to the protagonist. Or, even if the bad guy was a more powerful central figure (Duke Mantee, Roy Earle, etc.), we find ourselves in quiet awe as we respect him in the same way that we might so many other outlaw antiheroes of cinema history. This isn’t simply a man who’s fighting his darker urges, this is a man who’s fully given over to his most evil intentions in order to redesign his entire life. The moment that Mason pushes his wife’s car over the cliff, our sympathies lie fully with Alexis Smith and Sydney Greenstreet as we hope and pray that they figure out what’s going on before it’s too late.

Overall, I thought Bogart hit all the right notes. It’s a much more subdued paranoia than he played with Queeg or Steele.

The Cast

Sydney Greenstreet plays psychologist Dr. Mark Hamilton, family friend to Bogart’s Dick Mason. How great is it to not only see Greenstreet play a good guy in a Bogart film, but to see them actually chum around a bit before things get tense? Greenstreet is so good as the warm and gregarious Dr. Hamilton that you just want to give the big guy a hug. He seems truly happy in the role.

Rose Hobart plays Kathryn Mason, the wife that Bogart murders. I thought that Hobart did a great job of playing Kathryn as the disgruntled spouse who just wants a little more love from her husband. Director Bernhardt did a fine job of portraying a realistic married couple who struggles privately while putting on a good face for the public.

Alexis Smith plays Hobart’s younger sister, Evelyn Turner – the woman that Bogart kills for. She does pretty well here, although I didn’t feel quite enough chemistry between Smith and Bogart to believe the infatuation he has for her. Perhaps if she’d been characterized as a little bit more of a friendly flirt who lots of guys fall for? I don’t know. Other than the chemistry factor, I thought she was solid.

Charles Drake plays the young professor Norman Holsworth who is pursuing Alexis Smith, potentially foiling Bogart’s plans. He was all right here, but it’s an underwritten role, and Drake is mainly used for plot advancement.

Classic Bogie Moment

How often did we get to see Bogart and Greenstreet sharing a scene as friends? Well, here they are! I’ll give this weekly spot on the blog over to a moment where we get to enjoy the two men as allies:

Bogart and Sydney in Conflict

Make Sure to Notice

Wait! What’s that just over Bogart’s head?!? Could that be the Maltese Falcon? Looks like it! Although it resembles the falcon on the novel’s cover more than the one from the John Huston film, it’s still a wonderful inside joke for this Bogart-Greenstreet collaboration:

Maltese Falcon in Conflict

The Bottom Line

Conflict is a must see and a little underrated in my opinion!