Sunday, January 29, 2012

You Do Know How To Whistle

OK, I admit it: I’m a bit of a geek about old movies, especially Bogart movies. I was in a film club in high school and we spent time analyzing movies. Movies made in the Bogart era, mid 1930s to mid 1950s are stylistically different from movies made in the mid and late 1960s, which are much different than movies made today.

Each style has its merits and represents in some way the general social tone of its era. Today’s films show off technology and often seem made for sequels, with endings that tease another chapter in the plot line. Many movies made in the 1960s do not have happy endings; Cool Hand Luke is a pretty good example of that. Movies in the Bogart era mostly made some point and most ended with some hero winning some kind of battle or walking away into the sunset, metaphorically at least; Casablanca comes to mind. That is simplistic analysis but you get my point.

Casablanca is my all time favorite movie. I’ve seen it at least twenty five times and have read many books and articles on the making of that classic. It is certainly not without some flaws in both plot and style, but there are so many great elements in it, including memorable lines, drama, comedy, music, quirky characters and social commentary. In the end, Bogie’s character “does the right thing” and gets drawn into “fighting the good fight” for a cause. A bit of trivia … Ronald Reagan was considered for the lead role at one point in the casting process. It never would have become a classic. There were numerous directors hired and fired during the shoot. Bogart and Ingrid Bergman had some on-screen chemistry but had none off screen; some accounts say they didn’t like each other.

Two of the most famous and quotable lines in Casablanca, both spoken during pivotal plot points in the last few minutes, weren’t decided till after the scenes were shot and the movie was almost completely edited. When the German guy is shot by Bogart’s character Rick at the airport, Police Captain Renault explains it away by shouting “round up the usual suspects!” That line was an afterthought. And the very last scene, when Rick and Renault are walking away into the fog, Rick says “this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” That line was not in the original script and the directors had to get Bogart to comeback months later and voice that line.

I am thinking about all this today because I just watched the last thirty minutes of another Humphrey Bogart movie called To Have and Have Not, based loosely on a Hemingway novel. Like Casablanca, this one has drama, comedy, quirky characters and political intrigue. Oh, and a beautiful female love interest for Bogie’s character, played by an incredibly hot 19-year-old actress co-starring in her first movie. Yep, Lauren Bacall was only 19 then. Their characters fall in love quickly in the plot, maybe an unrealistic scenario for today but “normal” for 1944, and the real life Bogie and Bacall relationship began on the set and ended in marriage a year later, her first and his fourth. Did I mention he was 45 at the time? Hmmm.

A little trivia and observation about that movie: Bogart’s character was a boat captain named Harry Morgan … Captain Morgan. Walter Brennan played his often drunk helper … his drunkenness leading him to be called a “rummy”. Captain Morgan? Rum? Anyway, that movie has a few memorable lines two. This video contains my favorite:




A little more actor trivia: Bogart was born on Christmas Day in 1899, died in 1957, a few weeks after his 57th birthday, from esophageal cancer probably related to life-long smoking. He appeared in 75 movies (I think I’ve seen about 20 of them). Bacall is still alive, now age 87. She has appeared on screen in movies as recently as 2008 and off screen in 2010.

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