WolfmanOz at the Movies #27

Bogie

Born on Christmas Day in 1899, Humphrey DeForest Bogart, affectionately known as Bogie, is probably the ultimate American movie icon, and, in 1999, the American Film Institute selected him as the greatest male star of classic American cinema – few could disagree.

What makes Bogart so unusual is that he became a major star whilst in his 40s, was of average height, had a lisp and he certainly didn’t have the classic looks of a matinee idol. But the aura he conveyed of personal integrity, being tough without drawing attention to itself and an attitude of not tolerating any bullshit made him beloved both of men and women.

He began acting on Broadway shows in the 1920s and his big screen breakthrough came with his role as gangster Duke Mantee in The Petrified Forest in 1936 opposite Leslie Howard and Bette Davis. Unfortunately this led to him being typecast at Warner Bros. mainly as gangsters in secondary roles.

His breakthrough to stardom came in 1941, first with High Sierra but then into the major league as private eye Sam Spade in the marvellous The Maltese Falcon, directed and written by John Huston in his directorial debut. Both Huston and Bogart would go on together to make six classic movies in the next 13 years.

He became a romantic idol for all eternity as Rick Blaine the nightclub owner hiding from a ambiguous past and treading a fine line amongst the Nazis, the French underground and the Vichy authorities in the timeless 1943 classic Casablanca.

There’s not much more that I can say about this magnificent film that hasn’t been written before, except to say it is in my top 10 films of all time.

Bogart’s output in the 1940s was astonishing for the number of terrific films he made – Across The Pacific, Sahara, To Have And Have Not (where he met and married for the third time to the love of his life in Lauren Bacall), The Big Sleep (the definitive Philip Marlowe), Dark Passage and Key Largo.

And in 1948 he re-united again with John Huston to make the legendary The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre where he played the role of Fred C. Dobbs, who at the beginning of the film starts as a likeable bum but during the course of the movie is driven by greed to become an unsympathetic paranoid desperado. It’s arguably Bogart’s finest film performance and, again it’s a film that sits in my top 10.

Finally, in 1951, Bogart would win the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Charlie Allnut in The African Queen (again directed and co-written by John Huston) where he played a rough and drunken helmsman of a small steamboat who is accompanied by a prim and proper missionary superbly played by the incomparable Katharine Hepburn.

Again, Bogart’s quality of output in the 1950s was still extremely high with In A Lonely Place, The Enforcer, Deadline, Beat The Devil, Sabrina, The Barefoot Contesa and The Desperate Hours but his last great performance was as Captain Queeg in 1954s The Caine Mutiny where he deftly played the psychotic and tyrannical officer whilst also managing to maintain a sense of sympathy for this character.

Bogart would die of oesophageal cancer on January 14th, 1957 – he was only 57.

There was never been a movie star quite like Humphrey Bogart, and, I’m quite sure, there never will be.

Enjoy.

18 thoughts on “WolfmanOz at the Movies #27”

  1. I think his lisp helped us believe he was a real character with faults like ourselves. His average build also because heroes or bad guys are usually visually imposing or overbearing. Unlike Hoffman, Hanks, Stallone and Cruise to name a few. Can’t stand any of them. Huston made him and can’t imagine Chinatown, one of my favourites,
    without Huston acting.


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  2. Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, Beat the Devil and In a Lonely Place for me. The first two for the stellar dialog and Bogey bouncing repartee with his stellar casts, the third because it’s such an, ahem, off beat movie, and the last because Gloria Grahame is my fave actress and it is great to see her go to work with Bogey.


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  3. My favourite American actor of all time and also Michael Caine’s favourite. Mr Caine took his stage name from the film ‘The Caine Mutiny’ which ‘Hump’ was staring in. Otherwise, Maurice Micklewhite it would be – NOT………..lol.

    Just about love all of his many films. Shame he died of lung cancer before he was 60 years, however, like many others of the day, he did smoke like a chimney.


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  4. The famous last few words by Bogart — Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship — were not actually in the script or filmed. They were a last minute addition and overdubbed in post-production by Bogart.

    A masterful example of lighting and editing. It still holds up after all this time.


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  5. The Big Sleep is one of my favourite movies. Bogie is an earlier version of Bruce Willis, although the latter doesn’t have the same chemistry with femme fatales that Bogart has.


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  6. All great movies. Thanks Wolfman. I have a real soft spot for African Queen (five o’clock shadow and leeches!), the Big Sleep and Casablanca close seconds.

    Bogart also loved to sail. His yacht, Santana, was the other love of his life.

    Not a matinee idol in looks, but a real physical presence. Like the lovely Betty, he lit up the screen in all his roles. A true “star”.


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  7. Re Casablanca, see also Woody Allen’s film “Play it again Sam”.
    Oesophageal cancer is the lurking menace for all of us fond of a drink, as was Bogart. Another notable character, writer, raconteur and argumentative bon vivant who succumbed to it was Christopher Hitchens.


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  8. Yup, despite strong competition from handsome, boofy blokes, Bogey acted them all into oblivion. Great actors, like Gerard Depardieu or Alec Guiness for example, can transcend their physical appearance in an almost magical way and take the audience with them.

    And as for comparisions with Bruce Willis – phfft! Phooey! Balderdash! etc etc


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  9. The Big Sleep is one of my favourite lines which I often use: “I’m sorry, I make many mistakes.” Gets me out of all sorts of scrapes.


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  10. They used to slap the leading lady quite often in those days to quell some form of hysteria. Surprising that the usual suspects haven’t cancelled them by now.


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  11. The big sleep, the Maltese falcon, the barefoot contessa.
    The sacrifice at the airport to release his love from the danger of their surrounds to be left alone to face the unknown –
    Oh the horror, the horror


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  12. Wolfman, you’ve done it again!

    Well done.

    plus lots! All fine movies and why would they not be with Bogey in them!

    Casablanca was on the teev last weekend; obviously I watched it again. Would love to see the African Queen; it seems a long time since that great fillum was on the telly and all the rest.

    Sadly, we’ve lost so much since those wonderful heights of film making.


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  13. Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon are my two favourite Bogey films.
    Another of his I quite like is the WWII action film, Sahara, although I acknowledge it is no classic, and never gets a mention these days.


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  14. I agree with all that you have written.
    Mai add that the sexual tension between Bogie and Bacall in The Big Sleep is palpable.
    One film that you didn’t mention, and which is a favourite of mine, is We’re No Angels in which Bogie was joined by the incomparable Peter Ustinov and Aldo Ray
    moderated

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