Two Guys from Milwaukee – 1946

Two Guys from Milwaukee poster

My Review

—Amiable Fun—

Your Honorary Bogie Cameo Fix:

Bogie Cameo

Director: David Butler

The Lowdown

A Balkan prince (Dennis Morgan) befriends a New York City cabbie (Jack Carson) and falls for a manicurist (Joan Leslie) as he tries to disappear into the American culture for a week and meet the Hollywood legend Lauren Bacall.

What I Thought

It took me awhile to track this one down, and I’d all but given up on this Bogart cameo until TCM recently reran it. Charming, and somewhat predictable, it’s still a fun ride as we watch Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson zip around New York City, seeing the sights and the nightlife, as they both try to woo Joan Leslie into a lifelong romance.

Warner Brothers took huge advantage of its concurrent release of The Big Sleep to work in a side angle where the Balkan prince is desperate to meet the legendary Lauren Bacall. We’re left to assume that he must have been very taken by To Have and Have Not and Confidential Agent as he asks practically every American he meets if they know the beautiful leading lady.

It’s the Morgan/Carson chemistry that really sells this picture, though. A 40’s film comedy duo, Morgan and Carson have a great chemistry together, and I’m excited to track down another Bogart cameo film they both appeared in – Always Together. Morgan’s the handsome hunk. Carson’s the lovable lummox. Both men do well supporting one another and seem to sincerely enjoy each other’s company. Director David Butler used the same light-handed rom-com charm in another Bogart cameo film, Thank Your Lucky Stars, in which Morgan and Carson also appear as themselves.

Are there a few plot holes that I would have liked filled in? Sure. For instance, did I miss something, or does it seem odd that Dennis Morgan’s Prince Henry doesn’t have any sort of accent? Why would a man so obsessed with Lauren Bacall choose to show up ½ way through one of her movies? Why does one popular speech make Jack Carson’s cabbie not only famous (understandable) but seemingly rich and powerful? (I understand the status switch that Morgan and Carson make at the end of the film for plot reasons, but it’s a bit of a stretch even for a light romantic comedy.)

Was The Big Sleep really promoted as a Lauren Bacall vehicle in some posters? (And can I get one of these posters?)

Big Sleep Poster The Bogart Factor

(SPOILER ALERT)

Bogart plays himself for one line as Prince Henry finally has a chance meeting with Lauren Bacall on a plane to Milwaukee. Again, it’s tiny, but nobody knew how to play up their showbiz image as well as Bogart. I’ll save all 100% of the cameo for the ‘Classic Bogie Moment’ below.

The Cast

Dennis Morgan does much better in this film as a love-struck Balkan prince than he did as the surgeon in The Return of Doctor X. Both characters are essentially the same – handsome and charming fish-out-of-water who are trying to keep up with a goofy sidekick, but Prince Henry has a few more subtleties built into his character as the royal son who’s desperate to embrace all that democracy, the American culture, and the American women have to offer. This one certainly makes me want to see the rest of the Morgan/Carson team-ups.

Jack Carson plays cab driver Buzz Williams, and other than the fact that he seems a little too eager to let his girlfriend hang out with a handsome prince, he seems like just the kind of guy who you’d want to have a beer with. This was the third Carson/Bogart film that I’ve watched for the blog and it was probably my favorite role for Carson.

Joan Leslie plays the manicurist love interest to both men, Connie Read, and she’s very good in the role. Yes, she does seem a little shallow to leave Buzz behind for a prince just because he’s a prince, and yes, I’m still not quite sure what the whole psychotherapy dream at the end had to do with making her choice between the two men – but again – plot coherency shouldn’t be at the top of your priorities for enjoying this film.

Bogie Film Blog favorite S. Z. Sakall plays Prince Henry’s right hand man, Count Oswald. As always, Sakall’s presence is another testament to how well Classic Hollywood’s studio system worked when it came to producing strong supporting character actors. Sakall’s scene with little Peggy as she demands the true dirt behind fairytale princesses is especially fun. I’m glad that I’ll now get to add him to ‘The Usual Suspects’ portion of the blog after this one!

Patti Brady plays Peggy, Jack Carson’s precocious niece who’s also in love with Prince Henry. Yes, it’s essentially the same role as the one she would play the same year in Never Say Goodbye, but in a much more scaled back version, but she’s still shines brightly.

And, of course, there’s Lauren Bacall as herself in a tiny cameo!

Classic Bogie Moment

Prince Henry sees the object of his desires alone on a plane with an empty seat next to her. Just as he’s making his move, there’s a tap on his shoulder and we see this:

TGFM Cameo“Pardon me, you’re in my seat. Lift it, bub!”

 

The Bottom Line

A miniscule, but very rewarding cameo! Come for the Bogart, stay for the Morgan/Carson chemistry!

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.

 

 

 

 

Thank Your Lucky Stars – 1943

ThankYourLuckyStars

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:

tyls

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!