Henry Travers

Henry Travers High Sierra

Birth Name:  Travers John Heagerty

Birthdate: March 5, 1874

Number of Films that Henry Travers Made with Humphrey Bogart:  3

The Lowdown

It probably shows how little I truly know about classic film to admit that I learned Henry Travers was an English actor while researching this post!  I’m embarrassed, but at the same time delighted, to discover that Travers is still able to surprise me with the depth of his talent long after his passing.  The guy’s Midwestern drawl was perfect!

I’m also ashamed to confess that until a few years ago, I only knew Travers from It’s a Wonderful Life and a childhood viewing of The Bells of St. Mary’s.  While I’m sure that I’d seen him in other films when I was a kid, his name and face didn’t register for me until much later in life when I really began to indulge my film obsession.

Trained as a stage actor in England, it wasn’t until 1933 that Travers made his way to Hollywood.  With relatively few films to his credit compared to most actors of his era (just over 50), Travers was able to make a career out of playing easy-spoken, good natured, grandfatherly saints.  Who wouldn’t want to hug this guy if they had the chance?

And while his role as the angel Clarence Oddbody will probably forever overshadow the rest of his work, Travers was solid in numerous other films, especially his portrayal as ‘Pa’ in High Sierra, which is still my personal favorite since he got to share so much screen time with Bogart – helping bring the heart and soul to gangster Roy Earle.

The Filmography

Dark Victory – 1939

Travers Dark VictoryWith Geraldine Fitzgerald

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Travers plays Dr. Parsons, Bette Davis’ personal physician.  The role is small, but it’s the quintessential Travers part as he’s the fatherly doctor that wants the best for Davis as he refers her on to a more specialized doctor in George Brent.  You can read my original write up on the film here.

You Can’t Get Away With Murder – 1939

travers.pop.youcantgetaway

Travers plays Pop, the grandfatherly inmate in charge of the prison library.  He immediately takes an interest in Billy Halop’s young street thug and begins to mentor him into a better life.  Again, it’s the prototypical Travers character as the wise but simple hearted saint, but is there anyone who could play it better?  Travers and Halop have some of the best scenes in the film, and Bogart’s intimidation of Travers is in stark contrast to their relationship in High Sierra.  You can read my original write up on the film here.

High Sierra – 1941

Travers High Sierra

Travers plays the grandfatherly Midwesterner Pa, uncle to Joan Leslie, and confidant to Bogart’s gangster, Roy Earle.  This was Travers largest role out of all three collaborations with Bogart, and they get to share a lot of screen time together.  Off the top of my head, I can’t think of many Bogart films where he shares the same type of father/son relationship with another actor as he does with Travers here, and their chemistry together is great.  Travers wonderfully tempers Earle’s ruthless side and is able to help Bogart push his role beyond the typical two-dimensional gangster that he’d often had to play before.  While the film may not be perfect, the scenes between Bogart and Travers hit exactly the right notes, making this my favorite Travers film.  (Although, I need to dig a little deeper into his filmography!)  You can read my original write up on the film here.

*The Usual Suspects is an ongoing feature on The Bogie Film Blog where time is taken to highlight those folks who collaborated multiple times with Bogart.  You can read the rest of the posts here.

Bette Davis

Dark Victory 3Bette Davis With Humphrey Bogart in Dark Victory

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Real Name:  Ruth Elizabeth Davis

Birthdate:  April 5, 1908

Number of films Bette Davis made with Humphrey Bogart:  7

The Lowdown:

When the subject of typical Bogart costars comes up, it’s strange to me that Bette Davis is rarely mentioned, especially when you consider that they made seven different films together.  In one of the films, they only have brief cameos and don’t even meet (Thank Your Lucky Stars), and in a few more, Bogart plays minor roles and their interaction is minimum (The Bad Sister, Three on a Match), but considering how little they’re paired in cinematic conversation, these two had a few really great roles together!

The Filmography

The Bad Sister – 1931

The Bad Sister

In her very first film, Davis plays Laura Madison, a wallflower who’s stuck in the shadow of her older sister Marianne (Sidney Fox).  While Davis and Bogart share next to no screen time together, it’s still a strong early showing for both actors as they each do their fair share of scene stealing from their more established costars.  If you’re like me, you’ll spend most of the film wondering why every guy in town is going after Sidney Fox when Bette Davis is standing right there!!!  You can find my original write up on the film here.

Three on a Match – 1932

3 on a Match

Davis plays Ruth Wescott, the “good girl” next to Joan Blondell’s reformed “bad girl” and Ann Dvorak’s “bad girl” in the making.  Davis’ part is not nearly as developed as Blondell’s or Dvorak’s, and she was supposedly at odds with director Mervyn LeRoy because he didn’t like her acting, but she’s gorgeous and lots of fun in what scenes she does get.  Since Bogart doesn’t come in until the last act of the film, the two don’t meet.  But it is, once again, a strong showing from both of them.  Davis is solidifying the “girl next door” persona that she played many times early on in her career, and Bogart lays down another very strong gangster performance.  You can find my original write up on the film here.

The Petrified Forest – 1936

petrified forestDavis swoons over Leslie Howard’s intellectual loner . . .

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Davis plays Gabrielle (Gabby) Maple, a café owner’s daughter who’s desperate to get out of the desert so that she can see the world.  Bogart is, of course, Duke Mantee, the outlaw gangster – a role that he originated on Broadway.  While Bogart spends most of his lines squaring off against Leslie Howard, he and Davis do spend much of the film in the same frame as almost all of the action takes place within the café.  Again, both actors continue to elevate their status as the “girl next door” and the tough as nails gangster, respectively.  This is, by far, my favorite film out of all seven that they made together.  You can find my original write up on the film here.

Marked Woman – 1937

Marked WomanDavis coming for Bogart’s help – a little too late . . .

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Davis plays Mary, a nightclub “hostess” that runs afoul of her gangster boss (Eduardo Ciannelli) when her kid sister (Jane Bryan) gets caught up in her troubles.  Davis is passionate in the role, and is certainly the highlight of the film.  Bogart plays Assistant District Attorney David Graham, and while the two have several key scenes together, Bogart’s character really seems to only be around for plot advancement.  It’s a decent film, and a strong showing for Davis, but a bit of a let down for Bogart considering that it’s a smaller role than their last film together.  You can find my original write up on the film here.

Kid Galahad – 1937

Kid GalahadDavis – getting ready to watch Bogart take one on the chin . . .

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Davis plays Edward G. Robinson’s gangster moll, Fluff, with such a sweet and naïve quality that I was left wondering for the first half of the movie how she ended up with Robinson.  There is a brief scene in a car with Wayne Morris where she alludes to a darker past, but come on, Bette!  You can do better!  Bogart and Davis don’t spend a lot of time together, as she’s usually in the background while Bogart deals with Edward G. Robinson or Wayne Morris.

bette

The first party scene in the hotel though, where she’s serving drinks in a flower print dress with a low neckline . . . whew – she is GORGEOUS!  How did Edward G. Robinson get so lucky?  You can find my original write up on the film here.

Dark Victory – 1939

Dark Victory 2Bogart and Davis in, what I would consider, their best shared scene ever!

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Davis plays Judith Traherne, a wealthy young party girl whose life goes into a dramatic about-face after she’s diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Bogart is the Irish horse trainer (no, the accent is not as bad as you’ve heard) who’s in love with her, and the scenes they share together are some of the most dynamic in the film.  It’s a shame that Bogart’s role is so small, but he was also splitting his time between this film and The Oklahoma Kid.  Davis was reported to be dealing with a lot of personal turmoil during the film, as she was involved with costar George Brent while her marriage was falling apart.  It seems to only add to her emotional performance, as the film contains some of the most passionate and energetic acting of her career to that point.  There was also a happier ending to the film that followed Bogart to the racetrack as he led Davis’ favorite racehorse to a victory, but it was determined to be too abrupt of a tonal shift and was left on the cutting room floor.  You can find my original write up on the film here.

In This Our Life – 1942

In This Our Life

It’s the film listed in Bogart’s filmography that Bogart’s not even in!  Directed by John Huston, rumor had it that Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and a few others had appeared in the movie as background players for a scene 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.  So while this one is listed in their shared filmography, I’m not counting it as one of the seven they made together.

But . . . Davis plays Stanley Timberlake, a borderline-sociopathic bad girl that steals her sister’s husband.  It’s a wild role for Davis, and another big step down the road away from some of the “girl next door” roles that she’d played during the first decade of her career.  She’s a liar, a cheat, a scoundrel, and a temptress – and it’s a truly amazing performance for Davis.  You can find my original write up on the film here.

Thank Your Lucky Stars – 1943

Thank Your

Davis plays herself in this cameo-filled extravaganza that showcases a whole boatload of Hollywood’s finest performers singing and dancing for a variety show hosted by Eddie Cantor.  Davis is very good as she walks into a fancy nightclub and sings “They’re Either Too Young or Too Old” for all the gents who are drinking in the place.  Davis actually injured herself during the final take of the dance portion of the number, and you can see her holding her leg as she stands outside by her car.  Unfortunately, Davis and Bogart don’t share any screen time in this, the final film that they share together.  You can find my original write up on the film here.

The Usual Suspects is an ongoing series of posts about some of Bogart’s more regular collaborators.  You can check out other entries in the series here.

Dark Victory – 1939

dark victory

My Review

—Pretty Good— 

Bogie Film Fix:

Full Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  Edmund Goulding

The Lowdown

A rich, young socialite (Bette Davis) and the doctor (George Brent) that diagnoses her brain tumor fall in love and struggle with the knowledge that she only has a few months left to live.

What I Thought

While I always wish that this film had a lot more Humphrey Bogart, I keep falling more and more in love with Bette Davis, so I’ll forgive director Edmund Goulding for not slipping more Bogie into the movie.

Davis, who is almost always bubbly and energetic, even in her darker roles, begins this film downright frenetic.  She’s a self-absorbed party girl who spends her nights drinking with other wealthy, young, beautiful people, and her days scolding her Irish horse trainer (Humphrey Bogart).

What’s so good about Davis’ portrayal of Judith Traherne is that she’s able to slowly tone down her wild, selfish persona – bit by bit – throughout the movie until she’s almost subdued and grounded by the end of the film.  I say almost, because a complete transformation would have been too easy for the audience.  Goulding and Davis hold back the reins on Judith’s character development just enough that there’s still a little bit of that reckless, egotistical rich girl from the beginning of the film still fighting to get out at the end.

We watch, frustrated and disappointed, as Davis sends everyone good in her life away.  Why does she choose to face the end alone?  Why send her husband away?  Why her best friend?  Even the dogs?  She can’t even keep the dogs by her side?  Is she really helping the them, or is she too afraid to face their pain alongside her own?

To have ended with a crowd of loved ones surrounding Davis’ bed would have certainly been the easy way out for this film.  To let Judith face death unaccompanied stays true to her character, while at the same time piling enormous amounts of emotional weight onto the viewer.  This film leaves me struggling with sympathy and disappointment intertwined together, and I’m left unsatisfied in the best possible way.

According to A.M. Sperber and Eric Lax’s Bogart biography, Bogart, a happy ending was filmed for the movie wherein Bogart’s Michael O’Leary wins a race with Davis’ favorite thoroughbred.  The ending was deemed unnecessary though, as it didn’t flow well following the final death scene.  I’m impressed that they didn’t hedge their bets and go with the “safe” ending!

Bette Davis was deservedly nominated for her third Academy Award for this role.

The Bogart Factor

Bogart definitely makes the most of what little time he has in this film.  There’s a short scene at the beginning where he plays the charming rogue, teasing Davis about the worth of her favorite horse, and then a longer, more dramatic scene about three quarters of the way through the movie where he gets to have a wonderful moment in the horse barn with Davis as he learns about her imminent death.

Playing  a man named O’Leary, we’re “treated” to one of only two films that I can think of (the other being Virginia City) where Bogart puts on an accent.  Is it good?  Not really, but he wisely keeps it pretty well subdued throughout the picture so that it never becomes distracting.

What I found the most interesting was the turn that Bogart’s character takes when he finds out about Davis’ prognosis.  In the barn together, we can almost watch him slip from the wisecracking horse trainer into the familiar demeanor and tone of one of his bitter, world-weary, expatriate roles like Harry Morgan or Rick Blaine as he delivers one of the most powerful moments in the film:

Bogart:  I should have lived in the days when it counted to be a man – the way I like to ride and the way I like to fight.  What good’s ridin’ and fightin’ these days?  Whatta they get you?  What do they get ya?

The Cast

Bette Davis does admirably well considering her personal life was apparently in turmoil during the making of this movie.  I would guess that the dissolution of her marriage and the ensuing affair with costar George Brent is what makes her appear so much more passionate and agitated than usual onscreen.

I really liked George Brent as Dr. Fredrick Steele, and I need to check out the rest of his filmography to see what I’ve been missing.

Geraldine Fitzgerald does a great job counterbalancing Davis as the best friend, Ann King, and she is able to hold her own against the several other, higher profile, acting greats.

One of my favorite parts of this film is Ronald Reagan’s portrayal of Alec, Judith’s drunk, young, gad about friend.  Of all his early roles, this one always strikes me as the most charming and entertaining.  I’m not a huge Reagan fan, but he really does a great job here.

And then there’s the angel, Clarence, as Dr. Parsons – Judith’s personal physician!  It’s always fun to see Henry Travers on screen!

Classic Bogie Moment

Michael O’Leary appears a few times in a rumpled, well-worn, trench coat and fedora – a look that Bogart would go on to make iconic with his most famous character – Rick Blaine.

Did You Notice…

I usually don’t notice how much people smoke in these old films – until they do it in places that seem ludicrous to modern sensibilities.  Bette Davis smokes in the doctor’s office . . . with the doctor!  She smokes in her hospital room moments before surgery.  Doctors smoke in the doctors’ lounge.  If they only knew, right?

The Bottom Line

It’s a very good film, but not a super satisfying Bogart fix.