Humphrey Bogart

Marked Woman 1937

Marked Woman (1937)

Mary Dwight (Bette Davis) works as a hostess in a nightclub, but when the club is taken over by notorious gangster Johnny Vanning (Eduardo Ciannelli), he wants to turn it into a not-so-legitimate clip joint. Mary and the other hostesses are not happy about their new boss, but Vanning is very powerful and crossing him could be dangerous, so try to be as cooperative as possible with him.

One night, Mary spends the evening with Ralph Krawford (Damian O’Flynn), who thinks he’s pulling a fast one on the club owners by running up a big debt at the casino and paying it off with a bad check. Mary warns him about the danger he’s in and advises him to leave town right away. But Vanning wasn’t born yesterday and has Krawford killed before he can even make it to the train station. The police find out Mary had been with Krawford the night he was killed and arrest Mary.

Prosecutor David Graham (Humphrey Bogart) tries to convince Mary to rat on Vanning, but although she eventually starts to seem cooperative, she’s too afraid of what could happen to her if she does and her testimony helps him go free again. Meanwhile, Mary’s sister Betty (Jane Bryan) is visiting from school and is too scandalized by the incident to go back. Mary loves her sister and doesn’t want Betty getting involved with her lifestyle, but one night, Betty joins fellow hostess Emmy Lou (Isabel Jewell) for a party, where she ends up getting on the bad side of one of Vanning’s cohorts and Vanning kills her. Now Mary is more eager than ever testify against Vanning, even if it puts her life on the line.

Marked Woman has all the hallmarks that 1930s Warner Brothers movies were famous for. Gangsters? Check. Fast pacing? Yep, it’s got that. Snappy dialogue? Oh, yeah. Stars like Humphrey Bogart and Bette Davis? Check and check! This is just a good old fashioned gangster movie, but unlike most other gangster movies, Marked Woman focuses on the nightclub hostesses, who often tend to be relegated to supporting character status. When you hear about a 1930s Warner Brothers movie that involves gangsters and stars Humphrey Bogart, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that Bogart will be playing the gangster. Instead, he’s fully on the side of law and order here. So although Marked Woman is, in many ways, a classic Warner Brothers gangster flick, it does shake things up in a couple of ways, which I found refreshing. It’s a great movie.

Pre-Code Essentials: Three on a Match (1932)

Three on a match 1932

Plot

Even from a very young age, Mary Keaton (Joan Blondell), Vivian Revere (Ann Dvorak), and Ruth Wescott (Bette Davis) were on completely different paths in life. They were classmates together as children; Mary the class bad girl, Vivian the popular one, and Ruth was one of the most studious.

Ten years after parting ways, they run into each other and meet for lunch. After a stint in reform school, Mary is now working as a showgirl. Ruth is a stenographer and Vivian married to powerful attorney Robert Kirkwood (Warren William). Although Vivian seems to have everything a person could ever want, she’s grown increasingly dissatisfied with her life. To shake up her life, Vivian takes her son on a trip, but on the ship, she gets mixed up with gambler Michael Loftus (Lyle Talbot). Before long, she’s descended into a life of drugs and alcohol, making it impossible for her to take good care of her son.

Mary is aware of Vivian’s hard partying and goes to see Robert to come up with a plan to at least get the child away from her. Once her son is away from her, Vivian and Robert divorce and Vivian hits rock bottom. When Vivian and Michael are desperate for money, Michael kidnaps Vivian’s son and holds him hostage.


My Thoughts

When I first saw Three on a Match, I was mostly watching it for Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart since those are two of my favorite movie stars. I know I’m not the only one who was drawn to this movie because of those two, but while many people watch for Bogart and Davis, they stay for Ann Dvorak. Out of all the major stars, Ann Dvorak is now the least widely remembered of the bunch, but she completely steals the movie from every single one of her costars. Bogart and Davis, at the time, were up-and-coming stars and weren’t being used to their full potential yet. Warren William and Joan Blondell are both good, but are totally eclipsed by Ann Dvorak’s mesmerizing presence.

Three on a Match is also a master class in efficient storytelling. It fits more into 63 minutes than most movies do in two hours.


The Definitive Pre-Code Moment

Herve (Humphrey Bogart) insinuating Vivian’s drug addiction.


Why It’s an Essential Pre-Code

One last “fallen woman” tale for this series of essential pre-codes. In some ways, Vivian’s story reminds me of several other “fallen woman” movies I’ve highlighted this month, but her story ends up feeling really unique. Vivian reminds me a bit of Temple Drake from The Story of Temple Drake in the sense that they were both women with a pretty high standing in society and when they fall, they fall very hard. They both slip into these incredibly dirty worlds that are anything but fun. Three on a Match does nothing to glorify the lifestyle Vivian and Michael end up leading. But the fact that Vivian is a mother and her lifestyle directly endangers her child adds a more shocking element to her story. Helen Faraday from Blonde Venus is another fallen woman who is also a mother, but she was much more concerned about her child’s welfare; Vivian was too strung out to properly care for her son. However, she does redeem herself in the end by making the ultimate sacrifice for her child.

Tokyo Joe (1949)

Tokyo Joe 1949 PosterBefore World War II, American Joe Barrett (Humphrey Bogart) adopted Tokyo as his hometown.  He ran a gambling joint called Tokyo Joe’s and was married to Trina (Florence Marly), but when the war broke out, he fought with the Americans.  After the war, Joe returns to Tokyo to re-open his club and believes that Trina died during the war.  Joe isn’t able to re-open his club, but it is now being run by his friend Ito (Teru Shimada).

But more importantly, he finds out Trina is still alive.  However, she is now married to Mark Landis (Alexander Knox), an American lawyer.  Joe also discovers he has a seven-year-old daughter, Anya.  Determined to win Trina back, Joe starts looking for ways to stay in Tokyo after his visitor’s visa expires and decides to apply for an airline franchise.

Applying for an airline franchise can be very time consuming, so Joe soon finds himself partnering with gangster Baron Kimura (Sessue Hayakawa), who is able to speed up the process.  Naturally, Kimura doesn’t plan to use the airline for legitimate purposes and Joe ends up being trapped in a plot to smuggle war criminals into Tokyo and when Kimura begins to have his doubts about Joe, Anya’s life is put on the line.

Tokyo Joe isn’t a bad movie, there just isn’t a whole lot of substance to the story.  The performances are respectable and the storyline is decent, but it wasn’t fleshed out enough for me to get very invested in it.  It hops from one plot point to the next without giving me enough of a reason to be very interested in the characters or what happens to them.  I would never call Tokyo Joe one of Bogart’s best movies, but since I’m a big fan of his, I’m glad I saw it at least once.

Book Vs. Movie: The Maltese Falcon

When you have more than one screen adaptation of a novel, usually one is more faithful to the novel than the other.  However, in the case of The Maltese Falcon, it has two pretty accurate adaptations.  The first version, released in 1931 and stars Ricardo Cortez, Thelma Todd, and Bebe Daniels, does a pretty good job of sticking to the source material.  However, the 1941 Humphrey Bogart version is an even more accurate representation of the book.  It doesn’t stick to the novel exactly, but most of the dialogue is taken verbatim and the key story elements are kept in tact.

Most of the differences are pretty subtle and probably were changed for the sake of pacing.  For example, in the movie Sam finds out about La Paloma after he wakes up in Gutman’s hotel room and starts looking around the room.  It’s a much more drawn out process in the book.  In the book, Sam finds out Miss O’Shaugnessy didn’t go to Effie’s apartment like she was supposed to.  Instead, she had the cab stop to get a newspaper, then she asked to be brought to the ferry building.  So Sam gets a copy of the paper in question to look for clues, but doesn’t figure it out until he starts snooping around Cairo’s room and notices that the newspaper section with ship arrivals was of particular interest to him.  Although there’s nothing wrong with the way that part plays out in the book, if it were filmed that way, it would have slowed the movie down.  Another difference is that the character of Gutman’s daughter is completely absent from the Bogart movie (as well as from the Ricardo Cortez version, for that matter), but she wasn’t exactly a vital character in the book.

A lot of the other changes were definitely made because of the production codes.  What’s interesting about that content is that neither the 1931 or the 1941 version gets it exactly right.  The 1931 version tends to be a bit more scandalous than the book was, but it does include things that were in the book that couldn’t be included in the 1941 version.  There’s no way the 1941 version could have gotten away with the scene where Spade strip searches O’Shaugnessy after noticing that $1,000 of the $10,000 Gutman promised him was missing, but it was in the 1931 version.  The 1941 version also really had to downplay the fact that Cairo and Wilmer were both supposed to be gay, the 1931 version made that much clearer.  In the book, when O’Shaugnessy finds out that Sam has been talking to Cairo and that he’s prepared to offer more money than she can, she offers to sleep with him and proceeds to spend the night at Sam’s apartment.  When it comes to that part in the 1941 version, O’Shaugessy can’t offer herself to Spade or spend the night, so Sam just kisses her instead.  As for Spade’s affair with Iva Archer, the 1941 version actually depicts what went on more accurately than the 1931 version.  The 1931 version made that affair more salacious than the book described.  First of all, the book made Iva Archer out to be a little past her prime, which Thelma Todd most certainly was not.  There also weren’t any scenes involving Iva showing up at Sam’s apartment and finding O’Shaugnessy wearing her kimono nor were there any of Miles listening on the extension while Sam and Iva set up a tryst.

I really enjoyed reading The Maltese Falcon and I think anyone who likes either movie version would, too.  Like I said, what you see in either movie version is pretty much what you get in the book.  And since it’s not a terribly long book, either, I definitely recommend reading it.  As for which movie version I prefer, I think it goes without saying that the Humphrey Bogart version wins hands down.  The Ricardo Cortez version is good, but it doesn’t have the flawless cast and direction that the Humphrey Bogart version did.  I always loved the cast of the Bogart version, but while I was reading the book and got to read exactly how each character was described, I feel like that version had some of the most perfect casting of all time.  Nobody will ever make a better Sam Spade than Humphrey Bogart.

For more Bogie, be sure to visit Forever Classics for more Humphrey Bogart Blogathon contributions.

What’s on TCM: December 2011

We’re down to the last month of 2011 already!  TCM will be closing out the year in top form.  December’s star of the month is William Powell, which I am very excited about since I’m a big fan of his.  It also means we get two nights of movies featuring him with Myrna Loy, one night being the entire Thin Man series and another night featuring their other collaborations.  His movies will be showcased every Thursday night this month.  TCM will also be celebrating the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens a little early (his birthday isn’t actually until February) by devoting Monday nights to showing various film adaptations of his work.  And of course there are Christmas classics galore to look forward to!

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King of the Underworld (1939)

Dr. Carol Nelson (Kay Francis) and her husband Niles are both doctors with bright careers ahead of them.  However, Niles has a hobby of betting on horse races so he could use a little extra cash.  An opportunity for extra money comes his way when he treats a guy working for gangster Joe Gurney (Humphrey Bogart).  Joe liked Niles’ work so much that he decides that he’s going to send all of his guys to Niles when they need treatment.  Carol thinks Niles is getting all this extra money from betting on horses.  One night, he’s called to take care of someone at Joe’s hideout and has Carol wait in the car for him.  While Niles is inside, the police come and raid the joint and Niles is killed in the ensuing shootout.  Not only is Niles dead, but authorities assume Carol has also been working with Joe and her medical license is on the verge of being revoked.

Determined to prove her innocence, she moves to Wayne Center, where some of Joe’s men have just been put in jail, hoping that Joe will come to town and she’ll have a chance to infiltrate the gang.  She sets up shop and doesn’t get much business, but she’s willing to sit back and wait for Joe to show up.  Meanwhile, Joe has become quite the notorious criminal and he reckons himself to be the Napoleon of the underworld.  He is indeed on his way to Wayne Center and along the way, he meets writer Bill Stevens on the side of the road.  When Joe starts talking to Bill, he takes a shine to him when he realizes that Bill knows a lot about Napoleon.  Bill doesn’t realize who Joe is and accepts a ride from them.  When they get to town, Bill finally finds out who Joe is, but not before Joe starts trying to break his guys out of jail.  Bill tries to escape and is shot, but Joe also takes a bullet.

Bill is arrested because they think he’s part of the gang and Carol volunteers to give him medical attention.  After talking to him, she finds out that he’s really innocent and the two of them bond over being falsely accused of working with Joe.  Later that night, Joe drops by Carol’s place so she can stitch him up, too.  The next day, Bill is released from jail and is invited to stay at Carol’s place.  But then some of Joe’s guys capture him because Joe wants him to ghostwrite his autobiography.  When Joe’s gunshot wound starts giving him problems again, he has Carol brought over to his place to take care of it.  But when she returns home, she finds out the cops are after her because now they’ve been able to connect her to Joe.  In a last-ditch attempt to prove her innocence once and for all, she hurries back to Joe’s place and convinces him that he’s got a contagious infection that could cause him and the rest of the gang to go blind.  There isn’t really an infection, but she uses the story to give Joe and his gang some eye drops to temporarily blind them.  When the police arrive, most of the gang quickly surrenders, but Joe isn’t willing to give up so easily.  He tries to shoot it out with the cops, but he doesn’t make it out alive.  Carol is cleared of all charges and she and Bill are able to start a life together.

King of the Underworld is a Bogart movie that is very rarely discussed, which is why I was pleased to see it turn up in this year’s Summer Under the Stars line-up.  Not that it’s a particularly outstanding movie, it’s hardly one of the greatest movies that Bogart or Kay Francis ever made.  But it is a decent little movie (and I do mean little, it’s only just over an hour long) and I like seeing movies that are largely forgotten get some attention.  It’s sort of like Mary Stevens, M.D. meets a standard Warner Brothers gangster flick.  Bogart gets to show off his gangster persona but with a little humorous twist.  His character thinks he’s a very smart guy, but it’s pretty funny when he proves that he isn’t so smart after all.  And even though Kay Francis was only given this movie as a way to try to force her out of her contract, she kept her chin up and gave a nice performance anyway.  Like I said, it’s not a particularly outstanding movie, but it kept me entertained well enough.

What’s on TCM: August 2011


It’s that time of year again!  Let Summer Under the Stars commence!  I love this year’s line-up.  Even though there are plenty of the usual SUTS suspects like Bette Davis, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart, more than half of this year’s stars have never been part of SUTS before.  And many of those who have been featured before, haven’t been featured in quite a few years.  Let’s take a look at the full list of stars:

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