Claude Rains

Rains Casa

Birth Name: William Claude Rains

Birthdate: November 10, 1889

Date of Death: May 30, 1967

Number of Films Claude Rains made with Humphrey Bogart: 2

The Actor

The son of British theater actor Frederick Rains, Claude Rains was raised around the stage, working various jobs backstage and onstage as he received a well-rounded education in the dramatic arts.

Rising quickly through the theater ranks to become known as one of England’s preeminent stage actors, Rains also taught acting at England’s Royal Academy of Arts where such greats as John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier spent time as his students.

After even more success on Broadway in New York, Rains finally headed west to Hollywood where he received the lead role in his first American film, The Invisible Man for Universal Pictures. After a few years, Rains would move on to Warner Brothers where he would star alongside of Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca for which he received one of his four Oscar nominations.

Rains only made two films with Bogart, but ever since that first viewing of Casablanca, I’ve been a big fan of his work. Is there anyone on earth who didn’t laugh out loud the very first time they witnessed this exchange between Rains and Bogart:

Bogart as Rick Blaine: How can you close me up? On what grounds?

Rains as Capt. Louis Renault: I’m shocked, SHOCKED – to find out that gambling is going on in here!

Croupier: (HANDING RAINS A LARGE STACK OF CASH) Your winnings, sir.

Renault: Oh, thank you very much. (TO THE ENTIRE NIGHTCLUB) Everybody out at once!

The Filmography

Casablanca – 1942

Rains Casa 2

Rains gives an amazing performance as Captain Louis Renault, the ruling authority in Casablanca who also happens to be friends with Bogart . . . as long as the bribes keep coming and the the Germans don’t apply too much pressure. What a testament to Rains’ talent that he can commit completely despicable deeds one moment and then have us laughing with joy the next. In a film with a lot of great humor, Rains takes a hefty chunk of it, stealing nearly every scene that he’s in, including the one mentioned above. I can’t be the only one who wants to see just a few minutes of Renault and Blaine’s post-Casablanca adventure together! Can you imagine these two guys fighting, drinking, joking, cajoling, and swindling their way through German troops as they work for the French resistance? And, of course, Rains and Bogart close out the film with perhaps the most memorable movie-ending in the history of cinema! You can read my original write up on the film here.

Passage to Marseille – 1944

Rains Passage to Marseille

Reunited with Bogart, Peter Lorre, and Sydney Greenstreet just two years after Casablanca, Rains plays Captain Freycinet, commander of an Allied air base that’s about to launch a bombing raid out of England. It’s a much more sympathetic and heroic role for Rains this time around, with a lot less snarky one liners to steal the show. Rains ends up on a steam tramp with escaped prisoners Bogart and Lorre as they try to stay out of German hands while heading off Greenstreet’s opportunist French officer. Rains especially nails his role during the funeral in the final moments of the movie where I think that he gives my favorite scene from any of his films. You can read my original write up on the film here.

*The Usual Suspects is an ongoing feature at ‘The Bogie Film Blog’ where we highlight some of Bogart’s most interesting collaborators. You can read the rest of the posts in the feature here.*

Sydney Greenstreet

Greenstreet Casablanca

Birth Name: Sydney Hughes Greenstreet

Birthdate: December 27, 1879

Date of Death: January 18, 1954

Number of Films Sydney Greenstreet made with Humphrey Bogart: 5

The Actor

The son of a leather merchant, Sydney Greenstreet spent some time working in both the tea industry and a brewery before finally finding his calling on the stage in England as the villain in an adaption of a Sherlock Holmes play. Adept at comedy, musicals, and Shakespeare, Greenstreet worked in both Europe and America, holding out against the call from Hollywood until he finally accepted the role of Kaspar “The Fat Man” Gutman in 1941’s The Maltese Falcon at the age of 61.

It’s pretty astonishing to consider that Gutman was Greenstreets first film role, as he seems just as comfortable in front of the camera as he supposedly was on the stage. I’m incredibly jealous of all the audiences that got to see him live and in person for years before he finally gave in to Tinsel Town’s beckoning and headed west. From his numerous pairings with Peter Lorre to his five iconic roles with Bogart, I firmly believe that there hasn’t been a big-man actor with such a commanding presence onscreen since Greenstreet’s last film over 60 years ago.

Did they really base the character of The Kingpin from Daredevil comics on Greenstreet? Was George Lucas actually inspired to model Jabba the Hut after the 300+ pound actor? Hollywood myth and legend says so, and I’m inclined to believe it because Greenstreet was certainly worthy of every praise and accolade that came his way!

This entry into “The Usual Suspects” portion of the Bogie Film Blog is long overdue, and doggone it, I think I’m going to pop in Passage to Marseille tonight just to get another dose of my favorite cinematic big man.

The Filmography

The Maltese Falcon – 1941

Maltese Falcon Greenstreet

Greenstreet plays Kaspar “The Fat Man” Gutman, the treasure seeking heavy that’s following the falcon around the globe. What an incredible film debut! Greenstreet steals nearly every scene that he’s in with his amazing laugh and exuberant confidence. His constant amusement over Bogart’s confusion is wonderful, and it’s a real shame that it took so long to get this man to the big screen, “By gad!” The scene where he turns on his henchman Wilmer is so painfully funny and well done that it might be my favorite bit from all of his films. A villain who so believably loves life while committing dastardly crimes at the same time is the best kind of bad guy a film could ever hope for. Greenstreet also reprised his role numerous times for radio adaptions of the film, which you can check out here and here. You can read my original write up on the film here.

In This Our Life – 1942

Greenstreet NO

Directed by John Huston, rumor had it that Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and a few others had appeared in the film during a tavern scene as background players 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. Is the film still worth a watch? You bet! Bette Davis is always worth spending an evening with! Just don’t get your hopes up for this superstar cameo that doesn’t deliver! You can read my original write up on the film here.

Across the Pacific – 1942

Greenstreet Bogart Astor

Greenstreet plays the cagey Dr. Lorenz, a passenger who seems to have untoward intentions as he shares an oceanic voyage with Bogart and Mary Astor. What I really loved about Greenstreet here is that his character is an incredibly wealthy world traveler, meaning Greenstreet is dressed to the nines and drenched with a slightly more authentic sophistication than he was in The Maltese Falcon. One of my all-time favorite Greenstreet-Bogart scenes occurs when Greenstreet needles Bogart’s history out of him with an endless supply of booze. Any classic Bogart film has at least one drunk Bogie scene in it. Adding Greenstreet into the mix just makes it all the better! Greenstreet reprised his role for a radio adaption, and you can read my original write up on the film here.

Casablanca – 1942

Greenstreet Casa 2

Greenstreet plays Signor Ferrari, Bogart’s main nightclub competitor in Casablanca. Whenever I consider this film from memory, Bogart and Greenstreet always seem like enemies. But every time I view it, I’m reminded that these guys might actually be pretty decent friends – maybe even playing a few games of after-hours chess over drinks when curfew kicks in. Just consider for a moment that Blaine entrusts his entire staff, including Sam, into Ferrari’s hands at the end of the film on nothing more than a handshake deal! That’s got to be a great show of faith in a man who’s supposedly trying to beat you at your own game. It’s an amazing testament to Greenstreet’s presence here that most casual fans seem to remember this as his signature role, even though his part isn’t that big! You can read my original write up on the film here.

Passage to Marseille – 1942

Passage Greenstreet

Greenstreet plays French officer Major Duval, who happens to be traveling on a boat with a number of recently escaped french convicts trying to get to England as word breaks that Germany now occupies France. The ever-so-snarky Major Duval doesn’t feel very patriotic to his homeland, and can’t get back to France quickly enough to show his support to the Nazis as he turns over the prisoners to the proper authorities. The real story in the cast here is the alliance between Bogart and Peter Lorre as they get to play outright friends as opposed to enemies or even tense allies, but Greentstreet’s presence certainly makes this one an underappreciated classic! You can read my original write up on the film here.

Conflict – 1945

Bogart and Sydney in Conflict

Greenstreet plays psychologist Dr. Mark Hamilton, family friend to Bogart’s murderous Dick Mason. How great is it to not only see Greenstreet play a good guy in a Bogart film, but to see them actually chum around a bit before things get tense? Greenstreet is so good as the warm and gregarious Dr. Hamilton that you just want to give the big guy a hug. He seems truly happy in the role, and when you view the film for the second and third times, it’s a lot of fun to see him subtly tipping his hat towards the twist ending. Definitely a must see collaboration between Bogart and Greenstreet! You can read my original write up on the film here.

-“The Usual Suspects” is an ongoing feature at the Bogie Film Blog where we dive a tad bit deeper into some of Bogart’s most recurring collaborators. You can find the rest of the posts here.-

Peter Lorre

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Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre, The Maltese Falcon, 1941

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The Usual Suspects:

Early on during the first few weeks of this blog, I had the idea to start a section where I would write about some of Bogart’s more regular collaborators and costars – actors, directors, writers, etc. – that worked with him on multiple films.  Given the contract system of the movie studios, casts and crews often overlapped from one film to another.  Character actor Eddy Chandler, for instance, costarred in thirteen different pictures with Bogart, almost exclusively in tiny bit parts, often uncredited.  But there were also those artists that Bogart had deep personal friendships with, and sometimes, strong working relationships – people that often appeared repeatedly by choice, supporting Hollywood’s most famous leading man to make some of the greatest films in cinema history.

Dubbed The Usual Suspects, this first post is in response to the “Dynamic Duos” Blogathon over at Classic Movie Hub (@ClassicMovieHub) and Once Upon a Screen (@CitizenScreen).  What better way to begin, I thought, than by kicking it off with one of Bogie’s most famous costars and close friends, Peter Lorre.

The Man

Born in Rózsahegy, Hungary, László Löwenstein began his acting career by sacrificing everything he had in life to devote himself to the theater, eventually moving to Germany to study under playwright Bertolt Brecht.  Brecht latched onto Lorre right away and knew how to use him, bringing the unique looking actor much acclaim during their long and productive collaboration together.  Adopting the stage name Peter Lorre in 1925, Lowenstein received his big break in the starring role of his second movie, playing a child murderer in Fritz Lang’s M.

When the Nazis fully took power of Germany in 1933, Lorre left, traveling Europe and eventually arriving at London.  His performance in M got him noticed by director Alfred Hitchcock and led to a role in Hitchcock’s film The Man Who Knew Too Much.  After working with Hitchcock, Lorre would make his move to Hollywood where he found great success with his unique look and soft speech pattern playing an assortment of bad guys and shady characters.

Lorre would go on to star in the Mr. Moto movie series in which he played a Japanese detective in eight different films.  He also became a longtime collaborator with actor Sydney Greenstreet, making nine films with the English stage legend.

Lorre is perhaps best known, though, as the five-time costar and good friend of Humphrey Bogart.  Working together on some of Hollywood’s most legendary classic films, Bogart and Lorre left behind some great stories of onset pranks, drinking revelry, and a deep friendship that reverberate through Hollywood lore to this day.

It was at Lorre’s house where Bogart would sleep off many a drunk night rather than go home to face his third wife, Mayo Methot.  It was also at Lorre’s ranch where Bogart and Lauren Bacall would hideaway for weekend rendezvous when they needed to stay out of the limelight as they courted.  And perhaps most famously, it was Lorre who gave this advice when Bogart fretted that he was too old for Lauren Bacall – “Five good years are better than none!”

THE FILMOGRAPHY

The Maltese Falcon – 1941

joel cairo 2

Lorre plays Joel Cairo, an associate of Sydney Greenstreet’s Kasper ‘The Fatman’ Gutman.  Both men make attempts to hire Sam Spade (Humprhey Bogart) to acquire a valuable jewel-encrusted falcon statue – perhaps the most famous cinema ‘MacGuffin’ of all time.  Cairo, who’s portrayed overtly gay in the novel on which the film is based, has his homosexuality toned down considerably in this film due to the Hay’s Code of film censorship.  Instead of direct references, Cairo’s sexuality is inferred through his effeminate fussiness, and occasional physicalities with his cane:

Reportedly, the cast and crew got along very well during the filming of this movie, and would go out for drinks at the end of the day as they were often ahead of production schedule.  They were also a very close knit and private group, unappreciative of outside influence either from the studio or the public.  One particularly famous story relates that one of the main actors, either Bogart or Lorre, played a joke on a visiting women’s club as they walked by the set.  One of the two actors supposedly exited Mary Astor’s trailer, zipping up his fly, and calling out “Bye, Mary!”  A. M. Sperber credits the story as happening to Lorre in her Bogart bio, Bogart (p 160), while Stefan Kanfer names Bogart as the perpetrator in his Bogart bio, Tough Without a Gun (p 65).  Neither author cites specifically where they got the story, but I suppose what’s most important is not the actual culprit, but the reputation that the cast had earned as ornery tricksters and close friends.

All Through the Night – 1942

pepi

Lorre plays Pepi, the Nazi hitman and sometimes piano accompanist to Kaaren Verne’s Leda Hamilton.  Pepi kicks off the storyline by murdering “Gloves” Donahue’s (Humphrey Bogart) favorite cheesecake baker, setting off a chain of events that leads New York’s most notorious gangsters up against the Third Reich in this comedy thriller.

Lorre enters the film walking through the door of a baker’s shop, eerily humming a tune before teasing the poor baker and then beating him to death.  Referred to as “the goggle-eyed little rat,” by ‘Gloves,’ Lorre is wonderful, and one of the true highlights of the film.  Only two actors are capable of smoking in such a way as to defy gravity – Lorre and Bogart – as their cigarettes dangle at an impossible 90 degree angle from their lips.

Karen Verne would go on to leave her husband for Lorre, becoming Lorre’s second wife, although their marriage would prove to be tumultuous and short lived.

Casablanca – 1942

ugarte and rick

Lorre plays Ugarte, a black marketeer who hides valuable letters of transit with Bogart’s Rick Blaine before being arrested by the police.  Ugarte’s plan is to sell the papers for a small fortune in order to pay for his escape from Casablanca.  His relationship with Blaine seems to be one of mutual loathing and respect.  They don’t necessarily like each other, but they occasionally find one another valuable.

Just before giving Blaine the transit papers, Ugarte tells him “You know, Rick, I have many a friend in Casablanca, but somehow, just because you despise me, you are the only one I trust.”  Blaine tells Ugarte that he’ll hold the papers for him, but doesn’t want them in his nightclub overnight.  We then get perhaps the most ominous moment in the film when Ugarte lightly puts his hands upon the papers and gently tells Rick “Don’t be afraid of them. . .”  The papers are Casablanca’s ‘MacGuffin,’ and once again Peter Lorre is here to play a hand in the treasured objects of fate.  Men died for Ugarte to obtain the papers, and more people would die before they are finally used.  As the objects of everyone’s desires, even Blaine himself contemplates stealing the papers to run away with Ilsa.

Lorre’s part in the movie was small and shot so quickly that he had no idea how much the role would go on to help define his place in cinema history.  On the set, he supposedly carried a hidden dropper of water that he would use to extinguish Director Michael Curtiz’s cigarette with when he wasn’t looking.  (Kanfer, 79)

Passage to Marseille – 1944

marius

Lorre plays Marius, one of Bogart’s fellow escaped convicts from Devil’s Island.  I found this to be one of Lorre’s most likable roles, as he’s a full-on action partner to Bogart in the film, teaming up to both escape from prison, and then later to take down a Nazi bomber as it attacks their ship.  Seeing both men take their shots at the German plane with machine guns, occasionally stopping to wave to one another and smile, is one of my favorite moments in Bogart / Lorre cinema history.

marius 2

There’s a lot of delight to be had watching both men squint, smoke, and plot together as they make their way back to France.  This is the only film out of the five in which they are on completely friendly terms, and their chemistry is superb.

As the story goes, Bogart and Lorre took great fun in pranking Director Michael Curtiz on the set.  Both would take turns stalling shots as they told long and tedious anecdotes.  The monologues would only end when they got a laugh from Curtiz.  No laugh from the director meant more jokes and stories from Bogart and Lorre.  (Kanfer, 96)

Beat the Devil – 1953

devil

Lorre plays Mr. O’Hara, a member of the criminal ring that’s in league with Bogart to obtain and exploit some African land that’s rich with uranium.  Bogart and Director John Huston wanted Lorre on this film as they believed that he was a lucky talisman for Bogart after The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca. (Kanfer, 175)  Not to mention the fact that Lorre and Bogart were good drinking friends, and always enjoyed each other’s company.  Huston and Bogart asked Lorre to take a significant pay cut in order to keep the budget low, and Lorre accepted the role in order to work with a good friend.

Lorre’s costar, Robert Morley, on the other hand, considered Lorre to be “an intensely tiresome little chap with quite the foulest vocabulary I have ever had the misfortune to listen to.” (Kanfer, 178)

Sporting some extra weight and a short crop of blond hair, Lorre is great as the smooth-talking little crook that is excited for the swindle, but always ready to cower behind one of the other criminals if things look rough.

If you haven’t seen it in a while, the film is a lot of fun, and it’s great to hear Lorre’s distinctive speech pattern saying lines written by scriptwriter Truman Capote:

O’Hara:  “Time, time, what is it?  The Swiss manufacture it, the French hoard it, Italians want it, Americans say it’s money, Hindus say it does not exist.  You know what I say?  I say time is a crook.”

Truer words were never spoken as you consider the fact that this was the last pairing of the two great Classic Hollywood actors.

In Closing

Five films.  All of them are classics in their own right.   One of them is considered by many to be the greatest film of all time.  The friendship and working relationship of Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre has etched a large and permanent mark onto the landscape of cinema history.  Powerfully gifted apart, but even greater together, I can’t think of a better duo to kick off the inaugural post for The Usual Suspects portion of this blog.

Bonus Lorre Facts:

He was the very first actor to play a bond villain when he portrayed Le Chiffre in the 1954 TV version of Casino Royale!

When asked by the House Un-American Activities Committee to name the names of anyone he considered suspicious and possibly a communist, Lorre gave them a list of everyone he knew.  The same group would go on to assemble a thick file on Bogart and cause him considerable mental turmoil over the years despite the fact that he was a diehard U.S. patriot.

The Boo Berry ghost mascot from General Mills was inspired by Lorre.

*All research for this post was done with Stephen D. Youngkin’s Peter Lorre biography, The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre, A. M. Sperber’s Humphrey Bogart biography, Bogart, Stefan Kanfer’s Humphrey Bogart biography, Tough Without a Gun, Peter Lorre’s Wikipedia page, The Maltese Falcon’s Wikipedia page, the official website of The Humphrey Bogart Estate, and various movie entries on IMDB.  All screen caps were done by the author and are intended for review/criticism of the films mentioned.  Any portion of this post that could not be correlated with at least one other source is credited specifically within the post.

Passage to Marseille – 1944

Passage

My Review

—Very Good—

Your Bogie Fix:

4.5 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  Michael Curtiz

The Lowdown

Come slip down the rabbit hole as we have a movie that exists almost entirely in a flashback – but not just a flashback – as it’s a flashback within a flashback, which I think even delves into another flashback!  Worry not, though, as director Michael Curtiz is well skilled in the art of filmmaking, and guides us easily through the multilayered story.

Claude Rains is Captain Freycinet, commander of an Allied air base that’s about to launch a bombing raid out of England.  John Loder is a reporter named Manning who sits down with the Captain and hears an amazing tale of five Devil’s Island escapees who are rescued from their ocean-adrift canoe by a steam tramp that’s headed to Marseilles, France during World War II.

The catch?

The steam tramp has a delegation of English and French officers onboard (including Capt. Freycinet), and mid trip, word breaks that the French have submitted to German occupation.  The escaped prisoners are all patriotic Frenchmen trying to make it home to fight, and the English officers onboard would kindly appreciate it if the ship would change course for England.

Even before France’s occupation is announced, though, we know that there’s trouble afoot because French officer Major Duval, is on board, played by the wonderfully snarky Sydney Greenstreet.  Duval immediately pegs the prisoners as escaped convicts from France, and when it’s discovered that the Germans are now in charge of his home country, the Major can’t get there quickly enough to show his support to the new occupiers and turn over the prisoners to the proper authorities.

What ensues is a climactic battle between the steamer and a German bomber as Freycinet and the prisoners try to keep the ship in one piece long enough to make it back to safe waters.

Bogart plays one of the five prisoners, a French reporter named Jean Matrac, who ended up on Devil’s Island after being framed for murder.  Matrac saw the corruption of the French government growing long before the rest of the world did and is shipped off to the prison after printing a series of tell-all articles in his paper.  His goal after the escape?  Make it home to his wife, Paula, played by Michèle Morgan, who worked side by side with him in the newspaper office until it was shut down.  Matrac also has a son he’s never met, who we meet before the flashback, anxiously waiting for a letter from his father to be dropped from a bomber after a raid.

Unlike the other four convicts who escaped Devil’s Island with him, Matrac is unsure of his allegiance to his former country.  Consumed with bitterness and revenge, we’re not sure where his allegiances lie until he’s forced to make a choice and fight.

Joining Bogart as another one of the convicts is Peter Lorre as Marius, in what I found to be one of his most likable roles (despite the fact that he’s a convicted felon!).  Perhaps the biggest highlight of the movie is getting to see Bogart and Lorre team up against a German bomber while wielding two on-deck machine guns.  Watching them offer friendly waves back and forth across deck as they take shots, and avoid shots, was great fun.  Bogie and Lorre – action heroes!  Believe it or not.

marius 2Peter Lorre waving to Bogart across the deck while battling the German bomber.

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The entire movie is said to be a slightly missed attempt at recreating the magic that was Casablanca, as so many of the cast and crew return from that movie including director, writer, composer, producer, and at least five other actors.  Perhaps I’m far enough removed from the era, but I thought that my love for Casablanca only enhanced my enjoyment of this film.  The story is much more action oriented, and it comes off as more of a prison escape movie rather than a war romance.

I’ve only done limited research, but I wonder how much the solitary confinement scenes from Passage influenced the ones in Papillon.  It would make a fun double feature!

The Great

Michael Curtiz directed a lot films in his long and prolific career, and while not all of them were gems, his classics outweigh his bombs.  Casablanca, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Captain Blood, Angels with Dirty Faces, White Christmas, We’re No Angels, etc.  Curtiz had the skills to make amazing films.  Just the way the multiple flashbacks are handled without confusion shows a director with a fine hand at storytelling without losing an audience.

Bogart plays dark and brooding like no other.  If you like his action oriented roles, this will satisfy you greatly.  The interrogation scene with Freycinet and the prisoners is especially well acted by Bogart as he directs the other men with nothing more than subtle head nods.  The man knew how to do a lot with just a little.

Bogart, Rains, Lorre, and Greenstreet together?  Fantastic.  While none of them have the depth of character that they had in Casablanca, this was a fun film to assemble them for again.  Rains especially nails his role during a funeral in the final moments of the movie.

The Good

Even catching sight of the wires on one of the bomber miniatures doesn’t bother me.  I love the special effects from the classic years of Hollywood.  Water tanks and boats built on set.  Miniature bombers.  Matte back drops.  I’ll take this stuff over CGI any day.

While Michèle Morgan doesn’t get quite as juicy of a role as Ingrid Bergman did, she still plays great against Bogart.

Classic Bogie Moment 

No words.  Just a pic this time.  C’mon, we know Bogie’s good with a gun, but how classic is this?

passage classic

The Bottom Line

I loved this movie.  It’s not the best-of-the-best from Bogart’s collection, but it’s in the top half for sure.  I get such a charge out of seeing Bogart and Lorre together, especially when they’re on the same side.  That machine gun scene on the boat is worth the price of admission in itself.  Peter Lorre is the man!

Fun Fact

According to IMDB, this is the movie where Bogart met Bacall!  She wasn’t in the movie, but was on set to test her chemistry against Bogart’s for a little movie called To Have and Have Not.