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Friday, September 16, 2011

How George Raft Made Humphrey Bogart a Star - Part II

The careers of Bogart and Raft would be inextricably linked for the next three years and by 1943, Bogart was the biggest star in Hollywood and Raft was reduced to making a movie that attempted to copy the success of a Bogart film.

In 1939, Raft and Bogart made a forgettable film called Invisible Stripes. Released from prison, Raft goes on the straight and narrow while Bogart falls back into his bad habits. Circumstances force Raft to resume a life of crime but he manages to quit the gang and both Raft and Bogart are gunned down by other mobsters near the film’s end. It was one of seven (yes, seven) films Bogart made that year. He was shot to death in four of them (King of the Underworld, The Oklahoma Kid, The Roaring Twenties and Invisible Stripes); sentenced to be electrocuted in another (You Can’t Get Away Wirth Murder) and shot down after having been electrocuted and raised from the dead in another (The Return of Doctor X). He wasn’t exactly getting star quality parts.

Ironically enough, though he had only a minor part in Dark Victory, Bogie received good reviews for the one role when he was allowed to live. Bette Davis, star of Dark Victory, made six films with Bogart but strongly disliked him.

While Raft had star billing in Invisible Stripes, the number two male spot went to William Holden, with Bogart one slot below him. Bogart was annoyed, as this was only Holden’s second credited role, while it was Bogart’s thirty-second. It’s possible that this bad feeling in 1939 was at the root of their dislike for each other during the filming of Sabrina some fifteen years later.

Bogart Bit: Director Sam Spiegel wanted Bogart to play an American commando in the Oscar winning Bridge on the River Kwai, but Bogie was already committed to The Harder They Fall. The part went to Holden, instead.

In 1940, Raft would star in They Drive By Night, with Bogart playing his brother in this trucker film. Third-billed Ida Lupino turned out to be the star of the movie, breaking down in a memorable courtroom scene late in the film. Bogart was billed number four, with Ann Sheridan holding down the second spot. That same year, Raft turned down the lead in a gangster comedy called It All Came True and Bogart took the part. It wasn’t a very memorable film: just one of the seventeen he made from 1938 through 1940. Bogart was again billed below Ann Sheridan (she was the star; he was third bill).

Humphrey Bogart had worked in thirty-seven films in the previous eleven years, but it was in 1941 that Raft inadvertently made him a star. Back in 1938, a young John Huston had co-written the script to The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse, starring Edward G. Robinson and Claire Trevor. Bogie had third billing as gangster Rocks Valentine (poisoned by Robinson in this appearance). In 1941, Huston worked with author W.R. Burnett on the screenplay for the latter’s novel, High Sierra. Raft turned down the movie, saying he didn’t want to play a gangster. Also, he didn’t like the fact that Roy Earle died at the end of the film. With that decision, Raft’s short stay at Warners began its decline and Bogart was starting to climb out of B movie purgatory.

The original Scarface
After Raft declined the part, the studio turned to Paul Muni. Muni had not made a film at Warners since 1937 and was fighting with the studio. Jack Warner seemed to be constantly battling his stars. Muni followed Raft and turned down the role. As it turns out, he had already made his last movie at Warner Brothers.

While Raft and Muni definitely refused the part, rumor has it that Cagney and Robinson also said no. With four of Warner’s top stars crossed off, Bogart was cast opposite Ida Lupino, who got top billing. There is speculation that Bogart was originally to receive the top spot but his recent brush with the House Un-American Activities Committee resulted in Lupino getting top billing instead. While Jack Warner certainly wouldn’t hesitate at such a move, Lupino was a hotter commodity after her turn in They Drive By Night and probably had more potential to move the film than Bogart at this stage in his career.

Regardless, Bogart received rave reviews as the criminal with a tender side. Critics and fans loved him and he enjoyed his biggest success since The Petrified Forest. Raft had blown a chance to star in a hit film. Something he would certainly regret as his career regressed.

Raft made only one movie in 1941, Manpower, costarring with Bogart and Marlene Dietrich. Raft wasn’t happy with Bogart and had him removed from the film just after shooting started. Bogart was upset but was not reinstated to the film. Edward G. Robinson replaced Bogie and the mild-mannered star ended up in a fight with Raft. The movie was mediocre. Raft was 0 for 2.

Edward G. Robinson helped create the Hollywood gangster as Rico in 1931’s Little Caesar. He played his last mobster, (Johnny) Rocco, in 1948’s Key Largo. In between, he had starred in Bullets or Ballots, Kid Galahad, The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse and Brother Orchid, killing Bogart in all four of them. His success waned in the fifties but he had a final hurrah opposite Steve McQueen in 1965’s The Cincinnati Kid.




 Bogart, upset at losing Manpower, was even more upset when he was sent the script for Bad Men Of Missouri. He was to star as the eldest of the three Younger brothers, with Wayne Morris (who was actually billed above Bogart in Men Are Such Fools and The Return of Doctor X but featured below Bogie in China Clipper and Kid Galahad) and Arthur Kennedy (fresh off High Sierra, his second film). The female lead was played by future Oscar winner and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, Jane Wyman. Legend is that Bogart wrote “Are you kidding me?” on the script and sent it back to Jack Warner, who quickly suspended him. Dennis Morgan replaced Bogart in the lead.
Before Elvis Presley, Wayne Morris (left) was Kid Galahad
Bogie Bits: Not long before he died, Bogart said that he made more lousy pictures than any other actor in history. And though it usually wasn't his fault, he did make an awful lot of stinkers. There are several that could claim the title of most rotten tomato (I can't imagine myself ever watching Swing Your Lady a second time), but you'd have to work pretty  hard to top The Return of Dr. X.

Bogie is a scientist who had been executed. He is brought back from the dead and needs to kill people for their blood in lieu of the synthetic blood he was first using. Wayne Morris (see the tie-in here. Not a completely irrelevant jaunt) is the hero of the film.

This was Bogie's only science fiction/horror film and he has a skunk stripe in his hair. It is a classic bad B sci fi film from the era. He rarely talked about it as he considered this one of his worst movies. It was presented as a sequel to the successful Doctor X film, but the actual similarities ended at the title.

I don't give that bunny much of a chance...


3 comments:

  1. You're saying that Humphrey Bogart "had a brush" with the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1941? The House Un-American Activities Committee wasn't formed until 1947! You may want to check your facts a bit more carefully next time!

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  2. Bogart did have a "brush" with HUAC in 1941 when Dem. Martin Dies the committee chairman went to Hollywood and interviewed Bogie, Cagney, Fredric March about their support for suspected radical groups. All were immediately cleared. o suspected radical groups. HUAC was formed in the late 1930.s

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