Humphrey Bogart is one of my favorite tough guys. Typecast as a heavy through the 1930s due to his rough looks, mean snarl and a breakout performance in The Petrified Forest (1936) and often playing second fiddle to fellow heavies James Cagney and Edward G Robinson, Bogart finally shifted from thug to tough guy with The Maltese Falcon (1941). He won a Best Actor Oscar for his performance in The African Queen (which is sadly not available in the US on DVD or Blu-Ray) in 1951. Humphrey Bogart has 7 films on instant play. Three of them aren’t really his but are clip shows Blushing Bloopers, Hollywood Musicals of the 40s, and Steve Martin’s wildly inventive Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid. The other four are absolute classic Bogey:
1. The Maltese Falcon (1941) – “Humphrey Bogart stars as private eye Sam Spade in this Oscar-nominated noir classic that finds the sultry Miss Wonderly (Mary Astor) seeking out protection from a man named Thursby. Spade’s partner (Jerome Cowan) takes the case — but he winds up dead, along with Thursby. Spade’s subsequent hunt for the killer leads him into a world of deception and double-crossing, as a trio of criminals searches for a priceless statue known as the Maltese Falcon”
The quintessential detective movie was actually a remake. The story had been filmed twice previously – The Maltese Falcon in 1931 with Ricardo Cortez in Bogart’s future role and Satan Met a Lady in 1936 with Bette Davis (neither of which is particularly memorable – both are available through Netflix disc service). Bogart’s performance is iconic and Mary Astor is a wonderful femme fatale. Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Gladys George, and Elisha Cook Jr. all turn in marvelous support.
2. Casablanca (1942) – “In this Oscar-winning classic, American expat Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) plays host to gamblers, thieves and refugees at his Moroccan nightclub during World War II … but he never expected Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) — the woman who broke his heart — to walk through that door. Ilsa hopes that with Rick’s help, she and her fugitive husband (Paul Henreid) can escape to America. But the spark that brought the lovers together still burns brightly”
This is essentially the perfect film. It is incredibly romantic without having the tacked on ending that romance movies seem to have (either they lived happily ever after or you set up a love triangle and resolve it by killing off one of the three in the last reel). It is filled with action without being mindless. It even slips a little social and political commentary in without being pedantic. The impressive cast is uniformly excellent. Humphrey Bogart is charismatic and Ingrid Bergman is breathtaking but the supporting cast steals the show. Arresting turns from Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, and Claude Rains complement solid performances from Paul Henreid, Dooley Wilson, Conrad Veidt, and others. Final note: the oft-quoted line “Play it again, Sam” is not actually in the movie.
3. The Big Sleep (1946) – “A dangerous blackmailer has targeted the Sternwoods, a wealthy family once tucked away in the safety of their Los Angeles mansion. But while private eye Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) works on the case, he ends up falling for the clan’s fiery daughter (Lauren Bacall). Crackling dialogue and the perfect pairing of Bogart and Bacall make this adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s novel a timeless classic. Howard Hawks directs”
The other quintessential detective movie actually has two versions – a pre-release 1944/5 one and the theatrical release from 1946. It was later remade in 1978 with Robert Mitchum in Bogey’s role. This time our stars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall are the main focus of the movie and the supporting cast, while excellent (especially Elisha Cook, Jr.), are actually supporting the leads. Sizzling performances from Lauren Bacall, Martha Vickers, and Dorothy Malone really amp up the sex appeal of this classic. The Big Sleep in some ways seems like a precursor to the Bond films – the hero is unflappable and has snappy dialogue and all of the women are impossibly beautiful and constantly throw themselves at Marlowe.
4. The Caine Mutiny (1954) – “Captain Queeg: madman or misunderstood taskmaster? That’s the dilemma facing the first officer (Van Johnson) of the U.S.S. Caine when its stern new captain (Humphrey Bogart) drives the crew to the brink of mutiny. Part sea-going adventure, part courtroom drama, The Caine Mutiny is a tale that manages to be both thrilling and thought-provoking. Bogart shines in one of his last roles”
Essentially a one-man show, Bogart shines as the obsessive Captain Queeg. The supporting cast is still quite good (Jose Ferrer, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray) but Bogey dominates every scene that he is in. He was nominated for another Oscar but did not win.