If you were to ask someone who the most iconic actor of the 1940’s was, chances are they would tell you Humphrey Bogart. Even though he tended to play the same type of character, the character was always cool, suave, and knew what to do. Men wanted to be him, women wanted to be with him. With a cigarette in one hand and a stiff drink in the other, Bogey’s characters were nonchalant and tough. Most people know Humphrey Bogart from his role in Casablanca, where he spouted off line after line of memorable dialogue. Many would be interested to know that Casablanca was not the film that won him a Best Actor Oscar, even though he was nominated for the part. Another well known film he starred in was The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which kept in line with the adventurous and daring series of characters he excelled at playing. These two films, along with this week’s two, were all placed on the American Film Institute’s list of Top 100 movies both times that the Institute made the list.
The Maltese Falcon
Length: 100 minutes / 1.67 hours
In The Maltese Falcon, Bogart plays the part of Sam Spade, one part of a two-man detective agency. As a detective, the collected Bogart really gets to shine as the best detectives must remain cool and calculating as well as cautious to make sure that they don’t get swayed one way or another, or (even worse) end up dead in the middle of a case. This film is classic noir and if Bogart didn’t set the standard with this role, he certainly set the bar pretty high. After all, he gets the classic last word as he muses over all the events that led to finding, “the stuff that dreams are made of.”
The film starts out with the two-man detective agency becoming the sole responsibility of Sam Spade. As he starts to figure out why his partner was murdered, suddenly a woman by the name of Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Mary Astor) appears, as well as an array of sketchy characters, the leading one being Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre). Soon, the item that ties all these people together is the Maltese Falcon, a rare and extremely valuable statuette that has gone missing. If Sam can find the statue, he can solve much of the mystery swirling around it. But, can he do it before anyone else gets killed? Can he do it before he himself gets killed?
The African Queen
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 105 minutes / 1.75 hours
When I made my way through the American Film Institute’s top 100 list, I had never heard of The African Queen before. Of course, now that I’ve seen it, I wonder why it’s not as well known as the other Bogart films mentioned in the intro to this post. What some might find surprising is that Bogart won his Best Actor statuette for his role in this movie, and not for his role in Casablanca. While this is understandable, considering the appeal of Casablanca as a whole, The African Queen is certainly Humphrey Bogart’s best performance. But the director (John Huston) already knew that Humphrey was a great actor, otherwise he wouldn’t have cast him in The Maltese Falcon and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre years before.
In The African Queen, Bogart plays Charlie Allnut, an experienced river boat captain who is tasked by the stiff missionary, Rose Sayer (Katherine Hepburn) to get her away from the spot of her brother’s demise at the hands of WWI Germans. Of course, neither person is really comfortable with the arrangement, but since Allnut’s “African Queen” is the only mode of transportation, they’re stuck together for the time being. But that’s always the charm of these kinds of situations. Allnut learns to have some manners instead of drinking his sorrows away and Sayer learns to loosen up a bit from the cold tsundere that single missionary life requires. As they struggle to get the “African Queen” to the nearest lake, an opportunity arises to stick it to the Germans, which both passengers are amiable to.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 great Bogey performances
Bacon #: 3 (Casablanca / Peter Lorre -> The Raven / Jack Nicholson -> A Few Good Men / Kevin Bacon)