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All Through the Night (1941) and Propaganda in American Films during WWII

1941 – Starring Humphrey Bogart, Conrad Veidt, Kaaren Verne, Peter Lorre – Directed by Vincent Sherman

Poster%20-%20All%20Through%20the%20Night_16[1]All Through The Night really has it all: gangsters, Nazi spies, romance, comedy, murder, kidnapping, a car chase, a fight in a lift, a nightclub song, cheesecake.

And it has the most marvelous cast crisscrossing in and out of Humphrey Bogart’s path as he detects his way through the film. The movie is actually sandwiched between his breakthrough role in The Maltese Falcon (1941) and his ever iconic role in Casablanca (1942), but this one is just plain fun.

Here, he is Gloves Donahue (his real name is Alfred, but he doesn’t like to spread that about) and he is a sports promoter (slightly on the shady side of things, though he does pay his taxes) who likes cheesecake. The man who makes his cheesecake is murdered, however, and his mother has a feeling that the girl who stopped by and wanted to speak with the baker knows something and when Gloves’ mother has a feeling then Gloves and all his men must get involved.

William demarest, Bogart, Peter Lorre

William Demarest, Bogart, Peter Lorre

Gloves manages to track down the woman who works at a nightclub of one of his rivals, where she sings. She seems nervous and her pianist, Pepi (Peter Lorre), is the same man who shot the baker and is noticeably keeping an eye on her. When the bouncer of the club goes back to tell her off for talking with Gloves, he is murdered by Pepi and everyone thinks Gloves did it. He goes on the run, trying to find the woman, who is the only person who can clear his name, and also is trying to unravel what’s going on. He takes William Demarest with him (being his usual cranky, grumbling self) and Frank McHugh, who just got married that night and just wants to go home to his bride.

I was very impressed: the title actually makes sense. The whole tale really happens “all through the night.” On his quest, he runs into Conrad Veidt (think Major Strasser from Casablanca), Judith Anderson (Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca, looking just as dangerous here) and figures out that there’s the most impressively organized fifth columnist Nazi spy ring in New York I’ve ever seen.

It’s actually a very fun movie, although the ending disintegrates into slight silliness and a few ‘we-need-to-wake-up-and-fight-the-Nazis” speeches, which – I’m all for fighting Nazis – is rather awkwardly inserted into the film. The film had such a delightful pace until it slowed down a little near the end.

Conrad Veidt, Kaaren Verne, Bogart

Conrad Veidt, Kaaren Verne, Bogart

As a result, the film ends up a little longer than it needs to be with moments like the one where there is a call to arms: gangsters of the country, unite and fight the Nazis! Even gangsters must do their part during the war.

There is one very funny moment near the end when Gloves and his sidekick, played by William Demarest, find themselves sitting in on a Nazi meeting where an act of sabotage is being planned and they are called upon to explain their part in the plan. They are reduced to fake German and some highly imaginative pseudo-science terms to bluff their way through, while the Nazis listening have to keep rising and saying “heil.”

Of course, if you think about it, the sabotage plan is not very bright. The movie was made before America entered the war, although it was released just afterwards, so any attack on America would have been a premature declaration of war, which doesn’t exactly make sense since you would think the last thing Hitler would want is to incite America to enter the war.

The movie was specifically made as a kind of comedic propaganda to awaken Americans to the dangers of the Nazis; the idea that the Nazis were a threat at home and not just in Europe, though the article on TCM’s site points out that as America entered the war, the less likely they were to make fun of Nazis and the more aware they were of the evil of Nazism.

Annex%20-%20Bogart,%20Humphrey%20(All%20Through%20the%20Night)_NRFPT_04_small[1]The film is still very funny and well worth watching and I’m surprised I had never heard of it before. I only saw it because it came in a Humphrey Bogart collection that I picked up at Costco (Costco has lovely deals on all sorts of classic films and classic film collections).

Notes: Three of the cast members actually did have to flee Nazi Germany: Conrad Veidt, because his wife was Jewish, Peter Lorre was also Jewish, and the female lead, Kaaren Verne. Kaaren Verne and Peter Lorre actually fell in love during the making of the film and would marry later, though they divorced 5 years later.

All Through the Night is yet another movie that the actor George Raft turned down, thus opening the way for Humphrey Bogart. George Raft was also offered the parts of Sam Spade and Rick in The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca. I’ve heard it said that George Raft single-handedly made Humphrey Bogart’s career.

Bogart’s mother is played by Jane Darwell, who I always think of as the Bird Lady from Mary Poppins and it was fun to see her in another role with no birds on her head.

 

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Does Bette Davis Ever Get Her Man? with a brief review of Kid Galahad

kid_galahad[1]I just watched a movie called Kid Galahad (1937), starring Edward G. Robinson, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart and Wayne Morris and it brought up a very interesting point. How come Bette Davis so rarely gets her man?

Of course, so far I’ve only seen ten of her films, but she’s only gotten her man in three of them: All About Eve (1950), The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942) and The Catered Affair (1956) – though she already had him in that one, but it wasn’t a particularly happy marriage.

In The Petrified Forest (1936) her man gets shot (by Humphrey Bogart, though it was kind of a suicide. It’s a complicated scenario). As Queen Elizabeth I in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939) she has her man beheaded. In Now Voyager (1942), her man is already married. Waterloo Bridge (1931) doesn’t count because she only has a bit part and there’s no man to get. But in Jezebel, half the trouble in the film is caused by that fact that she doesn’t get her man.

I suppose you could argue that she does get her man in Marked Woman (1937), but that’s only because where she really wants to get him is in jail.

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this movie still makes it look like Bette gets all the men. Of course, the one that wants her dies, the one she wants doesn’t want her and Humphrey Bogart just wants money

And finally, we have Kid Galahad. She is initially Edward G. Robinson’s girl, who is a boxing promoter, but she falls in love with Robinson’s boxer, Wayne Morris. Morris, however, has the bad taste to fall in love with Robinson’s sister (Jane Bryan). Humphrey Bogart is lurking about as a mobster promoting a rival boxer.

It’s a good film, with lots of boxing action and good acting all around, but I was frustrated at the story. I liked the first half more because it had more of her, but in the second half Robinson’s sister shows up and she wasn’t as interesting. And Bette Davis’ character was such a nice, well-adjusted person for being a boxing promoter’s moll and having led a tough life and I really wanted her to be happy.

I’ve seen many of the great actresses: Katharine Hepburn, Myrna Loy, Barbara Stanwyck, Ingrid Bergman, Claudette Colbert and they usually do manage a happy ending – at least more than 50% of the time. I suppose that’s what Bette Davis gets for being a serious, dramatic actress…no men.

Maybe I just need to see more of her films.

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2014 in Drama, Movie Thoughts

 

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The Big Sleep – Movie and Book

220px-Bigsleep2[1]It is practically axiomatic that The Big Sleep does not make sense. When director Howard Hawks asked author Raymond Chandler who had killed the chauffeur, Chandler wired back that he had no idea. Somehow, that lack of clarity has only enhanced the mystique of the story…especially the movie.

The reasons for the confusion in the film are three-fold: the book never made that much sense anyway, the studio wanted a romance between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, which came at the cost of clarity, and the Hays Code was in effect, which meant that there were many things that could be written about which could not be shown on screen.

I read the book, therefore, in the hope that it would elucidate certain aspects of the film, which it mostly did.

The Big Sleep (1939), by Raymond Chandler

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What Roger Eberts writes of the movie could also be written of the book, that it is “about the process of a criminal investigation, not its results.” Private detective Philip Marlowe is hired to look into the blackmailing of General Sternwood’s daughter, Carmen, but everyone – including his other daughter, Vivien – assume that he was hired to look into the disappearance of Vivien’s husband, Rusty Regan.

There are two parts to the book. The first half deals with the death of Carmen’s blackmailer, as well as other sundry murders and sordid affairs. The second half deals with Marlowe’s search for Regan, which involves a lot of the same characters who were involved in the death of the blackmailer, like the casino owner whose wife supposedly ran off with Rusty Regan and seems to have something on Vivien.

There were obviously quite a few aspects of the book that were not allowed in the movie. It’s not so much that the movie changed things (though it did change things), but that it let certain details drop out of the picture. The result was a general lack of understandable motivation for certain characters. Why did this one young man randomly show up and shoot this other man? Oh, the blackmailer was his lover, but he shoots the wrong man because the real murderer was the chauffeur who died (nobody knows how). And what does it mean to be running “a racket?” Oh, that’s a pornographic shop. That makes sense.

Another, significant, difference is that there is no romance in the book. A romance would be too hopeful for a hardboiled detective novel, where women are wild and licentious and men are cynical and cold.

th1V1FJYF7The Big Sleep (1946) Starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall – Directed by Howard Hawks – Screenplay by William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, Jules Furthman

I’m not sure if Chandler was pleased with the movie adaptation of his book, but he did feel that the actress playing Carmen (Martha Vickers) completely outshone Lauren Bacall as Vivien in the early release of the film. He felt that when the script was rewritten to increase Bacall’s part and decrease Vicker’s, it further confused the plot.

Bogart and Bacall were currently an item. They had met and fallen in love in the very successful 1944 film To Have and Have Not. During the filming of The Big Sleep, Bogart was going through a divorce so he could marry Lauren Bacall. There had been an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the chemistry between the two in the film and the studio wanted to capitalize on that.

They made one version of the movie and released it in 1945 to the troops overseas. However, Bacall’s agent was concerned that she was being overshadowed and since she had just starred in a dud film with Charles Boyer, her agent was concerned about her career and persuaded the studio to shoot some more scenes and cut out a few others. The result was a delightful combination detective/noir/romance – not a usual combination. Most noirs end in tears…or at the very least death, misery or despair for all.

The book ends on a sour note. Spoiler! Rusty Regan was killed by Carmen because he rebuffed her advances and Vivien was trying to hide the fact. End Spoiler! Marlowe notes how he has now become part of the general nastiness of the characters, but that at least he can spare the general any part in it. It’s not an upbeat ending. But the movie is far less nasty (nastiness still occurs, but is not so tainting).

img14[1]In fact, Marlowe, in the movie, is a genuine hero, unlike his Sam Spade from The Maltese Falcon (1941). Sam Spade has no particular morals or convictions (apart from not letting people get away with shooting his partner – even if he didn’t like the man, but it’s the principle that counts), but Bogart’s Philip Marlowe does, if not have morals, at least have a code, as he’s striving to do right, catch the criminals, spare his client and help the woman he loves out of the jam she’s in.

Note: for a witty and spot-on article about The Big Sleep film, The Man on The Flying Trapeze writes in the chivalric vein of the many ways that he loves the film. He calls the film a “screwball noir” and Marlowe “Sir Galahad in a 1938 Plymouth coupe who saves the honor of the Sternwood family while falling in love with one of the princesses.” This article is what inspired me to watch the movie, and also to read the book.

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2014 in Books, Movies

 

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