When considering the greatest love affairs in the history of Hollywood, the smoldering pairing of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall would have to rank near the top of the list. Though Bogart was twenty-six years older than the fledgling starlet Bacall (whom he nicknamed “Baby”), their relationship lasted a passionate and loving thirteen years, until Bogart’s death from esophageal cancer in 1957. Still, within that relatively short period of time, Bogie and Bacall co-starred in four films, and from most accounts, Bogart’s mentorship on these films helped the inexperienced Bacall blossom as an actress.
It’s easy to see the development of Bacall’s talent by watching those four films, all of which are included in the 2006 release of the Bogie and Bacall Signature Collection box set. I received this collection as a Christmas gift last year, and can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down to watch these movies. Textbook examples of effective film noir, every one of them. And it’s particularly appropriate to watch some of Bogart’s best work this month, as TCM has dedicated December to celebrating Star of the Month Bogie’s 110th birthday, and all of these movies are scheduled to appear, in order of original release, on TCM tomorrow evening (December 23rd), followed by the excellent documentary Bacall on Bogart (from 1988).
Of the four films, my particular favorite is the last, 1948’s Key Largo. By this time, the chemistry between husband and wife had solidified into a dynamic screen partnership, and the tension bred by this story of gangsters and bystanders trapped on an island during a hurricane makes for a well-structured thriller. But each of these four films has its charms. Though Bacall’s relative inexperience shows in their first pairing, To Have and Have Not (1945), her sizzling delivery and the emotions delivered by the merest arch of her eyebrows hint at the smoky-voiced ingenue’s future success. The collection’s edition of The Big Sleep (1946), one of the most notoriously difficult-to-follow films in Hollywood history, includes a double-sided disc providing both the convoluted theatrical version and the original version (the restored scenes in the latter making the plot line that much easier to comprehend). And 1947’s Dark Passage, while arguably the weakest film in the collection, still manages to hold the audience in thrall despite its initial gimmick: the first half of the movie is seen through the eyes of Bogart’s character, an escaped prisoner who has recently undergone plastic surgery, and we do not see Bogart’s face in the film until the bandages are removed.
All in all, the Bogie and Bacall Signature Collection provides some great viewing and a plethora of extras, including two classic Warner Bros. cartoons (the best of which, “Slick Hare,” has Bogart asking for some rabbit for his “Baby,” at the potential expense of Bugs Bunny’s head).
The Collection is currently on sale at Amazon for the ridiculously reasonable price of $18.99 (so snap it up!), and make sure to catch these films on TCM tomorrow night starting at 8PM EST!
We’ll be taking a brief break from blogging for the holidays, but we want to take a moment to wish you (and yours) a very merry Christmas and an exciting, adventurous, flick-filled new year. And in the meantime, if you need us, you know what to do … just give a whistle (you know how to whistle, don’t you? You just put your lips together and … blow).