Bogey & Baby do BluRay

  • by Tavo Amador
  • Tuesday March 19, 2019
Share this Post:
Bogey & Baby do BluRay

The American Film Institute named Humphrey Bogart (1899-1957) the #1 male legend of the 20th Century. Would he be so admiringly remembered if he hadn't made the transition from gangster and character parts to romantic leads? Probably not. That transition was improbable. He lacked classic movie star looks, was barely of average height, wore a toupee, and was far from buffed. It happened in part because he developed an image of authenticity, and because a few beautiful actresses convinced women audiences that his onscreen integrity made him desirable. Straight males didn't find him threatening. Most gay men were unconvinced of his sex appeal, which underscores the often-different ways we see men from how women see them. Those views can converge: during the studio era, they did for Gary Cooper, Errol Flynn, Gregory Peck, and Rock Hudson, among others.

In his most famous film, "Casablanca" (1942), a radiant Ingrid Bergman made audiences believe that the cynical but honorable Rick Blaine (Bogart) was her great love. In 1944, a breathtaking Lauren Bacall (1924-2014) burst on the screen to cement Bogart's romantic appeal, bolstered by their real-life marriage. The four films they made together have been released as "Bogart & Bacall: The Complete Collection" in a BluRay edition taken from the Warner Archives.

In Howard Hawks' splendid "To Have and Have Not" (1944), based on Ernest Hemingway's novel, Bogart is a quietly heroic Caribbean fisherman helping the French Resistance during WWII. Bacall, an ex-model with almost no acting experience, created a sensation playing a singer, asking Bogart if he knew how to whistle. She was more than gorgeous and sexy, she suggested intelligence, courage, and resourcefulness. It was also clear she was crazy about him. Critics exhausted superlatives in praising her.

After her failure in 1945's "Confidential Agent," Warners rushed her back to Hawks and Bogart in "The Big Sleep" (1946), a brilliant noir. Bogart is Raymond Chandler's detective Philip Marlowe. Bacall is Vivian Rutledge, the enigmatic daughter of a wealthy L.A. recluse. She's smart, more cynical than Marlowe, possibly a killer, and magnetic. Despite a screenplay by William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, and Jules Furthman, the plot makes no sense, but it hardly matters. Bacall isn't the only beauty falling for Bogart's Marlowe. He visits a bookstore run by Dorothy Malone. She responds by lowering the shades, locking the door, and offering him a quickie.

Delmar Daves' S.F.-set "Dark Passage" (1947) casts Bogart as an escaped convict unjustly convicted of murdering his wife. Viewers first see him with his face completely bandaged from plastic surgery to change his appearance. When the tape comes off, he looks like — Humphrey Bogart! Bacall is the young, sympathetic beauty who helps him prove his innocence. With Agnes Moorehead as a nosey neighbor who dies memorably. Fascinating location footage shows how much Bagdad by the Bay has changed in seven decades. Daves adapted David Goodis' novel.

Their final pairing was in John Huston's "Key Largo" (1948), based on Maxwell Anderson's play. Bacall is Nora Temple, a widow whose husband died in WWII. She's living with her father-in-law (Lionel Barrymore) in his resort hotel. Frank McCloud (Bogart) is an army buddy of Nora's husband who comes to visit. He finds that a vicious gangster, Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson), has commandeered the place. Also present is Rocco's alcoholic mistress Gaye Dawn (!) (Claire Trevor). A hurricane threatens to destroy the hotel, unless the inside conflict does so first. Robinson dominates, though Bogart is good. Bacall's beauty nearly conceals that she hasn't much to do. Trevor won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her bathetic drunk, at one point bullied by Rocco into singing "Moanin' Low" in exchange for a drink. With Thomas Gomez, who chews scenery as passionately as Barrymore. Screenplay by Huston and Richard Brooks.

After "To Have and Have Not," Bogart played dangerous men in "The Two Mrs. Carrolls" (1947), "The Treasure of Sierra Madre" (1948), "In a Lonely Place" (1950), "The Caine Mutiny" (1954, his best performance), and "The Desperate Hours" (1955). But he also had sympathetic parts, including his Oscar-winning sentimental drunk riverboat captain opposite Katharine Hepburn in 1951's "The African Queen," and his courageous newspaper editor in "Deadline, USA" (1952). He had another romantic lead in "Sabrina" (1954), where the luminous Audrey Hepburn made audiences believe she preferred his gruff, wealthy businessman over his younger, hunky brother (William Holden).

Bacall had a distinguished career of her own, ranked by the AFI as the 20th greatest female legend of the 20th Century. Despite her looks, she rarely played femme fatales. Her most memorable movies without Bogart include Jean Negulesco's funny "How To Marry a Millionaire" (1953), which she steals from Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable; Douglas Sirk's melodrama "Written on the Wind," with Hudson, and Malone in the Oscar-winning temptress role; and Vincente Minnelli's romantic comedy "Designing Woman," opposite Peck (1957).

After Bogart's death, she returned to her native Manhattan, made "Harper" (1966) with Paul Newman as a cynical private eye, and the immensely successful "Murder on the Orient Express" (1974). She established herself on Broadway, winning Tony Awards for Best Actress in a musical for "Applause" based on 1950's "All About Eve," in which she played Margo Channing; and "Woman of the Year," in Hepburn's 1942 role.

She appeared in a great deal of TV, including an acclaimed 1955 live production of Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit" with him and Claudette Colbert, very funny as Carlotta Vance in "Dinner at Eight" (1989), and touching in "Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke" (1999). In 1996, she got her only Academy Award nomination, as Barbra Streisand's mother in "The Mirror Has Two Faces," surviving that monumental vanity production. In 2010, the Academy gave her a lifetime achievement Oscar. Her death was headline news around the world.