Never Say Goodbye – 1946

Never Say Goodbye Poster

My Review

—A Fun Flynn RomCom— 

Bogie Film Fix:

1 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  James V. Kern

The Lowdown

A divorced artist (Errol Flynn) tries to control his appetite for women while attempting to win back the heart of his ex (Eleanor Parker).

What I Thought

I’ve always made the argument that George Clooney must be an enormous Cary Grant fan – modeling so much of his onscreen persona after the classic leading man, but after watching Never Say Goodbye, I’m ready to add Errol Flynn to Clooney’s list of obvious influences.

This is the first Flynn film that I’ve seen where he didn’t play an action hero, and even though the movie never reaches much beyond light romantic comedy, Flynn’s charisma elevates it from watchable to entertaining. 

The best part of this script is that there is some question about how the rekindled romance between Flynn and Parker might resolve itself.  The addition of Forrest Tucker (Yes, F Troop!) as Corporal ‘Wickie’ is what really gets the juices rolling here and it adds a fun love triangle to the film.  Tucker’s timing mixed in with Parker’s doe-eyed act and Flynn’s exasperated frustration makes for some really fun scenes as Flynn does his best to prove his manhood.

Now throw in S. Z. Sakall, and you’ve got a cast that more than makes up for a clichéd script that, on occasion, borders on corny.

Definitely worth a watch, Never Say Goodbye might be a good primer film if you’ve got a significant other who likes romantic comedies and needs to ease into classic film with something gentler than Citizen Kane.

The Bogart Factor

My absolute favorite Bogart cameo so far, when Flynn is attempting to scare off the robust Corporal ‘Wickie,’ he dons a gangster disguise and pulls out a tough guy accent.  The catch?  The accent isn’t really an accent – Bogart has overdubbed a good three or four minutes of Flynn’s dialogue with his own exaggerated gangster brogue!

Never Say Goodbye Bogart

Bogart was simply the best when it came to self-depreciating cameos, playing up the dumb tough guy angle to the hilt, and hearing his voice come out of Flynn’s disguised mug is a real treat.  Several online sites don’t do justice to how long Bogart’s voice cameo runs, and I would say that its length alone makes this film a must see for any Bogart diehards.

The Cast

Errol Flynn plays the philandering artist, Phil Gayley, a womanizer who’s trying his best to avoid temptation in order to win back his ex-wife.  The role is so Cary Grant-ish that I’m amazed it wasn’t played by Cary Grant.  And while Flynn is not Grant, he’s no slouch at playing the impish cad-about-town that’s still charming and likable despite the fact that he can’t keep himself on the monogamy wagon.  If you’re a Flynn fan at all and you haven’t seen this one yet, it’s worth it.  Tons of screen time, tons of charisma, a great relationship with his onscreen ex-wife and daughter, Flynn was a true movie star that knew how to command the big screen.

Eleanor Parker plays Ellen Gayley, Flynn’s ex-wife, and the mother of his precocious little daughter.  Parker does very well here, and while it’s not all that deep of a role, she’s gorgeous, charming, funny, and holds her own against Flynn in every scene they share.  Her semi-phony flirtations with Corporal ‘Wickie’ work so well that I wouldn’t have been upset if they’d ended up together at the end.  They certainly set up Flynn to either succeed or fail in his re-wooing of Parker, and much of the credit for any romantic tension goes to Parker’s ability to keep us guessing as to who she really wants to fall in love with.

Patti Brady plays Flynn and Parker’s young daughter, Phillippa ‘Flip’ Gayley, and while I haven’t mentioned her yet in this post, it’s not because of anything that she’s lacking as a performer.  Brady is one of the better child actresses I’ve seen, and her tête-à-têtes with Flynn over ice cream and Christmas presents are some of the more touching moments of the film.  It was interesting to see how times have changed while watching Brady wander away from home to meander around Central Park alone without any adult supervision.  Then, Flynn shoes her away to go home alone, an elementary aged girl on the streets of New York, without a fear in the world!

Forrest Tucker is one of the real highlights of this film as Cpl. Fenwick ‘Wickie’ Lonkowski.  A good natured lunkhead with a heart of gold, Tucker makes the usually virile Flynn look like an out of shape bum.  I’m glad they went with someone who had such great comedy chops to stand against Flynn rather than just trying to match his charisma with another hunky actor.

S. Z. Sakall plays restaurant owner, and Flynn’s good friend, Luigi.   Sakall has quickly become one of my favorite character actors, doing a wonderful job with his ‘flustered foreigner’ roles, and his interrogation scene with the police is one of the funniest scenes from the film.  It’s always great to see him pop up in slightly larger roles like this one.

And then there’s Hattie McDaniel as Brady’s nanny, Cozy.  It’s another typical servant role for McDaniel, but doggone it if I don’t want to hug that woman every time I see her.

Classic Bogie Moment

“Hello, squirt.  Where’s ya mudder?” 

The Bottom Line

Worth a watch for the cast alone.

Chain Lightning – 1950

Chain Lightning Poster

My Review

—Deserves a Better Reputation— 

Your Bogie Film Fix:

3 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  Stuart Heisler

The Lowdown

Veteran war pilot Matt Brennan (Humphrey Bogart) returns home to take a job as a test pilot and ends up working with/for an old war acquaintance (Richard Whorf) who happens to be dating Brennan’s wartime ex-girlfriend (Eleanor Parker).

What I Thought

A lot of the things that I didn’t like about China Clipper are fixed up in Chain Lightning.  While both movies deal with pushing the boundaries of aviation, China Clipper peters out about halfway through when all character development seems to stall, while Chain Lightning is able to keep the stakes high right up to the very end.

Watching on TCM, I was a little puzzled as to why Robert Osborne lent so much credibility to the notion that this film is one of many attempts to recapture Casablanca’s magic.  Yes, Bogart once again crosses paths with an old flame who’s now with a new man . . . but for me, that’s where the similarities stop.

Lt. Col. Matt Brennan is not Rick Blaine.  Not by a long shot.  Whereas Blaine lives by his own code of loyalty, Brennan is a bit more of a maverick, willing to double cross the man who gave him a job in order to gain a little fame, money, and possibly the heart of his wartime gal.  Brennan’s not a bad guy, he’s just in a darker place than Blaine is when their respective films start.  Add to the fact that there’s no looming Nazi threat – no real antagonist at all, other than Bogart’s own flawed personality – and I was left with a much different feeling watching this film than Casablanca.

Chain Lightning is by no means a classic, but it’s a solid drama that does an adequate job of building tension all the way to the end.  It’s entirely watchable, and the cast hits all the right notes throughout.  The high-tech jet plane technology gimmick feels dated, and Director Heisler gets a little heavy handed with the “Judas” reference towards Bogart when he undercut’s Whorf’s agenda, but it doesn’t ever ring false.  Bogart’s betrayal of Whorf leads us to the very believable ending where Brennan makes a risky choice in order to make amends for his earlier shortcomings.

In the end, it’s probably not a must see for most fans, but Chain Lightning is made well enough for most Bogart and Classic Hollywood fans to enjoy.  I would probably compare it to a film like Dead Reckoning in the fact that it’s a flawed picture with a lot of really good performances.

The Bogart Factor

Matthew Brennan is a slightly different spin on Bogart’s catalog of “expatriate loners” that pop up from time to time.  When he’s back in the states, Brennan is left a bitter and lost after the war is over.  His motives are superficial and it’s not until the end that he’s willing to risk himself for more than a payoff or a woman.

If anyone is good at being bitter – it’s Bogart.  He plays the role with ease and believability, and getting to see him use the song Bless’em All to torture Eleanor Parker once they’re reunited is an especially fun bit of needling to watch.

There’s nothing groundbreaking here, as Bogart doesn’t have to stretch too far to play a character that’s a composite of a lot of his previous roles, but he’s good at what he does, and he’s a big part of why the dramatic tension works in the film.

The Cast

Eleanor Parker plays Joan “Jo” Holloway, Brennan’s ex-girlfriend that comes between the veteran pilot and his friend/coworker.  While the part was underwritten, what I did enjoy was the fact that Parker didn’t spend a lot of time pining over which man to pick.  It was pretty clear that she was ready to go back to Bogart, despite his arrogance and flaws.

Richard Whorf plays Carl Troxell, the aviation designer, old war acquaintance, and third corner to the love triangle between Parker and Bogart.  I thought Whorf made a strong showing here and did an especially fine job at the end when he puts his life on the line in a race against Bogart to prove which plane is better fit for the military.

Raymond Massey is Leland Willis, the man in charge of the aviation company that’s building the planes that Whorf designs and Bogart flies.  He’s about as close to a bad guy as we get in the film, and even then his choices are motivated enough in reality to be believable.  It’s always fun to see Massey turn up in a film.

Classic Bogie Moment

This was an easy one the moment I saw the scene.  Bogart was always great at playing the charming cad.  While quite a few of the characters in his filmography were “bad” guys, it’s hard to blame the women who end up with him because he was always able to play off his ugly side with an easy going humor.  In my “classic” moment for this post, I give you the scene where Bogart’s Brennan and Parker’s Jo are getting reacquainted on a car ride as they carefully broach the topic of why they lost touch after the war:

Bogart:  I wrote you a couple of times . . . 

Parker:  I never got them . . . 

Bogart:  (PLAYFULLY) I never sent them . . .

Did he really write?  I don’t know.  I’m guessing he didn’t, but he was so sincere when they almost got married earlier in the film, so maybe there’s a chance that he did.  It’s the thought that counts, right?  It’s the first moment that I think he’s really planting a seed in Parker that he might not be a lost cause.

The Bottom Line

It’s a decent drama, and definitely not as bad as a lot of the user and critic reviews would lead you to believe.