The Private Detectives

For my money, there was one character type that Bogart was born to play. Gangster? Convict? Escaped Convict? Ex-pat loner struggling against the Axis powers? Naw. For me, no one could play a Private Detective wrapped up inside a Film Noir nearly as well as Bogie. Guns, dangerous women, back alley crooks, illicit affairs, hand rolled cigarettes – Bogart could juggle them all with laid back ease.

For a great breakdown of the history behind the “whys” and “hows” of Bogart’s historical place within Classic Hollywood as a Film Noir detective, you should definitely check out Sheri Chinen Biesen’s book Blackout. Not only is it a wonderful primer on Film Noir, but it goes into great detail about Biesen’s belief that Bogart’s age, wartime rationing, and a lack of leading men in Hollywood led to Hollywood’s greatest icon getting the chance to play characters like Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe.

It’s kind of crazy to consider how few private eye films Bogart made considering how much he’s associated with the genre. Only two officially – but I throw in three more “Honorary Mentions” because I think you can get a good Bogie detective fix from them if you really need to! Let me know if you disagree.

The Private Detectives

The Maltese Falcon – 1941

This is the stuff that Film Noir dreams are made of.

Warner Brother’s originally assigned George Raft to the role of Sam Spade – not because they really wanted him for the role, but because they wanted Henry Fonda for another film and Fonda worked for Twentieth Century Fox. So, follow this . . . Raft didn’t want to do The Maltese Falcon. He supposedly hated the script and didn’t want to work with first time Director John Huston. (Huston didn’t want him either. Bogart was always Huston’s first choice.) So Warner Brothers, knowing that Raft would balk at Falcon, gave him the option of going on ‘suspension’ so that he could go over to Fox and Fonda could come over to Warner Brothers. Guess who’s left to reap the benefits? Mr. Bogart.

Playing the cynical and embittered Private Detective, Sam Spade. A beautiful femme fatale hires him for a case. His partner gets killed. Shady characters and gun play abound. And it all orbits around a priceless statue that has the ability to make people lose their scruples about going down some dark paths.

Bogart’s interactions with Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, and Elisha Cook Jr. show a man who seems to be in complete control of every emotion and physicality in an actor’s toolbox, and there’s a level of confidence on display that I don’t think Bogart hit so highly in any of his previous films.

Add in Director Huston, and I cannot see how this film could have been anything less than a classic.

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

The Big Sleep – 1946

I’m ready to declare this the coolest Bogart role in his filmography.  Private Eye Philip Marlowe is king.

In Philip Marlowe we get an über playful Bogart as he smiles, quips, flirts, and drinks his way out of every situation. The sunglassed bookstore nerd . . . the prank phone call to the police where he and Bacall switch roles so fast that they end up playing their own parents . . . the way Bogart uses his charm more powerfully than his gun against the bad guys . . .  This was a role that Bogart was born to play. He carries this film and makes it look easy. How can you keep from rooting for a guy who wants the truth above everything else, including his own life?

This film, and especially Bogart’s performance, is remarkable. The Big Sleep is my favorite Film Noir of all time. (And no, it doesn’t matter to me that all of the plot isn’t laid bare by the end – real life is messy and mysterious, so why can’t this film be as well?)

You can read my original write up on the film here. You can also read my write up on the pre-release edit of the film from the year before here.

Honorary Mentions

All Through the Night – 1942

Bogart plays Gloves Donahue, a New York city racketeer that has to track down the man/men who murdered his favorite cheesecake baker. Yes, he’s a gangster. Yes, the bad guys are Nazis. But there’s quite a bit of private eye-like atmosphere in this comedic gangster spoof. Clues are followed. Bogie goes undercover. Peter Lorre is skulking around. Bogart has to work with, and around, the police. The femme fatale is beautiful and potentially dangerous. It’s in my top three favorite Bogart films, so check it out!

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

Dead Reckoning – 1947

Bogart might be playing paratrooper Captain ‘Rip’ Murdock, but this film is all noir as Bogart falls away from the military man persona and quickly takes on the air of a hardened detective. Bogart narrates the viewer through the story, walking us along as Murdock pieces together a military buddy’s disappearance.

Of note is one particular scene that plays opposite of our typical expectations for Bogart as he sits and listens to a nightclub singer. This might be the first film I’ve ever seen where we get the Bogie drinks while the femme fatale sings’ scene, and Bogart shows no interest whatsoever in the woman. In fact, he spends most of the song looking down at his drink, ignoring Lizabeth Scott’s suggestive glances. Out of the many movies where Bogart’s played through this scenario, has there ever been another one where he shows such little interest?

There are so many great long shots of Bogart sitting, thinking, lying in bed, and drinking, that if nothing else, I feel like Director John Cromwell should be thanked for his work towards recording Bogart’s great visage for posterity!  If the entire movie had been the above shot for two hours, I would probably have still enjoyed it!

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

The Enforcer – 1951

Bogart plays Assistant District Attorney Martin Ferguson. Running on little sleep and next to no time,Ferguson and his right hand man, Captain Frank Nelson (Roy Roberts), are suddenly faced with a ticking clock. Ferguson has to be in court within eight hours, and his main piece of evidence against the ringleader of a hit man crew is no longer breathing. But wasn’t there something he missed? Some small piece of evidence that’s lurking in the dark recesses of his mind? Something that he didn’t think he’d need to remember?

Even though he’s on the government payroll, Bogart certainly goes on a Film Noir journey that feels every bit as lowdown and seedy as the first two films mentioned in this post. I think this one’s a real hidden gem that a lot of people haven’t seen, and it’s well worth a watch!

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

*This post is another write up in the Character Reference series on The Bogie Film Blog where we break down some of Bogart’s most well known genres and character types. You can read the rest of the entries here.*

 

 

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Barton MacLane

MacLane

Birth Name: Ernest Barton MacLane

Date of Birth: December 25, 1902

Date of Death: January 1, 1969

Number of Films Barton MacLane Made with Humphrey Bogart: 6

Barton MacLane is a memorable guy. Large, gruff, and generally projecting a face that makes you assume that his stomach has been sour for several hours, MacLane was a staple tough guy in Hollywood films and television for five decades.

While many recognize MacLane from his role as Lieutenant MacBride in the Torchy film series, or his extended run as General Peterson on I Dream of Jeannie, I would guess that most casual Classic Film fans know him from his work alongside of Bogart in The Maltese Falcon, High Sierra, and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

MacLane has been an actor that I’ve long planned on placing into The Usual Suspects. While most of his characters in Bogart films – either crooks or cops – tend to have the same gruff demeanor and bleak outlook on life, MacLane is one of those actors that made a long and successful career out of playing exactly the man you’d expect him to be based on his appearance.

That’s not to say that MacLane didn’t have a few surprises up his sleeve. Yes, he played college football, but did you also know that he could play the violin? Sure he played a cowboy for film and television and lived up to that Western persona as he worked his own cattle ranch in his down time, but did you know that he also attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, wrote and performed on Broadway, and was married to the talented and beautiful actress Charlotte Wynters?

wynters

Regardless of how you might know Barton MacLane, the one thing I know for sure is that he was never miscast in a Bogie film. Gangster or Detective. Prison Guard or Conman. MacLane elevated every film he starred in with his commanding presence and his well-honed acting skills. (Plus, he and Bogart were both Christmas babies!) So today we welcome Barton MacLane into The Usual Suspects!

The Filmography

Bullets or Ballots – 1936

bullets-or-ballots

MacLane plays racketeer Al Kruger, the man who tries to lure Edward G. Robinson into a life of crime after a scandalous dismissal from the police force. Despite the fact that the movie might not be the best, this is perhaps MacLane’s most likable role in a Bogart film. Playing “the thinking man’s gangster,” MacLane is able to elicit sympathy from both the film’s hero (Robinson) and the tough-guy gangster (Bogart) who tries so desperately to convince him that Robinson is a no good double dealer. If he’d only listened to Bogart! Why, Al, why? Definitely my favorite MacLane role on this list.

You can read my original post on the film here.

San Quentin – 1937

san-quentin

MacLane plays prison guard Lieutenant Druggin who just wants to be the captain of the yard if not for Pat O’Brien’s meddling ways. MacLane’s Druggin wants hard-nosed justice. Prisoners should be put in their places, forcefully, the moment that they step out of line. O’Brien’s dashing prison captain believes in a much more subtle approach – respecting the prisoners as men in their own rights who deserve the benefit of the doubt. It’s a role that calls for the gruffest and sourest that MacLane has to offer, and he’s perfectly cast in the film.

You can read my original post on the film here.

High Sierra – 1941

high-sierra

MacLane plays Jake, the right hand man to Donald MacBride who plays the ailing ringleader of Bogart’s robbery crew. The part is a bit smaller than the previous two in his Bogie filmography, but MacLane does well as he spends his time giving Bogart the suspicious eye while trying to muscle in on MacBride’s soon-to-be open position.

You can read my original post on the film here.

The Maltese Falcon – 1941

bcmf

MacLane plays Lieutenant of Detectives Dundy in a semi-friendly role to Bogart’s private detective, Sam Spade. Most of the film’s sparse comic relief comes from MacLane’s one-step-behind pursuit of Bogart, and both men seem to be enjoying their time on screen together as they appear to be on the verge of smiling at each other’s faux tough guy antics. Probably MacLane’s most well know Classic Film, his perfectly cast supporting role only adds to the iconic status of this movie.

You can read my original post on the film here.

All Through the Night – 1942

bcattn

MacLane plays Marty Callahan, one of Bogart’s rival gangsters that ends up coming to help when it’s time to punch some Nazis. MacLane’s best moments in this small role come when he has to deal with Bogart’s frazzled mother as she storms his nightclub looking for the murderer of a local baker. Again, not a huge role, but MacLane’s involvement is just another piece of this great ensemble cast that makes the film great.

You can read my original post on the film here.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre –1948

treasure

MacLane plays McCormick, a less-than-reputable foreman who cheats Bogart and Tim Holt out of some very hard earned wages. It’s a chance for MacLane to be a bit more blowhard, and a bit less tough than how we usually see him in the rest of his Bogart filmography, and it all leads to a great great bar fight between MacLane, Bogart, and Holt that’s brutal, bloody, and incredibly satisfying when it comes to enacting revenge on the man who stole their paychecks!

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.*

The Maltese Falcon

malt-1

Birth Name: The Maltese Falcon

Date of Birth:  October 18, 1941

Date of Death: STILL OUT THERE SOMEWHERE…LEADING MEN AND WOMEN DOWN A DANGEROUS ROAD OF GREED AND DESIRE…

Number of Films that The Maltese Falcon Made with Humphrey Bogart: 3

The Lowdown

I couldn’t be fonder of you if you were my own son. But, well, if you lose a son, it’s possible to get another. There’s only one Maltese Falcon.” – Kasper Gutman, The Maltese Falcon

To be fair, there are more than one of those little beauties out there. Sydney Greenstreet marred one with his pen knife for the film. Several extras were made of varying weights for backups. Bogart supposedly even dropped one and dented the tail. Several years ago, one came back into the spotlight when Leonardo DiCaprio purchased it at auction for a little over $300,000. (Nearly the original budget of the film.)

Oh, I knew that the Falcon made a quick cameo in 1945’s Conflict as a little nod to the reunion of Bogart and Greenstreet, but imagine my surprise and delight when I stumbled across its presence in yet another film! A film that I’d seen at least a dozen times! A film that is in my Top 5 Bogie favorites! How could I have been so blind?

Two appearances would have been enough to warrant an entry into “The Usual Suspects,” but three makes its inauguration a must. So today, we welcome The Maltese Falcon into the pantheon of The Usual Suspects!

The Filmography

The Maltese Falcon – 1941

malt-2

This is where it all began. The world’s greatest MacGuffin brings together a small crew of the world’s most nefarious deal makers and a little known detective named Sam Spade.

It’s the stuff that dreams are made of. It’s the object of desire that men and women will kill for. It’s the treasure worth chasing all over the world until there’s not a cent left in your pockets.

In my dreams, I like to imagine that Kasper “The Fatman” Gutman, Joel Cairo, and Brigid O’Shaughnessy are all still out there, desperately scheming for one last chance to get the bird… Not far behind is Sam Spade, smirking and shaking his head. Will they never learn?

You can read my original post on the film here.

All Through the Night – 1942

malt-4

I mean . . . that can’t really be what I think it is lurking in the shadows next to Peter Lorre, can it?

I don’t know what to think here. I’ve seen this movie so often and I’ve never noticed this shadow before. The film only came out about three months after The Maltese Falcon. Is that enough time to have slipped in a cameo? Next to Peter Lorre, the man who played Joel Cairo no less?!?

I’ve googled, read, searched, and even listened to the director’s commentary from Vincent Sherman and NO ONE MENTIONS IT!

What are the odds? I know, I know. You’re going to tell me that it’s more than likely a massive coincidence. But here’s the thing about coincidences, see? When the Falcon’s involved – there ain’t no coincidences. There’s only desperate people with desperate minds. . .

You can read my original post on the film here.

Conflict – 1945

malt-3

Yes, he seems to have grown an inch or two and lost a little bit of weight, but supposedly that’s The Maltese Falcon looming large behind Bogart in this murder mystery reunion with Sydney Greenstreet. He’s got his talons deep into them, ya see? He ain’t gonna let go for nothin’!

You can read my original post on the film here!

*The Usual Suspects is an ongoing feature on the blog where we discuss some of Bogart’s more frequent collaborators. When I post, you’ll take it, and you’ll like it! You can read the other entries here.*

Sydney Greenstreet

Greenstreet Casablanca

Birth Name: Sydney Hughes Greenstreet

Birthdate: December 27, 1879

Date of Death: January 18, 1954

Number of Films Sydney Greenstreet made with Humphrey Bogart: 5

The Actor

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

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

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

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

The Filmography

The Maltese Falcon – 1941

Maltese Falcon Greenstreet

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

In This Our Life – 1942

Greenstreet NO

Directed by John Huston, rumor had it that Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and a few others had appeared in the film during a tavern scene as background players to add a little “in-joke” for Huston fans. Whether the scene was cut out from the film or just a hoax to begin with, none of them are visible. Is the film still worth a watch? You bet! Bette Davis is always worth spending an evening with! Just don’t get your hopes up for this superstar cameo that doesn’t deliver! You can read my original write up on the film here.

Across the Pacific – 1942

Greenstreet Bogart Astor

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

Casablanca – 1942

Greenstreet Casa 2

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

Passage to Marseille – 1942

Passage Greenstreet

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

Conflict – 1945

Bogart and Sydney in Conflict

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

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

Mary Astor

Astor Bogart Maltese Falcon 3Birth Name: Lucile Vasconcellos Langhanke

Birth: May 3, 1906

Death: September 25, 1987

Number of Films Mary Astor Made with Humphrey Bogart: 2

The Lowdown

Born and raised in Quincy, Illinois, Mary Astor was groomed by her parents from a very early age to be a star. It only took a series of beauty pageants to get her noticed by a Hollywood agent who signed her to a contract that had her doing bit parts in silent films starting at the age of only fourteen.

After slowly building up to a solid and very successful career, Astor seemed to peak in 1941 when she won an Oscar for her role in The Great Lie, the same year that she appeared in the cinema classic The Maltese Falcon alongside of Humphrey Bogart. Astor’s life was apparently a troubled one though, filled with affairs, divorces, the death of a husband, depression, a suicide attempt, and a heart ailment.

What I loved about her two films with Bogart was the way that she was able to distinguish two characters that, at first glance, seem to share so much in common. One is a sultry, dangerous, femme fatale. The other is a slightly naïve gal in over her head and forced to put on a ruse in order to save someone she loves. Yet, both start out as women of mystery, and we don’t have any idea whose side they’re really on until the plot has finally resolved itself.

And to be honest, this whole write up is just an excuse to post the pic below from Across the Pacific. If I ever bumped into that gal on a boat and the only other man aboard was Sydney Greenstreet – well, it quickly becomes apparent how easily someone could fall for Astor in real life or on screen.

The Filmography

The Maltese Falcon – 1941

Astor Bogart Falcon 2

Astor plays femme fatale Brigid O’Shaughnessy, the woman who pulls Bogart into the danger and mystery surrounding the small, but priceless, falcon statuette. According to a few different bios and websites, Director Huston had Astor run around the set before takes in order to lend a constant breathless quality to her performance. After re-watching this film for the umpteenth time, I have to say that it certainly seems to be true and it works well for her performance. Astor’s reputation as a woman who liked to spend time with lots of different men supposedly helped create a lot of excitement for this one when it came out. While that aspect might be lost on modern day viewers, Astor is still amazing in the role – hitting all the right notes and keeping the audience’s sympathies, despite a string of nonstop lies and manipulations. I saw this one before Across the Pacific, and I have to admit that it took me a few viewings of Pacific to forgive her for the way that she treats Bogart in Falcon. I think it’s a testament to her talent that she’s so good and playing someone so bad. Astor also reprised her role as Brigid on a few different radio broadcasts alongside of Bogart and Greenstreet. You can read my original write up on the film here.

In This Our Life – 1942

Regardless of what the filmographies may say, Astor’s not in this one! Directed by John Huston, rumor had it that Bogart, 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 Falcon fans. Whether the scene was cut from the film, or just a hoax to begin with, none of them are visible. You can read my original write up on the film here.

Across the Pacific – 1942

Greenstreet Bogart Astor

Reteaming with Director John Huston, Bogart, and Sydney Greenstreet, Astor plays Alberta Marlow, the mysterious woman who’s sailing with Bogart and Greenstreet through the Panama Canal on their way to Asia. I really, really loved Astor here, even more than in The Maltese Falcon. She gorgeous, funny, flirtatious, and so wonderfully girl-next-door-ish that I found it much easier to believe that Bogart would fall in love with her. Again, Astor reprised her role alongside of Bogart and Greenstreet on the radio. Good grief, just the scene from the pic above brings me so much joy that even if this film had been awful, the chemistry between these three stars would have been worth the effort! You can read my original write up 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.*

The Screen Guild Theater Presents: The Maltese Falcon – 1943

SGT Maltese Falcon

My Review

—A Poor Adaption Leads to a Decent Climax—

Radio Fixes 2 out of 5 radio Bogies!

The Lowdown

For my Maltese Falcon synopsis, you can read my original write up on the film here. And if you really want to try and follow the plot in this heavily condensed radio version of the story, you’d better watch the film first, or you’ll be lost!

What I Thought

I was really looking forward to listening to this broadcast after writing up the 1946 Academy Award Theater Presents: The Maltese Falcon last week. I mean, this version had to be better, right? It’s adds Peter Lorre into the mix, reprising his role as Joel Cairo! While the still unknown radio player that portrayed Cairo in last week’s version was good, no one can stand alongside of Lorre and look good, right?

Hmmm.

This broadcast was a bit of a mess. Lorre was not only hardly used, but his best scene from the film, the one where they first meet and Lorre wants to search Bogart’s office, isn’t even in the broadcast! It’s completely cut out and only briefly referenced when Sam Spade tells Brigid O’Shaughnessy that he knows Cairo. Ugh. Lorre was right there! That would have been some easy magic to recreate!

The other big change from the show that I reviewed last week is that this version of the script uses a radio announcer to narrate the story rather than Sam Spade himself. This means that there’s much less Bogart. For some reason, it also means that any action from first ¾ of the story is summed up in the narration rather than heard, as the broadcast steamrolls past any actual plot to get us to the very well written final scene between Spade, O’Shaughnessy, Kaspar Gutman, and Joel Cairo. If you can make it through the first 20 minutes of bland dialogue, that final scene is worth a listen, but if I were you, I’d skip right to it.

In an interesting twist on the 1941 film, one of the four main characters ends up dead at the end of this version. Even considering that interesting changeup, the script still holds true to its lackluster form and we don’t actually get to ‘witness’ it happen . . .

The Bogart Factor

To be honest, I actually enjoyed this version of Bogart’s performance better. He seems to have slipped into character a little bit more and he doesn’t sound like he’s reading his lines quite as much as he does in the later 1946 version. Unfortunately, there’s just not enough script coherence or decent direction for me to recommend this show fully. This one’s just for Bogart completists.

The Cast

Mary Astor reprises her role from the film as the femme fatale, Brigid O’Shaughnessy. Unlike the 1946 radio version, Astor seems much less interested in performing here and if I hadn’t been told that it was Astor, I probably wouldn’t have noticed. She’s not bad, but compared to the film and the 1946 radio broadcast, she just seems flat.

Sydney Greenstreet reprises the role of Kaspar Gutman, the “fat man” who’s chasing the bird around the world. Even in the last scene where it seems that the reins are finally taken off of the actors, his performance seems caged compared to the 1946 version. The laugh is there, but little else. It’s not his fault though, the script just offers him nothing to work with.

In the biggest disappointment of all, Peter Lorre reprises his role as Joel Cairo, one of the criminals chasing after the bird, only to be relegated to the sidelines for the entire show. Although, saying that he’s “relegated to the sidelines” would be a generous metaphor to use, and I might better say that he’s more of a third string waterboy in the storyline as his part is miniscule and it doesn’t even sound like they let him stand near the microphone!

Classic Bogie Moment

He does his best, but all of the bite that Sam Spade has in the film is taken away when so much of his dialogue is spent recapping action instead of showing it. That being said, Bogart really does light up when he gets to bounce his performance off of Greenstreet, and with only a limited number of performances shared by the two greats, I’ll take what I can get. Bogart again gives 100% to this role, even if it is just a sad and condensed version of the classic film.

The Bottom Line

If you’ve got nothing else to listen to in the car, go for it. I might make it sound a little worse than it is, but the 1946 version is definitely a step up!

Academy Award Theater Radio: The Maltese Falcon – 1946

MT1

My Review

—A Fun/Flawed Abridged Version—

Director: Dee Engelbach

Honorary Bogie Fix:

Radio Fixes 3 out of 5 Radio Bogies!

The Lowdown

For my Maltese Falcon synopsis, you can read my original write up on the film here. No major plot-altering details have been changed for the radio version, so it should suffice! Besides, if you’re reading this post and you haven’t seen the film yet . . . what’s your deal?!

What I Thought

This is one of three radio versions of The Maltese Falcon that Bogart performed over the years after the film’s initial release. I’m reviewing this one in particular because good friend of the ‘Bogie Film Blog,’ @MeanStsOTRPod, podcasted this episode of Academy Award Theater last Sunday on his Down These Mean Streets podcast. (Go listen to it right now. It’s okay. I’ll wait for you to come back.) If you’re a podcast listener and a fan of classic film, you should probably subscribe to this guy’s feed on iTunes. It’s always worth it. Somewhere down the line the Bogie Blog will cover the other Falcon broadcasts on Thursday posts.

Produced on CBS for Academy Award Theater by “The House of Squibb” (Bristol-Meyers Squibb now), this is a very abridged version of the film wherein Bogart gets to sum up and skip over about ¾ of the film with voiceover narration. So we lose some key scenes from the film, but we get lots of extra Bogart voice work instead. Is the tradeoff worth it? Not quite. It feels a bit rushed and the plot is a little tougher to navigate, but can you really complain when we get to hear Bogart, Mary Astor, and Sydney Greenstreet back together again? While the script may not be top notch quality, it’s definitely worth a listen.

Unlike previous live radio broadcasts that I’ve posted about, the audience doesn’t seem miked as well, so we only hear them react/laugh a few times in the show when Bogart or Greenstreet have a particularly good line or reaction. So other than a few minor line flubs by Bogart, you’d hardly even know that they did this one before an audience.

Despite the shortened run time and the exclusion of some of The Maltese Falcon’s best moments, the interplay between Bogart and Greenstreet is amazingly fun. The relationship between Bogart and Astor seems slightly tweaked from the film as well, but I’ll cover that more in the cast review below.

My only question – who played Peter Lorre’s part as Joel Cairo? I can’t seem to find the answer with my typical lackluster research, so if anyone out there in blogland has the answer, let me know! While he’s no Lorre, he still did well!

Make sure you pay attention to how the phrase Why not? is used multiple times by multiple characters throughout the broadcast! I just watched the film and I can’t remember if they did the same thing with those two words or not. It’s a fun little usage of the question as it’s repeated back and forth in several scenes for various reasons and emotions. Maybe as an English major I’m a sucker for little things like that, but I thought it was fun.

The Bogart Factor

We get to hear Bogart do a ton of voiceover narration as they obviously have to condense the plot considerably to fit it into a half hour time slot, so it’s fun to hear him tackle a pretty tried-and-true private eye trope.

Being in front of an audience on a live broadcast also means that he only gets one take to do his lines, and as anyone’s who’s seen the Breakdowns outtakes knows, Bogart could have a bit of a temper when he flubbed a line and let loose with an occasional curse. Here though, he’s very professional when he drops a word or repeats a phrase, and it’s hardly noticeable.

If nothing else, you’ve got to give this one a listen just to relive the chemistry between Bogart and Greenstreet. Both of them amp up their respective character’s senses of humor – especially in initial conversation with each other, and it’s a whole lot of fun.

The Cast

Mary Astor reprises her role from the film as the femme fatale, Brigid O’Shaughnessy. For the original film, Director John Huston reportedly had Astor run around the set before scenes in order to give her a breathy and flustered demeanor. We don’t get that here and it seems to take a little bit of the edge off of her performance, but we do get something a little more subtle and interesting. Great emphasis is placed upon Brigid being a “liar” by all of the broadcast’s characters, and when Astor acknowledges it, there’s a wonderful personality shift that takes place. Astor plays Brigid a little more naïve and naughty until Bogart calls her out on her manipulative behavior – then she instantly switches over to a more cold and calculating – borderline sociopathic­ – demeanor. I liked it a lot even though it wasn’t as fun as the filmed version.

Sydney Greenstreet reprises the role of Kaspar Gutman, the “fat man” who’s chasing the bird around the world. Check out how much he’s revved up his laugh for this radio adaption! His giddiness is so over the top that his laugh is able to generate a few of the audible audience laughs throughout the show. He seems to be having a lot of fun as he dives back into his Oscar nominated role, and it’s well worth the time of any Greenstreet fan to give it a listen.

Like I said earlier, I’m still trying to track down the man behind Joel Cairo for this show. He had pretty big boots to fill as he stepped in for Peter Lorre, and he does well. He sounds similar, but is clearly not trying to do a Lorre impression which is nice. His accent is subdued to the point that it’s not distracting. And his chemistry with Bogart is one of the best parts of this broadcast.

Classic Bogie Moment

In all of his pre-superstar days in B-films and small roles, no one could die onscreen like Bogart. You have to check out the moment here where he only has audio to use when he’s drugged and has to pass out. Between his slurred speech and the thud that follows, it creates a pretty realistic loss of consciousness – and it’s a bit reminiscent of all those painful grunts as he slumps to the ground after being shot in his early films!

The Bottom Line

Not quite as good as the earlier broadcast that included Lorre, but an easy listen and time well spent with three of cinemas greats! Listen to it on a car or plane ride and have fun.