Thursday, September 8, 2011

Bogart Becoming Bogart



All Through the Night, written by Leonard Spigelgass, Edwin Gilbert and Leo Rosten, directed by Vincent Sherman, starring Humphrey Bogart ("Gloves" Donahue), Conrad Veidt (Ebbing), Kaaren Verne (Leda), Jane Darwell (Mrs. Donahue), Peter Lorre (Pepi), Judith Anderson (Madame), William Demarest (Sunshine), Phil Silvers (Waiter), Jackie Gleason (Starchie) and Frank McHugh (Barney) (1941): Released five days before Pearl Harbour, this movie's jokey tone and somewhat light take on foreign saboteurs didn't sit well with audiences once America entered World War Two.

Still, this is a jolly and involving comic-drama that sometimes seems way, way ahead of its time in its combination of action and comedy.

Bogart, on the cusp of superstardom (High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon came out earlier in 1941, while Across the Pacific and Casablanca would be out within the following 13 months), plays "Gloves" Donahue, a loveable gang leader in New York. He's from the Damon Runyon school of loveable gangsters, and comes complete with a loveable, interfering Irish mother played by Jane Darwell, who'd recently won an Oscar for playing loveable Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath.

Gloves and his men stumble across a Nazi spy ring, and soon only Bogart and the daughter of a concentration-camp prisoner stand between New York and Nazi saboteurs, partially because the police are idiots. Boy, are the police idiots.

It's all played breezily and, if you've watched a lot of classic television, you'll note that a lot of supporting actors would go on to rewarding television careers, most notably Jackie Gleason (The Honeymooners), Phil Silvers (Sgt. Bilko) and William Demarest (the grandfather in My Three Sons). Peter Lorre and Conrad Veidt -- both of whom would reteam with Bogart in Casablanca -- and Dame Judith Anderson round out a surprisingly high-powered cast. Blink and you'll miss a miniature Nazi dachschund getting blown up. Recommended.

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