All Through the Night (1941) Vincent Sherman

Bogart Takes on the Nazis.

Produced and released  by Warner Brothers, always the most socially conscience of the studios,  this 1941 propaganda film came out just months before America would enter World War II. Starring Humphrey Bogart as “Gloves” Donahue, a local hoodlum who runs the neighborhood bookie operations. “Glove’s” is a long way from Bogart’s other roles as a gangster. Here he is sort of a neighborhood Robin Hood with his gang, a bunch of Damon Runyonesque type comedic characters.

Most of the neighborhood seems to like “Gloves”, except for the cops, and his rivals led by Barton McLane. Conrad Veidt plays Ebbing, the head Nazi who commands an underground organization of fifth columnist with sabotage on their mind. Peter Lorre is Pepi, Ebbing’s little weasel of an assistant.

“Gloves” involvement begins when a neighborhood German baker is murdered by the master of creepiness, Peter Lorre. The baker was a friend of “Gloves” mother and made his favorite cheesecake, so at his mother’s beckoning he begins to look into the killing. When a nightclub bouncer is also murdered and one of “Gloves” gloves is found at the scene, the police can only conclude one thing, he is the murderer.

While trying to prove his innocence “Gloves” investigation leads him to discover a group of fifth columnist with plans to sabotage the New York Harbor by blowing up a naval battleship. The police, who are clueless about the German threat, are only interested in  fingering “Gloves” for the murders.

Surprisingly, the film is amazingly light in its humor considering that the war was going strong in Europe by this time. Released on December 2nd, according to IMDB, only days before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and America would enter the war. The release may have been only in Los Angeles though because the New York Times review is dated January 24th  1942 and makes note that this is a “pre Pearl Harbor” film, “lest anyone raises the  objection that it plays too fast and loose with a subject much too serious for melodramatic kidding in these times.”  The review, by Bosley Crowther, then goes on to say, “One would hate to think that an enemy plot of such elaborate magnitude as the one presented here should be so completely overlooked by our capable F. B. I. (italics mine), and that the responsibility for licking it should fall upon a semi-gangster. So don’t even let yourself think that this picture pretends to be fact. It is straight, unadulterated fiction pulled out of a script-writer’s hat.”

So here we are now some 70 years later, and considering what we have been going through since 2001, such blind faith in the F.B.I. or Homeland Security or any other Government Agency is naiveté of the highest order. I am not picking on Mr. Crowthers, as I usually do, I’m sure that many Americans had blind faith in and felt secure that organizations like the F.B.I had security matters well in hand back in those days.

Much of the films humor is supplied by members of “Gloves” gang, consisting of fanciful character actors like William Demarest and Frank McHugh along with some additional bizarre casting of Jackie Gleason and Phil Silvers. McHugh’s character is newly married and the running joke throughout the film is that he cannot consummate his marriage because he is always helping  “Gloves” in hunting down the Nazis. Gleason and Silvers are regulated to humorous roles that are close to slapstick level.

There is a touch of seriousness thrown into the mix when “Gloves” in his search to find the murderers comes across nightclub singer Leda Hamilton (Karren Verne), a young woman who is first made to seem to be aiding the Nazis. We soon find out that Leda is being forced to help them because her father is a prisoner in Dachau. Ebbing promises to keep him alive as long as she helps them with their sabotage plans.

The cast also includes Jane Darwell as “Gloves” mother, Judith Anderson as an assistant to Ebbing and Barton McLane as Callahan, the rival gang leader. Bogart handles his role in typical Bogie fashion, cool and unflappable. Peter Lorre and Karren Verne would marry, in real life, a few years after this film was made. Today, “All Through the Night” comes across as a bizarre little film, somewhat uncomfortable in its humor, melodramatic with some odd casting but still entertaining enough.

***

The Big Shot (1942) Lewis Seiler

Joe “Duke” Berne (Humphrey Bogart) is a three-time loser. One more arrest and the law will send him away for life. With that ingrained into his head, Duke has given up the criminal life. The problem is getting a regular job, you know how it is, who’s  going to hire an ex-con? No one, so here he is roaming the streets, unshaven, wondering where his next meal is going to come from. 

In desperation, Duke gets involved with some old cronies who are planning an armored car robbery. At first Duke wants nothing to do with it. He wants to remain clean despite taunts from a young punk named Frenchy who calls Duke a coward even throwing a glass of milk in his face. Duke takes it all.

When Duke finds out mob lawyer, Martin Fleming (Stanley Ridges) in backing up the deal he becomes interested.

Duke visit’s Fleming who is now married to Lorna (Irene Manning), Duke’s former lover. It’s obvious from the first time they see each other, Lorna still has a thing for Duke and visa versa. With Duke in charge they plan the robbery (Duke straightens Frenchy out by throwing a glass of milk in his face and kicking him off his chair) which all seems to think will be a piece of cake except for Duke. The night of the robbery as Duke is getting ready to join the boys, Lorna shows up at his door pleading with him not to go through with it. She tells him they could run away together and start a new life. Duke, still hooked on Lorna, stays with her.

The robbery, without Duke goes bad, all the criminals are killed except for Frenchy who will get his revenge on Duke soon after. A witness to the robbery, an elderly woman, is brow beaten by the police into mistakenly identifying Duke as the crook who got away.   

Duke, now being hunted by the police, figures the only way to get himself off the hook is to get Fleming to defend him by setting up a full proof alibi. Fleming double crosses Duke after Frenchy, getting his revenge, tells Fleming about finding Duke and his wife together.

The remainder of the film spirals out of control as Duke escapes from prison, but in an unbelievable moment of weakness agrees to give himself up in order to set the record straight about a young con who is innocently being accused of being part of the escape plan and the resulting murder of a prison guard. We know from the beginning, Duke is doomed since the entire story is told in flashback from Duke’s deathbed in prison.

“The Big Shot” was made after Bogart had finally become a major Warners star that is after “The Maltese Falcon” and “High Sierra” so it is surprising to see him in a film that has the look and feel of a programmer. Still, Bogie is Bogie and he makes the film enjoyable but overall there is not much there. The car chase sequence toward the end is poorly planned with state police on motorcycles chasing after Bogie and his girl along a snowy icy twisting road. The motor cycle cops are implausibly shooting at Bogart’s car with one hand while managing to steer the motorcycle along the icy curved road with the other. 

Directed by Lewis Seiler, who spent most of his career cranking out standard melodramas and westerns of little distinction. Bogart during his second tier days worked with Seiler in quite a few films (Crime School, You Can’t Get Away With Murderer and King of the Underworld), Seiler’s other works include some early westerns starring Tom Mix, “Tugboat Annie”, “Pittsburgh” and “Guadalcanal Diary”, probably his best known work. George Raft turned down this role and as he did with “High Sierra” and “The Maltese Falcon” and just like those earlier flicks, Bogart took over the part.  Don’t expect much from this minor film other than Bogie who makes it worth at least one viewing considering it was his last gangster role.

**

The Mayor of Hell’s Kitchen Goes to Crime School

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     I was watching “Hell’s Kitchen” the other night, a 1939 Warner Brothers programmer with The Dead End Kids. They were still riding the crest of a wave of success that began with William Wyler’s “Dead End” and continued with films like “Angels with Dirty Faces,” and the lesser successful “Angels Wash Their Faces.” This is, of course, before they began deteriorating into overaged caricatures of their former selves as they continuously changed names, from The Dead End Kids to The East Side Kids to The Little Tough Guys and finally the Bowery Boys. Moving from major studios like Warners Brothers and Universal to the depths of poverty row with Monogram. What struck me about the Hell’s Kitchen was this feeling of déjà vu, I had seen the film once before but that was not why I had the feeling. Somehow, I thought Humphrey Bogart was in this film or maybe it was James Cagney. In addition, to The Dead End Kids, “Hell’s Kitchen” starred Ronald Reagan (who also appeared with the boys in “Angels Wash Their Faces”) billed way down on the list of characters after all the DEK’s!

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    About halfway into the film, it struck me that “Hell’s Kitchen” was similar to the Humphrey Bogart film “Crime School” made just the year before. While there are differences between the films, the similarities are striking beginning with the fact both films are directed by Lewis Seiler, and Crane Wilber is given credit for both the story and co-screenwriting on each film. Then it came to me there is another similar film, 1933’s “The Mayor of Hell” where young James Cagney plays a reformed gangster who takes over a juvenile reformatory attempting to fix a corrupt system, which was what Ronald Reagan’s almost reformed gangster father-in-law Stanley Fields does in “Hell’s Kitchen.”

 All three films contain corrupt sadistic superintendents. Both “Crime School” and “Hell’s Kitchen” have scenes where the juvenile inmates establish a self-governing system though, in “Hell’s Kitchen” it is sanctioned by the officials in charge whereas in “Hell’s Kitchen”, it quickly turns to a lynch mob mentality. In “Crime School”, Bogart, a deputy commissioner, takes over the corrupt reformatory, as does lawyer Reagan in “Hell’s Kitchen.”  In “The Mayor of Hell”, a young James Cagney plays as a reformed gangster who takes over a juvenile reformatory attempting to fix a corrupt system.

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    Of course, all the films have caring, beautiful leading women. In the “Mayor of Hell”, it is the lovely Madge Evans, while it is Margaret Lindsay who attempts to take care of the boys in “Hell’s Kitchen.” “Crime School’s” leading lady Gale Page is a bit different as she is the older sister of juvenile problem child Billy Halop.  One difference between the films is that “The Mayor of Hell” is pre-code while the other two films, made late in the decade, were more restricted in what they could show.                                                                                                      

    Today, remakes, sequels are almost an expected part of movie going. Can anyone imagine a summer season without a remake or a sequel?  We know creativity and the financial guts to take chances is a rare commodity in Hollywood. With these three films, we are given a snapshot that taking chances and looking how to save a buck in Hollywood is not new.  Warner Brothers recycled the same story, and in the case of two of the three films, the same actors (The Dead End Kids), the same director and the same writer, all within six years. That’s economy.

     None of the films could be called great but all are entertaining, however, “The Mayor of Hell” shines with good  performances by Cagney and Frankie Darro and “Crime School”, is well worth your time if for no other reason than it has Bogart. “Hell’s Kitchen” biggest problem is really a lack of a strong leading man. Ronald Reagan comes across as just bland. Of the three films, “The Mayor of Hell” is the only one available on DVD.  Your best bet to catch the other two films is when they occasionally appear on TCM or download on-line.

Bogie

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.     

You Can’t Get Away With Murder (1939) Lewis Seiler

    By 1939, the gangster film was running out of steam evidenced by “You Can’t Get Away With Murder,” a run of the mill, déjà vu flick that must have left even filmgoers of the period wanting more. They used to call these kinds of film programmers. Many theaters back them changed programs twice a week, subsequently, a lot product was needed. Made the same year as “The Roaring Twenties,” “You Can’t Get Away With Murder” is Humphrey Bogart still at “B” level in the Warner gangster hierarchy portraying another of his despicable weasel roles.  Frank Martin is a small time gangster who takes young Johnny Stone (Billy Halop) under his wing until a botched robbery where Martin shoots the proprietor leaving Johnny’s borrowed gun at the scene of the crime. Even more unfortunately is Johnny “borrowed” the gun from his sister Madge’s (Gale Page) fiancée, Fred Burke who is arrested and sent to death row in Sing Sing. Martin and Johnny are also arrested on an earlier gas station robbery and also land in Sing Sing. Johnny spends most of his time working in the library with Pop, (Henry Travers) worrying on whether to tell the truth and rat on Martin so they will free Fred from being on death row. Martin, of course, does not trust that Johnny will not squeal to the bulls so when he and a couple of other cons plan a breakout they get Johnny to come along. Only Martin intends to make sure Johnny never talks again.

    If the film sounds somewhat familiar it may be because the cast (Bogart, Page and Halop) and director Lewis Seiler worked together the previous year in “Crime School.” Page and Halop were also brother and sister in that film. In addition, Bogart’s character Frank Martin could be a sibling of Baby Face Martin, Bogie’s character in “Dead End.”  

    Warner Brothers always had a great supporting cast of actors and here is no exception. We have Henry Travers as the librarian “Pop” a lifer who befriends Johnny. Eddie “Rochester” Anderson as Sam who reads cooks books, Joe Sawyer, who sure his appeal is going to be approved soon and George E. Stone as Toad who books bets on which prisoners will get the chair. While Bogart and Gale Page get top billing this is really Billy Halop’s film. Getting a chance to break away from the Dead End Kid films Halop was arguably the most talented of the group. It’s sad to say that Halop’s career never received the shot in the arm it needed, once he grew up, to propel him to stardom. He continued to act up, mostly in “B” films, into the 1970’s when he passed away. “All in the Family” fans may remember Billy when he played “Bert Munson” in a number of the episodes. Gale Page is pretty much forgotten today. She previously appeared in “Crime School” and “The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse,” both films with Bogart and Halop. She was also in “Four Daughters” as one of the Lemp Sisters and its sequel “Four Wives.” Other notable films include “They Drive by Night,” where she played Bogart’s wife and “Knute Rockne, All-American.” Though she made a few more films and some TV appearance she pretty much retired in the late 1940’s to concentrate on her marriage.

Here Bogart may not be the grade A star yet he would become but here he is one of the most low life vile characters he ever played and he has played some real weasels in the early days of his career. However, Bogart is always a pleasure to watch even in a minor effort like this. And while this film does not rank up there with “High Sierra” or “Angels With Dirty Faces” or “The Roaring Twenties” it keeps you interested.

    The film appears on TCM on occasion and since there is no DVD release, keep your eyes peeled for a showing.

The Harder They Fall (1956) Mark Robson

     Humphrey Bogart in his last film plays is of work sportswriter Eddie Willis who lets himself be hired by crooked fight promoter, Nick Benko, helping him exploit giant Argentine boxer, Turo Moreno, who cannot punch his way out of a paper bag. Benko fixed all the fights that is until the championship match, where the current champ, Buddy Brannen, (Max Baer) promises to beat Turo to a pulp.

      Bogart, in this his last film before he died about a year or so later of cancer. He looks worn down and much older than the 57 or so years  he was at the time, but Bogie gives us once last great performance. Rod Steiger who gave an Oscar winning performance as a corrupt waterfront hood in “On the Waterfront” gives another terrific performance here as the crooked fight promoter, Benko. Jan Sterling plays Bogie’s wife who watches as he wavers with he own inner struggles on right and wrong and finally walks out on him. The cast also includes Nehemiah Persoff, and Harold J. Stone.

     “The Harder They Fall” is a tough look at the way, the Boxing racket was, corrupt and dirty. The film spares nothing.  The final boxing match between Brannen and Moreno is equally brutal to anything in Scorsese’s Raging Bull. The film was based on a novel by Budd Shulberg who also has to his credits the story and screenplay for “On the Waterfront” and “A Face in the Crowd” among others. Burnett Guffey’s gritty black and white photography evokes the slimy bleak atmosphere of the boxing world.    Shulberg, based his character, Moreno on Primo Canera, the 6 foot 8 inch Italian boxer,  whose manager Lou Soresi, not only stole most of Canera’s money leaving him broke, he was also connected to prohibition underworld figure Owney Madden that, led to rumors over the years that many of Canera’s fights were fixed.  In real life just like in the film, Max Baer who played Buddy Brannen, beat up Canera so brutally, his career was essentially finished. Also, look for Jersey Joe Walcott in a small role.  

    According to Wikipedia, “The Harder They Fall” has two different endings. In the DVD version, Eddie Willis demands that boxing be banned while in the second version, a softer ending that is usually broadcast on TV Eddie just suggests that boxing be banned.

More than fifty years after its release the film still hits you will a strong right to the gut.