The Friars Club Roast of Humphrey Bogart – 1955

My Review

-Don’t Waste Your Time-

Bogie Radio Fix:

The Lowdown

Just to be clear, the only reason this one even gets 1/2 a Bogie fix is because Lauren Bacall steals the show with the only two, all too brief, bright spots in the program. Bogart is almost nonexistent. You can hear him laughing off-mike for most of the show, and he has a short “thank you” speech at the end, but don’t listen for any sort of Bogie-appreciation.

Let me also say early on, anyone who knows me personally wouldn’t consider me a prude. Most of my favorite comedic films, comedians, and television shows would fall into the “R Rated” category of grownup entertainment. Swearing doesn’t bother me unless it’s used pointlessly for no other reason than the material that it resides within could not hold up on its own.

All of that said, The Friars Club Roast of Humphrey Bogart is a long, hard, obnoxious slog of a show that spends 90% of it’s time on homophobic and misogynistic comedy that has NOTHING to do with Bogart. In fact, almost all of the presenters make it a point to mention that they not only haven’t worked with Bogart in films, but they also don’t really know him personally.

Hosted by Roastmaster Red Buttons (one of the few presenters to have some good material), the show is one “roaster” after another using every conceivable slang term for the male anatomy – usually in reference to oral sex. (I know, I know – I sound like a real prude…but trust me, it’s over done.

Alan King, Charles Coburn, Lou Holtz, Phil Silvers, and Jan Murray are just a few of the presenters who show up to throw out penis jokes, talk about everything except Bogart, and admit they prepared little or no material for the show.

Before you start your replies below, I know how Friars Club Roasts work. I’ve seen lots of them – both the Dean Martin incarnations and some of Comedy Central’s celebrity hi-jinks. This one suffers from age, though. Women weren’t allowed in the room. More time is spent pointing out local celebs in the room than roasting the honoree. And, as I mentioned before, the comedy painfully does not hold up. Not solely because it’s offensive (that’s what the Friars Club is supposed to do, right?), but because the presenters have nothing else to rely on except the offensive stuff.

On the other hand, Lauren Bacall is able to upstage the entire panel in her first appearance at the roast when Buttons plays an audio tape of a message she pre-recorded since women weren’t allowed in the room. Bacall covers the same-exact tasteless topics as the men do, but her jokes are much better written – relying on word play and innuendo specifically tailored to Bogart and his career. Of note, the whole “grab my gun” joke is probably the best piece of business in the whole show, although that’s not saying much.

Bacall also makes an in-the-flesh appearance at the end of the show after Bogart gives his brief thanks, and again steals the show even though she didn’t have prepared material and was put on the spot to speak.

Have I been hard enough on the show yet? If you really want to listen, go for it. It was released on vinyl and is currently available on YouTube. But I’d say it’s probably not worth your time except for those interested in hearing Lauren Bacall show a room full of desperate men how to really do a roast.

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Great Performances – Bacall on Bogart – 1988

bacall_on_bogart_great_performances_tv-387115656-mmed

Honorary Bogie Fix:

5 Bogie

Director: David Heely

The Lowdown

Clips, interviews, stills, and personal memories are given by the woman who knew Bogart the best – Lauren Bacall.

What I Thought

With interviews from John Huston, Richard Brooks, Ingrid Bergman, Katherine Hepburn, Julius Epstein, and Lauren Bacall herself, this is surely the definitive Bogie TV bio that any casual-to-hardcore fan would love.

I think what I enjoyed the most was the time spent on some of Bogart’s lesser known films. While many books and TV bios gloss over a lot of his early duds, Bacall takes a moment to comment on, and even show clips from, films most people aren’t acquainted with. She even spends a little extra time on my personal favorite cult classic, The Return of Doctor X.

For sure, the biggest treat here is Lauren Bacall’s on and off screen narration. The woman is as beautiful and captivating as ever, and that smoky voice is more-than-easy to listen to as she segues between her own personal reflections, interviews with Hollywood legends, and clips of Bogart’s work.

I covered A&E’s Biography on Bogart a few days ago, and this one’s as much of a heavyweight history lesson as that one was an entertaining afternoon diversion. Clocking in at just over an hour, what makes this one so much deeper and informative is obviously the involvement, guidance, and knowledge of Bacall.

Insider perspective on Bogart’s family, early frustrations, behind-the-scenes hi jinks, behind-the-scenes fights, behind-the-scenes love affairs, personal war on McCarthyism, and painful death is powerful and pointed along every step of the way. Perhaps the most telling moments come at the end as Katherine Hepburn recalls her final moments with Bogart after a visit with Spencer Tracy. It was the last time that they saw their good friend alive, and if it doesn’t make your eyes water, you have no business being a Classic Film fan.

The Cast of Interviewees

This one is all about Lauren Bacall as she very proudly leads us through the life of the man she loved. There is a great deal of admiration and loyalty on display, and the word “classy” just does not do Bacall justice on her work here. It’s a great piece of Bogart’s legacy to leave behind for the world.

I’ve mentioned Katherine Hepburn above as she really steals the show, but this is also a WONDERFUL treasure trove of personal insight from some of the collaborators that shaped Bogart into the man we love – Director John Huston, Actress Ingrid BergmanCasablanca scribe Julius Epstein, and Actor Van Johnson.

The Bottom Line

Bacall’s involvement makes this one a must see for anyone who likes the real stories behind Hollywood icons. If only every star had someone to take such great care of their legacy after they passed.

 

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!

Lauren Bacall

Bogie and Bacall Big Sleep

Birth Name: Betty Joan Perske

Date of Birth: September 16, 1924

Date of Death: August 12, 2014

Number of films that Lauren Bacall made with Humphrey Bogart:  6

The Actress

I wasn’t planning on adding Bacall to ‘The Usual Suspects’ portion of the blog for quite a while. Much like when I saved Casablanca for my final Bogart film review, Bacall was going to be the cherry on top of a year spent recapping some of Bogart’s other greatest collaborators. I was going to save the best for last. But alas, with Bacall’s passing this past week, I couldn’t help but spend some time reliving a handful of my favorite films with my all-time favorite actress.

When I heard the news that Bacall had died, I had a strange feeling of regret rather than remorse. Usually when one of my favorite Hollywood icons passes, it leaves me in a funk for several weeks. (Jimmy Stewart passed not too long after my grandfather. Don’t even ask how wonderful I was to be around for a few months after that . . .) Here though, I felt different. I felt an immediate sense of great disappointment rather than grieving.

I think that in the back of my mind I had always assumed that I would eventually get to see Ms. Bacall in person. Maybe even get the chance to talk to her or get an autograph. Perhaps it would be at a TCM or Bogart film festival – I’m not sure, I hadn’t actually planned it out in my head, but of all the actors that I’ve written about since starting this blog, Lauren Bacall was still alive. She was still with us. She was a physical link to Classic Hollywood, Humphrey Bogart, and cinema history. She was a living, breathing presence that graced the same ground that I did.

I have no doubt that the grieving will hit me sooner than later. Just the act of creating this post gave me pause a few times as I popped Bogie/Bacall DVDs. A quick and simple screencap from To Have and Have Not ended up lasting over an hour as I just started watching the film rather than watching for a good moment to steal.

So no Bacall bio from me this week. Maybe someday. If you need to, check out her IMDB page here, or read her wonderful autobiography. Head over to Wikipedia for her page or watch one of the numerous Bogart DVD extras that record her amazing rise to fame at nineteen and the subsequent love affair with Hollywood’s greatest star. I just don’t think that I’m ready to dive back in and write-up a more concise record of her life and career yet.

Rest in peace, Slim. If only we were so lucky as to have seen you walk into that great gin joint in the sky and be reunited with Mr. Bogart. Your legacy will live forever, but your presence will be sorely missed.

The Filmography

To Have and Have Not – 1944

Bacall To have and have not 2

From my original post on the film here:

“I . . . I don’t even know where to begin. I fell so deeply in love with this woman because of this film. Marie is reportedly based largely on Hawks’ own glamorous wife, which, if true, good for him. This being Bacall’s first movie, I am continually astounded at how she is able to play such a depth of maturity at such a young age. I’ve seen Bogart fall in love with a lot of women on screen, but this is the one time I truly believed it. It’s more than the lines and the blocking. We are watching this woman and this man court one another right before our eyes.”

Bacall plays Marie Browning, a young grifter in Fort de France, Martinique who falls for Bogart’s tour fishing captain, Harry Morgan. Again, from the orignal post:

“The first moment when Lauren Bacall sits on Humphrey Bogart’s lap in To Have and Have Not, something inside me stirs in such a deep and private way that I’m uncomfortable watching the film with other people in the room.

“Broke and stranded in Martinique, Marie takes to conning men – teasing them to the point of stupidity, before making off with their wallets. She says that she’s slowly building her funds so that she can make it back home, but we don’t believe her because Morgan doesn’t believe her. He reads her even better than she can read him or any other man. Marie is running from a past of pain and abuse, and the fact that Morgan picks up on it so quickly unnerves her deeply.

“Morgan and Marie are two people who both exude extreme confidence while privately loathing what they’ve let themselves become. So close are they attuned to each other’s inner truth, that they immediately start to distance themselves in a bit of role-play – as if using each other’s real names might be too intimate. Morgan only refers to her ‘Slim.’ Marie refers to him as ‘Steve.’ (Which, according to IMDB might, be a reference to the word “stevedore” which means “dockworker.”) They circle one another endlessly, gently keeping their distance – until Hawks has them touch. And then? Boom. White hot sparks.

“Bacall was nineteen when she starred in this! NINETEEN! What were you doing when you were nineteen? I was . . . well, I won’t bother telling you where my sympathies lay back then.”

This was the film where I fell hard for Lauren Bacall and she became my number one classic film screen crush. I could have this one on a loop in the background for eternity and never get tired of it. You can also read the write-up I did on the radio adaption of the film starring both Bacall and Bogart here.

The Big Sleep – 1946

Bacall Big sleep

A film that I got to enjoy posting on twice, The Big Sleep is available in two versions. From my original posts here (1946’s Hollywood release) and here (the unreleased pre-edited 1945 version):

“The widely accepted and well chronicled story is that Lauren Bacall’s agent, Charles Feldman, started to get nervous about his new young wunderkind after horrible reviews were written for her performance in the film Confidential AgentAgent was Bacall’s follow-up film after becoming an overnight sensation alongside of Bogart in To Have and Have Not, and Feldman was apparently freaking out at the idea of Bacall disappearing into Hollywood obscurity after being labeled as a one-hit wonder.

“With this film already delayed, Feldman wrote to Jack Warner, pleading to reshoot some scenes and add more of the fiery romantic flavor that Bogart and Bacall shared in To Have and Have Not. Warner agreed, Director Howard Hawks eventually relented to rework some shots, the stars reassembled a year after production, and seven reels of the film were altered with reordered scenes and a little over 20 minutes of new or alternate material.

“Bogart and Bacall’s romance is beefed up considerably. I felt that in the pre-release version, Bacall comes off as a bit more threatening to Bogart. Reshoots were done on a few scenes to make her a little more affectionate, and their innuendo-heavy ‘horse racing’ scene was added to help build up the sexual tension. In the original version though, I thought that Bacall came off as much less trustworthy and there seemed to be considerably more tension as to whether or not she was really on Bogart’s side.”

As the older sister Vivian Rutledge, Bacall is fantastic in both films. Whether you love or hate the overly complicated plot, this one’s a must see if you’re a Bacall fan, a Bogart fan, a classic film fan, or a cinema fan of any sort!

Two Guys from Milwaukee – 1946

It’s just a brief cameo here by the couple playing themselves. I’ve got a write-up on the film coming in about a month, so, as I said, I was planning on holding off on this ‘Usual Suspects’ post for a bit. But since it’s just a cameo, I figured that I could update it when the post on the film is finished . . .

But to make up for it, here’s a YouTube clip of the entire cameo.

Dark Passage – 1947

Bacall Dark Passage

Bacall plays Irene Jansen, the woman who mysteriously seems to have a personal stake in an escaped convict (Bogart) and houses him after he alters his appearance with plastic surgery while on the run. As the story goes, Jack Warner and the critics were pretty upset that Bogart spends the first hour of this film hidden behind bandages. Not only that, but there are a number of first-person shots from his eyes, so all we hear is his voice over.

As for me? I can’t complain. From my original post on the film here:

“Make no mistake about it, this is Bacall’s movie to make or break. She’s gotten a lot of flak for not being able to stand on her own without Bogart when it comes to many of her non-Bogart films, but here she shows that with the right director, she can work wonders. Much of the first hour of this film is spent in close-ups on her remarkable face as we see from Bogart’s first-person point of view, and it’s impossible to take your eyes off the screen whether she’s talking, moving, or just sitting perfectly still. This woman is stunning, and when given a chance, she knew how to combine her looks and her acting talent to truly command the big screen. If you’re a Bacall fan at all, this one’s definitely worth a look.”

Key Largo – 1948

Bacall Key Largo

Their last big screen film together, Bacall plays Nora Temple, the widow of Bogart’s recently deceased army buddy. Not the deepest of roles compared to their other four major pairings, but Bacall is strong, defiant, and just soft enough to care for the stranger who has stumbled across her doorstep. The real life chemistry between Hollywood’s greatest couple carries over well into the film, and the close ups they share together are worth the price of admission alone.

The overall film is so great, and with Lionel Barrymore and Edward G. Robinson as costars, it’s a wonderful way for Bogie and Bacall to finish their time together on the silver screen. Bacall’s relationship with her surrogate father, Barrymore, speaks volumes to her subtleties as an actress as she’s able to convey so much affection through simple touches and caring looks.

That shot above where Bacall casually brushes back her hair as she helps Bogart on the docks is such an authentically small moment that it melts my heart every single time. How is it possible that she seems even younger here than she did four years earlier in To Have and Have Not? How amazing is it that Bogart got to close out his onscreen relationships with two of his greatest costars (Bacall and Robinson) in one film?

If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and call in sick tomorrow. You can read my original post on the film here.

Producer’s Showcase – “The Petrified Forest” – 1955

pet From my original post here:

“Nearly twenty years after Humphrey Bogart made Duke Mantee his breakout role on the silver screen, he returned to the small screen to reprise the gangster one more time for the TV show, Producer’s Showcase. Stepping in for Bette Davis is Lauren Bacall as Gabby, and Henry Fonda plays Alan Squier, the role made famous by Leslie Howard.”

Well, to be honest, trying to step into a young Bette Davis’ shoes is all but impossible, but Bacall still does well here. She may not capture the spunk and vigor of Davis’ original love-struck teen, but Bacall does comes off as much more believable in the scenes where she talks about literature and recites poetry.

Again, it’s another wonderful instance of Bacall getting to share in a monumental moment with Bogart as he returns to the role that really notched his belt with its first major mark as a superstar in front of the world. Such an incredibly interesting experiment in the rebooting of a film, this one’s worth a look if only to say that you saw Bogie and Bacall together for the last time!

* ‘The Usual Suspects’ is an ongoing feature at The Bogie Film Blog where we highlight some of Bogart’s most celebrated costars, and occasionally, it makes this writer tear up a bit when he has to write a post like this one. You can read the rest of the posts in the feature here. *

 

Dark Passage – 1947

Dark Passage Poster

My Review

—Campy Noir Goodness—

Your Bogie Film Fix (Out of 5 Bogies):

3.5 Bogie

 

 

Director: Delmer Daves

The Lowdown

An escaped convict (Bogart) undergoes plastic surgery and hides out with a mysterious woman (Lauren Bacall) while trying to prove his innocence.

What I Thought

The first time I saw this film a couple of years ago, I thought it was a fantastic amount of fun. Critics at the time of release were apparently a little upset that Bogart’s face doesn’t appear for over an hour into the film (as was studio head Jack Warner), but having any Bogart film at my disposal at any time made the wait much more tolerable. We hear the voice. We see his silhouette. We get lots and lots of dramatic close ups on Bacall, but Bogart’s face is elusive until over halfway through the movie. I can the critics’ and Warner’s annoyance though. If I laid down good money to see Hollywood’s greatest actor do his thing only to find out that he doesn’t officially appear until less than half of the film is left, I might be a little upset too. Yet, removed from the era, I think it works.

Watching it this second time though, it’s clear to me that while everything looks, sounds, and feels top notch, this film is crazy-strange at its core.

Let’s start with the script. Coincidence and happenstance are such a common occurrence from the get-go that wild moments of chance become the acceptable norm quickly and it’s easy to forget how outlandish some plot points become. Everyone seems to know one another. Bogart lucks into a ride with the shadiest and least greedy cab driver of all time. And overly suspicious cops show up at absolutely every inopportune moment.

Scenes play out in such a way that we’d be slapping out heads in dismay if they occurred in any other Bogart film, but there’s just enough of a campy flavor by Director Delmer Daves here to make it work. It’s not the first time Daves has had his hand in an offbeat Bogart film either, as he was a contributor to the screenplay for one of my favorite lesser-known Bogart gems, It All Came True. (Daves also has credit for helping to write the screenplay for The Petrified Forest.) So, be it a fist fight shot from the first-person perspective or a maniacal back alley plastic surgeon that could get night work as a Bond villain, be prepared to suspend a bit of disbelief and have some fun with this one.

San Francisco plays a huge role in this film as well, giving us some truly amazing shots of Bogart scrambling around the city as he tries to prove his innocence. Director Daves offers us one shot in particular –

Dark Passage Awesome

that I’m dying to make a poster on my office wall.

And then there’s the ending! I need to do a bit of research, but SURELY Stephen King took a bit of inspiration for the end of The Shawshank Redemption from this one, right? I’m not crazy am I? Even some of the dialogue feels a little too familiar.

It’s a fun, strange, wonderful film that gives us an enormous amount of time to stare at Lauren Bacall’s amazing face close up, so I’d go ahead and make this one a must see for any Bogart fan, especially if you’ve enjoyed other Bogart/Bacall collaborations.

The Bogart Factor

Having grown to really enjoy many of his radio appearances, this film really stands out to me as a great example of how truly important Bogart’s voice is to his overall appeal. Playing the escaped con Vincent Parry, we get nothing but that wonderfully cynical and smoky voice for over half the film, and it’s amazing how easily we can imagine every facial expression that Bogart would be making if he were actually on screen.

The character doesn’t plumb any new depths that we’re not already used to from a Bogart role. He’s dark and brooding, desperately sarcastic, and impossibly confident when it comes to communicating with the dames. But the film doesn’t call for an Oscar caliber performance, it calls for a tough-as-nails loner who can wander the streets of San Francisco scrapping with cops and wooing the girl. No one does those things any better than Bogart, so I’m more than happy that this eccentric little picture made its way into his filmography.

The Cast

Lauren Bacall plays Irene Jansen, the woman who mysteriously seems to have a personal stake in Bogart’s fight to clear his name. Make no mistake about it, this is Bacall’s movie to make or break. She’s gotten a lot of flak for not being able to stand on her own without Bogart with many of her non-Bogart films, but here she shows that with the right director, she can work wonders. Much of the first hour of this film is spent in close-ups on her remarkable face as we see from Bogart’s first-person point of view, and it’s impossible to take your eyes off the screen whether she’s talking, moving, or just sitting perfectly still. This woman is stunning, and when given a chance, she knew how to combine her looks and her acting talent to truly command the big screen. If you’re a Bacall fan at all, this one’s definitely worth a look.

Agnes Moorehead plays Bacall’s friend(?), neighbor(?), frenemy(?) Madge Rapf, and after just watching her in The Left Hand of God, I’m ready to add her to ‘The Usual Suspects’ portion of the blog. I need to check out the rest of her filmography as she’s just so doggone talented at playing women (good and bad) with a real sense of underlying deviousness.

Tom D’Andrea plays the cabby, Sam, who just happens to know the best black market plastic surgeon on the block when Bogart needs it. Yes, it’s a wildly coincidental plot point, but D’Andrea gets a number of great moments to shine here, and manages to steal a few scenes from his fellow actors!

Clifton Young plays Baker, a small time crook that gets accidentally caught up in Bogart’s prison escape and subsequent adventures. Young is a lot of fun in the role, and with a few other really small parts in Bogart films, he may end up in ‘The Usual Suspects’ as well.

Houseley Stevenson plays the creepy back alley surgeon, Dr. Walter Coley, and he does a superb job. After a few smaller parts in some of Bogart’s earlier films, it was fun to see him pop up again here. Another ‘Suspects’ candidate? Probably.

Bruce Bennett (yet another multi-time Bogart collaborator) shows up as Bob, the pseudo-boyfriend to Bacall. Again for Bennett, it’s not a huge role, but he plays it well.

Rory Mallinson plays Bogart’s old friend, George Fellsinger. From the moment he appears on screen with his wistful longing to play trumpet professionally and his eager loyalty towards Bogart, do we doubt his outcome in this film for a second? Mallinson is very good, and helps provide crucial pathos for the film’s climax.

Holy smokes! There’s Tom Fadden playing the Counterman at a diner! One of my favorite parts of The Big Sleep here in another scene-stealing role!

Classic Bogie Moment

Come on. Just look at this shot. This one needs to be a poster too:

Dark Passage Classic

The Bottom Line

Have fun with it. Don’t ask too many questions. Enjoy one of the most beautiful and compelling actresses ever to grace the silver screen.

 

Key Largo – 1948

Key Largo Pic

My Review

—Fantastic—

Your Bogie Film Fix:

4 Bogie

 

 

out of 5 Bogies!

Director: John Huston

The Lowdown

A war vet (Humphrey Bogart) visits the Florida Keys to pay his respects to the wife (Lauren Bacall) and father (Lionel Barrymore) of a friend who died in combat, only to stumble upon a gangster (Edward G. Robinson) on the run just as a hurricane strikes.

What I Thought

There’s not a wrong note in this whole film. The cast is superb, and while Claire Trevor is the only actor from the film to win an Oscar, it surely wouldn’t have been a surprise if Barrymore and Robinson had at least been nominated as their performances are stand-out wonderful as well. (Fortunately or unfortunately – depending on who from this film you consider – the main competition for the Oscar race that year was another little Huston film called Treasure of the Sierra Madre and Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet. Huston snagged Best Director and Best Screenplay for Madre, so I imagine that Trevor’s win for Best Supporting Actress here and Walter Huston’s win for Best Supporting Actor in Madre were just the icing on the cake for him.)

The real story of this film is the interplay between Bogart and Robinson. Much of Bogart’s early career was spent playing second fiddle to Robinson when Robinson was still at the peak of his stardom. Here though, the roles are reversed. Or are they? Yes, Bogart is top billed playing his oft-stoic protagonist war hero that happens along just in time to save the day and get the woman, but it’s clear that Key Largo is Robinson’s film to steal.

From the moment that he appears onscreen taking a bath, Robinson controls almost every scene throughout the rest of the picture. My wife, who is often reading or working on her computer in the background while I watch Bogart films, glanced up the moment Robinson was introduced and didn’t take her eyes off of him for the rest of the film. Afterwards, I asked her, “Like that guy? You didn’t take your eyes off of him?”

“No,” she said, “His face is weird.”

But she watched. Regardless of the fact that he possessed a face that no caricature could ever exaggerate enough, Robinson exuded charisma and raw energy out of every pore. You can’t not watch the guy when he’s on screen. Huston and Bogart give him plenty of room to work with too, letting him take center stage at almost every moment to wring out a performance that I would rank as one of his best.

It’s fun to note that the final confrontation on the boat was apparently the original ending to Howard Hawks’ To Have and Have Not. When Huston couldn’t think of an ending to Key Largo, Hawks offered this one and Huston took it! It gives Robinson an incredible finale to a stellar performance!

The Bogart Factor

Bogart’s war vet, Frank McCloud, is essentially a rehash of a whole list of previous characters that he’s already played. A loner ex-soldier, McCloud is there to stop the bad guy and get the girl – period. It’s not colorfully written, but it’s not supposed to be. He’s there to glue together the rest of the cast that is both literally and metaphorically caught up in the middle of a storm.

Again though, if you’re going to cast a leading man that needs to be tough, brooding, and still sympathetic – can you do better than Bogart? Especially when he’s in the hands of a director like John Huston who’s going to use Bogart’s skill set to its fullest potential while making every frame that he’s in feel like an iconic image of Hollywood’s greatest star.

Is this Bogart’s best role? No. But it’s a textbook example of what a great actor can do with a stock “hero” character.

The Cast

Edward G. Robinson is a force to be reckoned with as the mobster on the run, Johnny Rocco. Playing a gangster who’s on the verge of losing his most valuable weapon – his confidence – we get to watch Robinson strut, punch, slap, yell, threaten, sweat, quiver, and cower all in just an hour and forty minutes. On the receding side of his career, this was supposedly a “thank you” role for Robinson after giving 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.

Claire Trevor plays Robinson’s girlfriend and former lounge singer, Gaye Dawn. She’s great in the role, and not surprisingly, won an Oscar for her performance as the gun moll that’s living out her last years in the bottom of a bottle while clinging to a madman who gave up on her a long time ago. One of the best behind-the-scenes stories from this film is that Director Huston sprung Trevor’s a cappella performance of “Moanin’ Low” on her the day of shooting. If true, it certainly helped give Trevor a shaky and painful performance that’ll make you cringe in the best possible way.

Lauren Bacall plays Nora Temple, the widow of Bogart’s army buddy who died in the war. Like Bogart, the role isn’t anything special, but Bacall plays it as well as anyone could. She’s strong, defiant, and just soft enough to care for the stranger who has stumbled across her doorstep. The real life chemistry between these two carries over well into the film, and the close ups they share together are worth the price of admission alone.

Lionel Barrymore plays James Temple, the wheelchair bound father of Bogart’s dead friend. Barrymore is really good here and gets plenty of opportunity to wrestle scenes away from Robinson – especially the moment he leaves his very real and necessary wheelchair in order to take a swing at the gangster. His affection for Bacall feels real as well, and it’s not hard to lose yourself over to this grieving father who’s trying to pull the right strings to get Bogart to stay on at his hotel and take care of his daughter-in-law.

Thomas Gomez, Harry Lewis, and Dan Seymour play Robinson’s gang, and they’re each wonderful in their own way. Gomez is a ton of fun as Curly, the gum chomping, wise crack spewing, henchman. Lewis plays a great “little villain” as Toots, the weaselly goon with a hair trigger. And perhaps my favorite is Seymour as Angel. After To Have and Have Not and Casablanca, I need to add him to the list of Usual Suspects. His parts are never huge, but he’s got a great face and a wonderful presence for a character actor.

Classic Bogie Moment

Look at how Huston introduces Bogart into the film even though his back is initially set to the camera!!! Great shot. Great use of a mirror. A simple scene that was probably much more complicated to block than it looks!

Bogart Classic Key Largo

The Bottom Line

Come for the Bogie and Bacall. Stay for the Robinson and Barrymore. You won’t be disappointed.

 

 

 

 

 

The Orginal Pre-Release Edit of The Big Sleep – 1945

The Big Sleep Pre-Release Edit

My Review

—Same Great Film with a New Flavor— 

Your Bogie Film Fix:

5 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  Howard Hawks

The Lowdown

It’s the same plot as the 1946 theatrical release, so if you need the lowdown, check out my original post here.

What I Thought

Revisiting this classic with new and re-edited scenes has been done quite a bit on the web, so if you really want a great write up, check out Roger Ebert’s review that gives an insightful overview of the major differences in the two versions of the film.  For this post though, I’m just going to stick with my gut instincts on the initial reactions that I had to the major differences in this earlier edit.

With World War II coming to a close, The Big Sleep sat on the shelf at Warner Brothers for a year as its release was postponed until all of the war flicks that were in production could be rushed out to theaters in order to capitalize on their subject matter.  While America waited for one of cinema’s best known Film Noir’s to hit theaters, studio execs, agents, and actors were sweating furiously behind the scenes to tinker with the movie, hoping to fix what they perceived to be a few major weaknesses.

The widely accepted and well chronicled story is that Lauren Bacall’s agent, Charles Feldman, started to get nervous about his new young wunderkind after horrible reviews were written for her performance in the film Confidential AgentAgent was Bacall’s follow-up film after becoming an overnight sensation alongside of Bogart in To Have and Have Not, and Feldman was apparently freaking out at the idea of Bacall disappearing into Hollywood obscurity after being labeled as a one-hit wonder.

With the film already delayed, Feldman wrote to Jack Warner, pleading to reshoot some scenes and add more of the fiery romantic flavor that Bogart and Bacall shared in To Have and Have Not.  Warner agreed, Director Howard Hawks eventually relented to rework some shots, the stars reassembled a year after production, and seven reels of the film were altered with reordered scenes and a little over 20 minutes of new or alternate material.

So how different is the film?  Well, I would bet that most casual viewers could watch both versions with a year in between and not notice much difference as the plot is still essentially the same.

Bogart and Bacall’s romance is beefed up considerably.  I felt that in the pre-release version, Bacall comes off as a bit more threatening to Bogart.  Reshoots were done on a few scenes to make her a little more affectionate, and their innuendo-heavy ‘horse racing’ scene was added to help build up the sexual tension.  In the original version though, I thought that Bacall came off as much less trustworthy and there seemed to be considerably more tension as to whether or not she was really on Bogart’s side.

Charles Feldman was also apparently very concerned with removing “the veil scene” with Bacall (wearing a veil, obviously) where he felt that Bacall came off too stiff and amateurish while talking to Bogart.  He shouldn’t have been worried, she was fine.

Martha Vickers role of the wild young daughter, Carmen Sternwood was tamped down a bit in order to put more of the focus onto Bacall.  Vickers was great in the film, had some pretty incredible chemistry with Bogart, and for the most part, her performance in the final release still keeps almost all of what makes her great in the original version.

The biggest change for me was a scene that was cut from the original version before the final release of the film in which Bogart is taken into the District Attorney’s office in order to explain his involvement in the murder case to the DA (played by Thomas E. Jackson) and Captain Cronager (a surly James Flavin doing his best Barton McClane impression).  It’s here that Hawks took time to break down everything that had taken place in the plot so far as Bogart tells the two lawmen about his involvement in the case and his assumptions about all the guilty parties involved.

With so much written about the plot of this film being confusing and indecipherable, this scene is incredibly helpful in keeping everything straight.  There are so many characters introduced so quickly, with two of the most talked about characters (Owen Taylor and Sean Regan) never even appearing alive, that it’s nice to have Bogart give us a little box score on everything we should know.

Does it make that big of a difference in the end that the scene was deleted, cutting Jackson and Flavin out of the film completely?  I don’t think so.  It’s nice to have it in, but I think that the theme of this film has always revolved around truth, and the facts of the murders don’t matter nearly as much as each character’s desire to either chase them down or cover them up.

If you want a really nice scene-by-scene breakdown of the differences between the two versions, I’d highly recommend this post over on movie-censorship.com.  They do a fantastic job of intricately dissecting all of the new and adjusted scenes.

So which version do I like better?  To be honest, I’ve come to the point in my Bogart appreciation that I’m just happy there are two versions and I get to enjoy the film in a fresh way twice in my life.  What a wonderful opportunity for cinema enthusiasts to have the chance for a comparison of the two films and a comprehensive history of how the theatrically release version came about!

The DVD that I got to watch came with a short documentary with film historian XXXX breaking down the major differences between the versions.  It’s a quick easy watch for those who really want to know how the film was changed.

The Cast

I think it’s wonderful that Thomas E. Jackson and James Flavin finally have a chance to get back into the film.  Both did a good job in an intricate scene that really does add a lot to the film!

My condolences go out to Pat Clark who was completely replaced in the theatrical version by Peggy Knudsen as Eddie Mars’ gangster wife, Mona Mars.  I didn’t find a reason for the switch, but I’m guessing that Clark wasn’t readily available for the reshoots.  Since the role was so small, Knudsen was more than likely used to keep things quick and simple.  The change doesn’t really alter the picture at all, but it’s nice that Clark can now be seen in her original role.

Classic Bogie Moment

How good was Bogart at thwarting, pestering, teasing, and befuddling authority figures?  We’re told early in the film that Philip Marlowe was fired from the District Attorney’s office for insubordination and it makes this new scene of Bogart spilling the facts (at least the facts that he wants to spill) to the DA and Capt. Cronager all the more entertaining!

The Bottom Line

Watch them both and enjoy the fact that we have two great versions!