Today we continue with some thoughts inspired by TCM’s recent Humphrey Bogart retrospective. Unfortunately, among the few films they did NOT show were some of his earliest, rarest, and presumably worst, which I’ve been trying to see for decades. But it’s been fun to be reminded of why some of these films occupy their lowly places in the Bogart oeuvre. (Hmm…In a Lowly Place?) It’s also fun to spot various trends, e.g., his collaborations with various directors.
Few of those who did repeat business made more than two with Bogie (his preferred spelling, although many use “Bogey”), although under the studio system, he may have had little say in that until late in his career. Howard Hawks, for instance, did only two, although they’re both Top Ten or even Top Five material in my book: To Have and Have Not (1944) and The Big Sleep (1946).
John Huston is probably the only one who can be said to have had a long AND legendary collaboration with him, as demonstrated by these films:
The Maltese Falcon (1941; Huston’s directorial debut, and the consolidation of Bogart’s stardom)
Across the Pacific (1942; loopy wartime fun with several Falcon veterans)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948; one of Bogart’s best performances, and 3 Oscars for Huston pere et fils)
Key Largo (1948; the last of Bogart’s four films with then-wife Lauren Bacall)
The African Queen (1951; Bogart’s only Oscar)
Beat the Devil (1953; a flop at the time, but now something of a cult film for subverting the whole Falcon subgenre)
When you consider that Huston previously worked as a screenwriter on Bogart’s films, including his star-stepping classic High Sierra (1941), it’s even more impressive. Michael Curtiz made several films with Bogart; only one of them stands out, but since that’s Casablanca (1942), we’ll chalk them up as a good team.
What I find amusing is that the guy who worked most often with Bogart is a director most people have probably never heard of, i.e., Lloyd Bacon. Again, he was probably just a contract director at Warner Brothers, where Bogart made most of his movies, and there isn’t a certifiable classic among them, but some of these are solid…
Marked Woman (1937; a rare heroic role for Bogie at that stage, and his only feature with dreaded third wife Mayo Methot)
San Quentin (1937; typical gangster role)
Racket Busters (1938; Bogie had top billing but neither his screen time nor his sullen performance merited it)
The Oklahoma Kid (1939; one of his mercifully few Westerns, as a villain opposite James Cagney)
Invisible Stripes (1939; co-starring George Raft and William Holden—some cast!)
Brother Orchid (1940; effective as another gangster villain opposite Edward G. Robinson)
Action in the North Atlantic (1943; a cracking good WW II yarn with Raymond Massey)
More next week…