IMPEACH TRUMP.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hallelujah, I'm a Bum! - 1933


Hallelujah, I’m a Bum (1933), released during the worst period of the Great Depression, is, paradoxically, joyful and fearless.  It is not, however, a sample of those fantasy type films so prevalent during the Depression meant to lift the nation’s spirits and take away our troubles; on the contrary, it mocks and accuses and deals with the sin and hypocrisy of wealth disparity with a sly grin and a sneer.

This is our entry in The Fabulous Films of the ‘30s blogathon sponsored by the Classic Movie Blog Association (CMBA).


The movie is rife with risk taking in terms of story and camera technique, and is so avant garde a piece today’s viewers will ultimately scratch their heads in wonder.  But it is not a movie to disparage, idolize, or even analyze.  It defies close examination by virtue of its freewheeling and utterly unconcerned posture with what we think.

Hallelujah, I’m a Bum! stars Al Jolson, and here is about the only area where the film does not take a risk. He was a top star of vaudeville, records, radio, and movies back in the day, and if we find his eye-rolling, blackface shtick ridiculous or offensive, we must still credit the man with enormous success and fame.  But here, there’s none of his usual manic overacting, no blackface, no shtick.  He is a likeable leading man, and even a romantic hero—who spurns our admiration with mocking even as he earns it. 

Frank Morgan, who made a career of elderly scamps plays—who’d have thought it—a leading man and handsome lover with a mistress whom he drives to a suicide attempt with his paranoid accusations of her unfaithfulness. 

This is also a buddy picture, and Jolson’s best pal is Edgar Connor, a diminutive fellow ex-vaudevillian, and rare example of a black man being best pals with a white man. 



Harry Langdon, silent screen comic destroys his former innocent baby-like persona and becomes a disgruntled, disgusted, and loudmouthed communist.

Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart wrote the tunes, and more.  On several occasions in this movie, the dialogue is spoken in a burst of rhyming couplets. 

Rhyming couplets.



If these oddities weren’t enough, there is the delightfully flippant manner in which the movie deals with the crisis at hand: the Great Depression.

The bums, or hoboes, who occupy Central Park in New York are a mob of unrepentant shirkers standing on the edge of society and refusing to join the rat race.  They like their indolence, and some are outright thieves.  Harry Langdon rebukes them for their laziness and says everyone should work, but hates the prevailing capitalist society that brands them as failures even more.  He calls a troop of mounted policemen converging on them “Hoover’s Cossacks.”  He hates everybody, but works diligently as a street cleaner, picking up trash, like Sisyphus rolling back the stone.

Society gets its knocks in this film.  Another scene shows the laying of a cornerstone at a new public school, and the pompous officials being ragged by the blasé construction workers perched on girders.  

An assembly of schoolchildren close the ceremony with “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” and as they sing, the camera, strobe-like, flashes on their faces in close-up on each face to the beat of each phrase of the song.  These are not prettied up Hollywood moppets; they’re regular scruffy kids with suspicious expressions at the unfamiliar camera right in their faces.  It’s a fascinating and even disorienting look into our future—which our children represent.  Where is this society taking us?  Where are we taking these kids?  And it’s funny.  There is no point made in this film, however serious and thoughtful, that is not also funny.

We get a tracking shot of business being done in the interior of a bank.  At the beginning, two wheeler-dealer types are discussing a transaction of hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Then the camera moves us along and two others speak of less money, hundreds.  Deals are made and agreed upon.  Money changes hands freely.  By the time we get to the end of the shot, a poor schmuck is standing at a teller window and asking to cash a check for $5.  The teller shakes his head.  They don’t cash checks for that small amount.

Incidentally, both Rogers and Hart get cameos in this movie.  They’re in a scene with Frank Morgan, who kisses babies like a good politician, and they’re in the bank.

Frank Moran is the mayor of New York, a rakish, somewhat corrupt official, but charming as heck, whose good friend is Al Jolson, the “mayor” of Central Park.  Their paths will crisscross throughout the movie.  

Mr. Morgan’s lady friend, played by Madge Evans, attempts suicide by jumping off a bridge, but Al Jolson saves her.  She has suffered amnesia, and with no ID on her (her missing wallet becomes an intricate part of the plot), Jolson has no idea where she belongs.  She is helpless, and he becomes a romantic hero by finding her a room to stay in, and by (gulp!) taking a job to support her.

It’s all very childlike, how he brings her trinkets and takes her to the merry-go-round.  She is an innocent, transformed from the hardened mistress of a politico, and quite charming as she beams over Jolson’s attentiveness to her.  She begs him not to leave her alone, because she is frightened.  In a very warm, romantic scene, they watch from her window a dancehall across the street.  We see the neon sign in a blur, and the figures of dancers in the lighted windows, and hear the music, the lovely tune, “You Are Too Beautiful.”  Jolson takes her in his arms and dances with her, and sings the lyric.  She melts into his embrace, her face truly beatific in her happiness.



Morgan, meanwhile, is distraught that she has gone missing, and begs Jolson to help him find her.  Jolson discovers, heart breaking, that his girl and Morgan’s are the same.  Nobly, he takes Morgan to her, and the shock of seeing him snaps her out of her amnesia.  At once, Jolson is a stranger to her, and she begs Morgan not to leave her, with the same words she pleaded with Jolson. 

Al Jolson stands, framed by the window, watching his happiness slip through is fingers, and we see the neon sign from the dancehall across the street clearly, mockingly: “LOVELAND.”  

He smiles only a very little, with self-deprecating resignation, and with something else—a wish for this woman to be happy.  His moment of stillness, for this usually frenetic performer, is a beautiful and most moving piece of acting.

Our troubles are not forgotten in this movie, let alone solved, but we share the burdens of others and somehow that lightens the load for us.  But we have to be tough.  You never know when life is going to kick you in the teeth while you’re waiting for that bowl of cherries.

At the end of this bitter decade, Clark Gable famously shocked the nation by saying he didn’t “give a damn” in Gone with the Wind.  Here, much earlier, those worst hit by hard times say it in spades.

Hallelujah, I’m a Bum! is on DVD, and occasionally shown on TCM.





©Jacqueline T. Lynch, 2007-2015. All rights reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Another Old Movie Blog, please be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission. 

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I'll be sending out advance copies of my Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. tomorrow, and will email them in PDF form (which you can read on your computer) to any blogger who wants to review the book in June.  Please email me at: JacquelineTLynch@gmail.com

....so I can email you the book. 
 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Updates and ARCS

A few updates today and a preview of coming attractions:

First, Elisabeth of The Second Sentence blog, and Western story writer and devotee, made the discovery that some of the horse stampede scenes from Red Canyon (1949), which we discussed here, were re-used in a 1964 episode called “The Black Stallion” of the TV show The Virginian.  I’m pasting her comments here:

It also features a gorgeous black stallion with a white star on its forehead, and there are some wonderful scenes of wild horse herds on the run—a lot of it stock footage cut in, some of which I've seen in other episodes of the same show. When I was watching it last night, there was a brief shot of the stallion escaping into a red sandstone canyon, and something clicked in my head. The Virginian was a Universal show, and I know they re-used footage (and even reworked scripts) from earlier Universal films sometimes. Could a bit of footage from Red Canyon have found its way into "The Black Stallion"? I guess I'll have to wait until I can track down a copy of the movie to be sure…

Here's a part of "The Black Stallion" from YouTube—the brief clip with the canyon is at about 11:15: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47Ioq-XLG2Q.  The whole sequence with the horse herd begins around 6:25.

The color of that video is very blurry and faded compared to the crisp DVDs, where the red sandstone in that shot contrasts with the landscape in the rest of the scene.  That's what made me notice it and think it might be stock footage.

Elisabeth was spot-on.  I took at look at the link she provided, and these scenes are most definitely from Red Canyon.  Great eye, and great detective work, Elisabeth.

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The CMBA spring blogathon this year is going to be The Fabulous Films of the 1930s and will run from April 27th through May 1stHave a look here for the list of great blogs participating and their offerings for this blogathon.

I’ll be tackling Hallelujah, I’m  a Bum! (1933) starring Al Jolson, Edgar Connor, Madge Evans, and Frank Morgan, directed by Lewis Milestone.  It’s a real zeitgeist piece of Great Depression hijinks about Central Park homeless (more fun than it sounds), and my post will run next Thursday, April 30th.



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My launch date for Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. is just two months away.  Next week, on Friday, May 1st, I hope to email out ARCs for reviewers of the book (Advanced Reading Copies) in PDF form.  If anyone cares to review the book, please drop me an email so I can send you one.  More on the book in weeks to come.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

George Coulouris - Villain in Watch on the Rhine (1943)


George Coulouris is a sublime villain, supremely important to Watch on the Rhine (1943), so charming in his lazy gentlemanliness, so pitiable in his bad luck and bad moves, and so treacherous in his motives.

The character he plays, a blasé Rumanian count, and a refugee from Europe and his own failed enterprises, is one of playwright Lillian Hellman’s most simple, and yet most brilliant creations.  He is not a blustering fascist—in this anti-Nazi drawing room drama that would stand out like tacky décor, and besides, the bold and courageous resistance fighter Paul Lukas plays is too clever to let himself get too near a real storm trooper-type.  Coulouris is dangerous because he is not an instigator, not a brainwashed (or brain dead) Nazi; he is on the second tier of evildoers—an opportunist.  As Lukas (and Lillian Hellman) describes his ilk: “Some of them were, up to a point, fastidious men.  For these we may someday have pity.  They are lost men.  Their spoils are small.  Their day is gone.”

This is my entry in The Great Villain Blogathon hosted by those evil villains at Speakeasy, Shadows & Satin, and Silver Screenings blogs. 



Watch on Rhine began as a tremendously successful Broadway play.  I discuss more about it in my upcoming book on Ann Blyth, who had a minor role in that play as a child.  The play’s producer and director, Herman Shumlin, went to Hollywood to cast the adult roles because throughout the Great Depression that’s where a lot of the best stage-trained actors went.  He didn’t want Hollywood stars, necessarily, he wanted stage veterans.  In February 1941, he came back with three heavy-hitters: Paul Lukas; Lucile Watson, who would play the acerbic matriarch; and George Coulouris.  Interestingly, he wanted Henry Daniell, but Daniell wasn’t free (he appears in the film as Baron Von Ramme).

Before we get to the film, we need to appreciate the overwhelming respect this play received when it was produced in 1941-1942.  I think in the decades that followed the film lost its strength for a modern audience that regards it as sentimental propaganda, a museum piece of a more gullible era.  Sometimes one of our worst sins is our condescension about the past.  Add to this the changes in the script that gave a larger role to Bette Davis—I’m afraid she tends to take too much of the spotlight in her scenery-chewing.  But the original play hit the theatre world like a storm.  The emotion of the day for the Broadway play was genuine.

Here is one review:

I want to tell you that I believe the finest, most deeply moving play that has been written in America in years is at Ford’s Theater this week…I say it because it is each man’s high duty to inform his fellow-men when he finds, or thinks he finds, something very true, very beautiful, very important.

Watch on the Rhine is all these things to me.  And it was obvious when the curtain fell on the opening performance that it had these qualities to many others, too.

There was the testimony of the applause which continued until the desperate theater manager turned on the bright house lights.  There was the testimony of many tear-filled eyes…With humor and with tenderness, with logic and with occasional poetry, Lillian Hellman has written this play.  And Herman Shumlin has produced it not as a theatrical businessman presents plays.  He has staged it, quite obviously, with love and with great reverence…I do not like to use the word ‘great,’ particularly about a play whose theme is so close to the headlines that our viewpoint may unconsciously be distorted.  Only years can tell that.

But certainly it casts a spell which, for a time at least, transforms a theater into a rare and holy place where the heart is touched, elated, ennobled. – Louis Azrael, Baltimore News-Post.


In an unusual move, Warner Bros., in securing the rights to the play, allowed Herman Shumlin to direct (this was his first movie, and he made only one other); and allowed Paul Lukas, George Coulouris, Lucile Watson, as well as Frank Wilson, who played the butler, to come with Shumlin as part of the deal.  Paul Lukas would win an Academy Award for his performance, and Lucile Watson was nominated for Best Supporting Actress.

George Coulouris, originally from the U.K., had a Shakespearean background, and then met up with Orson Welles’ troupe and began a long and very distinguished career in film, stage, TV, radio alternating between noble characters and villains.  That he was adept at both says a lot for how he plays his character in Watch on the Rhine.  We understand him, and can even sympathize as we despise him. 

The intelligent script by Hellman gives all the characters a great forum, and this is what makes a great script.  No character is wasted, they are all necessary and everything they say matters.

We meet Coulouris coming down to breakfast on the terrace of Lucile Watson’s palatial family home outside Washington, D.C.  He is married to Geraldine Fitzgerald, and we see their marriage is rocky.  He snipes at her, accuses her of being too fond of Donald Woods, the son of the house.  In a moment, he greets his hostess Lucile Watson with old-world European charm, and we settle in to the intriguing world of a professional houseguest in the home of a rich patron.

Later, he goes to the German Embassy for an evening gala and a late-night card came.  This scene was written by Dashiell Hammett, to whom Hellman handed off the screenplay chore as she was busy with another commitment.  I like Hammett’s additions for the most part, he opens the story up to all of Washington.  However, some of the strength and verve of the stage play is also watered down in the process, which is a shame.  I suppose it’s a tricky line to walk.

Here at the card game, like a player showing his hand of cards, we are shown the various “face cards” in the arena of fascist villains: Blecher, a cold, sneering bully, referred to as a butcher, who runs the game and the show.  He is the head bad guy to whom his agents report.  He is shrewd and ruthless.  Ironically, this ultra Nazi swine is played by Kurt Katch, born an Eastern European Jew and a veteran of the Yiddish theatre.  He comments on the others and introduces them to us: Baron Von Ramme, played by Henry Daniell is “contemptuous of us, but chiefly because we are not gentlemen.  Would be satisfied enough doing the same things or worse under some stupid Hohenzollern.” 

Then there is the money-grubbing publisher of the American Nazi newspaper, and Chandler, the American oil man who wants to sell to the Axis; the mysterious Oberdorff, played silently by Rudolph Anders who seems the most evil simply because we, and Blecher, know nothing about him.  He is a question mark. 

Then Blecher comes to Coulouris, whom he dismisses as a man who sells things “but at the moment you have nothing to sell.”

He will soon, when Paul Lukas and his family show up, and he suspects from the moment he meets Lukas that here is a man the Nazis would like to get their hands on.  With very little prospects and at the end of the road, it is inevitable that a man like Coulouris will want to sell Lukas to the Nazis, but how we get to that point is intriguing.


In some scenes between them, even though the room is full of other characters, it seems as if we are watching a two-man play. They spar and take each other’s measure carefully in polite conversation.  Lukas, fresh from a daring escape and having been wounded in a previous mission, is the more emotionally brittle.  Coulouris comes off as suave, with the panache of a former diplomat who has learned early not to commit himself, who deals with life with a shrug of his shoulders, a man in evening dress with no neck to stick out.

His behavior is privately more unstable with his wife, alternately pleading and threatening her, but to the others, he maintains his British Public School manners and his Continental charm.  He is good at bridge, knows the right things to say.  He is apolitical, out for himself, but he feels more distaste for freedom fighters than for fascists because he understands the latter.  But he comes to admire Paul Lukas, if not for his political stance, then for his resiliency.  After the scene where he blackmails Lukas in return for not turning him over to the Nazis, Coulouris remarks after Lucile Watson and Donald Woods have left the room:


“The New World has left the room.  I feel less discomfort with you.  We are Europeans, born to trouble and understanding…They’re young.  The world has gone well for most of them.  For us, we’re like peasants…work, trouble, ruin.  But no need to call curses on the frost.  There it is.  There it will be again, always, for us.”

But he is no peasant and has never worked hard at anything.  It is only in his imagination that he identifies with the sorrows of European peasantry.  In a sense, he does have a master, too: the Nazis that have taken over all Europe.

In his final scene, we finally see his fear and panic as Paul Lukas, who despite his ill health is still a man of action, points a gun in Coulouris’ face and angrily tells him, “There is no substance to you.”  He both accuses, and mourns for Coulouris, because the blasé count, though he is frightened about dying now, he will have forgotten all about it in the morning if Lukas lets him get away. 

We know this is true, because George Coulouris, for all his benign charm, the salon and sidewalk café façade, has shown us his empty heart from the beginning.  We can’t write him off as just another bad guy.  He could be our houseguest, a friend or relative who could stab us in the back to save himself.  As Bette Davis says, “We have seen them in so many living rooms.”

Please have a look at the other entries in The Great Villain Blogathon here.

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My book on Ann Blyth's career—Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. will be published on June 18th.  I’d like to invite any blogger—film blogger or book blogger—to participate in a blog tour. I’ll be looking for blogs to schedule publicity-oriented posts beginning Monday, June 1st. The last day will be June 17th. If anyone wants to pick a day, please let me know so I can coordinate with others. Think of it as a kind of blogathon. On your day, you can post a review of the book (I’ll have ARCs – advanced reading copies - available in PDF form which I’ll email to you that you can read on your computer), or you can do a Q&A with me, or I can just send you a 250-word excerpt of the book, or you can just post the cover and a link to the Amazon page, if you will. Just a little something to spread the word. I will be posting here every day from June 1st through the 18th and I’ll be linking to your blogs, pushing traffic to you.

Among those 17 bloggers who participate, I’ll throw your names in a hat and pick five winners who will receive a print book of Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. when it is published on the 18th.  The rest will receive an eBook file in whichever format you choose: ePub, Mobi, or PDF (Note, the ARC copies will not have the index).



Thursday, April 9, 2015

Ray Jones, Ann Blyth, and Anne Frank

Referring to a grade school photo of herself, Anne Frank wrote in her diary October 10, 1942:
“This is a photograph of me as I wish I looked all the time.  Then I might still have a chance of getting to Hollywood.  But now I am afraid I usually look quite different.”

“Hollywood” –the idea of it, more than the place, was the phenomenon of the twentieth century that crossed all boundaries of society—class, age, gender, nationality.  A 13-year-old girl in hiding from the Nazis in Holland collected Hollywood movie star photos, and compared her own childish image to the touched up masterpieces of the Hollywood studio photographers.

At that same time, in October 1942, 14-year-old Ann Blyth was touring in the anti-Nazi play Watch on the Rhine and had just been discovered by representatives of Universal Studios when the play came to Los Angeles.  Her stardom was in the near future, and it would be supported by luminous portrait photos that the studio distributed to fans.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about two photographers of the Broadway stage whose work I’m including in my upcoming book on Ann Blyth.  Today, another photographer who would figure prominently in her career, and the careers of many Hollywood stars, particularly those at Universal, was Ray Jones.

Mr. Jones was a master of the then prevalent technique of using light to “sculpt” the image of the star.  The photos, which make these familiar stars look something like gods and goddesses, were, of course, touched up in the production process, but even before the film was shot the stars were dramatically posed, glamorized within a universe of lights, while Jones chatted to them to calm them while he made them immortal on huge 8 x 10 negatives.  The process by which he worked is described in my book, and you can learn more about his art in the interesting book: Light and Illusion – The Hollywood Portraits of Ray Jones by Tom Zimmerman.

It was most gratifying for author Zimmerman, and the editor of the book, John Jones, son of the photographer, to learn that among the Hollywood star photos Anne Frank collected and pasted on the wall of her hiding place was a photo of a trio of Universal stars together: Robert Stack, Deanna Durbin and Franchot Tone.  The photo was taken by Ray Jones.  It’s still there.  You can see it if you visit the Anne Frank House & Museum.

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Come back next Thursday when we join in The Great Villain Blogathon hosted by those evil villains at Speakeasy, Shadows & Satin, and Silver Screenings blogs.  My contribution will be a look at George Coulouris in Watch on the Rhine (1943).

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The audio book for Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. is now for sale on Audible.com, and on Amazon and iTunes.

Also in paperback and eBook from Amazon, CreateSpace, and my Etsy shop: LynchTwinsPublishing.



Thursday, April 2, 2015

Dead Reckoning - 1947



Dead Reckoning (1947) is Easter noir.  The incongruity of Easter and noir melded together might be why the movie has such an offbeat, almost comic touch to it, more than one usually sees in noir, which is usually humorless.  Noir is despair, it’s fate clutching at the throat, dragging down an already doomed soul into depths of accepting that life is hopeless.  It’s more than just shadows from window blinds; there’s a psychological reason for the shadows.

Easter noir? 

Yeah, it can be done, and Dead Reckoning does it, bold as brass and a little cheeky.

Since the story is a mystery, I’ll try not to spell it all out, but just hit the high spots with a few observations. 

There’s the image of an Easter lily and a Medal of Honor on the title credit, but Easter is not thrown right at us like Judy and Fred in their Easter bonnets strolling down Fifth Avenue.  It’s only hinted at, and we have to connect the dots.  The action starts with Bogart darting through darkened, rain-soaked streets, obviously on the lam, and as he stops by a florist’s shop to mix with a small crowd observing the display of lilies, a newsstand guy’s voice hollers for us to get our Sunday paper.  Then Bogie ducks into a Roman Catholic church before early Mass.  It’s Easter Sunday, but we won’t know that until the inevitable noir flashback plunks us a few days earlier when he registers in a hotel on April 17th, and remarks in a later scene when interrogated by cops inspecting his room that if they’re looking for Easter bunnies, it’s a day early.  (Easter fell on the 21st in 1946.)  His flippant remark is the only time Easter is mentioned.

But these touches are only add-ons; the real Easter reference is in the flirtation with an afterlife, if not exactly resurrection, with a few poetic symbols of parachutes for a soft landing into whatever awaits.

Parachutes, silken, billowing, harrowing are the image and emblem of the film, more than the lilies and the Medal.  Bogart returns from the war, a captain in the paratroops, getting the VIP treatment with his pal and sergeant, played by William Prince.  Prince did not have a long film career, but did TV work for decades, including many soap operas.  He’s a handsome, likeable guy, with enough personality to hold his own with Bogart, which is impressive.  His role is short in this movie, but he makes such a strong impression I’m surprised it didn’t launch him on a longer film career.

Bogart used to own a fleet of taxicabs in St. Louis—love his line that they got sunk at Pearl Harbor—and the young sarge was a college professor, but the working class officer and the enlisted man professor, as well as their close friendship despite a rule against fraternization, is only one of many instances of flaunting the norms we’re supposed to expect.  Perhaps the biggest one occurs at the end when Bogart won’t stand by his new dame, Lizabeth Scott because, though he loves her, he says of Prince, “I loved him more.”  Sidekicks are not pushed aside for women in this movie, especially when she’s nobody he can trust.  His sidekick is not a comic foil, but a man to put on a pedestal even at the price of his own life.

From John, Chapter 15: Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Okay, so this is from the Douay-Rheims, but Bogie did stumble into a Catholic church, after all.

He and his sergeant are bound for a special appointment in Washington, D.C., because he recommended Prince for the Medal of Honor.  (One note here, it’s commonly known as the Congressional Medal of Honor, but that’s not really its official title.  It’s the Medal of Honor, and even if the Hollywood screenwriters didn’t know that, Bogart and the military brass escorting them to D.C., should have. Calling it "the Congressional" is just wrong.)

But sarge jumps off the train and runs away and leaves Bogie with a mystery.  Sarge has something to hide, and Bogie spends the rest of the movie figuring out what it is.  Bogie gets drugged, beaten up, but nothing deters him from finding out the truth, and the search takes him to a newspaper morgue (one of my favorite places for research), a real morgue (I’ll pass), and a streamline moderne nightclub where he meets noir queen Lizabeth Scott, “Cinderella with a husky voice,” as he says.

She’s in Gulf City, a steamy burg in the South where he has trailed his buddy.  (Funny that while pausing in Philadelphia, he talks on the phone in his hotel room and we see Independence Hall out the window.  Must be like if you get a room in Paris, you always see the Eiffel Tower.)

Morris Carnovsky is the club owner, who’s got Lizabeth Scott, and everybody, under his thumb.  He plays the erudite mobster with the pretense of culture wonderfully.  Unfortunately, Mr. Carnovsky would have his film career cut off at the knees by the Blacklist in 1950, but Broadway became for him, like so many other actors and writers, a refuge in those dark, disgusting days.

Charles Cane plays a detective, sarcastic and perhaps not so bright, who spends the movie tailing Bogie, and even being held hostage by Ruby Dandridge, Lizabeth Scott’s African American maid when Miss Dandridge is told to hold the gun on the cop tied up in the closet so Scott and Bogie can escape.  Black woman gets to hold a gun on a white cop—even if it’s through a door and meant to be comic, it’s still a bold stunt.

Marvin Miller plays Carnovsky’s hired goon, a cruel gorilla in a white dinner jacket.  We last saw Mr. Miller playing Genghis Khan here in The Golden Horde (1951).  Casting directors evidently never saw him as the cuddly type.

Our old, dear friend Wallace Ford is an ex-safe cracker who provides Bogie with some helpful gadgets, and it’s a pleasure to see him in any movie.  Got to write a post about him sometime. 

Lest we forget:

For a guy on a chase with no time to lose, Bogart changes from uniform to civilian clothes and a Fedora mighty quickly.  Though he and his sergeant briefly bask on the train about houses with roofs, kids who can eat, and all the pleasures of peace in a country not destroyed by war, there is no sense of homecoming to the U.S., no period of adjustment.  This is not The Best Years of Our Lives. 

Blink and you miss ‘em: Ray Teal as the motorcycle cop, partygoer Bess Flowers in the nightclub, and according to IMDb, Matthew “Stymie” Beard, too grown for Our Gang, as the bellhop who brings Bogie’s prank note to the detective tailing him.

Bogie kills time by practice pitching into a chair in his hotel room, and being from St. Louis, ruminates on pitching in the World Series and downing the Red Sox for his team, the Cardinals.  The Cardinals, did, indeed, win over the Sox in October of ’46, but the movie takes place in April, so it’s as if Bogie is predicting what will happen.  As a Red Sox fan, I must admit the pain this caused, since the Sox had not won the Series since 1918.  However, in the spirit of good sportsmanship, let me offer my belated congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals.  Well done.

The Cardinals also beat the Red Sox in the 1967 World Series, which I’m afraid we still haven’t quite gotten over yet.

Oh, all right.  Congratulations on that one too.

Bogart is not his usual grim anti-hero in this one; he doesn’t play it with the bitterness and dissatisfaction of his returning vet in Key Largo, or Rick in Casablanca.  His quips are less sarcastic than they are simply funny.  He’s got some great lines in this movie, and his character is less haunted than his other roles. 

He plays well with Lizabeth Scott.  She had a really fine way of appearing both vulnerable and yet as inscrutable as noir dames were supposed to be, so that we don’t know whose side she’s on.  Unfortunately, her singing is dubbed in this movie, and I’m not sure why, as she was certainly able to sing.  She had a limited range, but it was a pleasant singing voice, very suitable to jazz and blues numbers.  Here’s her album on YouTube.

And she wears a black beret.  Can a woman be more perfect?  I think not.  I refer you to our previous post on black berets in the movies here.

For all the gloss of her glamorized scenes in the nightclub, I really think one of the most beautiful shots of Lizabeth Scott is at the end when she’s sitting in the car with Bogie, her hair stringy from the rain.  The camera view is from the back seat as she turns sharply to Bogie, her eyes bright and intense, and her expression taut, fire in her soul and murder in her heart.  I don’t have a screen cap of it, but here’s a publicity shot with a similar appearance:


Bogart tells his troubles to a Catholic priest in church at the beginning of the movie, jump starting the flashback.  The priest, played by James Bell, is in uniform.  He, like, Bogie, is just returned from overseas and is also a paratrooper, so Bogart feels a kinship with him.  Bogie hides in the shadows as one making Confession.  At the end of the movie, Father will return, softly intoning a Latin prayer for the dying, and one last image of a billowing parachute in the blackness is seen, carrying the weird juxtaposed themes of afterlife, parachuting, guilt and punishment, but oddly without of any suggestion of redemption, which would be all we need to tie up the Easter message.  But this is where the noir finally kicks in: there is no redemption, just settling scores.

May I wish all who celebrate, a Happy Easter. If you like noir, remember, jelly beans also come in black.

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