I Am an American – 1944

I Am an American Title Card

My Review

—Don’t Blink or You’ll Miss the Stars—

Your Bogie Film Fix:

Sliver of a Bogie

 

 

Just a SLIVER of Bogie here . . .

Director: Crane Wilbur

The Lowdown

A Polish couple immigrates to the United States and sires generation after generation of children who all enlist and serve in the US military from the Civil War on through World War II.

What I Thought

While the story plays out like one of your typical Rah! Rah! Go America! Hollywood shorts meant to bolster American morale and sympathies towards our military men and women, there is a deeper theme on display here. Director Wilbur Crane is really lifting up the countless foreign immigrants who came to the United States only to spend the rest of their (often short) lives, defending the freedoms that they immigrated to enjoy. Even after losing their limbs, or even lives, in various wars, the descendants of these immigrants would go on to defend Lady Liberty out of a deep debt of gratitude to both their ancestors and their country.

At just around 16 minutes it’s a short watch, and it won’t come close to filling out a night of entertainment, but there’s a little more substance here than in some other WWII shorts of the time. It should also be noted that all of the Hollywood stars listed in the credits appear for only a fraction of a second in archival footage as they spoke for fundraising events. Dennis Morgan’s speech does seem to be recreated for this short, though.

The Bogart Factor

I didn’t officially time it, but I’m going to guess that Bogart’s on screen for less than two seconds here. He’s giving a speech about the war effort and there’s no audio, so he really contributes nothing to this film other than his name.

The Cast

Gary Gray plays one of the Polish descendants, Thomas Jefferson Konowski. Nearly all of the acting is done here with voiceover narration, so there’s not a lot to be said about the performances. I couldn’t find any source that listed who played the original Polish couple that immigrates.

Danny Kaye, Joan Leslie, Knute Rockne, Dennis Morgan, and President Woodrow Wilson also appear as themselves. Morgan gets a decent chunk of time in what appears to be a projection screen recreation of a war rally event where he’s speaking.

Jay Silverheels shows up as a Native American!

Classic Bogie Moment

Not much to see here folks – so I’ll give you his cameo in its entirety:

Bogart Classic I Am an American

The Bottom Line

I guess if you’re a fan of war effort shorts, this one’s not bad. Otherwise, this one’s not even for Bogart completists.

 

 

 

 

Swingtime in the Movies – 1938

Swingtime

My Review

—Short, Harmless Fun— 

Bogie Film Fix:

.5 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  Crane Wilbur

The Lowdown

A film director (Fritz Feld) finds the replacement for his leading lady in a new Western after visiting the studio commissary and stumbling across a waitress (Kathryn Kane) who’s perfect for the role.

What I Thought

Any longer than twenty minutes, and this short would have probably gotten old, but as it is, it’s a lot of fun and a good vehicle for two very talented comedic actors, Fritz Feld and Charley Foy.

A story as old as Hollywood itself, Kathryn Kane is plucked from obscurity and made into a star in a fictional Western film helmed by the very nervous Mr. Nitvitch.  I’m a little shocked that this one wasn’t made into a full length feature since it’s written and directed as well as any other clichéd old Hollywood film that I’ve seen.

Director/Writer Wilbur turns out to have quite a notorious filmography behind his name (House of Wax anyone?), and this was the second short that he wrote and directed with Bogart – the other being I am an American which will be reviewed on this site soon.  Director Wilbur also wrote the Bogart/’Dead End’ Kids collaboration, Crime School, which probably explains their very brief cameo in this film.

In fact, all of the celebrity cameos are brief.  George Brent, the Lane sisters, Pat O’Brien, and Bogart and the ‘Dead End’ Kids all flash by the screen in a heartbeat during the film studio commissary scene and none of them have any lines, so don’t expect the star power to add much to this film.

The real treat is watching Fritz Feld and Charley Foy interact while making their musical Western. The two men have great chemistry, and this is the second or third time that I’ve seen Foy pop up in a Bogart film.  After I re-watch The Wagon’s Roll at Night, I’m going to have to add him to ‘The Usual Suspects’ portion of this blog as he did a really great job here and he has such a fun and unique look about him.

The Bogart Factor

He’s only on the screen for a few seconds, keeping a watchful eye over the ‘Dead End’ Kids while they eat lunch.  Bogart’s tiny and wary interaction with the kids here looks to back up the claim that he soured a bit on working with them after they threw fire crackers into his dressing room on set one afternoon.

If you’re looking for a Bogart fix, this film ain’t it.

The Cast

Fritz Feld plays the film director, Mr. Nitvitch.  His timing is great, the accent is great (real or exaggerated), and this short lives or dies based on his involvement in any given scene.

Charley Foy plays Feld’s right hand man on the movie set, Sammy.  Foy is great, and just the little bit of research that I’ve done on him is enough to tell me that this guy has to go into ‘The Usual Suspects’ as one of those actors that probably never got the recognition he deserved.  He’s a super solid, very funny side man here alongside of Feld – especially the scene where he and Feld teach Kathryn Kane and John Carroll how to kiss on screen!

Kathryn Kane plays Joan Mason, the young waitress who’s discovered on the job and thrust into the limelight.  It’s a pretty two-dimensional role for Kane, but she’s charming enough.

John Carroll plays actor Rick Arden, the star of Feld’s musical Western.  Again, he doesn’t really have much to do except stand there and look good in a hat, so he fills the role just fine.

Classic Bogie Moment

Um . . . well.  Here’s the entirety of his scene. 

Bogart Dead End Swingtime

The Bottom Line

If you like musicals, want a couple laughs, and have twenty minutes to spare, there are certainly worse ways to do it than by watching this short film.