Claire Trevor

Birth Name: Claire Wemlinger

Birth: March 8, 1910

Death: April 8, 2000

Number of Films Claire Trevor Made with Humphrey Bogart: 3

The Lowdown

Collaborations with Humphrey Bogart seemed to work out very well for Claire Trevor. She was nominated for an Oscar for her very brief but powerful role as Bogie’s ex-girlfriend in 1937’s Dead End. She went on to win the Oscar for her role as Edward G. Robinson’s alcoholic lounge singer girlfriend in 1948’s Key Largo. Add in her tremendous part in The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse, and you get to see Trevor’s great range as an actress in just three of her more than sixty films.

Born in Brooklyn to an Irish mother and French father, Trevor had aspirations to be an actor since childhood and would go on to be a star on stage, radio, television, and film. Often playing the tough dame from the wrong side of the tracks, Trevor also did well early in her career in Westerns, even starring alongside a new young cowboy named John Wayne in Stagecoach.

What personally draws me to Trevor’s performances is her ability to play beauty, strength, and brokenness – often in the same character. Add in to that her lifelong passion for supporting the arts – Trevor became such a large supporter to the University of California, Irvine’s drama department that they named the acting school after her. She also donated both her Oscar and her Emmy to the school where they sit on permanent display.

I think Trevor is one of those great Classic Hollywood actresses who tends to be left out of conversations about the greats for some reason, but her film legacy, drama school namesake, and award recognitions are more than enough to earn her a bright spot in Hollywood history, and a spot in The Usual Suspects!

The Films

Dead End – 1937

Trevor plays Francey, Bogart’s ex who’s turned to prostitution to make ends meet. The scene they share coupled with the scene of Bogart being chastised by his mother are, I believe, two of the most powerful scenes from Bogart’s entire career. Director William Wyler had to leave out the overt references to both prostitution and syphilis in the scene she shares with Bogart here, but what’s left unsaid is even more powerful. Their sexual tension is off the charts. When they stand an inch away from one another before Bogart tries to kiss her, it feels like someone’s hold back two magnets from clanging together. Yes, Trevor is only in the film for a few minutes, but it was such a strong showing that she was nominated for an Oscar. That should be all you need to know!

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

The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse – 1938

Trevor plays Jo Keller, the jewel fence that doctor/gangster Edward G. Robinson turns to when he needs to move some diamonds. Trevor is a lot of fun here, and we get to see her playing the tough gal who’s actually got some power over the fellas. Trevor’s unrequited pining for Robinson is great as we truly believe she’s fallen in love with the mind behind the man.

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

Key Largo – 1948

Trevor plays Robinson’s alcoholic girlfriend and former lounge singer, Gaye Dawn. She’s great in the role, and not surprisingly, won an Oscar for her performance as the gun moll that’s living out her last years in the bottom of a bottle while clinging to a madman who gave up on her a long time ago. One of the best behind-the-scenes stories from this film is that Director John Huston sprung Trevor’s A Cappella performance of “Moanin’ Low” on her the day of shooting. If true, it certainly helped give Trevor a shaky and painful performance that’ll make you cringe in the best possible way. Perhaps the greatest testament to her performance here is the fact that she seems so vulnerable and pathetic at the beginning of the film, only to come around and help and good guys at the end, giving us just a glimpse of the beauty and power she was able to play so well in a film like Clitterhouse.

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

*The Usual Suspects is an ongoing feature here at The Bogie Film Blog where we highlight some of Bogart’s greatest recurring costars! You can read the other entries in the series 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.*

Edward G. Robinson

Robinson Bogart Brother Orchid

Birth Name: Emmanuel Goldenberg

Date of Birth: December 12, 1893

Date of Death: January 26, 1973

Number of films Edward G. Robinson made with Humphrey Bogart: 5

To be completely honest – I didn’t really like Edward G. Robinson before I started this blog. I knew very little about him. I’d only seen one of his five Bogart collaborations with Key Largo. I’d seen so many bad impressions, parodies, and caricatures of the man that I really only knew him as the poster boy for a 1930’s gangster joke!

Now, though? I’ve seen all of his Bogart collaborations and many of his non-Bogart films and he blows my mind with the way that he can play subtlety despite the fact that he was so gifted at being over-the-top. If anyone can give Bogart a run for his money in the ‘Not-Necessarily-Handsome Actor Who Still Made it to Icon Level Status,’ it’s Robinson.

A Romanian immigrant to New York at the age of 10, Robinson jumped into Yiddish Theater at the tender age of 19 before eventually making it to Broadway less than two years later. After that? Hollywood stardom and a permanent legacy as one of Tinsel Town’s toughest bad guys.

One of the best opportunities that I’ve had from writing this blog is that I’ve gotten to know a great guy by the name of “Gonzalo” who runs a site in the same vein to the Bogie Film Blog that’s solely about Edward G. Robinson. Exploring Robinson’s roles film by film, Gonzalo’s site is a fantastic stop for anyone looking for some conversation on classic films and Robinson as an actor. (Fair warning – the site’s in Spanish, so I use Google Translate when I’m there, but very little is lost in the translation! Forgive any translation mishaps!)

Gonzalo was kind enough to chat with me a bit about Robinson, his site, and Robinson’s collaborations with Bogart. (Even though English isn’t Gonzalo’s first language, he was gracious enough to bear with me and my Bogart-obsessed questioning!)

Bogie Film Blog: Gonzalo, what was it that really drove you to create a website devoted to the films of Edward G. Robinson?

Gonzalo: I like to watch his films and [talk] about him, I can’t get enough of his movies and [it doesn’t] matter how many times I watch them, I always have a good time, even if some of them are so-so.

His autobiography is a great book and his life story is very interesting, full of greatness and dificulties. He is a proof that [for] people with talent and conviction, the sky is the limit. We’re talking about somebody who wasn’t handsome – a little guy – but he was one of the most popular, respected, and better paid actors of his time. Most people tend to think about him like “the guy that always played gangsters in movies,” but he was an actor who could play anything and [always be] convincing – in good or evil characters, happy or bitter, intelligent or sucker. I [was already] posting about him and his movies in another blog, but after [I found] your site, I had the idea to devote an entire site to Robinson. Why not?

BFB: Exactly! I love it and feel greatly honored that you decided to go down the same path with the Robinson blog. Maybe we can convince a few other diehard fans to do the same with a few other actors. . .

What’s your favorite Robinson film?

G: It’s very hard to pick a movie, and I may change some options tomorrow, next week, or the next year, but Scarlet Street [has] my favorite Robinson performance. Scarlet Street was the film that made me realize how great his performances [were], [he was]somebody who [went] beyond the screen and reached your soul. I already knew who he was before that, but I wasn’t very into him until I watched that movie on TV. It’s curious, but I know now that one of my grandfathers was also a big Edward G. Robinson fan, so I suppose it’s a family thing.

BFB: If someone isn’t very familiar with Robinson, what would you suggest for a good “gateway” film into his work?

G: That’s a hard one because of the wide variety of his acting skills. Probably I’d change my choice depending [on who was] asking me. [Do they] like gangsters films, thrillers, comedy, or drama? But if I a had to pick just one for everybody [it] would be Dr. Erhlich’s Magic Bullet, a great performance in a very touching movie.

BFB: Out of the five films that Robinson shared with Bogart (Bullets or Ballots, Kid Galahad, The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse, Brother Orchid, and Key Largo) which one would you say is your favorite?

G: Key Largo. I have to say that [for] a time, I didn’t have as much appreciation for it as [I do] now, but a few months ago I watched it one more time and I loved it. Robinson is great in that film, [as] is Bogart, [and] Bacall is beautiful in a very spirited performance. And Lionel Barrymore, Claire Trevor, and the rest of the cast are terrific. The tension is very strong and Huston is in my top 5 film directors of all time. I usually don’t try to analyze a movie technically, but when you don’t care about how much time remains until the end of the movie that’s the sign of a great movie to me, and Key Largo makes you forget about anything else.

BFB: All right, Gonzalo, if you were stranded on a desert island and could only take two Robinson films and one other Classic Hollywood film that doesn’t star Robinson with you, which films would you take?

G: Scarlet Street and probably The Whole Town’s Talking for Robinson. In that John Ford movie [The Whole Town’s Talking], we have Robinson as a tough gangster and as a shy and simple guy in a very funny roll. And I’d carry also The Treasure Of Sierra Madre, perhaps the film I have watched [the most] times in my life and I still love it. But [for] some time, [I’ve been] very fond [of] W.C. Fields [and] I’d have to honor him [by] trying to ignore the “three movies only” rule and I’d try to sneak some more [along], like Witness For The Prosecution, To Be Or Not To Be, and It’s A Gift.

BFB: Gonzalo, thanks so much for your time and for the work that you’re doing on the Robinson site! If you want to visit Gonzalo’s blog, head over to his site here!

Now onto…

The Filmography

Bullets or Ballots – 1936

Bogart MacClane Robinson Bullets

Robinson plays Johnny Blake, an undercover cop who’s trying hard to keep his cool in the middle of a dangerous job. Apparently, the ‘Legion of Decency’ and the ‘Production Code Administration’ were starting to give the studios a hard time for glorifying gangsters. The studios’ response was to turn some of their best bad guys (James Cagney, Robinson, etc.) into good guys. The neat little work-around though, was that the good guys didn’t have to necessarily be good. Here, Robinson plays a cop who’s undercover as a bad guy, meaning we still get all the roughhousing and tough guy bravado that we would have had in a gangster role, but occasionally we get to see Robinson whisper into a phone, “Pssst! Yeah, I got’em fooled!” and we know that he’s still on the right side of the law. We also get a close quarters pistol duel between Robinson and Bogart at the end of the film! You can read my original write-up on the film here.

Kid Galahad – 1937

Robinson Bogart Galahad

Robinson plays boxing a promoter, Nick Donati, who stumbles across an unknown fighting phenomenon (Wayne Morris) at a hotel party and sees a chance to make a run for the heavyweight title and a whole lot of money. The only problem? The current champion works for mobster “Turkey” Morgan (Humphrey Bogart), and Morgan is willing to do whatever it takes to win. The film has your standard cookie-cutter Cinderella story, but the cast of Robinson, Bette Davis, Wayne Morris, and Bogart rise above the material to create a very entertaining dramedy. You can read my original write-up on the film here.

The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse – 1938

Bogart Robinson Clitterhouse

Robinson plays the unfortunately named Dr. Clitterhouse, a doctor so intrigued by the criminal mind that he decides to become a criminal in order to get some firsthand insight on their mindset and behaviors. The overall film suffers from tonal shifts – I wish they’d played it for a few less laughs – but it still has its moments. Robinson gets great scenes with both Claire Trevor and Bogart, especially their final confrontation together in his office. You can read my original write-up on the film here.

Brother Orchid – 1940

Bogart Robinson Orchid 2

Robinson plays mob boss Johnny Sarto, a gangster who’s had enough crime and violence in his life and is looking for a way out. After dallying with the civilian life however, Sarto decides that he wants his old gang back. The catch? The old gang doesn’t want him back. Seated at the table is Jack Buck, played by Humphrey Bogart, who’s next in line for the boss’ seat – leading to Robinson going on the run and eventually hiding out in a monastery. Robinson’s got some really nice scenes with fellow monk Donald Crisp, but I wish that they’d gone a bit edgier with his character so that the eventual character arc would have been slightly more dramatic. Overall, Ann Southern, Crisp, Bogart, and Robinson are all great and it’s still worth a watch. You can read my original write-up on the film here.

Key Largo – 1948

Bogart Robinson Largo

Robinson plays mobster on the run, Johnny Rocco – a gangster who’s on the verge of losing his confidence. We get to watch Robinson strut, punch, slap, yell, threaten, sweat, quiver, and cower all in just an hour and forty minutes as he begrudgingly deals with his hostages (Bogart, Bacall, and Lionel Barrymore) and his drunk ex-girlfriend (Claire Trevor). On the receding side of his career, this was supposedly a “thank you” role for Robinson after having given Bogart so much time to shine in their earlier collaborations together. Robinson nails it. No matter what’s going right or wrong for Rocco in any given scene, there is an underlying sense of fear present that pervades every word and action on display. You can read my original write-up on the film here.

*The Usual Suspects is an going feature where we highlight some of Bogart’s more prolific collaborators! You can read the rest of the entries here.*