Invisible Stripes – 1939

Invisible Stripes

My Review

—Better Than You Might Think—

Your Bogie Film Fix:

2 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director: Lloyd Bacon

The Lowdown

A recently released convict (George Raft) does his best to go straight after prison, but his conscience gives way to the need to support his family.

What I Thought

This was my second viewing of Invisible Stripes, and I have to say that I liked it much better this time. The cast of George Raft, William Holden, Jane Bryan, Bogart, and Flora Robson is one of the best ensembles I’ve seen in a while, and all the character relationships really crackled – especially Raft and Robson who give us most of the heart in this film.

I can see why this movie might not have gotten the most glowing reviews. The story of an ex-con trying to go straight had been done so many times before this that it must have felt like old cliché. Bogart does his absolute best with the role that he’s given, but he’s underused, and a young William Holden still seems a little green as it’s only his fourth film. All that aside though, the film is entirely watchable and keeps the drama and action chugging along at a pace that held my interest even on a second viewing.

Director Lloyd Bacon did so many good films with Bogart that he’ll eventually need to go into ‘The Usual Suspects.’ He handles this film well, especially in the quieter, character building moments of love and loss with Raft’s family. Raft’s final line to his mother is so subtly done that I almost missed it, even though it’s an incredibly heart wrenching moment.

Make no mistake, Raft and Robson create an incredibly dynamic mother-son relationship here, and it’s easy to understand the love they have for one another.

The Bogart Factor

Playing ex-con Chuck Martin, this might be one of the most likable thugs that Bogart ever got to play. Right up until his final scene, we have to appreciate and respect Martin’s attempts to help George Raft’s Cliff pull himself up by his bootstraps – even if it’s not by legal means.

The part is small, so there are long droughts throughout the film where Bogart’s presence isn’t felt, but when he’s onscreen, he pops. Could they have used him more? Probably, but it wouldn’t have fit with the story. The film needed to spend its time building up the relationship between Raft and Holden. So I guess that if I’m going to watch someone play a likable bad guy, it’s a treat that it gets to be Bogart, even if the role is tiny.

The Cast

I’m not the biggest George Raft admirer, but I really liked him here as Cliff Taylor, the ex-con who tries to make good when released from the pen. Several scripts that Raft turned down in his career went on to become some of Bogart’s most iconic films, so maybe with the additional appreciation of this film, I can finally get on the George Raft bandwagon. He plays his emotions close to his vest and he did a wonderful job of making me believe that he loved and cared for his mother and brother. This film is re-watchable for me based on Raft’s performance alone.

William Holden plays Raft’s younger brother, Tim Taylor. Holden is fine in the role, but he has nowhere near the film presence that he would develop with another decade under his belt. Erring a bit on the side over overacting, Holden does have a number of good scenes with Raft, and decent chemistry with Jane Bryan as his love interest.

Flora Robson plays Raft’s mother, Mrs. Taylor, even though she was about six years younger than Raft at the time of filming. In my opinion, Robson’s performance steals the show, and I have an all new screen crush. How can you not love a mother like that? I wanted to hug and kiss her to death every time she appeared on screen. The work she does with Raft in this film makes me want to explore her filmography further to see what I’ve been missing!

Jane Bryan plays William Holden’s love interest, Peggy. Bryan is on my shortlist for actors that need to go into ‘The Usual Suspects,’ as she’s usually a pretty strong supporter in every film that I’ve seen her in so far. This is no exception, as she gets some pretty meaty scenes with Holden, and a couple of good chances to interact with Flora Robson. It’s a more mature role than her other two Bogart films, Marked Woman and Kid Galahad, and it suits Bryan well. I still need to follow-up on the rest of her filmography!

Don’t Forget to Notice

Hey! There’s a brief cameo by ‘Dead End’ Kid Leo Gorcey as Jimmy the stockboy with George Raft!

Classic Bogie Moment

Bogart was great with a little subtle innuendo. There’s a scene at a party where he’s cozily chatting up Lee Patrick on a couch when they have this exchange:

Patrick: I’m a rare animal, Chuck. I’m a natural blonde. That’s why you went for me quick, wasn’t it?

Bogart: Well, that . . . and other things . . .

Invisible Stripes

Look at that grin . . . Ladies and gentlemen, that’s a man with bad intentions on his mind!

The Bottom Line

Give it a shot, I don’t think you’ll regret it. Maybe not a must see for Bogart fans, but the relationship between Raft and Robson is worth it!