#154 (tie) – In a Lonely Place (1950), dir. Nicholas Ray

In a Lonely Place (1950)

Temporary insanity. Gloria Grahame and Humphrey Bogart are star-crossed lovers torn apart by Bogie’s potentially murderous temper in director Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place.

The noir movies of the 1940s rather muddied the waters when it came to movie protagonists. Even the heroes in noir films tend to be complicated or compromised, and there was perhaps no single actor more essential for creating the Hollywood antihero than Humphrey Bogart. Too gruff and brutish-looking to be a typical leading man, but too charismatic and talented for character roles, Bogie was perfect as a protagonist who straddled the line between hero and villain. It was as the thuggish, sarcastic, womanizing detective Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon that Bogie became a bona fide star, and he became an icon through his performance in Casablanca by playing a hero who was essentially an angry, jealous drunk. There was always a darkness to Bogart’s performances, and that darkness gets to come to the fore in director Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place (1950). A film set at the intersection of passion and violence, In a Lonely Place explores the capacity that we have for savagery — both to commit violence and to tolerate, or even love, those who give themselves over to rage. (93 min.) Continue reading

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#202 (tie) – The Big Sleep (1946), dir. Howard Hawks

The Big Sleep (1946)

Somebody’s always giving me guns. Humphrey Bogart stars as the iconic private eye Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep, director Howard Hawks’ shadow-drenched adaptation of the classic detective novel of the same name.

In 1939, at the age of 51, former businessman Raymond Chandler published his first novel, The Big Sleep, a dark, complex mystery following hard-boiled private detective Philip Marlowe as he wends his way through a series of murders and disappearances tied to a blackmail and pornography racket. Chandler is one of the great stylists in American literature and a giant in the genre of detective fiction, but there is no doubt that a solid measure of his fame stems from director Howard Hawks’ film noir adaptation of The Big Sleep (1946). The film capitalizes on the tough, anti-hero charisma of Humphrey Bogart in the role of Philip Marlowe and spices up the mix by pairing Bogie with Lauren Bacall. The two were then in the midst of a torrid affair and that chemistry is splashed all across the screen — in some ways it actually saved the movie from potential box office disaster (we’ll get into that below). In many respects The Big Sleep is a tangled mess of a film. It’s not really the best place to go for a coherent narrative or earned plot twists, but it is blessed with some of the best dialogue of any noir fiction. And while the film as whole might not make much sense, individual scenes sparkle with sexual tension or slang-ridden bravado. It’s the rare murder mystery where it doesn’t really matter a damn who done it. Being along for the ride is more than enough. (115 minutes) Continue reading

#84 (tie) – Casablanca (1942), dir. Michael Curtiz

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Of all the gin joints. Humphrey Bogart became a mega-star following his iconic portrayal of the cynical, drunken anti-hero Rick Blaine in Casablanca — a story of romance and the perils of neutrality in the face of Fascism.

Here at Fan With a Movie Yammer we are right smack in the middle of a huge run of American films, a situation that is largely the result of much of the world in the early 1940s having been an active war zone or under the control of autocratic governments that stifled the arts. The United States finally entered the fray in late 1941 with troops and weapons, but also with cultural products aimed at boosting morale at home, supporting its allies, and vilifying its enemies. Tons of pro-war/anti-Axis films were rushed into production, and perhaps none is more famous than 1942’s Casablanca. The unproduced play upon which Casablanca is based landed at Warner Bros. studios literally the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the rush to get the story into production meant that much of it was still being written as the movie was filming. But out of this chaotic process a gaggle of screenwriters somehow managed to capture lightning in a bottle. As you probably already know, Casablanca is the story of an American nightclub owner in Morocco who has to struggle between conscience and desire when his former love re-enters his life. The film is often thought of as a classic romance, but in many ways it is really more about its setting — a world of refugees and ruthless oppressors that must be set right, no matter the sacrifice. And you’re sacrificing a lot if you are willing to give up Ingrid Bergman. (102 min.) Continue reading