Humphrey Bogart (born on Christmas Day 1899, in New York City) is Turner Classic Movies’ first “Summer Under the Stars” star on Thursday, August 1, 2013. TCM will be showing several Bogart movies not made at Warner Bros., e.g., 20th Century Fox’s The Left Hand of God and Columbia’s In a Lonely Place, but nothing that the cable network hasn’t presented before. In other words, don’t expect anything along the lines of the 1934 crime drama Midnight or the 1931 Western A Holy Terror (assuming these two movies still exist). Now, the good news: No Casablanca — which was shown on Tuesday, as part of TCM’s Paul Henreid movie series. (See “Humphrey Bogart Movies — TCM schedule.) (Photo: Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not.)
Of TCM’s Humphrey Bogart movies I’ve seen, my favorite is probably John Huston’s Key Largo (1948), a suspense drama about a group of people, including several armed gangsters, stuck inside a Florida Keys hotel while a storm rages outside. Adapted by Huston and future director Richard Brooks (Elmer Gantry, In Cold Blood) from a play by Maxwell Anderson, Key Largo works chiefly because of its tight screenplay, moody black-and-white cinematography (Metropolis’ venerable Karl Freund, whose credits went back to the early 1910s), and a handful of superb performances — Bogart’s not among them.
In fact, Key Largo’s Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall scenes are the weakest in the film. But once Edward G. Robinson, Claire Trevor, and Thomas Gomez take center stage, Key Largo is as gripping as a movie can be. Trevor, flawless as a (deceptively) pathetic alcoholic, deservedly won that year’s Best Supporting Actress Academy Award; Robinson, absurdly, wasn’t even nominated.
’The Treasure of the Sierra Madre’
John Huston’s other 1948 release, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, was a box office disappointment but a critical hit. A dark tale of greed and death based on a novel by B. Traven, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre presents Humphrey Bogart in an unlikely light: a man eventually consumed by gold lust. Bogart rises to the occasion at times, while at others his self-destructive adventurer comes across as little more than a, however memorable, showy performance.
More interesting is a surprisingly effective Tim Holt, a B Western hero and son of late ’20s/early ’30s star Jack Holt, who plays one of three Americans — Walter Huston, the director’s father, is the third one — looking for gold in Mexico’s Sierra Madre Mountains. Despite Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Tim Holt was never to become a real movie star — and that was Hollywood’s (and moviegoers’) loss.
A curiosity: For The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Walter Huston became the first actor to win an Academy Award in a movie directed by his son (or daughter, for that matter). Thirty-seven years later, Anjelica Huston would become the first performer to win an Oscar in a movie directed by his/her father (or mother): John Huston’s Prizzi’s Honor.
Also worth noting is that The Treasure of the Sierra Madre lost the Best Picture Oscar to a British import, Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet, but the film did earn John Huston the Best Director statuette. And don’t miss Huston and Ann Sheridan in cameos, and Robert Blake as a little kid.
More Humphrey Bogart movies
Henry Hathaway’s To Have and Have Not (1945) introduced Lauren Bacall to movie audiences, thus holding a special place in Hollywood history — having said that, in my view Michael Curtiz’s 1950 version, The Breaking Point, is far superior. John Huston’s Beat the Devil (1954) is a The Maltese Falcon spoof of sorts, with a bizarre screenplay by Huston and Truman Capote based on Claud Cockburn aka James Helvick’s novel. Of chief interest is the film’s cast, which includes a curious assortment of players: besides a much-aged Humphrey Bogart, also featured are a blonde Jennifer Jones, a brunette Gina Lollobrigida, Robert Morley, Peter Lorre, and an outstanding Edward Underdown.
Despite its dramatic shortcomings, including a cowardly ending, the Oscar-nominated The Caine Mutiny (1954) offers what is probably Humphrey Bogart’s most effective performance — as a mentally disturbed military captain, no less. As for Howard Hawks’ The Big Sleep (1946), Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall’s second pairing, it is all atmosphere and no sense. Focus your attention on Sid Hickox’s cinematography and let the Raymond Chandler plot (adaptation credited to William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, and Jules Furthman) wash over you.
["On TCM: Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall Movies" continues on the next page. See link below.]
Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall movie To Have and Have Not photo: Warner Bros.