Edward G. Robinson

Robinson Bogart Brother Orchid

Birth Name: Emmanuel Goldenberg

Date of Birth: December 12, 1893

Date of Death: January 26, 1973

Number of films Edward G. Robinson made with Humphrey Bogart: 5

To be completely honest – I didn’t really like Edward G. Robinson before I started this blog. I knew very little about him. I’d only seen one of his five Bogart collaborations with Key Largo. I’d seen so many bad impressions, parodies, and caricatures of the man that I really only knew him as the poster boy for a 1930’s gangster joke!

Now, though? I’ve seen all of his Bogart collaborations and many of his non-Bogart films and he blows my mind with the way that he can play subtlety despite the fact that he was so gifted at being over-the-top. If anyone can give Bogart a run for his money in the ‘Not-Necessarily-Handsome Actor Who Still Made it to Icon Level Status,’ it’s Robinson.

A Romanian immigrant to New York at the age of 10, Robinson jumped into Yiddish Theater at the tender age of 19 before eventually making it to Broadway less than two years later. After that? Hollywood stardom and a permanent legacy as one of Tinsel Town’s toughest bad guys.

One of the best opportunities that I’ve had from writing this blog is that I’ve gotten to know a great guy by the name of “Gonzalo” who runs a site in the same vein to the Bogie Film Blog that’s solely about Edward G. Robinson. Exploring Robinson’s roles film by film, Gonzalo’s site is a fantastic stop for anyone looking for some conversation on classic films and Robinson as an actor. (Fair warning – the site’s in Spanish, so I use Google Translate when I’m there, but very little is lost in the translation! Forgive any translation mishaps!)

Gonzalo was kind enough to chat with me a bit about Robinson, his site, and Robinson’s collaborations with Bogart. (Even though English isn’t Gonzalo’s first language, he was gracious enough to bear with me and my Bogart-obsessed questioning!)

Bogie Film Blog: Gonzalo, what was it that really drove you to create a website devoted to the films of Edward G. Robinson?

Gonzalo: I like to watch his films and [talk] about him, I can’t get enough of his movies and [it doesn’t] matter how many times I watch them, I always have a good time, even if some of them are so-so.

His autobiography is a great book and his life story is very interesting, full of greatness and dificulties. He is a proof that [for] people with talent and conviction, the sky is the limit. We’re talking about somebody who wasn’t handsome – a little guy – but he was one of the most popular, respected, and better paid actors of his time. Most people tend to think about him like “the guy that always played gangsters in movies,” but he was an actor who could play anything and [always be] convincing – in good or evil characters, happy or bitter, intelligent or sucker. I [was already] posting about him and his movies in another blog, but after [I found] your site, I had the idea to devote an entire site to Robinson. Why not?

BFB: Exactly! I love it and feel greatly honored that you decided to go down the same path with the Robinson blog. Maybe we can convince a few other diehard fans to do the same with a few other actors. . .

What’s your favorite Robinson film?

G: It’s very hard to pick a movie, and I may change some options tomorrow, next week, or the next year, but Scarlet Street [has] my favorite Robinson performance. Scarlet Street was the film that made me realize how great his performances [were], [he was]somebody who [went] beyond the screen and reached your soul. I already knew who he was before that, but I wasn’t very into him until I watched that movie on TV. It’s curious, but I know now that one of my grandfathers was also a big Edward G. Robinson fan, so I suppose it’s a family thing.

BFB: If someone isn’t very familiar with Robinson, what would you suggest for a good “gateway” film into his work?

G: That’s a hard one because of the wide variety of his acting skills. Probably I’d change my choice depending [on who was] asking me. [Do they] like gangsters films, thrillers, comedy, or drama? But if I a had to pick just one for everybody [it] would be Dr. Erhlich’s Magic Bullet, a great performance in a very touching movie.

BFB: Out of the five films that Robinson shared with Bogart (Bullets or Ballots, Kid Galahad, The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse, Brother Orchid, and Key Largo) which one would you say is your favorite?

G: Key Largo. I have to say that [for] a time, I didn’t have as much appreciation for it as [I do] now, but a few months ago I watched it one more time and I loved it. Robinson is great in that film, [as] is Bogart, [and] Bacall is beautiful in a very spirited performance. And Lionel Barrymore, Claire Trevor, and the rest of the cast are terrific. The tension is very strong and Huston is in my top 5 film directors of all time. I usually don’t try to analyze a movie technically, but when you don’t care about how much time remains until the end of the movie that’s the sign of a great movie to me, and Key Largo makes you forget about anything else.

BFB: All right, Gonzalo, if you were stranded on a desert island and could only take two Robinson films and one other Classic Hollywood film that doesn’t star Robinson with you, which films would you take?

G: Scarlet Street and probably The Whole Town’s Talking for Robinson. In that John Ford movie [The Whole Town’s Talking], we have Robinson as a tough gangster and as a shy and simple guy in a very funny roll. And I’d carry also The Treasure Of Sierra Madre, perhaps the film I have watched [the most] times in my life and I still love it. But [for] some time, [I’ve been] very fond [of] W.C. Fields [and] I’d have to honor him [by] trying to ignore the “three movies only” rule and I’d try to sneak some more [along], like Witness For The Prosecution, To Be Or Not To Be, and It’s A Gift.

BFB: Gonzalo, thanks so much for your time and for the work that you’re doing on the Robinson site! If you want to visit Gonzalo’s blog, head over to his site here!

Now onto…

The Filmography

Bullets or Ballots – 1936

Bogart MacClane Robinson Bullets

Robinson plays Johnny Blake, an undercover cop who’s trying hard to keep his cool in the middle of a dangerous job. Apparently, the ‘Legion of Decency’ and the ‘Production Code Administration’ were starting to give the studios a hard time for glorifying gangsters. The studios’ response was to turn some of their best bad guys (James Cagney, Robinson, etc.) into good guys. The neat little work-around though, was that the good guys didn’t have to necessarily be good. Here, Robinson plays a cop who’s undercover as a bad guy, meaning we still get all the roughhousing and tough guy bravado that we would have had in a gangster role, but occasionally we get to see Robinson whisper into a phone, “Pssst! Yeah, I got’em fooled!” and we know that he’s still on the right side of the law. We also get a close quarters pistol duel between Robinson and Bogart at the end of the film! You can read my original write-up on the film here.

Kid Galahad – 1937

Robinson Bogart Galahad

Robinson plays boxing a promoter, Nick Donati, who stumbles across an unknown fighting phenomenon (Wayne Morris) at a hotel party and sees a chance to make a run for the heavyweight title and a whole lot of money. The only problem? The current champion works for mobster “Turkey” Morgan (Humphrey Bogart), and Morgan is willing to do whatever it takes to win. The film has your standard cookie-cutter Cinderella story, but the cast of Robinson, Bette Davis, Wayne Morris, and Bogart rise above the material to create a very entertaining dramedy. You can read my original write-up on the film here.

The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse – 1938

Bogart Robinson Clitterhouse

Robinson plays the unfortunately named Dr. Clitterhouse, a doctor so intrigued by the criminal mind that he decides to become a criminal in order to get some firsthand insight on their mindset and behaviors. The overall film suffers from tonal shifts – I wish they’d played it for a few less laughs – but it still has its moments. Robinson gets great scenes with both Claire Trevor and Bogart, especially their final confrontation together in his office. You can read my original write-up on the film here.

Brother Orchid – 1940

Bogart Robinson Orchid 2

Robinson plays mob boss Johnny Sarto, a gangster who’s had enough crime and violence in his life and is looking for a way out. After dallying with the civilian life however, Sarto decides that he wants his old gang back. The catch? The old gang doesn’t want him back. Seated at the table is Jack Buck, played by Humphrey Bogart, who’s next in line for the boss’ seat – leading to Robinson going on the run and eventually hiding out in a monastery. Robinson’s got some really nice scenes with fellow monk Donald Crisp, but I wish that they’d gone a bit edgier with his character so that the eventual character arc would have been slightly more dramatic. Overall, Ann Southern, Crisp, Bogart, and Robinson are all great and it’s still worth a watch. You can read my original write-up on the film here.

Key Largo – 1948

Bogart Robinson Largo

Robinson plays mobster on the run, Johnny Rocco – a gangster who’s on the verge of losing his confidence. We get to watch Robinson strut, punch, slap, yell, threaten, sweat, quiver, and cower all in just an hour and forty minutes as he begrudgingly deals with his hostages (Bogart, Bacall, and Lionel Barrymore) and his drunk ex-girlfriend (Claire Trevor). On the receding side of his career, this was supposedly a “thank you” role for Robinson after having given Bogart so much time to shine in their earlier collaborations together. Robinson nails it. No matter what’s going right or wrong for Rocco in any given scene, there is an underlying sense of fear present that pervades every word and action on display. You can read my original write-up on the film here.

*The Usual Suspects is an going feature where we highlight some of Bogart’s more prolific collaborators! You can read the rest of the entries here.*
Advertisements

Wayne Morris

Kid Galahad Morris

Morris with Jane Bryan and Bogart in ‘Kid Galahad’

.

Name: Bert DeWayne Morris

Birthdate: February 17, 1914

Number of Films that Wayne Morris made with Humphrey Bogart: 4

The Lowdown

My first Wayne Morris film was Kid Galahad, and I have to admit that it wasn’t an auspicious start for my journey through his Bogart collaborations. But the more I see Morris on screen, the more he grows on me. Typically playing goodhearted, albeit slightly dim, hunks, Morris had a chance in his all-too-short life to stand against some of Hollywood’s greatest legends before suffering a fatal heart attack at the very young age of 45.

With a promising leading man career ahead of him, Morris left Hollywood behind to follow a passion in flying that led him to receiving great honors for his service in World War II. After the war, Morris could never seem to get another big break in A-list films, but he did get one last good movie role opposite Kirk Douglas in Paths of Glory. Would it have been enough to carry him back up to a career resurgence? Most likely not, as he spent the next few years before his death appearing in various television Westerns, but it definitely showed that there was more to the good-statured blond than just his looks and his smile!

If you’ve got more interest in Morris and his military service, make sure to check out @HollywoodComet’s write up on him here.

The Filmography

China Clipper – 1936

China Clipper Morris

With Bogart and a few others . . .

.

It’s a blink and you’ll miss him role (as I did the first time I watched this film) as Morris plays the flight navigator next to Bogart on the Clipper. You could certainly do worse than starring with Bogart and Pat O’Brien in your very first film, right? You can read my original write up on the film here.

Kid Galahad – 1937

Kid Galahad Morris2

With Harry Carey

.

Morris plays the title role of Kid Galahad. He seems a bit stiff and dopey, but it was still fairly early in his career, and the script didn’t give him a lot to work with. But the moment Morris smiles on screen, you can’t take your eyes off of him! I can see why the studio thought that he had potential as a leading man. Plus, he gets to slug Bogart, steal Bette Davis’ heart, and work alongside of Edward G. Robinson. This had to have been a big thrill for the young actor as he went toe-to-toe with so many great Hollywood stars. You can read my original write up on the film here.

Men are Such Fools – 1938

Men are Such Fools Morris

With Priscilla Lane

.

Morris plays Jimmy Hall, the love interest to Priscilla Lane, and unfortunately, I’m not exactly sure what else to even say about his character here. In an incredibly strangely scripted film, we watch characters make a lot of choices without any motivation or reason to back them up. Yet, Morris still comes off as the best part of this movie with his good looks and charm shining brightly, and once again, he gets to knock Bogart flat as they play romantic rivals fighting for Lane’s love. It was heartbreaking to see Morris so likable with so little good material. A better script – even a barely decent script – and this film could have been so much better. If nothing else, you can spend some time enjoying what men’s bathing suits used to look like!

men are such fools swimsuits

You can read my original write up on the film here.

The Return of Doctor X – 1939Return of Doctor X Morris

With Dennis Morgan

.

I’m an unabashed fan of this cult classic, so it was so much fun to see Morris shine as the Wichita-hick-moved-to-the-big-city reporter, Walter Garrett. He’s bumbling, affable, naïve, and just charming enough to make his character enjoyable to watch. Morris deftly handles the campy comedy and the (somewhat) tension filled moments with grace and ease. Some of my favorite Morris moments:

Morris: (ON THE PHONE, REPORTING THE INITIAL MURDER OF AN ACTRESS THAT SPURS HIS INVESTIGATION) There’s nobody here except a monkey, and he couldn’t have done it!

Is it strange that a washed up actress has a pet monkey? Not to Morris, apparently! Not enough to mention anyways.

And then there’s the scene where Morris’ reporter has to convince Dennis Morgan’s respected surgeon, Dr. Rhodes, to go see if Bogart is really a corpse that’s returned to the land of the living:

Morris: The burial took place at Greenlawn Cemetary. Okay, let’s go out to the cemetery and find out tonight.

Morgan: (SHRUGGING NONCHALANTLY, AS IF JUST ASKED OUT FOR COFFEE) All right.

Yup! Nothing strange about big city reporter and a respected surgeon digging up graves in the middle of night! Nope, typical evening in the big city!

Morris’ relationship with Morgan comes off very much as a precursor to the Mulder/Scully relationship in The X-Files – and I say that as a huge X-Files fan. You can read my original write up on the film here.

Bette Davis

Dark Victory 3Bette Davis With Humphrey Bogart in Dark Victory

.

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 . . .

.

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 . . .

.

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 . . .

.

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!

.

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.

Kid Galahad – 1937

gala

My Review

—Good, Harmless Fun—

Your Bogie Fix:

1.5 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  – Michael Curtiz

The Lowdown

Boxing promoter Nick Donati (Edward G. Robinson) and his girlfriend “Fluff” (Bette Davis) stumble across an unknown fighting phenomenon when they witness a bellhop (Wayne Morris) knock out an experienced fighter at a hotel party.  Donati immediately sees dollar signs in the bellhop’s championship potential, while his girlfriend Fluff starts to fall in love.  The only problem?  The boxer that the bellhop knocked out works for mobster “Turkey” Morgan (Humphrey Bogart), and Morgan is willing to do whatever it takes to get his revenge on the bellhop, and the fast talking Donati.

What I Thought

It’s a by-the-numbers Warner picture for the time it was made.  It’s not bad, but it’s not great.  It’s predictable, but fun. Robinson and Davis definitely save the day with their great portrayals, turning it into an enjoyable film.

The Bogart Factor 

Well, Bogart’s present, I guess.  It’s my lowest “Bogie Fix” review so far, so that should tell you something.  He doesn’t get a lot of screen time, and when he does, he’s relegated to being the stock mob-guy character.  He is able to put a slight twist on it though, making “Turkey” Morgan more of a sniveling whiner than a cutthroat gangster.  This film’s much more suited for a Robinson or Davis fix, as the viewer can go for extended periods of time with no Bogie in sight.

The Cast 

Robinson and Davis as the leads do what they do best.  Robinson is every bit the real life caricature that we’ve all grown to love, and Bette Davis is gorgeous and fun.

Davis plays ‘Fluff’ with a girl-next-door quality that left me wondering for the first half of the movie how she ended up with Robinson.  There is a brief scene in a car with Morris where she alludes to a darker past, but come on, Bette!  You can do better!

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!

bette

Wayne Morris is okay.  He’s big, and stiff, and perhaps a little more dopey than what the script called for.  Although, I was amazed at how much charm he could exude with a smile.  One smile, and you can’t take your eyes off the guy.  I can see why the studio thought he had potential as a leading man.  He’s capable enough and does his job in this movie, but if you want a better dose of him, you should check out Paths of Glory.

Jane Bryan, who played Davis’ kid sister in Marked Woman, shows up here as Robinson’s kid sister, Marie.  She plays young and naïve, and we believe she’s the country brat who falls in love with the farmboy boxer.  The more I see of Bryan, the more impressed I am as she elevates any movie she’s in – and I have to admit that I’m starting to develop a little thing for her . . .

Don’t Forget to Notice. . . 

Ben Welden, who was so good as the menacing enforcer, Charlie, in Marked Woman, appears here as Morgan’s right hand man, Buzz Barett.  Notice that with only the addition of an ear-to-ear grin, his presence goes from menacing in Marked Woman to incredibly smarmy in Kid Galahad.  This guy is so much fun to watch in the background of any scene he’s in.

Classic Bogie Moment

There was not a lot to pick from, but there is one neat shot towards the end of the movie after the climactic boxing match.  Bogart’s “Turkey” Morgan needs to lure the cops away from Robinson and Morris.  We get a wonderful shot of him lurking behind a chain link fence, cigarette dangling from his mouth – and then moments later, a great silhouette of Bogie with his gun drawn.

galahadgalahad 2

The Bottom Line

The movie is enjoyable enough that it should be on any Bogart fan’s list, but I’d advise you to double bill it with a 3+ Bogie Film Fix to make sure that you’re not jonesing for more Bogie later!  How about Petrified Forest?  Then you can spend countless nights pining away for Bette Davis just like I do now.  On second thought, that much young and gorgeous Bette Davis might be too powerful for any mortal man to handle . . . be careful!

A Little Extra

Wayne Morris’ life and career were cut short after a heart attack when he was forty-five.  Even at that young age, he still had a good, long list of credits.  Make sure you check him out in Kirk Douglas’ Paths of Glory where he gets a better role to shine with!