S. Z. Sakall

Tea For Two

Birth Name: Gerő Jenő

Date of Birth: February 2, 1883

Date of Death: February 12, 1955

Number of Films S. Z. Sakall Made with Humphrey Bogart: 4

The Lowdown

Born in Hungary, Sakall began using the pseudonym Szőke Szakáll during the beginning of his career in Budapest. Over his lifetime, he went from being credited asS. K. Sakall to S. Z. Sakall before occasionally being billed as S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall in some of his final films. (Jack Warner reportedly dubbed Sakall “Cuddles” for his rotund cuteness, although the actor apparently never cared for the nickname.) Making over 40 films in Europe and appearing in countless theatrical productions before heading to America to become a renowned character actor, it is probably his role as “Carl the waiter” in Casablanca that Sakall is most famous for.

To be clear, Sakall really only shared three films with Bogart face-to-face. In one of those three, they don’t even make eye contact, let alone speak. In the fourth film, Bogart was merely a voice cameo during a scene that Sakall was not even in. The fact that Sakall was such a proficient contract player makes it a little more surprising that they didn’t work together more often. But their filmographies share four films, and that’s more than enough to induct Sakall into The Ususal Suspects! He talent deserves every accolade offered!

The Filmography

Casablanca – 1942

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Sakall, in what many consider his most famous role, plays Carl, the host/waiter in Rick’s café. Sakall is so wonderfully charming here that there probably aren’t enough adjectives to cover it – lovable, solid, hilarious, and incredibly talented are just a few that I’d start with. The scene where he watches Rick help the young couple win at roulette is enough to make you want to hug him. I honestly can’t imagine another actor filling the role here as well. This part destined for Sakall. Add to the fact that he was one of the many, many foreign actors within a film that makes a strong stand against the German occupation of, well . . . everywhere that’s not Germany, and you have an added oomph to the film that’s hard to qualify.

You can read my original post on the film here.

Thank Your Lucky Stars – 1943

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Sakall plays Dr. Schlenna, a high strung Hollywood producer that’s helping to put on a star studded variety show to support the war effort. Again, Sakall is cast perfectly – and in one of the funniest scene in the film, Sakall’s frustrated producer has to put a cameo-making Humphrey Bogart in his place. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Bogart knew how to cameo. Just look at the pic above. Five o’clock shadow, fedora, and pinstriped suit – because he was a gangster in real life too, right? But in a rare moment of role reversal, the joke here is that Sakall gets to take a moment to put a demanding and coddled Bogart in his place because he just doesn’t have time for prima donna actors!

Plus, Sakall gets to mug with an elephant. That’s worth it alone, right?

You can read my original post on the film here.

Two Guys from Milwaukee – 1946

untitled

Sakall plays right hand man Count Oswald to Dennis Morgan’s love struck Balkan prince. 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 fairy tale princesses is especially fun. Unfortunately, Bogart’s role here is a jokey cameo after the Balkan prince gets to meet his lifelong crush, Lauren Bacall, on a train. But, hey! There’s Sakall right behind Bogart as he sits down!

You can read my original post on the film here.

Never Say Goodbye – 1946

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Sakall plays restaurant owner Luigi alongside of the philandering artist played by Errol Flynn. Sakall, as usual, does a wonderful job with his ‘flustered foreigner’ role here, and his interrogation scene with the police is one of the funniest scenes from the film. This is the one film Bogart and Sakall share with no scenes whatsoever as Bogart merely makes a voice-over cameo when Flynn dresses up as a gangster and does a tough guy accent, with Bogart’s real voice dubbed in for one line over top.

You can read my original post 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.*

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!

Casablanca – 1942

Casablanca Poster

My Review

—Hollywood’s Greatest Film—

Your Bogie Film Fix:

5 Bogie

Director: Michael Curtiz

The Lowdown

An American expat (Bogart) running a nightclub in Casablanca, Morocco during World War II is surprised when his ex (Ingrid Bergman) shows up, married to the leader (Pal Henried) of Europe’s underground resistance.

What I Thought

This is it. The absolute pinnacle of Bogart films as far as I’m concerned, which is why I saved it for last. This was the cherry on the top of a year-and-a-half of Bogart film viewing.

Sure, I’ve seen Casablanca so many times that I’ve lost count, but this was the first time that I’ve sat down with a more analytical eye. Knowing that I was going to do a write-up, I asked myself, Why is this film so perfect in my mind? Why was this the film that served as my gateway into classic cinema? Why is this film remembered by many, if not most casual film fans, as Bogart’s greatest role?

I think a majority of the credit has to go to Director Michael Curtiz. From beginning to end, the city of Casablanca feels like a fully realized world. The daytime scenes are crammed from one edge of the screen to other with bustling crowds filling city streets and diversely populated nightclub scenes. The city is supposed to be overflowing with people looking to escape the war and Director Curtiz nailed it. This film is bursting at the seams with background artists, minor roles cast to perfection, supporting roles with some of Hollywood’s greatest character actors, and a handful of main characters that are handled deftly and given the time that they each need to establish their moments in the story.

Another huge chunk of credit goes to the twin Epstein brothers, Julius and Philip, who adapted the play for the big screen. There are a lot of great stories about how the Epstein’s regarded this script as just another studio assignment, how they wrote and rewrote scenes the very day that they were needed, and how they never really thought much of the finished film. (Julius was quoted as saying it not nothing more than “slick shit.” Hardly a ringing endorsement.)

The script is filled with dozens upon dozens of quotable lines. Yet at the same time, it was just incomplete and loose enough that the actors were able to fill in their own memorable moments when needed. Bogart reportedly supplied the line, “Here’s looking at you, kid,” and it was producer Hal Wallis who supposedly came up with, “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” and had it dubbed in after shooting was complete.

“Are my eyes really brown?”

“Well, there are certain sections of New York, Major, that I wouldn’t advise you to try to invade.”

“Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.”

“I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”

“I came to Casablanca for the waters.”

“You know, Rick, I have many a friend in Casablanca, but somehow, just because you despise me, you are the only one I trust.”

“I remember every detail. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue.”

“Round up the usual suspects.”

“Such watch?”

These are just a few of the lines that I try very hard to work into my daily conversations and I hope that the comments section of this post is LOADED with all the quotes that I didn’t mention.

But back to Director Curtiz. What strikes me as most interesting is that this was one of seven film collaborations that he had with Bogart. Curtiz worked on a limited number of scenes for both Black Legion and Marked Woman, and directed Kid Galahad, Angels with Dirty Faces, Virginia City, Passage to Marseille, and We’re No Angels. Some of those other collaborations are good. A few I would even consider to be great. But in my mind, none come close to Casablanca’s perfection.

The Bogart Factor

After so many viewings, this was the very first time that I’ve ever really noticed how the entire span of Bogart’s career seems to be contained within nightclub owner Rick Blaine. Since this was the last film in my Bogart journey, it probably helps that I’ve now sat through all of his other work from the beginning, no matter how small a part it might have been.

Especially during the flashbacks of France, we see an energetic, ever-so-slightly goofy and naïve character much like the ones Bogart played in Up the River, Love Affair, and Men Are Such Fools. It’s just enough “aw shucks” shoulder shrugging that I was really reminded of how wide Bogart’s range could be when we transition back to the darkened bar where he’s drinking away his memories of Ilsa and Paris.

There in the bar, we have the much more tightly wound, much angrier, much more depressed man who shows up in many of Bogart’s gangster roles, but perhaps especially films like San Quentin, Dead End, or The Petrified Forest. Films where Bogart seems to spend most of his time reflecting on how poorly his life has turned out and how desperately he wishes to move past his resentment and remorse.

And yet, at the core of Rick Blaine is the confident, loyal, trustworthy, stand-up man who will always end up doing the right thing, even if he tries to convince you that he sticks his neck out for no one! This is the type of character that we see Bogart playing later in his career – the Sam Spade’s, Rick Leland’s, and the majority of brooding expatriates that stick their necks out for everybody that filled Bogart’s filmography for the next ten plus years.

A white tuxedo. A trench coat and fedora. Cigarettes. Booze. A shady past. A mysterious woman. A broken heart. A pistol. These are the very things that Bogart helped define as icons of Classic Hollywood cinema and they’re all on display here in Casablanca. Of all his films, this is the one that I come back to again and again when I need a full and complete Bogart fix. I’ve found many other films where his performances might be more nuanced – more well-rounded – but this is definitively and understandably the role that establishes him as Hollywood’s greatest leading man.

The Cast

Ingrid Bergman plays Ilsa Lund, Bogart’s ex and the current wife of the underground resistance leader Victor Laszlo. I can’t say enough good things about Bergman here, as this is her essential performance as far as I’m concerned. I know it doesn’t have as much depth as a few of her other high profile roles, but doggone it if I still don’t know whether or not she was really ready to leave Laszlo for Blaine at the end of the film. That nighttime scene in the bar just after Rick’s first flashback . . . drunk Bogart . . . forlorned Bergman . . . so good.

Dooley Wilson plays the piano playing singer at Rick’s Café Américain, Sam. What an incredible job Wilson does here playing the greatest wingman any guy could ever hope for. It was only after viewing the film for the umpteenth time that I realized Wilson’s fingers are in no-way-shape-or-form playing that piano believably, yet it took me forever to notice because I can’t take my eyes off of his face and my ears away from his voice. The guy was a natural, and in my dream of dreams I would go through Wilson’s entire filmography just to see if he did anything else that was as close to great as his performance in Casablanca. (Did I JUST read on imdb that he’s an uncredited piano player in Knock on Any Door?!? I will see if this is true TONIGHT!) *It is 100% true! Just after the 47 minute mark, there he is playing piano and accepting a beer!!! – 8/14/14 BFB*

Paul Henreid plays the battle weary and aged-beyond-his-years resistance leader, Victor Laszlo. According to Hollywood lore, Henreid almost didn’t take the role because he wasn’t the lead and he was afraid that it would set him back in his career. Thank goodness he accepted the part, because so much of the film’s gravitas depends heavily on us not hating Laszlo even though he’s standing in Rick Blaine’s way to Ilsa. To be fair to his initial instincts, Henreid isn’t remembered as one of Hollywood’s greatest leading men, but I don’t think that’s any fault of his supporting role in this film. He’s a great actor and very handsome, but just didn’t have that uber-unique look or acting style that let him break into the upper echelon of Hollywood’s greatest legends.

Claude Rains wonderfully plays Bogart’s friend and sometime foil, Captain Louis Renault. What a testament to Rains’ talent that he can commit completely despicable deeds one moment, and have us laughing with joy the next. Rains was an insanely talented supporting actor, and I can never get enough of his work. 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?

Conrad Veidt plays Major Heinrich Strasser, the head Nazi in charge of catching Victor Laszlo and making sure that he spends the rest of his life in a concentration camp, or dead. It’s not a huge role for Veidt, as he’s mainly used as an imposing villain to move the plot along, but as with the rest of the roles in the film, this one’s cast very well.

Sidney Greenstreet plays Signor Ferrari, Rick Blaine’s main nightclub competitor in Casablanca. Until this viewing, I never stopped to consider how cordial Ferrari and Blaine are when they’re together. I think 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. That’s got to be a great show of faith in a man who’s supposedly trying to beat you at your own game.

Peter Lorre plays the black market dealer Ugarte. How fantastic is this guy that he could make such a memorable contribution to this film with such a small part? I’m seriously shocked again and again as I watch this film and realize that he’s only in a hand full of scenes, yet his role looms very large over the legend and mythos of Casablanca.

S. Z. Sakall plays Carl, the host/waiter in Rick’s café. A wonderful, lovable, solid, hilarious, and incredibly talented supporting actor. The scene where he watches Rick help the young couple win at roulette is enough to make you want to hug him.

There’s Bogie Film Blog favorite Dan Seymour playing Abdul the doorman! He very few lines here in this tiny role, but he is namechecked by Rick!

And there are TONS of other supporting actors who deserve a mention, but I gotta stop somewhere!

Classic Bogie Moment

How? HOW do I pick here?!? There is too, too, too much to choose from. Trench coat and fedora? White tux? A pic with Lorre? One with Greenstreet? I gotta go with this one, because Dooley Wilson just doesn’t get enough love on this blog:

Casablanca classic

The Bottom Line

I came home from high school one afternoon and my mom was just at the beginning of this film. I’d never sat through an entire classic film before, but decided to give it a try. I’ve never looked back. After 465 days and 115 posts of my own personal nonstop Bogart movie marathon, I’ve grown to appreciate not only Bogart in a much greater capacity, but Classic Hollywood, and film as a whole.

Long live the legacy of Humphrey Bogart.

Never Say Goodbye – 1946

Never Say Goodbye Poster

My Review

—A Fun Flynn RomCom— 

Bogie Film Fix:

1 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  James V. Kern

The Lowdown

A divorced artist (Errol Flynn) tries to control his appetite for women while attempting to win back the heart of his ex (Eleanor Parker).

What I Thought

I’ve always made the argument that George Clooney must be an enormous Cary Grant fan – modeling so much of his onscreen persona after the classic leading man, but after watching Never Say Goodbye, I’m ready to add Errol Flynn to Clooney’s list of obvious influences.

This is the first Flynn film that I’ve seen where he didn’t play an action hero, and even though the movie never reaches much beyond light romantic comedy, Flynn’s charisma elevates it from watchable to entertaining. 

The best part of this script is that there is some question about how the rekindled romance between Flynn and Parker might resolve itself.  The addition of Forrest Tucker (Yes, F Troop!) as Corporal ‘Wickie’ is what really gets the juices rolling here and it adds a fun love triangle to the film.  Tucker’s timing mixed in with Parker’s doe-eyed act and Flynn’s exasperated frustration makes for some really fun scenes as Flynn does his best to prove his manhood.

Now throw in S. Z. Sakall, and you’ve got a cast that more than makes up for a clichéd script that, on occasion, borders on corny.

Definitely worth a watch, Never Say Goodbye might be a good primer film if you’ve got a significant other who likes romantic comedies and needs to ease into classic film with something gentler than Citizen Kane.

The Bogart Factor

My absolute favorite Bogart cameo so far, when Flynn is attempting to scare off the robust Corporal ‘Wickie,’ he dons a gangster disguise and pulls out a tough guy accent.  The catch?  The accent isn’t really an accent – Bogart has overdubbed a good three or four minutes of Flynn’s dialogue with his own exaggerated gangster brogue!

Never Say Goodbye Bogart

Bogart was simply the best when it came to self-depreciating cameos, playing up the dumb tough guy angle to the hilt, and hearing his voice come out of Flynn’s disguised mug is a real treat.  Several online sites don’t do justice to how long Bogart’s voice cameo runs, and I would say that its length alone makes this film a must see for any Bogart diehards.

The Cast

Errol Flynn plays the philandering artist, Phil Gayley, a womanizer who’s trying his best to avoid temptation in order to win back his ex-wife.  The role is so Cary Grant-ish that I’m amazed it wasn’t played by Cary Grant.  And while Flynn is not Grant, he’s no slouch at playing the impish cad-about-town that’s still charming and likable despite the fact that he can’t keep himself on the monogamy wagon.  If you’re a Flynn fan at all and you haven’t seen this one yet, it’s worth it.  Tons of screen time, tons of charisma, a great relationship with his onscreen ex-wife and daughter, Flynn was a true movie star that knew how to command the big screen.

Eleanor Parker plays Ellen Gayley, Flynn’s ex-wife, and the mother of his precocious little daughter.  Parker does very well here, and while it’s not all that deep of a role, she’s gorgeous, charming, funny, and holds her own against Flynn in every scene they share.  Her semi-phony flirtations with Corporal ‘Wickie’ work so well that I wouldn’t have been upset if they’d ended up together at the end.  They certainly set up Flynn to either succeed or fail in his re-wooing of Parker, and much of the credit for any romantic tension goes to Parker’s ability to keep us guessing as to who she really wants to fall in love with.

Patti Brady plays Flynn and Parker’s young daughter, Phillippa ‘Flip’ Gayley, and while I haven’t mentioned her yet in this post, it’s not because of anything that she’s lacking as a performer.  Brady is one of the better child actresses I’ve seen, and her tête-à-têtes with Flynn over ice cream and Christmas presents are some of the more touching moments of the film.  It was interesting to see how times have changed while watching Brady wander away from home to meander around Central Park alone without any adult supervision.  Then, Flynn shoes her away to go home alone, an elementary aged girl on the streets of New York, without a fear in the world!

Forrest Tucker is one of the real highlights of this film as Cpl. Fenwick ‘Wickie’ Lonkowski.  A good natured lunkhead with a heart of gold, Tucker makes the usually virile Flynn look like an out of shape bum.  I’m glad they went with someone who had such great comedy chops to stand against Flynn rather than just trying to match his charisma with another hunky actor.

S. Z. Sakall plays restaurant owner, and Flynn’s good friend, Luigi.   Sakall has quickly become one of my favorite character actors, doing a wonderful job with his ‘flustered foreigner’ roles, and his interrogation scene with the police is one of the funniest scenes from the film.  It’s always great to see him pop up in slightly larger roles like this one.

And then there’s Hattie McDaniel as Brady’s nanny, Cozy.  It’s another typical servant role for McDaniel, but doggone it if I don’t want to hug that woman every time I see her.

Classic Bogie Moment

“Hello, squirt.  Where’s ya mudder?” 

The Bottom Line

Worth a watch for the cast alone.