The Sunday Dozen: Humphrey Bogart

When I was coming of age, Bogart had become an icon of the counter culture. He was cool, a rebel, and appeared in many great films. Who could ask for anything more?

I did a Bogart Top Ten List in a 2020 Odds & Sods post. It was before the dozens became a thing, so I thought I’d revisit Bogie just as I did with Wilder, Hitchcock, and Scorsese.

The Bogart Dozen sticks to his starring roles. I’ll take a look at his supporting performances at the end of the post. Then there’s the odd case of Sabrina. It’s a great film but Bogie was miscast, so I’m skipping it as well. Besides, it’s Audrey Hepburn’s movie.

I decided to have some fun with quad movie posters, so I’m using them to frame the list.

The list itself is in order of preference. I realize some Casablanca fans might challenge me to a duel over the #1 film on the list, but I stand by my choice.

Let’s get on with it:

The Maltese Falcon was the first Bogart movie I saw on the big screen. It was the directorial debut of John Huston who wrote and directed three other films on the list as well as co-writing High Sierra. The Bogart-Huston combination was unbeatable.

I love everything about The Maltese Falcon: the source material, the location, and the cast. It’s one of the finest ensemble casts ever. What’s not to love about Bogie, Mary Astor, Sidney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre in the same movie?

Casablanca was the movie no one thought would become a classic when it was in production. There were frequent script changes and other disruptions. It just goes to show what you accomplish when you have a great director in Michael Curtiz and a fabulous cast.

It’s another triumph for the Warner Brother stock company. Casablanca is filled with memorable moments and performances. It helps when you have the star power of Bogart and Bergman. Even Paul Henreid excels as the impossibly noble Victor Laszlo. It’s a thankless role but Henreid pulls it off with style and panache.

Then there’s Claude Rains. A GIF speaks louder than my words:

The Bogart catalogue is so deep that this is the #3 movie on the list. With most everyone else it would be #1. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a tale of intrigue and greed set in the mountains of Mexico.

The standout performance comes from the director’s father Walter who won an Oscar for dancing his way through the Sierra Madre:

Key Largo is another John Huston joint. It has risen steadily up my Bogart list finally landing at #4. Dr. A and I watch this movie most hurricane seasons. Besides, Human Claire Trevor is in the movie. She won an Oscar for this movie. For the uninitiated, I named a cat after Ms. Trevor.

One thing I love about Bogie in his star period was his willingness to let others steal scenes. It was all about the picture for Bogart. If the supporting cast was excellent, the movie was likely to be as well.

Repeat after me: Bogie was an unselfish bastard.

The Big Sleep has a fine cast, but it’s dominated by Bogie and Bacall. Howard Hawks discovered the latter, and this film provided a swell showcase for the Bogarts.

You hear a lot about the story being confusing. One antidote to that is to watch the longer/original 1945 version of the movie that was released late in the 20th Century. It fills in some gaps but has less Bogart-Bacall banter. Either version is drop dead fabulous.

I wrote about In A Lonely Place in a recent Pulp Fiction Thursday post. I stand by my post and my man who is either Bogie or Nick Ray. This is another movie that I like more and more over time. It’s what happens when you’re under the spell of the Noir Czar.

Bogart finally won an Oscar for The African Queen. I wish he had won for a more characteristic role such as Rick in Casablanca. Rick, Sam Spade, and Philip Marlowe are the ultimate Bogie roles.

I still love this movie but there was a time where it would have been #4 on the list. It’s not that it hasn’t aged well, my tastes have changed. The Bogart-Hepburn-Huston combination still packs a powerful punch. Have I told you lately that John Huston is my birthday twin?

The scene where Kate cleans leeches off Bogie’s torso still gives me the creeps:

The Barefoot Contessa is another movie where Bogie lets his castmates steal scenes. The best performances in the movie come from Oscar winner Edmond O’Brien and the Barefoot Contessa herself, Ava Gardner. But Bogie’s film director character is the hub of the wheel, so all the action eventually returns to him.

This is one of the most underrated movies in the Bogart canon but not by me. I love it.

The word dramedy wasn’t in existence when To Have and Have Not was made but it perfectly sums up the tone of this Howard Hawks film. The director excelled at comedy and let Walter Brennan chew the scenery and give a brilliant comedic performance as Bogie’s sidekick, Eddie. I love when the cop character calls him Mister Eddie. Nobody else ever called him Mister.

Hawks gave William Faulkner credit for the line that made Betty Bacall a star:

High Sierra found Bogie playing a doomed gangster who was similar to the character that made him a fixture in Hollywood: Duke Mantee in The Petrified Forest.

Why were Duke Mantee and Roy Mad Dog Earle similar? Both were based on John Dillinger.

High Sierra is a better movie than the stagey Petrified Forest. It features stellar supporting performances from Ida Lupino, Arthur Kennedy, Joan Leslie, and Henrys Hull and Travers. All hail, the Warners stock company and one of the studio’s finest directors, Raoul Walsh.

High Sierra was one of the movies that George Raft famously turned down that made Bogart a star.

The Caine Mutiny is a flawed movie because it spends too much time on Robert Francis’ dull ensign character. Ensign Keith was the protagonist of Herman Wouk’s monster hit war novel so his part wasn’t reduced. In the end, it didn’t matter because everyone else is so good.

Bogie as Captain Queeq received star billing but had less screen time than Van Johnson or Fred MacMurray. Van gave the performance of a lifetime as the Navy lifer and Fred was fabulous as a conniving rat bastard who was “the real author of The Caine Mutiny” according to Jose Ferrer’s lawyer character. Me, I thought it was Herman Wouk.

I had a long debate with myself over what film would conclude the Bogart Dozen. I won the fight and selected Bogie’s last movie. The Harder They Fall is set in the crooked world of boxing with a cynical Bogart as our native guide.

On The Waterfront is mentioned on the poster because Bogie’s so-star was Rod Steiger, and the movie was written by Budd Schulberg who won an Oscar for that Elia Kazan directed classic. Have I mentioned lately that Kazan is my countryman?

Since this is such a long post, here’s the Bogart Dozen without any snappy comments:

  1. The Maltese Falcon
  2. Casablanca
  3. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  4. Key Largo
  5. The Big Sleep
  6. In A Lonely Place
  7. The African Queen
  8. The Barefoot Contessa
  9. To Have and Have Not
  10. High Sierra
  11. The Caine Mutiny
  12. The Harder They Fall

That concludes the Bogart Dozen.

Ready for some lagniappe? Of course, you are.

I mentioned Bogie’s time as a supporting actor at Warner Brothers. Here’s the best half-dozen of those performances:

  1. The Roaring Twenties
  2. Dead End
  3. Angels With Dirty Faces
  4. They Drive By Night
  5. The Petrified Forest
  6. The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse

FYI, Human Claire Trevor co-stars in two of those movies: Dead End and The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse. 

The last word goes to Bogie and his BFF John Huston. It’s a picture of the director’s cameo in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

2 thoughts on “The Sunday Dozen: Humphrey Bogart

  1. 3 more films with notable Humphrey Bogart supporting roles:
    Stand-In … 1937 Comedy
    The Oklahoma Kid … 1939 Western
    Virginia City … 1940 Western

  2. 3 ore notable Bogart supporting roles:
    Stand-In … 1937 Comedy
    The Oklahoma Kid … 1939 Western
    Virginia City … 1940 Western

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