Lloyd Bacon

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Birth Name: Lloyd Francis Bacon

Date of Birth: December 4, 1889

Date of Death: November 15, 1955

Number of Films that Lloyd Bacon Made with Humphrey Bogart: 7

The Lowdown

The son of an actor, Lloyd Bacon would follow in his father’s footsteps into vaudeville before moving on to act in silent films, and then finally directing some of Hollywood’s greatest legends on the big screen.

From all reports, Bacon was an incredibly capable director who could work well with actors, bring a film in on time, and stay within the allotted budget. From performing stunts, to acting on the stage, to being in front of and behind the camera, Bacon spent a life learning the craft of film making, and while he wasn’t known as a flashy or incredibly famous director, Warner Brothers saw him as more than able to handle a long string of films in many different genres.

Bacon’s work with Bogart alone saw films with gangsters, cowboys, lawyers, prisoners, monks, and navy seamen. No, none of the films they collaborated on are remembered as classics, but almost all of them hold up as a decent pictures in their own rights. Bogart was supposedly happy to work underneath him as a director, so that tells you a lot right there!

There is a line in the Sperber/Lax Bogart bio that says Bacon directed Bogart seven times before their final film Action in the North Atlantic. Researching on my own, I only have them working together seven times in total, so if anyone has any info on whether or not this was a mistake in the bio, let me know!

But today, let’s welcome Lloyd Bacon into The Usual Suspects!

The Filmography

Marked Woman – 1937

marked

This one’s really grown on me over time. Part of the that is a growing appreciation for some of the other actors in the film (Ben Welden, Bette Davis, Mayo Methot, etc.), part is the appreciation that I now have for Director Lloyd Bacon. Warner Brothers used Bacon for several “ripped from the headlines” films, including this one, and Bacon comes off as a good, straightforward, meat and potatoes director who gets the job done.

Loosely based on the fall of gangster Lucky Luciano, there is plenty to appreciate in this film. The cast has been put together well, the script is tight, and it’s always fun to see Bogart and Davis looking so young in their roles. Davis is as bright-eyed and gorgeous as she ever would be, and Bogart has got the healthiest and most filled out physique that I ever remember seeing on him.

You can read my original post on the film here.

San Quentin – 1937


san quentin

Almost all of the ingredients are here for a great film– great actors, capable director, great cinematographer, etc. – but the one thing lacking is an interesting script. Through no fault of Pat O’Brien, Ann Sheridan, Humphrey Bogart, or Joe Sawyer, there’s just not much excitement or drama to be had in this film. Everyone seems to be sleepwalking through their parts, especially O’Brien, who was more than capable of carrying a good role if he got one.

Perhaps it’s the fact that O’Brien’s Captain Stephen Jameson is just written too blandly to evoke any sympathy. His range of emotion shifts back and forth between mildly uncomfortable and slightly content. Perhaps it’s the fact that every time some real motivation for drama occurs, all the tension is quickly let out of the scene with a few lines of dialogue that wraps up any conflict before it takes off.

Bacon’s direction feels a little more loose here, especially in some of the final chase scenes that could have been tighter.

Am I being too hard on the film? Maybe. I’ll check it out again sometime, but it is a great showcase for regular Bogart collaborator, Joe Sawyer!

You can read my original post on the film here.

Racket Busters – 1938

Racket Busters Poster

Let me sum this one up for you quickly to save some time:

A brave man stands up to a gangster. The gangster starts hurting people. The brave man instantly caves and joins the gangster’s racket. One of the brave man’s friends dies. The brave man returns . . . a little too late in my opinion . . . and finally saves the day.

I thought this was the weakest collaboration out of all of work that Bacon did with Bogart. The main problems with this film are firmly rooted within the script. It’s pretty hard to root for a hero that abandons his friends until they start to get beat up and die. Maybe if they’d stopped short of actually killing George Brent’s friend and mentor played by George O’Shea – you know, maybe just put him in a coma – our sympathies might have held out.

There’s a reason this one is harder to find! You can read my original post on the film here.

The Oklahoma Kid – 1939

Kid Poster

If you’re any sort of regular reader here on the blog, you know that I’ve written about this one numerous times. Should Cagney and Bogart have played cowboys. No. Should we still enjoy the film? Yes! It’s actually not half bad! Add into it that Cagney and Bogart have an awesome fight scene at the end, and it’s well worth your time! You even forgive the fact that it’s pretty obvious when the two icons switch places with their stunt doubles.

This film will show you two things about Director Bacon. First – he could helm a Western pic with great skill. Second – his work as a stuntman really shines through in his directing here!

You can read my original post on the film here.

Invisible Stripes – 1939

Invisible Stripes

The cast of George Raft, William Holden, Jane Bryan, Flora Robson, and Bogart is are a very good ensemble, and all the character relationships really crackle – especially Raft and Robson who give us most of the heart in this film. Director Bacon handles them so well, especially in the quieter, character building moments of love and loss with Raft’s family. Raft’s final line to Robson is so subtly done that I almost missed it, even though it’s an incredibly heart wrenching moment.

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

You can read my original post on the film here.

Brother Orchid – 1940

brother orchid

This one’s a comedy crime drama that can’t quite seem to decide whether it wants to be more comedy or more lighthearted drama. While you don’t get a great Bogart fix, Director Bacon does get a lot out of Edward G. Robinson and the wonderful Ann Sothern.

The standout of the film for me, Sothern has a wonderful moment in the film during a scene after she hangs up on a phone call with Robinson. She slowly sits back in her seat, lightly biting her bottom lip. Director Bacon and Sothern do a great job with that small moment of satisfaction.

Plus, it’s the only movie, out of the five that they made together, that neither Robinson nor Bogart dies!  You can check out my original post on the film here.

Action in the North Atlantic – 1943

action

My favorite film from their collaboration, this one is probably most notable for Bacon as he was dismissed with a quarter of the filming left due to the fact that he couldn’t agree on a new contract with Warner Bros. He was replaced by Byron Haskin, but you don’t notice any obvious shift in the final act.

Although it could easily be considered a WWII propaganda film, Action in the North Atlantic does a fine job of transcending the clichéd patriotism that we might expect from a film like this, and gives us a lot more character depth and nuance than most propaganda films can muster.

Bacon makes some bold choices in direction – especially in regards to some longer scenes on the German U-boat where the viewer can go several minutes only hearing German. There is clearly a lot of trust on the part of Director Bacon that we’ll be able to understand the gist of the scenes even though no English is used, and it works well. The scenes effectively elevate the tension as the viewer begins to understand a little German shorthand for what’s going on with the Nazi sailors.

Again, attributing all the directorial choices to Bacon may not be a safe bet as he was replaced by Haskins, but since he directed a majority of the film, I’ll give Bacon as much due as I can!

You can read my original post on the film here.

*The Usual Suspects is an ongoing section of the blog where I highlight some of Bogart’s more regular collaborators. You can read the rest of the write ups here.*

Allen Jenkins

Jenkins Amazing Dr clitterhouse 2

Birth Name: David Allen Curtis Jenkins

Date of Birth: April 9, 1900

Date of Death: July 20, 1974

Number of Films Allen Jenkins Made With Humphrey Bogart: 7

The Lowdown

When I started ‘The Usual Suspects’ portion of the blog, I would occasionally get tweets or emails asking when I was going to do a write-up on so-and-so. Peter Lorre. Sydney Greenstreet. Lauren Bacall. But surprisingly, the actor that I received the most requests about was Allen Jenkins.

Born to parents who both had experience as singers and actors, Jenkins started his career next to James Cagney on Broadway before heading west to become one of Hollywood’s most talented scene stealers. Often playing a secondary thug or menial laborer (his usual duties in most Bogart films), Jenkins had an amazing gift of timing and line delivery. His addition to the supporting cast of any film automatically upped the quality of the picture considerably.

And have I mentioned yet that he was the voice of Officer Dibble on Top Cat for Hanna-Barbera?

The first Bogart film I saw with Jenkins was Brother Orchid, where he had a small but unforgettable role as a murderous henchman who was getting a little R&R as he laid low in a sanitarium. That funny, but all too brief, appearance marked him in my mind as a notable talent, and then he just kept popping up again and again as I made my way through the rest of Bogart’s filmography.

Looking back now over the seven films that they shared together, only one of them (Dead End) would probably be deemed as a Classic by most critics and fans, but despite the quality of the other six films, Jenkins was able to consistently deliver the goods and make the most out of each of his roles.

The Filmography

Three on a Match – 1932

Three on a Match Jenkins

Jenkins plays Dick, one of Bogart’s lackeys. It’s a pretty small part as Bogart’s crew of thugs doesn’t show up until the last act, but even with just a few minutes, Jenkins is able to convey an incredible amount of confidence onscreen as he makes his supporting role look effortless. It’s an excellent use of a character actor to bolster the quality of a film – even in a tiny role. You can read my original write up on the film here.

Marked Woman – 1937

Marked Woman Jenkins

Jenkins plays Louie, the somewhat shady wardrobe supplier for Bette Davis and her nightclub escort roommates. He’s a bit gangster and a bit fashion designer. Hey, what else are you going to do if you’re a street smart black marketer who just happens to have a good eye for color palettes? Jenkins has a great exchange with Mayo Methot when he first appears, knocking on the door and then immediately entering the gals’ apartment.

Methot: (SITTING UP FROM THE COUCH WHILE NURSING A HANGOVER AS JENKINS KNOCKS AND ENTERS) Don’t you believe in knocking twice?

Jenkins: Don’t you believe in praying once?

Methot: No.

Jenkins: So we’re even!

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

Dead End – 1937

Dead End Jenkins

Jenkins plays Bogart’s right-hand henchman, Hunk. It’s another fantastic supporting role, that while not integral to the overall film, really lifts the quality of a film that’s already full of numerous character actors from the classic era. While this role leans a little more on melodrama rather than the comic relief that Jenkins was so good at, it’s a real testament to his talent that we believe he’s the heavy that he’s supposed to be. You can read my original write up on the film here.

Swing Your Lady – 1938

Swing Your Lady Jenkins

Jenkins plays Shiner, one of Bogart’s trainers (con men?) that’s charged with helping Bogie turn Nat Pendelton into a professional wrestling box office draw. It’s a solid little supporting role alongside of Frank McHugh, and while most of the comedic heavy lifting is given to the film’s hillbillies, Jenkins still gets some time to mug around and get some laughs. You can read my original write up on the film here.

Racket Busters – 1938

Racket Busters Jenkins

Jenkins is one of the few bright spots in the film, playing trucker, ‘Skeets’ Wilson, who opens up his own tomato company during a trucking racket controversy. He has a few nice scenes with Penny Singleton who plays his wife in the film, but even with these two comedic dynamos, the writers weren’t able to give the couple more than one or two mild laughs. You can read my original write up on the film here.

The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse – 1938

Jenkins Amazing Dr Clitterhouse

Jenkins plays Okay, one of the henchmen under the thumb of Bogart, and then eventually Edward G. Robinson, as Robinson turns from practicing medicine to studying the psyches of criminals. He spends most of his screen time horsing around with Max Rosenbloom, and it’s another solid performance for Jenkins. (The crew uses the guise of a string quartet to lay low, which is a pretty great ruse as far as I’m concerned.) You can read my original write up on the film here.

Brother Orchid – 1940

Jenkins Brother Orchid

Jenkins plays Willie the Knife, one of Edward G. Robinson’s gangster buddies that’s laying low in an asylum “pretending to be crazy” as he waits to see how things with Robinson shake out. He’s one of the first people Robinson turns to when he needs to take his turf back from Bogart and his old crew who edged him out. The character really ends up going nowhere, but all you have to do is tell me, “Allen Jenkins has a small role as a knife-happy thug who’s hiding in an insane asylum” and I’m THERE! 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 the actors and directors who share more than one film with Bogart. You can read the rest of the entries here.*

Racket Busters – 1938

Racket Busters Poster

My Review

—Ugh—

Your Bogie Film Fix:

1 Bogie

 

 

 

Director: Lloyd Bacon

The Lowdown

A truck driver (George Brent) has to rally his fellow drivers when a gangster (Bogart) threatens to turn their union into a mob controlled racket.

What I Thought

Let me sum this one up for you quickly to save some time:

A brave man stands up to a gangster. The gangster starts hurting people. The brave man instantly caves and joins the gangster’s racket. One of the brave man’s friends dies. The brave man returns . . . a little too late in my opinion . . . and finally saves the day.

Director Lloyd Bacon is by no means a shoddy director. Working with Bogart on seven different films – Marked Woman, San Quentin, Racket Busters, The Oklahoma Kid, Invisible Stripes, Brother Orchid, and Action in the North Atlantic – this film is by far the weakest out of all of their collaborations together. And that’s saying something, considering how maligned The Oklahoma Kid has become for casting Bogart as a black hat villain against James Cagney’s white hat good guy. (Although, in the spirit of full disclosure, I really, really liked The Oklahoma Kid.)

The main problems with this film are firmly rooted within the script. It’s pretty hard to root for a hero that abandons his friends until they start to get beat up and die. Maybe if they’d stopped short of actually killing Brent’s friend and mentor played by George O’Shea – you know, maybe just put him in a coma – our sympathies for Brent’s heroic revival might have been achievable.

As it is, I found it very challenging to root for Brent at all. I was just waiting for someone, including his main gal, played by Gloria Dickson, to stand up and shout, “Uh, thanks! But where you a few days ago when everyone wasn’t injured or dead?”

Am I being too hard on this film? Maybe. Maybe I’m just sore because Bogart is used in only the most basic and bland ways as the lead villain. But this one sure seems like a big misstep between an actor and a director that worked pretty well together.

The Bogart Factor

Playing gangster John ‘Czar’ Martin, this isn’t a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it part for Bogart, but it’s not much more. He makes a brief appearance every once in a while in order to boss his goons around, but I’d be shocked if any of his scenes here last more than forty-five seconds.

Considering that this is another one of his tough-as-nails gangsters, you would think that it’d be a slam dunk to let Bogart do some of the heavy lifting with the beat downs and the gunplay. Instead, I think the most dramatic scene that he’s involved in before the final shootout involves a massage table and some snarky dialogue.

This one’s not a must see for anybody.

The Cast

George Brent plays Denny Jordan, our main truck driving protagonist. It’s no fault of Brent’s that this one is a lemon. He showed us some good stuff alongside of Bette Davis in Dark Victory and In This Our Life, but the script here completely fails him. On a positive note, he does a great job pulling off a more blue collar role than I’ve seen him in before.

Gloria Dickson plays Brent’s wife, Nora, and that’s about all you really need to know about this underwritten role.

Allen Jenkins is one of the few bright spots in the film, playing another trucker, ‘Skeets’ Wilson, who opens up his own tomato company during the trucking racket controversy. Still, the writers weren’t able to give a guy as amazing as Jenkin’s more than one or two mild laughs.

Bogie Film Blog favorite Penny Singleton plays Jenkin’s wife, Gladys. She’s another small bright spot in the film, but her part’s even smaller than Bogart’s.

Oscar O’Shea plays the truck driving foreman, Pops. O’Shea comes out the best here, as you’ll like his character so much by the time that he dies that you’ll want to give up on the film just for being so cruel. Yes, small spoiler there. But you need to prepare yourself for one of the dumbest script choices in Bogart’s filmography.

Fifteen time Bogart collaborator John Ridgely shows up for a tiny role as a truck driver who calls Brent “yellow.”

Classic Bogie Moment

There’s very little to pick from here, but Director Bacon has a mildly creative crime montage where Bogart is superimposed in the background, smoking and smirking. I guess it’s kind of interesting:

Racket Buster Classic

The Bottom Line

For Bogart completists only.