Invisible Stripes – 1939

Invisible Stripes

My Review

—Better Than You Might Think—

Your Bogie Film Fix:

2 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director: Lloyd Bacon

The Lowdown

A recently released convict (George Raft) does his best to go straight after prison, but his conscience gives way to the need to support his family.

What I Thought

This was my second viewing of Invisible Stripes, and I have to say that I liked it much better this time. The cast of George Raft, William Holden, Jane Bryan, Bogart, and Flora Robson is one of the best ensembles I’ve seen in a while, and all the character relationships really crackled – especially Raft and Robson who give us most of the heart in this film.

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

Director Lloyd Bacon did so many good films with Bogart that he’ll eventually need to go into ‘The Usual Suspects.’ He handles this film well, especially in the quieter, character building moments of love and loss with Raft’s family. Raft’s final line to his mother is so subtly done that I almost missed it, even though it’s an incredibly heart wrenching moment.

Make no mistake, Raft and Robson create an incredibly dynamic mother-son relationship here, and it’s easy to understand the love they have for one another.

The Bogart Factor

Playing ex-con Chuck Martin, this might be one of the most likable thugs that Bogart ever got to play. Right up until his final scene, we have to appreciate and respect Martin’s attempts to help George Raft’s Cliff pull himself up by his bootstraps – even if it’s not by legal means.

The part is small, so there are long droughts throughout the film where Bogart’s presence isn’t felt, but when he’s onscreen, he pops. Could they have used him more? Probably, but it wouldn’t have fit with the story. The film needed to spend its time building up the relationship between Raft and Holden. So I guess that if I’m going to watch someone play a likable bad guy, it’s a treat that it gets to be Bogart, even if the role is tiny.

The Cast

I’m not the biggest George Raft admirer, but I really liked him here as Cliff Taylor, the ex-con who tries to make good when released from the pen. Several scripts that Raft turned down in his career went on to become some of Bogart’s most iconic films, so maybe with the additional appreciation of this film, I can finally get on the George Raft bandwagon. He plays his emotions close to his vest and he did a wonderful job of making me believe that he loved and cared for his mother and brother. This film is re-watchable for me based on Raft’s performance alone.

William Holden plays Raft’s younger brother, Tim Taylor. Holden is fine in the role, but he has nowhere near the film presence that he would develop with another decade under his belt. Erring a bit on the side over overacting, Holden does have a number of good scenes with Raft, and decent chemistry with Jane Bryan as his love interest.

Flora Robson plays Raft’s mother, Mrs. Taylor, even though she was about six years younger than Raft at the time of filming. In my opinion, Robson’s performance steals the show, and I have an all new screen crush. How can you not love a mother like that? I wanted to hug and kiss her to death every time she appeared on screen. The work she does with Raft in this film makes me want to explore her filmography further to see what I’ve been missing!

Jane Bryan plays William Holden’s love interest, Peggy. Bryan is on my shortlist for actors that need to go into ‘The Usual Suspects,’ as she’s usually a pretty strong supporter in every film that I’ve seen her in so far. This is no exception, as she gets some pretty meaty scenes with Holden, and a couple of good chances to interact with Flora Robson. It’s a more mature role than her other two Bogart films, Marked Woman and Kid Galahad, and it suits Bryan well. I still need to follow-up on the rest of her filmography!

Don’t Forget to Notice

Hey! There’s a brief cameo by ‘Dead End’ Kid Leo Gorcey as Jimmy the stockboy with George Raft!

Classic Bogie Moment

Bogart was great with a little subtle innuendo. There’s a scene at a party where he’s cozily chatting up Lee Patrick on a couch when they have this exchange:

Patrick: I’m a rare animal, Chuck. I’m a natural blonde. That’s why you went for me quick, wasn’t it?

Bogart: Well, that . . . and other things . . .

Invisible Stripes

Look at that grin . . . Ladies and gentlemen, that’s a man with bad intentions on his mind!

The Bottom Line

Give it a shot, I don’t think you’ll regret it. Maybe not a must see for Bogart fans, but the relationship between Raft and Robson is worth it!

Sabrina – 1954

sabrina

My Review

—A Great Film—

Your Bogie Fix:

4 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  Billy Wilder

The Lowdown

If there’s one movie that can truly punctuate Bogart’s acting range, it’d have to be Sabrina.  Hold Linus Larrabee up against any one of his other, more iconic, gangster / detective / murderer roles, and it’s hard to imagine many of the other leading men from his era being able to switch gears so completely.  Add in Charlie Allnut from The African Queen, and Frank Taylor from Black Legion, and you see an actor who is so incredibly versatile, that I don’t think enough credit can be given.

It’s not that Bogart’s portrayal of Linus is all that deep or groundbreaking, but at no point in the movie am I reminded of roles like Roy Earle or Philip Marlowe – characters cemented permanently into Bogart’s legacy, yet forgotten the moment Bogart’s likable, driven, wry, corporate businessman appears onscreen posing for a family picture.

Bogart is Linus Larrabee, son of a wealthy business magnate (Walter Hampden), and appears to spend as much time taking care of the family business as he does keeping his playboy kid brother, David, (William Holden) out of trouble.

David’s trouble comes in the form of women, who he seems to go through like tissues – moving on from one to another with a great deal of overlap in between.  Linus comes in behind David, tidying up any leftover messes or potential scandals with an endless supply of hush money and a great deal of patience.

As good as Linus has become at looking after David, he’s not quite prepared for the affair that begins when the daughter of the family chauffeur returns home after a two year absence.  Sabrina, played so wonderfully flawed and beautifully mischievous by Audrey Hepburn, spends her teenage years on the Larrabee property silently stalking David, head-over-heels in love.  After finally coming to terms with the fact that she’ll never have the man that she secretly pines for, Sabrina tries to kill herself in the garage with carbon monoxide poisoning, only to be saved by Bogart’s Linus moments before it’s too late.

Sent off to cooking school in Paris, one might assume that Sabrina would return to the Larrabee estate with enough personal growth to leave silly infatuations behind, but the genius of Billy Wilder and Samuel A. Taylor’s script lies in the opposite direction.  Sabrina comes home as a blossomed rose, mature in the ways of the world, and ready to make a real go at winning the heart of David Larrabee – even if it means wrecking his current engagement.

Linus steps in, as he always does, but this time the scandal is a little more serious.  David’s fiancée happens to be the daughter of another businessman that the Larrabees desperately need to keep happy for a merger.  David’s less-than-subtle indiscretions with Sabrina could bring the whole deal crashing down.

What follows is a charming love story about two people, Linus and Sabrina, who fall in love despite themselves.  Neither is looking for love with the other, and both of them are so busy stumbling blindly through their own personal flaws, that it’s a real testament to Wilder’s directing that he could make an audience believe that these two people have truly begun to care for one another.

The Great

Billy Wilder is a national treasure.  Seriously, go to IMDB right now and just peruse through all of the classic work that this guy has done.  There should be statues in Hollywood erected in this man’s honor.  Can anyone else weave comedy and pathos together so brilliantly?  He makes movies about flawed people that you cannot help but love.  Speaking of which . . .

This is my favorite out of all of Audrey Hepburn’s roles, and that’s a tough call to make.  The different shades of Sabrina’s psyche that she’s able to pull off make the character seem like a real, living, breathing human being – the kind of woman that every guy falls in love with, knowing full well that there’s going to be some trouble attached.  You believe that she has an emotional attachment with every other character that she interacts with – that she knows, cares, and loves them all.  Even when she’s making the wrong choices (trying to tame the untamable playboy) you’re still rooting for her to come through.  Hepburn was born for the screen with her gorgeous face and off-the-charts charisma, and this role was tailor made for her to play.

Bogart, playing the lonely businessman who’s just beginning to realize that his prime is over, so subtly begins to fall for Hepburn that it’s a real thrill to watch the dominoes fall.  I’ve said it before, as have so many more qualified than I, Bogart could do more with a look and a gesture than any other actor that I’ve seen.  Watch his face as he puts on his old college clothes before the boat scene – that understated look of dejection that comes out around his eyes – Oh, God, I’m too old for this. . .

The script, based off of Samuel A. Taylor’s Sabrina Fair, is solid.  The best theater happens when you get to watch the main characters make life changing decisions right in front of your eyes, and that’s what we have here.  Wilder’s adaption for the screen seems to hit on all cylinders off of Taylor’s original stage piece.

William Holden never misses a beat as the younger, self indulged brother that can draw love and disappointment in equal measure.  Great chemistry with Bogart and Hepburn.  Holden is so smooth that if David had ended up with Sabrina, I don’t think I would have complained.

The Good

John Williams, as Sabrina’s father Thomas Fairchild, is always a joy to watch work.  Williams, perhaps my favorite part of Dial M for Murder, is another actor that can show a great range of emotion without an over-the-top effort.  When he speaks, you can almost hear the subtext as loud as the scripted words.

Walter Hampden vs. An Olive Jar.  Textbook Wilder physical comedy.

Classic Bogie Moment

Linus, playfully misdirecting Sabrina from thoughts of David, leans in and kisses her deeply.  “Here’s a kiss from David,” he says, “Oh, it’s all in the family.”  It’s exactly this kind of charmed confidence that makes Bogie so believable as a ladies’ man – even with the massive age difference between Linus and Sabrina.  Did Linus mean the kiss when he planted it?  Not really.  But you can tell he enjoyed it!  One of the perks that comes with cleaning up David’s affairs, I guess.

The Bottom Line

If you haven’t seen this movie yet, what rock have you been living under?  It’s a classic.  A signature Hepburn role.  A joy from beginning to end.  A great cast.  An amazing director.  A great script.  There’s nothing I can add to this film’s legacy that hasn’t already been said.  But it might be a fun double feature with Casablanca!  In one he gets the gal – in the other he lets her go.  I’ve heard arguments that he made the wrong decision in both movies . . .

Fun Fact(s)

I’m not even going to touch on the animosity that reportedly arose between the main actors because . . . well, that’s not fun.

Did you catch how many times The Seven Year Itch is mentioned?  Wilder’s follow up movie was clearly on his mind while filming this one!