Saturday, December 18, 2010
My Humphrey Bogart collection
One of the best gifts what I could dream of arrived to my home address yesterday, "The Humphrey Bogart: The Essential Collection DVD box-set" which contains: 24 Warner Bros. Movies on 12 Discs starred by Humphrey Bogart. Bonus 13th Disc: Feature-Length Documentary The Brothers Warner, Chronicling the Fabled Family History of the Studio That Launched Bogart to Stardom. Petrified Forest/ Marked Woman, Kid Galahad/ Black Legion, The Roaring Twenties/ San Quentin, Dark Victory/ Virginia City, Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse/ Invisible Stripes, High Sierra/ They Drive by Night, Maltese Falcon/ Across the Pacific, All Through the Night/ Brother Orchid, Action in the North Atlantic/ Passage to Marseille, To Have and Have Not/ The Big Sleep, Dark Passage/ Key Largo, Casablanca/Treasure of Sierra Madre, plus a 48-page collectible book with rare photography --movie stills and behind-the-scenes photos from each film, Fifteen 5x7 cards of various one-sheets and correspondence including a telegram to Hal Wallis in which Bogart requested the lead in High Sierra.
Lauren Bacall with her husband Humphrey Bogart holding in her lap their kids Leslie and Stephen Bogart.
Humphrey Bogart Estate announced last week I was the winner of the "Best Bogie Character" contest (hooray!). Stephen Bogart (son of screen legends Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall) congratulated me personally on my entry, commenting how much he appreciates Bogie's fans outside the USA.
Honorable mentions for "Best Bogie Character" contest were to Todd Cleg, Helen Benty Ferguson, Bridget Dorsa, Becky Bryant, Matthew Hahn, Walter Thompson, and Rose Jaworski.
My box-set arrived signed by Stephen Bogart with a kind dedicatory for me and Spain. I'm really proud of myself in these special occasions!
So you can read the post I wrote participating in the Best Bogart character contest:
The winning entry: As character (which isn't exactly the same than performance) I have to say Sam Spade in "The Maltese Falcon", Bogart himself defined Huston's movie based on Dashiell Hammett's noir book as "a masterpiece" and said of his impersonation as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon: "I don't have many things I'm proud of... but that's one".
This character's influence has been so great that has extended even to this day, for example in the neo-noir "Brick" by Rian Johnson, the young shamus Brendan (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) cites as a homage to Spade some of his witticisms: calling "Angel" to the femme fatale [Nora Zehetner] or warning her "now you're dangerous"...
The chemistry between Mary Astor and Bogie was phenomenal, the fact that Brigid the femme fatale wasn't a bombshell made the story more realistic and believable, you could feel Spade's isolation through the master performance of Bogart, as at some times, he had to grind his teeth to avoid a faux step into the sentimentality growing towards Mary's Brigid. Also, Mary Astor admired Bogie deeply, she said of him that despite of seeming uncomfortable shooting love scenes, Bogart didn't need to kiss or touch his leading lady actually, just looking at her he seduced the camera. "The Bogart cult thast has emerged is very understandable. There he is, right there on the screen, saying what everyone is trying to say today, saying it loud and clear. I'm not a hero. I'm a human being. Bogie was for real".
Also, Bogie behaved chivalrously with Mary when she couldn't keep up with the rest of the crew's jokes, and he comforted her. Always a gentleman, but in the film, knowing that despite of his own desires towards this treachure creature (Brigid O'Shaughnessy) he must be faithful to his honor code (the same he was in Casablanca), painful as this decision is visible to the viewers, Bogie suggests a profound emotional effect but he coldly compounds himself when the police arrives to pick up Brigid from her fall. Their previous domino effect scene together when they talk about if their love was real keeps unsurpassed by noir films.
I had participated in a previous contest (take a look at the page, there are regular contest for all those interested in Bogart's career), Best Bogart's female co-star (excluding Lauren Bacall) and I also had the luck that time of being a finalist after having posting as entry:
We cannot choose Lauren Bacall, who was Bogie's true love, but we can cite her words remembering their timeless flame: "There was no way Bogie and I could be in the same room without reaching for one another, and it wasn’t just physical - heads, hearts, bodies, everything going at the same time", "What it felt like to be so wanted, so adored! No one had ever felt like that about me. It was all so dramatic, too. Always in the wee small hours when it seemed to Bogie and me that the world was ours - that we were the world".
These feelings can be appreciated in many of his scenes shared with brilliant co-stars, but I choose Claire Trevor in "Dead End" (1937), she was nominated for Best Supporting actress for a scene barely 5 minutes long, playing Francey, a devastated young woman who has fallen prey to sifilis due to her new profession as hooker. She had been engaged to Baby Face Martin (Bogart) and both find each other again in utter despair in the alley scene composed masterfully under William Wyler's direction and Gregg Toland's photography. This scene of doomed love fits perfectly with one of Bogie's philosophies: “Things are never so bad they can’t be made worse.” -Humphrey Bogart. My heart breaks everytime I see Baby Face Martin looking incredulous and desperate at beautiful but ravaged Claire Trevor in "Dead End".
Graham Greene wrote about Bogart's performance in "Dead End" : "Sentimentality turns savage in him. This is the finest performance Bogart has ever given -the ruthless sentimentalist who has melodramatized himself from the start up against the truth -his girl is diseased and on the streets"
As second runner: Mary Astor in "The Maltese Falcon", specially the scene when Bogart almost inadvertently touches her leg from behind whilst she is striking a fireplace. One of the most erotic moments ever.
From Stephen Bogart: "The TWO contest winners are Jay Ann Knox for her continued insightful comments AND her choice of Bette Davis and David Waldo for Gloria Grahame. I had no idea how many people joined me in loving Gloria. Honorable mentions to Mr. Mundy and Mses. Lehrer, Baptista, Murphy, Chagnon Seigle, Gonzalvo [that's me again!], and Hadley. Thanks so much to everyone for your interest in this page and your love of my father".
"Bogart spent his early twenties drifting aimlessly from one ill-fitting career to another, until, through a childhood friend, he got his first theater job. Working first as a stagehand and then, reluctantly, as a bit-part player, Bogart cut his teeth in one forgettable role after another. But it was here he began to develop a work ethic; deciding that there were “two kinds of men: professionals and bums”, Bogart, for the first time in his life, wanted to be the former.
After the Crash of ’29, Bogart headed west to try his luck in Hollywood. That luck was scarce, and he slogged through more than thirty B-movie roles before John Huston wrote him a part that would change everything; with High Sierra, Bogart finally broke through at the age of forty — being a pro had paid off". Source: www.nytimes.com
George Raft, Ann Sheridan and Humphrey Bogart in "They drive by night" (1940), directed by Raoul Walsh
"Unlike Raft, who was “half-German, half-Italian, and all low-life”, Bogart was born into high society and, while he rebelled against his parents and took several personal and professional downward steps on the social ladder, he always retained at least some of the proclivities of a gentleman, even if he did value whiskey and wisecracks over hauteur and social standing. He became a successful actor only after a long hard yomp through Hollywood’s nether regions, meaning that by the time he finally became a star, he had, as Thomson puts it, “the advantage of having failed.”
It’s possible to detect a sort of triangulation of sensibilities at work beneath the surface of The Big Sleep, between the character of Marlowe, the actor who portrayed him, and the author — Raymond Chandler — who created him. Bogart, says Thomson, was a “chronic dreamer”, a tag that could just as well be applied to Chandler, who Thomson describes as a “dreamy public schoolboy.” So when Marlowe meets General Sternwood in his fuggy greenhouse den, he’s there because his knowledge of the underworld will enable him to rid the General of the blackmailers who’ve been pestering him. But Marlowe (and Bogart, and Chandler) “knows Sternwood’s world, too, and he impresses the General as a man to be saluted.”
Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart in "The Big Sleep" (pre-release version 1945)
One of the most quintessentially “Hollywood” films ever made, The Big Sleep, reckons Thomson, is “the film that most Bogart people would cling to at the day of judgement.” Who could argue with that? If Bogart went on to give better performances, later in his career — and he did — he never found himself in a more perfectly Bogartian film. It is a truly great movie, one of the jewels in the crown of the Golden Age; rather than having dated (as so many otherwise fine films have), The Big Sleep is “still as fresh as a Meyer lemon picked from the tree. Taste it.” Source: www.brightlightsfilm.com
Q: And your memories of Bogie?
A: I’m so lucky to have married Bogie and to have had such a fantastic relationship, even if it was so short [14 years]… I was headstrong and he was patient and so loving and funny and witty, my God! A man of honor and integrity and he lived his life by the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule. And, by golly, if anyone lied to him, they were out. Most of the time I was in awe of him; he was the most incredible man who walked on earth…
Q: Sounds like you and Bogie did “have it all.”
A: Yes, we did.
Lauren Bacall with her son Stephen Bogart (1950)
Q: Any other memories?
A: I’ll have TV on and suddenly hear a familiar voice. I watch [ portions of ] “Casablanca” every time it comes on. When I see a certain scene it reminds me of a part of my life… I realize more every day how fortunate I was to have what I had. Bogie didn’t live long enough to know his children or for them to know him… The great thing about our marriage is whenever he wanted to teach me, he said, ‘Long after I’m gone you’ll remember me.’ And he’s become this incredible icon.
Q: Like you.
A: I’m not an icon. I can tell you my obit will only talk about him.
Q: How do you become inspired and unwind?
A: I have a hard time relaxing. There’s so much stress everywhere. The world has changed so much and I find the behavior of people has changed so much. There are no manners, no grace. I guess TV has a lot to do with it: that the standards have lowered and people don’t read books anymore. I wrote three books —all in longhand. I don’t understand the computer scene but I am trying to learn it from my iPhone. It’s fairly hopeless.
Q: When did you finally claim your feminine power?
A: I was brought up with a work ethic. It never occurred to me to go to college —we couldn’t afford it. So I decided to be an actress and my mother supported me every bit of the way.
Q: How about men?
A: I began to feel the power of women in the theater. We had great leading roles in big shows. That, I thought, was pretty damn good… I realized women could do anything a man could do. And so I always voiced my opinion… I found men so damned boring…
Q: What female star do you most admire?A: Bette Davis was my heroine. When I was 12 or 13 I could imitate her. I’d cut school and sneak into the movie theater because I couldn’t afford a ticket. Every waking hour, and in my sleep, I wanted to become like her.
Q: What other actors do you admire?
A: There are very few actresses that I would raise my eyes to… Once you’ve grown up and been exposed to James Stewart, Spencer Tracy, Katie Hepburn, Barbara Stanwyck, you say, ‘Excuse me? Why would you want to deal with what’s hanging around now?’ -Carmel magazine interview to Lauren Bacall by Susan Cantrell, 2009
Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall on their wedding day (21st May, 1945)
Bacall: “In the bathroom I could hear the start of the Wedding March. Oh God, why hadn’t they waited? Later George told me Bogie looked up and said, ‘Where is she?’ George’s romantic reply: ‘Hold it! She’s in the can!’ I emerged - [the piano player] started again - and George and I started our descent. My knees shook so, I was sure I’d fall down the stairs. Bogie standing there looking so vulnerable and so handsome - like a juvenile…“When I reached Bogie, he took my hand - the enormous, beautiful white orchids I was holding were shaking themselves to pieces; as I stood there, there wasn’t a particle of me that wasn’t moving visibly… As I glanced at Bogie, I saw tears streaming down his face - his ‘I do’ was strong and clear, though. As Judge Shettler said, “I now pronounce you man & wife’, Bogie and I turned toward each other - he leaned to kiss me - I shyly turned my cheek - all those eyes watching made me very self-conscious. He said, ‘Hello, Baby’. I hugged him and was reported to have said, “Oh, goody.’ Hard to believe, but maybe I did.”“Everyone hugged and kissed everyone else and more tears were shed. Bogie said it was when he heard the beautiful words of the ceremony and realized what they meant - what they should mean - that he cried.” -excerpted from "By Myself and Then Some" autobiography by Lauren Bacall
"There's no sacrifice too great for a chance at immortality" -Humphrey Bogart as Dixon Steele in "In a lonely place" (1950), directed by Nicholas Ray.
Also, you can read my article Bogart: never damage your own character again!