Just Put Your Lips Together and…
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Since February is the month of passion and romance I am going to expose my illicit love affair. As usual, this love was doomed from the start. First, there was his wife, Lauren. Second, he really never knew I existed. Third, he died when I was barely a year old.

All kidding aside, there is something intangibly seductive about Humphrey Bogart. Unlike say, George Raft or Cary Grant, he wasn’t handsome; oh, but he exuded such a sensual aurora. In fact, his persona overshadowed his approximately 5’10” build. A few years ago, I visited a TCM exhibit at the Los Angeles Grove. The original props from Rick’s Cafe in the movie Casablanca were on display, and they were quite diminutive. Sam’s piano was almost child-sized. Apparently the props were scaled down to accommodate Bogart’s slight stature.

  
 
So if I’m going to talk about Bogart movies, which ones are his best? If you ask my husband, he would say Treasure of Sierra Madre; however, I prefer his more romantic roles. He would then note Sabrina, but that would be to savor his long-time love, Audrey Hepburn. I’ll pick three, though difficult, and I’ll start with my favorite, Casablanca.

Casablanca, which debuted in 1942, was filled with romance, danger, intrigue, and finally redemption. It received Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay. Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), a former mercenary, is a cynical American expatriate who runs a popular night spot in Morocco. Casablanca, which still is a part of unoccupied France, becomes a stopping point for Europeans anxiously waiting to obtain exit visas at any price. When the Germans arrive, Police Captain Renault (Claude Rains, another one of my favorites—remember The Invisible Man?) learns that the Nazi’s are on their way, and so he seeks to impress them with some arrests. He also learns that Czech resistance leader, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) is on the way to Casablanca with his wife, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman). They are hoping to receive letters of transit. Rick secretly comes into possession of two such letters. Well, once they arrive we learn that Rick and Ilsa have a past. Not to give anything away, I’ll just say that the rest of the movie is filled with surprises.

Music plays an integral role in expressing emotion as censorship banned overt sensuality. Really listen next time you watch this film. Though the plot is strong, this movie is character driven; not just from the above actors, but from brief spots with Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet. And as we know, Casablanca pushed Bogart and Bergman to stardom. However, I read a telegram from legendary film executive David O. Selznick, sharply criticizing Bogart’s performance. But can you imagine anyone other than Humphrey Bogart softly repeating that unforgettable line, "Here’s looking at you, kid."

Speaking of famous lines, "You don’t have to say anything, and you don’t have to do anything. Not a thing. Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and...blow." Of course, it is one of Slim’s (Lauren Bacall) many suggestive lines to Harry "Steve" Morgan (Humphrey Bogart) in the 1944 classic To Have and Have Not. This is where a married Bogart met 19-year-old Lauren Bacall in her first movie. Their real-life romance made movie history. This Howard Hawk film, an adaptation of the Ernest Hemmingway novel, is set in exotic Martinique right after the 1940 fall of France. Though Bogart portrays a rather unsophisticated character compared to Rick Blaine, there are plot similarities. Steve, who runs a fishing boat for hire, assists the French Resistance in order to recover an $800 debt. However, in the end, his character comes to the forefront. Compelling supporting roles are portrayed by Walter Brennan, as his alcoholic sidekick, Eddie, and Hoagie Carmichael as the piano player, Cricket.

The last Bogart movie that I will cover could also be classified as "Hollywood on Hollywood." This film, In a Lonely Place (1950), where he plays a short-tempered and often violent screenwriter, is not one of his most famous, but I think is one of his best performances. Dix Steele (Bogart) is accused of murder and doesn’t do much to persuade the police otherwise. Though his neighbor, Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame) provides an alibi, the detectives cannot shake Steele’s obsessive details on how he believes that the murder was committed. Ms. Gray falls for him, only to discover his violent persona. Bogart’s eyes reveal Dix’s tormented soul throughout the movie. This film also exposes Hollywood’s treatment of its key players—from screenwriters to actors to agents.

Many of you may wonder, "What about The Maltese Falcon, Key Largo, The African Queen (after all he won an Oscar for that one), Dark Passage…" We all have our favorites, and I have limited space. I think that most of us can agree that Humphrey Bogart will hold on to his elusive appeal for decades to come.

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