Joan Leslie

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Birth Name: Joan Agnes Theresa Sadie Brodel

Date of Birth: January 26, 1925

Date of Death: October 12, 2015

Number of Films that Joan Leslie Made with Humphrey Bogart: 5

The Lowdown

Born in Michigan, Joan Leslie jumped into show business early, joining her two older sisters in a family singing trio known as The Three Brodels. Leslie was two-and-a-half years old at the time, and would go on to perform around the country with her sisters on the vaudeville circuit to help her folks earn money during The Great Depression.

Discovered by MGM while performing with the trio in New York, Leslie made her way through more than a dozen films in bit parts and uncredited roles before landing a contract with Warner Brothers where she appeared with a high profile role in High Sierra next to an about-to-explode Humphrey Bogart.

Leslie would go on to receive great reviews in several more high profile films (Yankee Doodle Dandy and Sergeant York, notably) before finally being blacklisted by Warner Brothers after breaking her contract on religious and moral grounds. Leslie would eventually end up back with MGM, the studio that started it all for her, and finished out her career on the big screen and television before retiring in 1991.

I’ve always considered Joan Leslie to be a real joy to watch on screen. Mostly cast alongside of Bogart in the young and naive ingenue role, Leslie’s real life moral convictions played well on the big screen. And while she may have quit Warner Brothers to keep her convictions intact, Leslie was not afraid during her career to show a darker side to her characters if the script called for it in a sensible way.

I’m very happy to add Joan Leslie to the pantheon of The Usual Suspects!

The Filmography

High Sierra – 1941

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Leslie plays Velma, the young and disabled love interest to Bogart. Director Raoul Walsh uses her in small but powerful doses, and he doesn’t shy away from showing us that Leslie has a bit of a darker side towards the end. Leslie does great in the role and holds herself up against Bogart very well. Perhaps the best and most nuanced of her roles with Bogart, the audience is left feeling both sad for Bogart at the loss of potential redemption through love, but also a bit relieved at the thought that this young child won’t end up with a much older gangster. You can read my original post on the film here.

The Wagons Roll at Night – 1941

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Leslie plays Bogart’s baby sister, and the main love interest to Eddie Albert, Mary Coster. While she’s an even more innocent country kid than she was in High Sierra, Leslie doesn’t really have a whole lot to work with. Director Ray Enright’s instructions may well have been, “Look cute and fall in love with Eddie Albert. That’s all you need to know.” The role is almost identical to the one that Jane Bryan played in Kid Galahad as the younger sister who gets caught up in danger after falling for simpleton who’s making his way through showbiz. You can read my original post on the film here.

Thank Your Lucky Stars – 1943

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Leslie plays Pat Dixon, an aspiring young song writer who’s willing to do anything to get her music heard by the world. Leslie is a lot of fun in the role, although it’s a bit underwritten. She adds a nice little physical mannerism to Pat in that every time she starts to get a great idea, she tucks her head down and pounds on her temples. It’s also a lot of fun to see her impersonate James Cagney’s “My mother thanks you, my father thanks you. . .” speech from Yankee Doodle Dandy, considering that she’s the one who costarred with him in that film! Unfortunately, Leslie doesn’t appear in Bogart’s brief cameo, but it’s a fun film that you need to see regardless! You can read my original post on the film here.

I Am an American – 1944

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Leslie plays herself in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo with several other Hollywood celebs (including Bogart) during a rally to support the war effort. None of her lines are heard, and Leslie is shown for just seconds speaking to a crowd before it cuts to a speech by Dennis Morgan. You can read my original post on the film here.

Two Guys from Milwaukee – 1946

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Leslie plays the manicurist love interest to both Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson, 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. Again, no face time with Bogart during his small cameo, but the film is lots of fun and worth a watch. 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.*

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Alexis Smith

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Birth Name: Gladys Smith

Date of Birth: June 8, 1921

Date of Death: June 9, 1993

Number of Films that Alexis Smith Made with Humphrey Bogart: 3

The Lowdown

Full disclosure – my first memory of Smith is her work on Cheers when she had an affair with Sam Malone, playing Rebecca’s old college prof. Good grief, Alexis Smith was gorgeous at every age.

Born in Canada, raised in L.A., and discovered by Warner Brothers during a college play, Smith would go on to star along some of Hollywood’s biggest names – Gable, Flynn, Grant, Crosby, and yes, Humphrey Bogart.

To be clear, I had a hard time discovering whether her birth name was really Gladys or Margret. One site says one thing. Another says something else. It does look like her mother’s name was Gladys, so . . . if anyone out there can help me out, it’d be great!

Tall, lithe, and gorgeous, Alexis Smith  was nicknamed “Dynamite Girl” by Warner Brothers despite the fact that she my not have enjoyed the name. She went from dancing at a young age, to theater as a teen, to films with some of Hollywood’s elite, to a long and successful marriage and a return to the stage with husband Craig Stevens.

I really like all three films that Smith starred in with Bogart (although in one they never met on screen) and I’m happy to add her to The Usual Suspects. From everything I’ve read, she was an easygoing, relaxed, and giving actress to work with, and many Hollywood legends had nothing but good things to say about her.

The Filmography

Thank Your Lucky Stars – 1943

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The good news – Smith gets to show off the dance skills that she honed at an early age. The bad news – this wonderfully goofy film is a star-studded war effort supporter with many, many celebrities making cameos one after another. So no, Bogart and Smith don’t meet here as they merely lend their glitz and glamour to the overall production led by a hilarious Eddie Cantor in a dual role as himself and a tour bus driver. But the film is a ton of fun and Smith looks amazing!

You can read my original post on the film here.

Conflict – 1945

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Smith plays Evelyn Turner, the younger sister of the wife that Bogart murders in this highly underrated gem. While I didn’t feel quite enough chemistry between Smith and Bogart to believe the infatuation he supposedly has for her, she is very good in the role and I couldn’t help but anxiously chew my nails as I waited for her and Sydney Greenstreet to figure out what was going on. Perhaps if she’d been characterized as a little bit more of a friendly flirt who lots of guys fall for? I don’t know. Other than the chemistry factor, I thought she was solid.

You can read my original post on the film here.

The Two Mrs. Carrolls – 1947

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In another underrated gem, Smith plays family friend and rich young socialite, Cecily Latham. It’s an incredible treat to see here play a role so opposite of the young and naïve gal she portrayed in Conflict, and seeing her put on the charm to win over Bogart makes for a lot of fun as well. Just look at that pic above. . . you can read the bad girl intentions all over her face, can’t you?

Smoldering persona. Great outfits. Strong acting. This is perhaps my favorite Alexis Smith role as it’s hard to look at anything else when she’s on the screen.

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.*

 

Ann Sheridan

Ann Sheridan It All Came True Pulbicity Shot

Birth Name: Clara Lou Sheridan

Birthdate: February 21, 1915

Date of Death: January 21, 1967

Number of Films Ann Sheridan made with Humphrey Bogart: 7

The Actress

The daughter of a Texas auto mechanic, Ann Sheridan grew up as a bit of an athlete and Tomboy who would later take a page out of her father’s handbook and develop a passion for restoring cars. On track to become a school teacher until her sister entered her in a “Search for Beauty” contest, Sheridan’s bathing suit picture was enough to win over the judges and earn her a bit part with Paramount Pictures.

Twenty-four films later, Sheridan made her way over to Warner Brothers where she would end up working alongside of Hollywood’s greatest legend, Humphrey Bogart. While Hollywood dubbed her the “Oomph Girl,” Sheridan reportedly hated the nickname, but her pin-up popularity and alluring film roles did nothing to dissuade the general public from picking up on the moniker and keeping it alive.

Full disclosure – I have a heavy, heavy, crush on Ann Sheridan, so any opinion I have on her movies is deeply colored by my adoration. Having made 7 films with Bogart, this post is late in coming to ‘The Usual Suspects’ portion of the blog.

Free tonight? Pop in It All Came True and try – just TRY – not to fall in love with this woman!

The Filmography

Black Legion – 1937Ann Sheridan Black Legion

Sheridan appears as Betty Grogan, the girl-next-door girlfriend to Bogart’s best friend in the film, Dick Foran. She’s sweet enough in the role but doesn’t get a lot to work with as she spends most of her time trying to be the good girl who reforms her beer drinking boyfriend into marriage material. You can find my original write up on the film here.

The Great O’Malley – 1937Ann Sheridan The Great O'Malley

Sheridan plays school teacher Judy Nolan, the woman that tames, teaches, and eventually falls for Pat O’Brien’s stuffy cop. It’s another underdeveloped role for Sheridan, but she’s just so doggone cute and charismatic that it’s clear she did the most she could with the script. It’s fun to watch her strut her stuff to the chagrin of O’Brien as she gets to play the street-smart gal to a man who expects all women to fall into a cookie-cutter housewife stereotype. You can read my original write up on the film here.

San Quentin – 1937San Quentin Sheridan

Sheridan gets a little more to work with here as the lounge singing May, girlfriend to Pat O’Brien’s prison warden. Suffering from a few character inconsistencies, Sheridan begins the film as a sultry nightclub act, only to switch over to the innocent girl-next-door type for the rest of the film. It certainly doesn’t ruin the film, but it might have been more interesting to see her with a bit of a darker character, especially since she’s playing the sister to Bogart’s small-time hood. This was also supposedly the film where Sheridan and Bogart became good friends off screen. You can read my original write up on the film here.

Angels with Dirty Faces – 1938Ann Sheridan Angels With Dirty Faces

Sheridan plays Laury Ferguson, and while she does the best she can here, she is severely underused in this film. There are a few moments of promise at the beginning when she starts a relationship with Cagney, but after that, Sheridan is relegated to occasionally popping up to fret over the men of the film and try not to look out of place even though she has little to do. Still, she does look great, and it’s fun to see her onscreen mixing it up with James Cagney and Pat O’Brien. You can read my original write up on the film here.

It All Came True – 1940 Sheridan It All Came TrueSheridan = perfection here. I know this isn’t a great film by any means, but her portrayal of the dancing and singing Sarah Jane Ryan goes toe-to-toe with Bogart’s dastardly gangster and she steals nearly every scene that she shares with Hollywood’s biggest legend. If any Bogart collaboration captures her spitfire personality, it’s this one. From her first entrance to her final song, she was amazing. You can read my original write up on the film here.

They Drive by Night – 1940They Drive by Night Sheridan

Sheridan plays truck stop waitress Cassie Hartley who falls for George Raft after he’s more than a little persistent. Sheridan does a good job of giving us the impression that she’s a good girl who’s perhaps done some dark things in her past, and she has some really nice scenes with Raft as they share a hotel room for a night before eventually falling in love and making a life together. I can’t get enough of Sheridan, and this is one of her most solid Bogart film appearances. You can read my original write up on the film here.

Thank Your Lucky Stars – 1943Sheridan TYLS

Sheridan plays herself in this star-studded wartime musical, although she doesn’t share any scenes with Bogart. Singing Love isn’t Born It’s Made, Sheridan teaches a group of young ladies who are pining over their singleness how to proactively search for love. Wearing a slinky, silky, white dress, Sheridan’s musical number is definitely one of the highlights of the film, even with the audio turned off! You can read my original write up on the film here.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre – 1948no Sheridan

It’s another Bogie Film Blog cameo that never was! While Sheridan is listed on IMDB with a cameo in the film as a pretty woman walking by a storefront, the woman in question is clearly not Sheridan. A few online sites say that there are test photos of Sheridan in the costume, so perhaps John Huston initially had her in the film and then decided the cameo was too distracting? Again, if anyone has any info on how this rumor got started, let me know. You can read my original write up on the film here.

* ‘The Usual Suspects’ is a regular feature on the blog where we highlight one of Bogart’s regular collaborators. Check out other posts here. *

Ida Lupino

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Birth Name: Ida Lupino

Birthdate: February 4, 1928

Number of Films Ida Lupino Made with Humphrey Bogart:  3

The Lowdown

Ida Lupino was great at playing the bad girl that had the stamina to keep after any man she fancied.  Whether it was Bogart in High Sierra or George Raft in They Drive by Night, Lupino was able to pull off an alluring danger alongside of her costars that was all but impossible to resist.  Is it hard to blame them?  The woman was built from little more than sheer cloth and sex appeal.  I can easily forgive Alan Hale for not seeing the warning signs before his murder at Lupino’s hands in They Drive by Night – it was a short marriage, but I’m guessing he had some fun!

Making her way to the United States from England in 1934, Lupino worked her way up from small film roles, to starring alongside of some of Hollywood’s biggest leading men, and finally capped off her career with a long string of television work in some of the 60’s and 70’s best TV shows.

The Filmography

They Drive by Night – 1940

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Lupino Plotting Away in the Middle of Alan Hale and George Raft

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Lupino plays Lana Carlsen, the femme fatale that bumps off her husband, Alan Hale, so that she can go after George Raft.  Lupino is lots of fun here as she smolders away, doing whatever it takes to keep the money she married into while making advances on a man who wants nothing to do with her.  The moment where she makes the decision to leave her husband in the garage with the car running is perhaps one of Lupino’s all-time best scenes.  There’s just a moment of realization that flashes across her eyes and a short pause in her step before passing the garage door sensor that will seal Hale’s fate.  Director Walsh and Lupino put together a wonderful little murder scene, and doggone it if she doesn’t look magnificent the entire time!  You can read my original write up on the film here.

High Sierra – 1941

Lupino High Sierra

Lupino plays Marie, the bad girl who’s pining away for Bogart while Bogart pines away for Joan Leslie. Lupino does a great job of not overdoing the role, slowly making advances towards Bogart with patience and just the right amount of manipulation. They have good chemistry together, and I would have been happy if Bogart had ridden off into the sunset with her at the end.  I really liked Lupino here, and she gets to run a whole gamut of heartbreaking emotions alongside of Bogart, even stealing the last scene from Hollywood’s greatest leading man!  You can read my original write up on the film here.

Thank Your Lucky Stars – 1943

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Olivia de Havilland, George Tobias, and Lupino Cutting a Rug

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Lupino plays herself, alongside of Olivia de Havilland and George Tobias singing “The Dreamer.”  Lupino is great here as she hams it up with her partners, all dolled up in a poofy dress with a big bow in her hair and dancing like crazy.  Introduced with great misdirection as one of Hollywood’s more dramatic stars, the song and dance that follows is anything but serious – and it’s wonderful fun.  It’s hard not to fall a little bit for Lupino in this brief cameo as we get to see a more fun loving side of her than we usually get from her films.  While she never shares the screen with Bogart, it’s still well worth your time to check her out in a lighter moment from her career.  You can read my original write up on the film here.

Alan Hale

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Alan Hale with Johnnie Pulaski in Action in the North Atlantic

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Birth Name: Rufus Edward MacKahan

Birthdate: February 10, 1892

Number of Films Alan Hale Made with Humphrey Bogart: 4

The Lowdown

Probably like most folks from my generation, I learned of Alan Hale’s son, Alan Jr., long before I knew of the talented and distinguished character actor himself.

Hale’s legend seems to grow greater for me every time I dig a little deeper. He studied opera, invented folding theatre seats, starred as Little John alongside of Douglas Fairbanks, Errol Flynn, and John Derek in three different Robin Hoods, directed as well as acted, was great friends with Errol Flynn, and fathered the one and only Skipper for goodness sakes!

It’s impossible to see Hale in a film and not enjoy every moment. Larger than life, good natured, and wonderfully talented, Hale will forever be remembered as one of Classic Hollywood’s best character actors, and a member of ‘Warner Brother’s Stock Company.’

Along with Frank McHugh, Alan Hale was one of the actors that I was most excited to (re)discover while putting posts together for this blog.  While he barely shared any screen time with Bogart, Hale was definitely part of the glue that held several of his films together.

The Filmography

Virginia City – 1940

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Hale with Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams

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Alongside of Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams, Hale plays one of Errol Flynn’s sidekicks, Olaf ‘Moose’ Svenson. Hale, Williams, and Flynn are Union soldiers trying to root out an underground shipment of gold headed for the Confederate army. I loved Hale in this film, as he and Williams create so much of the comic relief that it’d be an entirely different movie without them. It’s a true showcase of how to use supporting actors to elevate the quality of a script. You can read my original write up on the film here.

They Drive by Night – 1940

Hale Raft They Drive by Night

Hale with George Raft . . .

Hale plays Ed Carlsen, the fun loving and hard drinking owner of a trucking company that hires George Raft after a trucking accident. Ed’s the trucker who made good, finally opening his own company, and it’s a crime – A CRIME, I TELL YA! – when his onscreen wife, Ida Lupino, bumps him off. What kind of monster thinks that it would be a better world without Alan Hale?!? It’s insanity in its purest form! Hale is so doggone likable in this film, that it’s a wonder any truck driver in this world wouldn’t want to work for him. Sharing some great scenes with both Raft and Lupino, Hale gets to do what he does best – joke, laugh, shout, drink, and love. It’s my favorite Hale/Bogart collaboration out of all four films, and it really gives Hale a chance to show how great of an actor he really was! You can read my original write up on the film here.

Action in the North Atlantic – 1943

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Hale at the Deployment Office with Some of His Crew

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Hale plays ‘Boats’ O’Hara, one of the crewmen under Bogart’s command as they survive a German U-Boat attack during WWII. Hale gets some great time to shine as he holds the ship’s crew together, leading by bravado and example while they wait to get redeployed. The scene where Hale plays cards with his shipmates in the deployment office is one of the strongest in the film, and this one’s a must see for Hale fans who like both the comedic and dramatic sides of the character actor. You can read my original write up on the film here.

Thank Your Lucky Stars – 1943

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Hale with Jack Carson

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Hale does a song and dance routine with Jack Carson in this film about a variety show fundraiser. Singing “Going North,” we get to hear just a glimpse of Hale’s very solid singing voice, and it really makes me wish that I could hear him sing some of the opera that he trained for when he was younger. Plus – he dances! And he does it very well! For a big guy, he’s very light on his feet as he trots around the stage with Carson, clearly enjoying himself. While it’s only a short scene in the film and he’s never together with Bogart, this one’s a must see for Hale fans, as we don’t get the typical goofball lummox that he played quite often in movies. You can read my original write up on the film here.

Bette Davis

Dark Victory 3Bette Davis With Humphrey Bogart in Dark Victory

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Real Name:  Ruth Elizabeth Davis

Birthdate:  April 5, 1908

Number of films Bette Davis made with Humphrey Bogart:  7

The Lowdown:

When the subject of typical Bogart costars comes up, it’s strange to me that Bette Davis is rarely mentioned, especially when you consider that they made seven different films together.  In one of the films, they only have brief cameos and don’t even meet (Thank Your Lucky Stars), and in a few more, Bogart plays minor roles and their interaction is minimum (The Bad Sister, Three on a Match), but considering how little they’re paired in cinematic conversation, these two had a few really great roles together!

The Filmography

The Bad Sister – 1931

The Bad Sister

In her very first film, Davis plays Laura Madison, a wallflower who’s stuck in the shadow of her older sister Marianne (Sidney Fox).  While Davis and Bogart share next to no screen time together, it’s still a strong early showing for both actors as they each do their fair share of scene stealing from their more established costars.  If you’re like me, you’ll spend most of the film wondering why every guy in town is going after Sidney Fox when Bette Davis is standing right there!!!  You can find my original write up on the film here.

Three on a Match – 1932

3 on a Match

Davis plays Ruth Wescott, the “good girl” next to Joan Blondell’s reformed “bad girl” and Ann Dvorak’s “bad girl” in the making.  Davis’ part is not nearly as developed as Blondell’s or Dvorak’s, and she was supposedly at odds with director Mervyn LeRoy because he didn’t like her acting, but she’s gorgeous and lots of fun in what scenes she does get.  Since Bogart doesn’t come in until the last act of the film, the two don’t meet.  But it is, once again, a strong showing from both of them.  Davis is solidifying the “girl next door” persona that she played many times early on in her career, and Bogart lays down another very strong gangster performance.  You can find my original write up on the film here.

The Petrified Forest – 1936

petrified forestDavis swoons over Leslie Howard’s intellectual loner . . .

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Davis plays Gabrielle (Gabby) Maple, a café owner’s daughter who’s desperate to get out of the desert so that she can see the world.  Bogart is, of course, Duke Mantee, the outlaw gangster – a role that he originated on Broadway.  While Bogart spends most of his lines squaring off against Leslie Howard, he and Davis do spend much of the film in the same frame as almost all of the action takes place within the café.  Again, both actors continue to elevate their status as the “girl next door” and the tough as nails gangster, respectively.  This is, by far, my favorite film out of all seven that they made together.  You can find my original write up on the film here.

Marked Woman – 1937

Marked WomanDavis coming for Bogart’s help – a little too late . . .

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Davis plays Mary, a nightclub “hostess” that runs afoul of her gangster boss (Eduardo Ciannelli) when her kid sister (Jane Bryan) gets caught up in her troubles.  Davis is passionate in the role, and is certainly the highlight of the film.  Bogart plays Assistant District Attorney David Graham, and while the two have several key scenes together, Bogart’s character really seems to only be around for plot advancement.  It’s a decent film, and a strong showing for Davis, but a bit of a let down for Bogart considering that it’s a smaller role than their last film together.  You can find my original write up on the film here.

Kid Galahad – 1937

Kid GalahadDavis – getting ready to watch Bogart take one on the chin . . .

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Davis plays Edward G. Robinson’s gangster moll, Fluff, with such a sweet and naïve quality that I was left wondering for the first half of the movie how she ended up with Robinson.  There is a brief scene in a car with Wayne Morris where she alludes to a darker past, but come on, Bette!  You can do better!  Bogart and Davis don’t spend a lot of time together, as she’s usually in the background while Bogart deals with Edward G. Robinson or Wayne Morris.

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The first party scene in the hotel though, where she’s serving drinks in a flower print dress with a low neckline . . . whew – she is GORGEOUS!  How did Edward G. Robinson get so lucky?  You can find my original write up on the film here.

Dark Victory – 1939

Dark Victory 2Bogart and Davis in, what I would consider, their best shared scene ever!

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Davis plays Judith Traherne, a wealthy young party girl whose life goes into a dramatic about-face after she’s diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Bogart is the Irish horse trainer (no, the accent is not as bad as you’ve heard) who’s in love with her, and the scenes they share together are some of the most dynamic in the film.  It’s a shame that Bogart’s role is so small, but he was also splitting his time between this film and The Oklahoma Kid.  Davis was reported to be dealing with a lot of personal turmoil during the film, as she was involved with costar George Brent while her marriage was falling apart.  It seems to only add to her emotional performance, as the film contains some of the most passionate and energetic acting of her career to that point.  There was also a happier ending to the film that followed Bogart to the racetrack as he led Davis’ favorite racehorse to a victory, but it was determined to be too abrupt of a tonal shift and was left on the cutting room floor.  You can find my original write up on the film here.

In This Our Life – 1942

In This Our Life

It’s the film listed in Bogart’s filmography that Bogart’s not even in!  Directed by John Huston, rumor had it that Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and a few others had appeared in the movie as background players for a scene to add a little “in-joke” for Huston fans.  Whether the scene was cut out from the film or just a hoax to begin with, none of them are visible.  So while this one is listed in their shared filmography, I’m not counting it as one of the seven they made together.

But . . . Davis plays Stanley Timberlake, a borderline-sociopathic bad girl that steals her sister’s husband.  It’s a wild role for Davis, and another big step down the road away from some of the “girl next door” roles that she’d played during the first decade of her career.  She’s a liar, a cheat, a scoundrel, and a temptress – and it’s a truly amazing performance for Davis.  You can find my original write up on the film here.

Thank Your Lucky Stars – 1943

Thank Your

Davis plays herself in this cameo-filled extravaganza that showcases a whole boatload of Hollywood’s finest performers singing and dancing for a variety show hosted by Eddie Cantor.  Davis is very good as she walks into a fancy nightclub and sings “They’re Either Too Young or Too Old” for all the gents who are drinking in the place.  Davis actually injured herself during the final take of the dance portion of the number, and you can see her holding her leg as she stands outside by her car.  Unfortunately, Davis and Bogart don’t share any screen time in this, the final film that they share together.  You can find my original write up on the film here.

The Usual Suspects is an ongoing series of posts about some of Bogart’s more regular collaborators.  You can check out other entries in the series here.

Thank Your Lucky Stars – 1943

ThankYourLuckyStars

My Review

—Wonderful, Goofy Fun— 

Your Bogie Film Fix:

Full Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  David Butler

The Lowdown

Two Hollywood dreamers (Joan Leslie and Dennis Morgan) crash a war effort variety show in order to get their music heard.

What I Thought

Much like Hollywood Victory Caravan, this is a film with a script that’s devised to move the plot along from one musical number to another. Fortunately for us, the script is pretty doggone good. Who knew that Eddie Cantor was the gatekeeper to making it in Hollywood? If you wanted a career, you apparently had to go through him!

We get songs from Jack Carson and Alan Hale, John Garfield, Dinah Shore, Ann Sheridan, Hattie McDaniel, Errol Flynn, Bette Davis, and a few others. The production budget is big, the dances are great, and everyone seems to be having a really good time as dozens of celebrities make their short and sweet cameos along the way.

The stand out performance by far though, is Eddie Cantor playing a double role as himself and an aspiring actor who’s stuck driving a tour bus. The best part? The tour bus driver can’t stand his lookalike counterpart, and he’s disgusted when he has to imitate him.

If you like musical comedies, Classic Hollywood, or you just have a heartbeat, you’ll probably enjoy this film as an entertaining night of popcorn fun.

The Bogart Factor

Despite his high billing, Bogart doesn’t show up until an hour into the film, and even then he’s only onscreen for a minute or two. That being said, his minute or two is really great.  In a dark suit, snap brim hat, and five o’clock shadow, Bogart accosts one of the show’s producers (S. Z.  Sakall) about his part in the variety show. The producer, already at the end of a very long day, gives Bogart a tongue lashing like few others in film ever have. After the producer leaves, a security guard approaches Bogart and asks:

Security Guard:  Let the old man bulldoze ya, huh? 

Bogart:  (VISIBLY SHAKEN) Ya, dat ain’t like me. Gee, I hope none uh my movie fans hear about this . . .  (SLINKS AWAY MEEKLY)

Is it a must see? For the Bogart portion? No. But for the overall quality and fun of the film?  Yes.

The Cast

There are so many good performances to name here, so I’m just going to touch on the bigger roles . . . 

Eddie Cantor is the true star of the show as he plays himself and bus driver Joe Simpson. He capably pulls off playing both the egotistically narcissistic Hollywood star (as himself), and the goofy nobody who’s desperate for a shot in show business (as Simpson). Cantor grabs the most laughs throughout the film, and if you want a great snapshot of his style of comedy, this is a good movie to see it.

Joan Leslie plays Pat Dixon, an aspiring young song writer who’s willing to do anything to get her music heard by the world. Leslie is a lot of fun in the role, although it’s a kind of underwritten. She adds a nice little physical mannerism to Pat in that every time she starts to get a great idea, she tucks her head down and pounds on her temples. It’s also a lot of fun to see her impersonate James Cagney’s “My mother thanks you, my father thanks you. . .” speech from Yankee Doodle Dandy, considering that she’s the one who costarred with him in the film!

Dennis Morgan plays Tommy Randolph, the singer who wants to get out of the bush leagues and make it big. He does fine here, but it’s not really a role written to earn him leading man status. His character seems to exist to connect the dots between Joan Leslie, Eddie Cantor as the bus driver, and Eddie Cantor as himself. I will say that Morgan gets to show a little more depth here than he did in The Return of Doctor X though!

Edward Everett Horton and S. Z. Sakall play the two high strung producers of the variety show, Farnsworth and Dr. Schlenna. They serve their purpose well, and both men are so talented with comedy that I never tire of seeing them pop up in good roles.

I’m also a big Spike Jones fan, so if I didn’t give a mention to him and his band, I’d be deeply remiss. They deliver big with their short time in the film. Jones is one of those genius performers that I fear will eventually be forgotten with time.

For a better write-up on the song and dance numbers, you should check out @hollywoodcomet’s review of the film here.

Classic Bogie Moment

The reason that Bogart was so good at making cameos as himself was that he always seemed willing to play up his mythic persona to the hilt. Just look at this costume and that five o’clock shadow:

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Is this how he went around Hollywood in his free time? Of course not. But it’s how we want to see him, and in almost all of his cameos, it’s how he appears. Thanks for keeping the dream alive, Bogie!

The Bottom Line

The cameo is short and sweet, but the film is worth a watch on its own merits!