70th Anniversary of War of the Worlds Broadcast

    A slight detour to Radioland today being this is the 70th Anniversary of Orson Welles famed “War of the Worlds” broadcast on CBS Radio on October 30th 1938. For those not in the know Welles and the Mercury Theater broadcast a Halloween treat that many listeners assumed was the real thing and frightened people across the country. Listeners who tuned in at the beginning were aware that this was a radio show and not a real life news broadcast, however, many listeners tuned in after the start of the show and did not know what was happening.

    Based on H.G, Wells novel, the setting was changed to Grover Mills, New Jersey which lent to its authenticity. The New York Daily New headline on the following day screamed “Fake Radio ‘War’ Stirs Terror Through U.S.”  The article began  A  radio dramatization of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds” – which thousands of people misunderstood as a news broadcast of a current catastrophe in New Jersey – created almost unbelievable scenes of terror in New York, New Jersey, the South and as far west as San Francisco between 8 and 9 o’clock last night. The panic started when an announcer suddenly interrupted the program of a dance orchestra – which was part of the dramatization – to “flash” an imaginary bulletin that a mysterious “meteor” had struck New Jersey, lighting the heavens for miles around.”

    Most of the show was broadcast as a series of news bulletins which added to its authenticity. Adding to the tension for many was the real life fact that Hitler was on the move in Europe and the U.S. would soon be drawn into the war.

    According to various newspaper’s local hospitals were crowded with people in shock, The telephone company was overloaded with panic phone calls and some people even attempted to kill themselves rather than be taken by aliens. Studies done later indicate that the wide spread “panic” of millions of people was blown out of proportion by the newspapers who were concerned that Radio, fairly new at the time, would kill the newspaper business. Yellow journalism was a common occurrence in those days. Over the years, the stories about the broadcast have grown and today it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. There definitely was panic however, as to how widespread the panic was, is in question.

     In the aftermath, CBS, Welles, who was the director and narrator, and the Mercury Theater  were not punished or fined, however, CBS promised not to ever use “we interrupt this  program” for dramatic purposes again. Within less than three years, Orson Welles would go to Hollywood and direct his first film, the masterpiece “Citizen Kane.”

   In 1957 CBS’s Studio One dramatized the event with an episode called “The Night America Trembled.” In 1975, A made of TV move called “The Night That Panicked America” was broadcast on ABC TV with a cast that included Vic Morrow, Meredith Baxter and John Ritter.

Middle Age Crazy (1980) John Trent


    In “Middle Age Crazy”, Bobby Lee (Bruce Dern) is turning forty. It seems he can no longer take the pressure of being married to sex-loving Sue Ann (Ann-Margret), or that his college age son is dropping out, or his father dying or the pressure put upon him at his job. So Bobby Lee decides buy a new sports car and has an affair with a Dallas Cheerleader, to get away from all this pressure. Sue Ann, feeling rejected and abandon has an affair of her own. In the end, they finally decide to talk and jump into their hot tub fully clothed and make up. Credits roll. The problem, or should I say one of the problems, is that it is hard to feel sorry for Bobby Lee since, looking at the home he lives in, he obviously is making a good living. In addition, he has a beautiful wife who loves him and whose only fault seems to be is that she likes to have sex with him (she screams out “Bingo” every time she has an orgasm). Poor Bobby Lee, my heart goes out to him. The script attempts to make a point about entering middle age and the realization that life is passing you by however, it just comes off as dull and duller and in the end, nothing much happens.


    Uninspired direction by Canadian John Trent keeps the pace slow, as does a TV of the movies script by Carl Kleinschmitt. The title song was written and sung by Jerry Lee Lewis.

    The big question is how this film ever was made as a big budgeted feature and not as a movie of the week. Today it would be on the Lifetime channel. The cast is fine and it is good to see Bruce Dern play a regular guy for a change instead of a whacked out loser or a killer. Ann-Margret looks beautiful and does a nice job as the adoring Sue Ann as does Deborah Wakeham as Nancy, the Dallas Cheerleader, Dern hooks up with.     

     The film has not had a DVD release however, it was released on VHS years ago it is possible  it may be found at a video store that still rents them. “Middle Age Crazy” is worth a look if you like either Bruce Dern or Ann-Margret however, even their fans will have a tough time keeping focus. 











I’ll Have What She’s Having

                                                                    I have to admit I am a sucker for romantic comedies, so when I saw Daniel M. Kimmel’s new book “I’ll Have What She’s Having” on the self at my local Barnes and Nobles I scooped it up. I am happy to say that Kimmel’s book is an entertaining, breezy and an informative read of fifteen of the best romantic comedies ever made. While you may agree or disagree with all his choices (What no “The Lady Eve”?) , the films he selected all have entertaining back-stories and are all deservedly among the best. Included are “Trouble in Paradise”, “The Shop Around The Corner”, “Adam’s Rib”, “Annie Hall”, “Some Like it Hot”, “There’s Something About Mary” and of course “When Harry Met Sally”, the movie from which the title of the book comes from. Kimmel is a former president of the Boston Society of Film Critics and contributes reviews to the Worcester Telegraph and Gazette. In the book, he gives you an inside look on what inspired the filmmakers as well as relationships, such as Carole Lombard and William Powell during the making of “My Man Godfrey”, how MGM lent Clark Gable to Columbia as punishment when he made “It Happened One Night.” One of my favorite stories is at the funeral of Director Ernest Lubitch where Directors Billy Wilder and William Wyler are leaving the services and Wilder remarks “No more Lubitch” and Wyler replies, “Worst yet, no more Lubitch movies.” 

    The making of “Sabrina” is a good example of how people can hate each other and still make a terrific film. Apparently, Humphrey Bogart disliked his co-stars, William Holden and Audrey Hepburn and he had problems with director Billy Wilder during the making of the film.  In case you were wondering Holden and Hepburn mutually disliked Bogart too. Some stories are not new and have been told before. It is pretty well know of the many problems that existed on the set of “Some Like it Hot.” Marilyn Monroe’s lateness and forgetfulness forcing Billy Wilder to favor takes of Monroe to the detriment of Jack Lemmon and especially Tony Curtis. Wilder was forced to film in black and white so that Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis would look more realistic as woman. However, there are plenty of newer stories that I, for one, were not familiar with. I found especially, enjoyable the backstories on “Annie Hall” and “When Harry Met Sally…..”  Especially, interesting is the story concerning the fake orgasm scene in “When Harry Met Sally….” which is worth the price of the book. All in all this is an enjoyable, informative and entertaining read.


    Thought I list my favorite romantic comedies (a baker’s dozen) in no particular order. There are plenty of runner-ups that I could mention, and of course, there are films I have yet to see like “The Philadelphia Story” for one, so the list, as most lists should be is not permanent and is always subject to change.


Some Like it Hot

The Lady Eve

Annie Hall


Adam’s Rib

When Harry Met Sally

The Thin Man (I know this is not really a romantic comedy but the chemistry between Powell and Loy is amazing and there is a lot of humor.)

As Good as Gets

There’s Something About Mary

The Apartment (Probably not thought of as a romantic comedy however, the relationship between Lemmon and MacLaine is so well done. A smartly written, dark and bittersweet film.)

The Goodbye Girl

It Happened One Night

My Man Godfrey

The Stranger (1946) Orson Welles

     “The Stranger” is considered an odd duck in Welles directorial hierarchy. The film was seen as a test to see if Welles could work within the system, meaning could he stay within budget.  Many film scholars have dismissed it as contract job, unlike his first two films and his later work, which all had Welles personal stamp all over them. The film even slipped into the public domain resulting in a lot of cheap poor reproduced DVD’s which has not helped enhance its reputation. Only recently did MGM release a high quality version for home video.  While the movie does not have the flare or the visual stunningness of “Citizen Kane” or “The Magnificent Ambersons”, “The Stranger” has enough Wellesian, touches to distinguish it as a Welles film and even more important it is an entertaining film to watch.

    Today, there is nothing original about the story we’ve seen it before, the man on the run who changes his identity living in a small town (Shadow of a Doubt). The former Nazi war criminal who fled, and is now living in another country (The Boys of Brazil, Apt Pupil), yet Welles style is evident. We see it in the long takes, the expressionistic lighting and unusual camera angles. While the story today is common, in 1946 it was not. “The Stranger” is also notable for its use, only a year after the end of World War 2, of actual concentration camp footage used to reveal the truth about Franz Kindler (Orson Welles) to his father in-law and wife.

    Welles himself pretty much disowned “The Stranger”, seeing it only as a ‘gun for hire’ job. It is the only film he directed where someone else wrote the script (Victor Trivas), and where he did not have control over editing. He also had problems with producer Sam Spiegel. Originally, Welles wanted Agnes Moorhead in the role of Inspector Wilson however, Spiegel wanted a name with more star power and Edward G. Robinson was signed for the role. Welles and Robinson did not get along, during the filming.  Spiegel would go on to produce epics like “The Bridge on the Rive Kwai” and “Lawrence of Arabia.”

    The plot involves a convicted war criminal, Konrad Meinike (Konstantin Shayne), who is released from prison in hope that he will lead officials to the more notorious Nazi, Franz Kindler. An investigator from the War Crimes Commission, Inspector Wilson (Edward G. Robinson) is assigned to follow Meinike. As planned, Meinike leads Wilson to the small New England town of Harper, Connecticut where we find Kindler leading a new life as Charles Rankin, a professor at a nearby college. Rankin is about to marry Mary Longstreet (Loretta Young), the daughter of the prominent citizen Judge Longstreet. From this point on, it becomes a cat and mouse game between Wilson and Kindler/Rankin. As Wilson gathers more and more evidence, he comes closer and closer to forcing Kindler to reveal to all his real identity. 

    Orson Welles, whose acting was more in demand than he directing, is always on edge as his character becomes more and more trapped in a vice like grip until the final exciting climax. The always good Edward G. Robinson seems to be doing a variation of his Barton Keyes character from Billy Wilder’s “Double Indemnity.” Loretta Young is good as the naive wife who wants to believe her husband is innocent and not whom Wilson says he is. Also notable are a young Richard Long as Mary’s brother and Billy House who plays Mr. Potter, the checker playing General Store owner.

    Ironically, “The Stranger” is one of Welles few films to do well at the box office and the film was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay.  Due to its success, Welles was able to go on and make “The Lady from Shanghai” next. Admittedly, “The Stranger” is not in the class “Citizen Kane”, The Magnificent Ambersons” or “Touch of Evil”, it is a more standard thriller with some Wellesian touches thrown in however; it does not deserve to be more than just a footnote from Welles filmography and is certainly well worth seeing.  

A Tribute to Edie Adams

    Edie Adams died on Wednesday October 15th. While never a top tier star, during the 1950’s and 1960’s she was a prominent supporting player in many popular movies of the day. Appearances included roles in “The Apartment”, “Lover Come Back”, “Under the Yum Yum Tree”, “Call me Bawana” and “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”  She also appeared in such dramatic films as “The Best Man”, “Love With the Proper Stranger” and a TV version of “The Spiral Staircase.” TV appearances were plentiful including “The Lucy Show”, “The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour”, “Murder, She Wrote”, “Love Boat”, “McMillan & Wife” and in 1963, she had her own variety show “Here’s Edie.”

    Edie made her Broadway debut in “Wonderful Town” with Rosalind Russell and directed by the legendary George Abbott. Adams second Broadway show brought her stardom when she appeared as the voluptuous Daisy Mae in the original production of “Li’ Abner” for which she won a Tony for her performance.  From there she went on to movies and TV.

    Edie Adams met the legendary comedian Ernie Kovacs in the early 1950’s and they married in 1954, and remained married until his death in a car accident in 1962. She was left with a $500,000 bill in back taxes, which she paid off to the IRS. For all her different roles as a Singer, Broadway, TV and Movie Star, Edie is probably best remembered for the 19 years she was known as the Muriel Cigar girl. In a series of commercials dressed in sexy gowns and high heels she seduced the screen viewer caressing the Muriel winking seductively and whispering in a Mae West voice “Why don’t you pick one up and smoke it sometime.”

    According to the New York Times obituary, one of Edie’s most memorable appearances was on the final show of  The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour. It was the last time Lucy and Desi appeared together. As part of the show, Edie and Vivian Vance “performed a bell-clear, heartbreaking rendition of the Alan Brandt-Bob Haymes classic ‘That’s All’, which reduced the entire crew to tears.”   





Recommended Viewing:


The Apartment

Love With the Proper Stranger

Lover Come Back

The Best Man

Under the Yum Yum Tree

Its; A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.


Also, if you can find a copy the final Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour.  


They don’t make them like Bogart anymore. In 1999, the American Film Institute named Humphrey Bogart the greatest American male movie star. A cultural icon who has been immortalized in movies (Breathless, Play it Again, Sam, The Man with Bogart’s Face and the TV movie Bogie), in at least two cartoons, music (Don’t Bogart That Joint, Key Largo), in comic books and even on a U.S. postal stamp . Starting in the 1960’s Bogart became a symbol of rebellion for the emerging counter-culture who embraced the contradictory characteristics of his anti-hero roles in films like Casablanca, In a Lonely Place, High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon. Bogart film festivals on college campus’ and at repertory theaters were common well into the 1970’s.

The Bogart cult began in New York and Boston soon spreading to the rest of the country. The New Yorker Theater in New York City ran a double feature of To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep that broke the house attendance records. That same year, in Cambridge the first Bogart Film Festival was held to large crowds of students.

    Bogart’s acting career began in the theater. This was after serving a hitch in the Navy. He did not have any formal training as an actor, but was a hard worker and appeared in at least seventeen Broadway plays, mostly juvenile and romantic second leads wearing white pants and carrying a tennis racquet. Many credited Bogart with being the first actor to say “Tennis, anyone” on stage.  According to IMDB and the Humphrey Bogart web site, Bogart made his screen debut with a bit part in a 1920 film called Life of which little seems to be known. He apparently made two more short subjects in the late 1920’s before making his feature film debut in Up the River. Not only was this Bogart’s feature film debut, it was also Spencer Tracy’s who had the lead role in this early John Ford film. For the next few years, Bogart alternated between Broadway and some minor screen roles, the most notable of which is Three on a Match. In 1935, Bogart’s last stage performance became his gateway to stardom, though it would still take a while to reach the top. He was signed to play the tired cold-blooded killer Duke Mantee in Robert E. Sherwood’s The Petrified Forest. The play’s star was Englishman Leslie Howard. Howard owned the production rights and when Warner Brothers purchased the screen rights, Howard insisted, Bogart recreates his role as Duke Mantee. Warner’s wanted the more popular and established Edward G. Robinson. Howard told Warner’s, no Bogart, no movie. Bogart was in. He received rave reviews from the critics for his performance. However, for the next six or seven years Bogart would remain a supporting player.  With his next film, Bullets or Ballots, Bogart continued playing the second “banana” to many of Warner’s top stars. Mostly gangsters or shady characters in films like San Quentin, Kid Galahad, Dead End, Racket Busters, Angels With Dirty Faces, The Roaring Twenties, and You Can’t Get Away With Murder. In many of these films, Bogart was shot and killed by either Edward G. Robinson or James Cagney. There were some early roles where he was on the right side of the law. Bogart was impressive as the District Attorney in Marked Woman, and in Black Legion, where he played a good character who gets mixed up with a racist organization. There was also a nice role in an offbeat film called Stand In. There were two westerns during this period also, The Oklahoma Kid, with Cagney and Virginia City with Errol Flynn.  The Oklahoma Kid is the better of the two films. Virginia City is an odd duck containing one the strangest Bogart roles, that of a Mexican-American outlaw!

    In the 1940’s, full fledge stardom and the films that would be responsible for the Bogart cult were coming up. 1941 saw two classic Bogie’s, High Sierra directed by Raoul Walsh from a screenplay by John Huston based on a novel by W.R. Burnett   started things off. This was also the first collaboration between Bogart and John Huston who would be responsible for many of Bogart’s classic films. Bogart and Huston were friends having a lot in common, drinking buddies, rebels, and adventurers. George Raft, who co-starred with Bogart in the 1940 film, They Drive by Night, declined the role of “Mad Dog” Roy Earle, as did Paul Muni, opening up the door for Bogart to get the lead in this “A” production.  The film co-starred Ida Lupino, Arthur Kennedy and Joan Leslie. Bogart gives a major performance as the Dillinger like “Mad Dog.”  

    Bogart and Huston reunited that same year for The Maltese Falcon, a film some consider one of the earliest noir flavored films. Huston wrote the screenplay, based on Dashiell  Hammett’s classic pulp novel. With this film, Huston made his film directing debut. If anyone actor, beside Leslie Howard, was responsible for Bogart’s becoming a star, it was George Raft, who was offered the role of Sam Spade and like he did with High Sierra turned it down! Bogart again was the recipient of Raft’s poor judgment. This 1941 film was the third version of The Maltese Falcon. Originally filmed in 1931, aka Dangerous Female, starring Ricardo Cortez as Sam Spade and Bebe Daniels as Ruth Wonderly, Una Merkel as Effie, Spade’s secretary and comedian Thelma Todd as Miles Archer’s wife. Being a pre-code film, this original version contains scenes that would not be permitted in the latter two versions. The film does not hide the homosexual overtones of the Joel Cairo character as well as being more blatant about Spade’s sexual habits with various women. Like the 1941, version it sticks close to the book even using much of the novel’s dialogue. The 1936 version,  Satan Meets a Lady  was tame by comparison and different in tone. A comedy mystery with all the characters names changed. The film starred Bette Davis and Warren Williams.  The Bogart/Huston version turned out to be a classic,  giving Bogart the opportunity to a play a complex character, greedy, cynical yet with a personal code of honor.  The film was not all Bogart and Huston, cinematographer Arthur Edeson work was an important part of the mood and atmosphere. Low-key lighting, and off beat camera angles contribute immensely. Memorable is the final scene with Mary Astor as the bars of the cage like elevator close on her signifying the prison bars she will soon be behind.  The film was nominated for three Academy Awards, Best Picture, Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor.

    In 1942, Bogart played his next to last gangster role in a little known film called The Big Shot. He would not play another hood until his next to last film The Desperate Hours in 1955. That same year, came Across the Pacific, another collaboration with friend John Huston, which also reunited him with Sydney Greenstreet and Mary Astor. During that same year, he made the film that remains his most beloved, and is generally considered one of the best films of all time (ranked # 2 on the AFI Best American Films list) and certainly one of the most romantic. If anyone character and film, symbolize the Bogart mystique, it is Rick Blaine in Casablanca.  At the time, no one thought they were making a “classic.” The story was based on a failed Broadway play called Everybody Comes to Rick’s. The budget was small and they needed to film it fast. True, they had some big stars in the film, Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henried as well as Peter Lorre, Claude Rains and Dooley Wilson, but no one was expecting too much.. The greatness of the film was in the stars. Everything was in alignment, art and commerce. It is this role more than any other than personifies the Bogart mystique. The wounded sensitive individual, the loner, the anti-hero with a code that says’ “I stick my neck out for nobody.” The film is loaded with classic lines, “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine” ,  “Major Strasser has been shot. Round up the usual suspects”, “Here’s looking at you kid.” The list or rather the dialogue goes on.

Action in the North Atlantic is a rather routine World War II action film,  followed by  Sahara and Passage to Marseille, which reunited Bogart with director Michael Curtiz from Casablanca, as well as Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet Peter Lorre and the beautiful French actress Michelle Morgan. 

    In 1944, Howard Hawks gave a screen test to a young 19 year old model that he ended up casting opposite Bogart in To Have and Have Not. The young model was of course, Lauren Bacall and at nineteen, she was an equal match for the forty-four year Bogart. The back story of their love affair is just as interesting as the on screen romance. Hawks discovery of Bacall was due to his wife pointing her out in a magazine photo. Bogart and Bacall were attracted to each other almost immediately, to the discontent of Howard Hawks, a ladies man, who had eyes for Bacall himself.  The film is loaded with great writing and Bacall’s dialogue includes her career making lines “you know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and……blow.” Pure sexual heat!!!

    Conflict, Bogart’s next role is a decent enough crime drama of a man who killed his wife in a “perfect crime” only to see it unravel as the film progresses. Alexis Smith co-stars as the wife’s younger sister, who Bogart is in love with and Sydney Greenstreet is also on board. His next film, The Big Sleep reteamed Bogart and Bacall with Howard Hawks directing this classic private eye story based on Raymond Chandler’s novel. As Philip Marlowe, Bogart is hired by a rich family in a convoluted case that even the screenwriters and Chandler himself was unsure who the murderer was, at least that is the legend that is told. There are two versions of  The Big Sleep. The so-called pre release version and the official 1946 release. Both versions are available on DVD. In the pre-release version, Bacall’s part is much smaller however, it was decided that everyone wanted to cash in on the Bogart-Bacall relationship and they enlarged her role, which included the now famous sexually charged race horse dialogue. Getting the shaft was Martha Vickers whose  role as the younger sister Carmen was decreased. The film is loaded with great dialogue and even though the plot is convoluted and hard to follow it is just great.  Bogart’s next two films, Dead Reckoning and The Two Mrs. Carroll’s I have not seen in a long time. From what I remember, both films are decent though not in the stratosphere of greatness. For me the inclusion of Barbara Stanwyck in “The Two Mrs. Carroll’s makes this something I want to see again. Dark Passage followed. This is the third film pairing Bogart and Bacall and while good, it is the least effective of the four films they made together. Based on a pulp novel by David Goodis. Bogart is Vincent Barry, an escaped prisoner from San Quentin who gets plastic surgery so the police won’t recognize him and he can hunt for the real killer of the crime he was convicted of. He is sheltered by  Irene (Bacall) an artist who has followed the case and tries to help prove his innocence. The most unique aspect of the film the us subjective use of the camera. We do not see Bogart for almost an hour into the film. Surprisingly, this was the second film  in the same year (1947) to use this technique. Robert Montgomery in Lady in the Lake, which he both directed and starred in, used the same subjective camera style. Continuing the Bogart connection here of course in that Montgomery played Phillip Marlowe in this  screen adaptation of a Raymond Chandler novel.    

    Bogart and John Huston reunited in 1948 to make another great classic, The Treasure of Sierra Madre.   Based on a novel by the mysterious B. Traven, Bogart is Fred C. Dobbs, one of two down on their luck Americans, Tim Holt, as Bob Curtin is the other, who team up with old time prospector only known as Howard, played by the director’s father, Walter Huston to search for gold in Mexico. Bogart gives a terrific performance as the greed stricken Dobbs who after they strike gold starts to lose his mind along with his trust of his fellow prospectors.  The film is noted for the famous if often misquoted line of dialogue “Badges, we don’t need no stinking badges.” The correct dialogue is “Badges? We ain’t got no badges! We don’t need no badges!  I don’t have to show you any stinking badges!”

    The same year (1948), Bogart and Huston made“Key Largo which would also be the fourth and final film Bogie and Bacall would make together. Also starring Edward G. Robinson, Lionel Barrymore, Claire Trevor. Bogart is very effective as Frank McCloud, a former officer who comes to Key Largo to visit the family of a G.I. killed in the war. The hotel had been commandeered by Johnny Rocco (Robinson) and his gang who eventually plan to escape to Cuba. At first, McCloud is reluctant to get involved (shades of Rick from Casablanca), but after Rocco and his men murder some locals and force McCloud  to command the yacht that will take them to Cuba he manages to kill them all including Rocco. Bogart is laid back and stoic as  McCloud waiting for the right chance to get the slimy Rocco.  In earlier days, Bogart always portrayed the hood, the bad guy, here the roles are reversed with Robinson as the gangster and Bogie the hero.     

    In 1948, Bogart started his own production company, Santana Productions, and the first film under the new company was Nick Ray’s Knock on Any Door released in 1949. This film received mixed reviews when originally released. Bogart play’s Andrew Morton a lawyer who is defending a young murderer, Nick Romano (John Derek). Morton, like Romano grew up in the slums and his defense in the courtroom is that Romano is more a victim of society’s failings forcing people in slums, like Nick, to lead a life of crime. Part of Morton’s own guilt in taking the case was that years earlier he defended Nick’s innocent father and lost the case.  Though Morton loses the case with the young Romano, he gives a powerful argument as he pleads to the jury to spare Nick’s life and  to prevent future Nick’s from following the same path. The film’s most famous piece of dialogue is when Nick says “Live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse.”    

    Bogart’s next films were Tokyo Joe, Chain Lightening, and the best of the Santana productions In a Lonely Place again directed by Nick Ray. An excellent film noir, In a Lonely Place tells the story of screenwriter Dixon Steele (Bogart) who has a history of violence and becomes a suspected in a murder. During this time, Dix becomes involved with neighbor and luckless actress Laurel Gary (Gloria Grahame). Laurel provides Dix with the alibi he needs and for the short time, their relationship goes well. However, Dix’s demons and heavy drinking soon come out and Laurel who has fallen in love with Dix begins to wonder if he really is a murderer and fears for her life. Though less known than Bogart classics such as The Maltese Falcon and The Treasure of Sierra Madre, In a Lonely Place is a brilliant film. Superbly acted by Bogart in one of his best performances. Gloria Grahame is also just perfect! Not only a good murder mystery but a harsh dark look at the underside of Hollywood.    

    Bogart only made one film with Katherine Hepburn. “The African Queen” is a kind of “Odd Couple.” Instead of Felix and Oscar, we get coarse uncouth Charlie Allnut and prim teetotaler, missionary Rose Sayer, set against a background of tensions between rival British and German colonial interests. “The African Queen” is also a mature love story of two adults from two different worlds who under strained circumstances find courage, humanity and love. Both Bogart and Hepburn give tour-due force performances. Bogart won the Best Actor Award beating out Marlon Brando for “A Streetcar Named Desire.”  Hepburn wan nominated, as was John Huston for Director and for Screenplay (along with James Agee).

    The sixth and final collaboration between Bogart and Huston was the offbeat 1953 film Beat the Devil. Arguably, one of the first cult films Beat the Devil died at the box office when it first premiered, probably because few may have known what to make of it. The film is an oddity, satirical, a heist film, adventure film and so on. Co-starring Gina Lollobrigida, Jennifer Jones and Robert Morley. Co-written by John Huston and Truman Capote

    By 1954, Bogart was probably beginning to show the signs of the cancer that would kill him in a few years however, 1954 was a great year for him, cinematically speaking. The Caine Mutiny, Sabrina and The Barefoot Contessa, provided Bogie with three diverse roles as his career was coming toward the end. “The Caine Mutinybased on Herman Wolk’s massive bestselling Pulitzer prize winning novel had a cast that included Fred Mac Murray, Van Johnson, Jose Ferrer and E.G. Marshall. In small roles were Lee Marvin, Steve Brodie and Claude Akins. But it is Bogart who steals the show as the crazed Captain Queeg, a character that has become imbedded in our cultural heritage. The film received seven Academy Award nominations including Bogart for Best Actor and Best Picture. Sabrina is unique among Bogie’s films, a romantic comedy, directed by the great Billy Wilder. It was the only time they worked together and apparently, it was not a happy set. Bogart got along with no one, not Wilder, nor his younger co-stars William Holden and Audrey Hepburn.  Daniel Kimmel, in his new book, I’ll Have What She’s Having, provides a great back-story on what went on before and during the time the cameras rolled. Nevertheless, the end product is a great romantic comedy, one of Billy Wilder’s more gentile films with Bogart proving himself again as a love interest.  

  In 1955, Bogart made what would turn out to be the last of the few comedies he made, We’re No Angels is a fun film about three prisoners who escaped from Devil’s Island and end up helping a storeowner they originally planned to rob. It’s a pleasant film with a cast that includes Aldo Ray, Peter Ustinov, Joan Bennett, Basil Rathbone and Leo G. Carroll. The film reunited Bogie with long time Warner Brothers director Michael Curtiz.

The best of the films Bogart made in 1955 was William Wyler’s The Desperate Hours co-starring Fredric March and Arthur Kennedy. Bogie is Glen Griffin, the leader of a gang of three who hold March’s family hostage in their own house. Based on a hit Broadway play and novel by Joseph Hayes, this was Bogie’s final role as a criminal and he does not disappoint. Arguably, he is too old for the role (a young Paul Newman portrayed Griffin in the Broadway production), though that is a small price to pay to see Bogart back as a hood (Bogart was not the only one too old for his role. Gig Young was forty-two at the time  playing the boyfriend of March’s 19 year old daughter. One final comment on this film or rather the 1990 remake directed by Michael Cimino, with Mickey Rourke in the Griffin role. Stay away from it. 

Budd Shulberg’s novel The Harder They Fall was Humphrey Bogart’s final film, a hard-hitting story about corruption in the boxing world. Bogart plays a down on his luck sportswriter who get involved with a crooked fight promoter (Rod Steiger) who uses a naïve glassed jawed boxer to fix fights. Both Bogart and Steiger are terrific in their roles and while the ending is a bit of a cop out this is a really good film and a tough look at the boxing industry. The Harder They Fall was released in May of 1956. Humphrey Bogart died eight months later in January of 1957. He was only fifty-eight years old.     

The Left Handed Gun (1958) Arthur Penn

Arthur Penn’s “The Left Handed Gun” is a James Dean film without James Dean. The angst, tormented, misunderstood youth Dean portrayed in “Rebel without a Cause” and “East of Eden” is all here.  This role was originally scheduled for James Dean who died in the well-documented car crash on September 11, 1955. Paul Newman who at this point in his career was looked at as a Marlon Brando/James Dean wanna be was selected to replace Dean as his previously did in “Somebody up There Likes Me”.  Based on a television play by Gore Vidal, Newman play’s Billy the Kid as a tormented misunderstood, inarticulate, hot headed, and resentful youth whose one father figure, the English cattleman John Tunstall, was gun-down in cold blood by a crooked sheriff and his deputies. This was the start of the famed Lincoln County war.  While based on fact this is a highly fictionalized version of the conflict, one example is Tunstall who is portrayed as an older man so he could represent a father figure to Billy was less than a month shy of twenty-five when he was killed.

    Billy is hell bent on revenge, one by one taking the life of each of the four men who killed John Tunstall in cold blood. Along the way, he meets Pat Garrett (John Dehner) who befriends Billy but warns him against seeking revenge against the killers especially after an amnesty was issued by the governor for all the killing during the Lincoln County War. However, Billy has a narrow vision and even after promising Pat Garrett that he would not cause any trouble on his Wedding day, guns down the last of Tunstall’s killers. 

    Penn already displays some of the themes that would be prevalent in his later work, the outlaw as a sympathetic anti-authority figure, the breakdown of myths and sudden unexpected violence breaking out causing pandemonium. Also, notable is the use of actor Denver Pyle who portrayed Texas Ranger Frank Hamer in “Bonnie & Clyde” and here plays a deputy sheriff, who kills one of Billy’s gang (James Best) before being shot gunned to death himself by Billy.  Penn loves outsiders and continued to portray them throughout his career in films  like “Bonnie and Clyde“, “Alice’s Restaurant” and “Little Big Man .” He has also taken film genres and given them a revisionist look , The P.I. in “Night Moves”, the gangster film in “Bonnie and Clyde” and of course the western in “Little Big Man”, “The Missouri Breaks” and “The Left Handed Gun.”   

     Paul Newman’s portrays Billy as inarticulate, uneducated with a boyish charm (Newman charm to be more accurate). He is sometime over the top and actually gave a better performance as the inarticulate, uneducated with boyish charm, Rocky Graziano in the 1956 film “Somebody up There Likes Me.” Newman was just becoming a major star at this time and would go on to become an even bigger star and a better actor as his career progressed.  John Dehner is okay as Pat Garrett, though I did find both James Best and James Congdon as Billy’s two gang members unconvincing.  

    “The Left Handed Gun” is a flawed film that is more interesting than most successful works, unique in its vision in a decade known for its bland conformity.