Lady Esther Presents – High Sierra – 1946

High Sierra Lady Esther

My Review

—Surprisingly Well Done— 

Honorary Radio Bogie Fix:

Radio Fixes

The Lowdown

You can read my original synopsis of the film here, but this adaption has been edited down so drastically that many of the supporting characters have been axed in order to focus almost solely on the relationship between ex-con Roy Earle (Humphrey Bogart) and his moll-in-the-making, Marie (Ida Lupino).

What I Thought

The best radio film adaptions are able to pare down a 90+ minute film into just under an hour, giving us a heavy dose of the most dramatic moments and letting the main stars take over almost all of the focus. Here though, High Sierra is wheedled down to under 30 minutes and some of the film’s major supporting characters have been completely removed from the story altogether.

Gone are Henry Travers as the traveling farmer looking for a break in California and his young daughter who catches Bogart’s eye and provides much of the motivation for Roy Earle at the end of the film. Forget the long romantic conversations under the stars and the father/son relationship bonding. That whole subplot has been sliced out. Roy Earle’s sidekicks Red and Babe have been trimmed down quite a bit as well, as has Earle’s mentor and boss, Big Mac.

What’s left?  Well, there’s still a robbery. The thieves still meet in cabins in the woods. The mountain top standoff is still the climatic ending. But what the adaption spends 99% of its time on is the relationship between Bogart’s Roy Earle and Ida Lupino’s Marie. This entire radio program hinges on the ability of the two main actors’ to convince us that their relationship is more important than anything else in the script.

The verdict? It works wonderfully well.

When I saw that the show only lasted 28 minutes, I was ready for a real stinker, but the Lady Esther crew wisely keeps what we love most about Bogart and Lupino’s characters and shifts the script a bit to make their motivation to fall in love happen much more quickly and naturally than it does in the film. With no other woman for Bogart to fall in love with, Lupino’s encouragement and bravery impress him. He’s not looking for jewels, he’s looking for a life beyond crime – something that he sees potential for in Lupino. Lupino is on the run from her painful past and knows that the men she’s traveling with aren’t it. She meets Bogart. She likes Bogart. Bogart is her way out. With the other characters relegated to tiny bit parts, the heist becomes inconsequential and the story becomes more about whether or not these two multi-time losers can get away with their crime and actually enjoy a quality life together.

It’s better than it has any right to be, and at just under ½ an hour, it’s a great listen for your daily commute.

Bogart and Lupino

I would dare say that these two have more spark as a couple in the radio adaption than they do in the film. The script is trim and tight, both actors are performing so well that you’ll think you’re listening to audio from the film, and the short running time will leave you longing for more – in a good way.

Bogart comes off a bit softer here with his ‘crew’ than he does in the film. Instead of having an outside love interest, his story is contained neatly within his relationship with Lupino. It gives the character of Roy Earle a greater sense of maturity and loneliness that leads us to really pulling for him to fall in love with Lupino. To be honest, I really missed, “The Gun went…” *tap, tap, tap* scene, but I can let that go.

Lupino also comes off as much more sympathetic than she did in the film. This version of Marie is a woman that we can root for. Life has dealt her a bad hand, but perhaps this one job with this one guy can turn it around.

The Rest of the Cast

As per usual, we’re not given the names of any of the other cast members. But whoever they had filling in for Willie Best as Algeron was so spot on with his impersonation that they could have just as easily given Best credit. Likewise, the voice actor filling in for Barton MacLane as the ex-cop turned bad guy, Jake Kranmer, was another spot-on substitute.

So what if the sound man playing the part of Pard the dog sounds more like a man than a dog when he barks? That’s part of the charm of Old Time Radio, right?

The Bottom Line

Short, sweet, and surprisingly good.

Ida Lupino

Lupino Sierra2

Birth Name: Ida Lupino

Birthdate: February 4, 1928

Number of Films Ida Lupino Made with Humphrey Bogart:  3

The Lowdown

Ida Lupino was great at playing the bad girl that had the stamina to keep after any man she fancied.  Whether it was Bogart in High Sierra or George Raft in They Drive by Night, Lupino was able to pull off an alluring danger alongside of her costars that was all but impossible to resist.  Is it hard to blame them?  The woman was built from little more than sheer cloth and sex appeal.  I can easily forgive Alan Hale for not seeing the warning signs before his murder at Lupino’s hands in They Drive by Night – it was a short marriage, but I’m guessing he had some fun!

Making her way to the United States from England in 1934, Lupino worked her way up from small film roles, to starring alongside of some of Hollywood’s biggest leading men, and finally capped off her career with a long string of television work in some of the 60’s and 70’s best TV shows.

The Filmography

They Drive by Night – 1940

Lupino They Drive by Night

Lupino Plotting Away in the Middle of Alan Hale and George Raft

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Lupino plays Lana Carlsen, the femme fatale that bumps off her husband, Alan Hale, so that she can go after George Raft.  Lupino is lots of fun here as she smolders away, doing whatever it takes to keep the money she married into while making advances on a man who wants nothing to do with her.  The moment where she makes the decision to leave her husband in the garage with the car running is perhaps one of Lupino’s all-time best scenes.  There’s just a moment of realization that flashes across her eyes and a short pause in her step before passing the garage door sensor that will seal Hale’s fate.  Director Walsh and Lupino put together a wonderful little murder scene, and doggone it if she doesn’t look magnificent the entire time!  You can read my original write up on the film here.

High Sierra – 1941

Lupino High Sierra

Lupino plays Marie, the bad girl who’s pining away for Bogart while Bogart pines away for Joan Leslie. Lupino does a great job of not overdoing the role, slowly making advances towards Bogart with patience and just the right amount of manipulation. They have good chemistry together, and I would have been happy if Bogart had ridden off into the sunset with her at the end.  I really liked Lupino here, and she gets to run a whole gamut of heartbreaking emotions alongside of Bogart, even stealing the last scene from Hollywood’s greatest leading man!  You can read my original write up on the film here.

Thank Your Lucky Stars – 1943

Lupino Dehavilland tobias

Olivia de Havilland, George Tobias, and Lupino Cutting a Rug

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Lupino plays herself, alongside of Olivia de Havilland and George Tobias singing “The Dreamer.”  Lupino is great here as she hams it up with her partners, all dolled up in a poofy dress with a big bow in her hair and dancing like crazy.  Introduced with great misdirection as one of Hollywood’s more dramatic stars, the song and dance that follows is anything but serious – and it’s wonderful fun.  It’s hard not to fall a little bit for Lupino in this brief cameo as we get to see a more fun loving side of her than we usually get from her films.  While she never shares the screen with Bogart, it’s still well worth your time to check her out in a lighter moment from her career.  You can read my original write up on the film here.

They Drive By Night – 1940

They Drive By Night Poster

My Review

—Some Decent Melodrama— 

Bogie Film Fix:

3 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  Raoul Walsh

The Lowdown

The Fabrini brothers (George Raft and Humphrey Bogart) do their best to maintain a living as long distance truckers despite the constant threats of dangerous roads, sleep deprivation, and bosses who try to swindle them at every turn.

What I Thought

Okay.  I’m on board with George Raft.  He reminds me a lot of a more subdued version of James Cagney.  Both guys are small in stature, good looking, and great actors.  Don’t get me wrong, Raft isn’t nearly as charming and charismatic as Cagney, but he does a great job of playing men who are wound tight and ready to explode.

The chemistry here within the entire cast is superb.  Raft and Bogart work well together playing brothers with a very believable sibling dynamic.  Raft and Alan Hale have a lot of fun moments as they fall into business with one another.  Raft and Ann Sheridan make a great couple.  (Full disclosure – I’d pay to see Ann Sheridan watching paint dry, so I’m a little biased.)  And Raft gets to squirm alongside of Ida Lupino in some of the film’s best moments of dramatic tension.

My only real hang-up with the film comes with the ending when it devolves into a “he said/she said” courtroom drama.  The melodrama dial is already set at a “9” here, so I shouldn’t be surprised that they went with the old “murder trial” convention to decide the fates of all involved, but I do feel like it was a bit of an unrealistic cop out for the film to end that way.  I think it might have been more in line with the characters and the story to have Lupino and Raft’s final confrontation be a more privately painful moment.

But there’s so much right with Raoul Walsh’s direction here that I can’t fault the film for too much.  Walsh is one of my absolute favorite Bogart directors having worked on Women of All Nations, The Roaring Twenties, They Drive By Night, High Sierra, Action in the North Atlantic (uncredited), and The Enforcer (uncredited).  He knows how to build a story, get the most out of his actors, and frame each shot like it could be a movie still worth hanging on your wall.  I’m excited to add him to The Usual Suspects soon.

The Bogart Factor

Bogart plays a regular joe with his portrayal of Frank Fabrini.  It’s essentially a “good guy” version of the blue collar role that he played in Black Legion, and Director Walsh makes sure that he has plenty of time to flesh out his character despite the fact that he’s only the fourth billed actor in the film.

Raft and Bogart get the opportunity to build a good natured brotherly relationship before the plot gets dark, and we’re given ample time with Bogart’s Frank and his wife Pearl (Gale Page) as we see him torn between providing for his wife and fulfilling her dreams of a having a baby.  When the Fabrini’s truck is finally wrecked and Frank loses his arm, Bogart has created a deep enough character that it’s a gut wrenching moment to watch him tell his brother that he should have been left behind in the burning vehicle.

It’s not Bogart’s show to steal here, but he does a great job with a large supporting role.

The Cast

George Raft plays Bogart’s brother and trucking partner, Joe Fabrini.  Raft is authentic and relatable as the industrious trucker who’s willing to work hard in order to get ahead.  Besides this film, Invisible Stripes, and Some Like it Hot, I’m not familiar with Raft’s work, and I feel the urge to start exploring the rest of his filmography.  Raft’s biggest talent as an actor is the ability to play his emotions close to his chest until it’s time for the drama to really kick in.  I think I’m a big enough man to finally let his off screen tension with Bogart go . . .

Ann Sheridan plays truck stop waitress Cassie Hartley who falls for Raft after he’s more than a little persistent.  Sheridan does a good job of giving us the impression that she’s a good girl who’s perhaps done some dark things in her past, and she has some really nice scenes with Raft as they share a hotel room for a night before eventually falling in love and making a life together.  I can’t get enough of Sheridan, and this is one of her best Bogart film appearances.

Ida Lupino is Lana Carlsen, the femme fatale that bumps off her husband so that she can go after Raft.  Lupino is lots of fun here as she smolders away, doing whatever it takes to keep the money she married into while making advances on a man who wants nothing to do with her.  The moment where she makes the decision to leave her husband in the garage with the car running is done to perfection.  Just a moment of realization flashes across her eyes – then there’s a short pause before passing the garage door sensor – Director Walsh and Lupino put together a wonderful little murder scene.

Alan Hale plays Lupino’s gregarious husband, Ed Carlsen.  Ed’s the trucker who made good, finally opening his own company, and it’s a crime – A CRIME, I TELL YA! – when Lupino bumps him off.  What kind of sick mind thinks it would be a better world without Alan Hale?!?  It’s insanity in its purest form . . .

Roscoe Karns plays the good natured, pinball-addicted, milk truck driver for Ed Carlsen, Irish McGurn.  Karns is a scene stealer in the best possible way, and it’s a real treat to have him in the film.  The moments between Karns and Hale when they play drunk are laugh-out-loud good.

Classic Bogie Moment

In a rare turn, Bogart gets to play both goofy and dramatic here.  One of his very best mugging moments from any film comes when he’s trying to mime his excitement about a sale to George Raft behind the back of a prospective client (George Tobias) which gives us this great pic for your classic moment from the film:

They Drive By Night Bogart

The Bottom Line

I’d go ahead and make this one a must see.  It’s not a perfect film by any means, but it’s a great supporting role for Bogart where he gets to explore a lot of character depth and nuance.

High Sierra – 1941

High Sierra

My Review

–Great Film, Excellent Bogart—

Your Bogie Film Fix:

5 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director: Raoul Walsh

The Lowdown

Immediately after being released from prison, ex-con Roy Earle (Bogart) signs on for one more heist at a high class resort. As he and his partners prepare for the robbery, Earle is sidetracked by the thought of love with a displaced Midwestern girl (Joan Leslie) and her family who have just moved to California.

What I Thought

This film gets better for me every time that I see it. This was my third or fourth viewing, and I’m continually struck by how many new things pop out every time I watch. (Did you see how much jam Bogart puts on his breakfast toast? Good grief!)

By far his most nuanced gangster role, Bogart’s portrayal of ‘Mad Dog’ Roy Earle is that of a hardened and ruthless criminal who’s been tempered by time and experience. He’s finally reached that often clichéd moment in film where he’s ready for one more job before he settles down. But cliché is avoided here as the story wisely pairs Earle with partners who are considerably younger than him, and who more than likely reflect his own recklessly impetuous past.

Director Raoul Walsh spends a lot of time showing us Bogart quietly listening and reacting to a lot of chaos around him – each time carefully and calmly handling situations with an equal dose of wisdom and intimidation. Perhaps Bogart’s greatest character depth comes from the time Earle spends with ‘Pa’ played by Henry Travers. Where so many of Bogart’s previous gangster roles showed him reacting to frustration and disappointment with violence, High Sierra shows a man who often reacts with quiet resignation and acceptance to his station in life.

The cast is superb. The script by legendary actor, director, and writer John Huston is tight and powerful. Director Walsh gives us a lot of fantastic close ups and quiet moments to linger on. What more could you want from Classic Hollywood or a night with Humphrey Bogart?

As the story goes, when the part of Roy Earle was offered to George Raft, Raft was at the point in his career when he was ready to step away from gangster roles. Supposedly, Bogart needled him a bit about taking on yet another bad guy part, and Raft finally refused the script. Bogart then quickly swooped in and picked it up, knowing that it was a choice role, and a major step up from the previous two-dimensional hoods that he’d played before.

The Bogart Factor

Bogart layers the role of Roy Earle so deeply that you’re instantly sucked into not only empathizing with the character, but actually forgiving him when he commits his crime and is forced to shoot a security guard. I’m amazed and impressed with how much character development was given to Bogart’s role as he’s allowed to build deep and authentic relationships with Henry Travers’ Pa, Ida Lupino’s Marie, Joan Leslie’s Velma, and Donald McBride’s Big Mac. So often in crime films of this era, much more time is given over to the action and adventure, and little effort is spent on building a solid three-dimensional character. Director Walsh gives Bogart plenty of scenes to build a great foundation here though, and it makes for a riveting performance.

Bogart appears to be enjoying himself, and it’s a lot of fun to see him acting against his real life dog, Zero, in the film’s lighter moments. If you’re looking for a solid Bogart fix, this one’s a must see as it’s undoubtedly some of his best work. You won’t be able to take your eyes off of him.

High Sierra was the last film that Bogart made where he wasn’t given top billing, and it’s easy to see why this role made him an undeniably top-tiered star.

The Cast

Ida Lupino plays Marie, the bad girl who’s pining away for Bogart while Bogart pines away for Joan Leslie. Lupino does a great job of not overdoing the role, slowly making advances towards Bogart with patience and just the right amount of manipulation. They have good chemistry together, and I would have been happy if Bogart had ridden off into the sunset with her at the end.  You can read Lupino’s entry into ‘The Usual Suspects’ portion of the blog here.

Henry Travers plays Pa, a down-on-his-luck farmer who’s come to California with his wife and niece for a second chance. It’s not a groundbreakingly new role for Travers as he plays the saintly old grandfather type, but his scenes with Bogart are really, really good, and it’s nice to see him in a big role. You can read my write up on Travers in ‘The Usual Suspects’ portion of the blog here.

Joan Leslie plays Velma, the young disabled love interest to Bogart. Director Walsh uses her in small but powerful doses, and he doesn’t shy away from making sure we don’t see her as too innocently naïve in the end. Leslie does great in the role, and holds herself up against Bogart very well. It makes me excited to watch The Wagons Roll at Night again as I haven’t seen it in several years.

Arthur Kennedy and Alan Curtis play Bogart’s partners in crime, Red and Babe respectively. Again, Director Walsh spends just enough time to give us a good look at these younger versions of Earle without overdoing it. Kennedy is especially good here in an early role, and I need to check out some more of his filmography.

Donald MacBride plays Big Mac, the brains behind the heist, and he’s given a few good scenes with Bogart that show what Earle’s future might have in store if he doesn’t get out of the crime racket.

Willie Best plays Algernon, the simple cabin boy who pops up now and again to add a little levity and plot advancement to the film. I liked Best a lot here as he seems to have a real screen presence, and I’d like to explore his filmography further.

Cornel Wilde does well with a small part as Mendoza, the inside man at the resort who opens the safe for Bogart and his pals, and shares an amazing scene with Bogart which I get to later in the Classic Bogie moment . . .

Bogie Film Blog favorite Barton MacLane has a brief role as Jake, the man who . . . well . . . I’m not exactly sure what his job title was specifically, but he seemed to be Donald MacBride’s right hand man. It’s always fun to see MacLane show up in a film!

And then there’s Henry Hull as Doc Banton. I haven’t seen Hull since my early review of Midnight/Call it Murder, and here he plays an overly-aged private physician to criminals. Hull’s a good actor, so I’m not sure why Director Walsh felt the need to go a little over-the-top with Hull’s old man routine. It’s not too distracting, but it’s odd.

Classic Bogie Moment

Maybe my favorite Bogart scene from any film, Bogart sits down with his partners and explains to them with incredibly subtle intimidation why they need to keep quiet about their work.

Mendoza: Big Mac gave me the machine gun. You know how to work it? Red doesn’t, and neither does Babe.

Red: That’s a good one, that is.

Mendoza: What’s so funny?

Red: Does he know how to work it?

Roy Earle: (WITH INCREDIBLE CALMNESS) Yeah. Say, you know that gun reminds me of one time, nine or ten years ago. We was getting ready to do a job back in Iowa when one of the guys got the shakes. Pretty soon we found out that this guy with the shakes had talked too much, and a bunch of coppers were waiting for us at the bank. But we don’t say nothing. Lefty Jackson goes out and gets his gun. He comes back and sits down and holds it across his knee. The guy with shakes is sitting right across the room from him. Pretty soon Lefty just touched the trigger a little, and the gun went (BOGART TAPS THE TOP OF THE GUN CASE THREE TIMES WITH HIS INDEX FINGER) like that. The rat fell out of the chair dead and we drove off and left him there. Yeah, the gun went (BOGART TAPS THREE TIMES AGAIN).

Mendoza: (NERVOUSLY) Well, I better be getting back. I have to go on duty at 8:30.

Director Walsh could have gone over-the-top with this scene, making it a loud and threatening encounter, but he holds back, and it plays out powerfully.

The Bottom Line

If you’re a Bogie Film Blog reader, more than likely you’ve already seen this one. But if by some chance you haven’t, what are you waiting for?!? Go get it!