Day 1 – Wednesday, October 18, 2017
I went to the Bogart Film Festival which ran from Wednesday, October 18 to the 22nd. What drew me in particular was not the films or it being the 75th year anniversary of Casablanca, but that the daughters of both Claude Rains and Paul Henreid and the granddaughter of Melvyn Douglas would be there. And not only this year was the host going to be Stephen Bogart as usual, but his sister Leslie Bogart was also going to be in attendance.
Humphrey Bogart films are not rare. There are none that are lost and certainly none which are “newly discovered”. And the films that are screened at the Bogart Festival are mostly his most popular films. Out of the 15 films that were screened, there were three I had never seen, and those were the war films. But after having the opportunity to listen to and meet Fay Wray and Robert Riskin’s daughter, Victoria Riskin, at Capitolfest, I was much more eager to attend this festival with a friend of mine who was quite charged up to go.
The first day began with Monika Henreid’s interview. She is a strong speaker and had a lot to say about her father. To begin with, she told us the correct pronouncement of her surname which is “Hen-Reed”. Plain and simple. Her father’s given name was Paul Georg Hernreid Ritter von Wasel-Waldingau although the family wasn’t born into aristocracy. Paul’s father, who was an Austrian banker, was given a title which he passed on down to his son.
Henreid survived being blacklisted three times in three different countries for three different reasons before the age of 40! Yet, he was still able to overcome these severe aversive setbacks and morph his career from acting into becoming a director and producer of films.
When Paul was first blacklisted, he was called “an official enemy of the Third Reich”. How did this come to be? Paul learned his trade in his country of Austria and worked with such famous stage artists as Max Reinhardt as well as in film. Ufa, the German film company, sent a scout, and invited him back to Germany to star in their films. He refused to sign the contract that would make him a member of the National Socialist Actor’s Guild of Germany. He and his wife, Lisl, went back to Vienna and his name was taken off the actor’s roster and eventually they went to England. But again, he was blacklisted by the English as he was presumed to be a Nazi, since Austrian passports were issued by the Third Reich. So, for the very opposite reason from the Germans, the British presumed that Henreid, at the very least, was a Nazi sympathiser.
The couple moved to the States and there he was considered an enemy alien although he was still able to work. This meant, however, that he was on a no-fly list and had to travel by train or car. He had a super strong advocate and supporter in Lisl, who he was married to for 60 years.
The last time he was blacklisted was during the House Un-American Activitees Committee era by protesting their actions.
Henreid very much identified with the characters he played in the famous film Casablanca and the lesser known Night Train to Munich (1940).
Monika talked about the famous cigarette lighting scene in one of his most well-known films Now, Voyager. Director Irving Rapper wanted him to light both his and Bette Davis’s cigarettes as it was portrayed in the novel, but it was tedious and too long a shot with him lighting one, passing it to her, and then another for himself. When he got home that night and discussed it with his wife, she said why not do what they always did when one of them had their hands busy. And so, a personal Henreid husband-wife-action became the most iconic scene of cigarette lighting ever immortalized.
Paul Henreid liked very strong women and was very close friends with Bette Davis and Ida Lupino. Bette became a close family friend after she insisted he be cast in Now Voyager and Monika referred to Bette as her “third parent”. Interestingly, although Paul Henreid and Claude Rains did not particular like each other, Bette Davis was very good friends with both men.
Paul Henreid became a director because he always thought he had the instincts to be good at overseeing what would work—or not—in a film. One of his more well-known films that he directed was the 1964 Dead Ringer starring his friend Bette. Monika believes that directing gave her father more satisfaction than acting.
At one point a few of us were talking with her and Hedy Lamarr’s name came up as being a brilliant scientist. She told us an off-the-cuff story that Hedy was a frequent house guest and that she would always bring her laundry to the chagrin of Lisl who disliked an outsider feeling like they could take advantage of a beloved housekeeper, but would bite her tongue and allow it.
His daughter’s favourite film of her dad’s is The Spanish Main (1945) which she feels is the closest to who he actually was as a person. She loves that it’s in colour and you can see the blonde of his hair and the blue of his eyes.
Monika is now working on a documentary about her father. To find out more information about Paul Henreid and to participate in contributing to this worthwhile project, please go to her website Paul Henreid, Beyond Victor Laszlo.
After the discussion we headed to the small multiplex theatre in Tavernier to see The Caine Mutiny (1954). The last and only time I had seen the film was back in the summer of either 1980 but most probably in 1988 when Toronto Film Society screened it at the Crest Theatre and had invited, as a special guest, the director Edward Dymtryk to come introduce the film. I had the honour of picking him and his wife up from the airport and taking them to their hotel. I remember them as very lovely people.
One of the many great performances by Bogart along with an excellent cast including José Ferrer, Van Johnson and Fred MacMurray as the villain of the piece. Interesting how it’s not impossible to understand and feel sympathy for a flawed individual who is both paranoid and a perfectionist, yet won’t admit any self missteps when it’s presented in such a well-directed and acted format.
When that film was over, we had a little break and then went on to see what was my favourite war film during the festival, Passage to Marseille (1944), one of the three films I had never seen before, all of them being directly about WWII. It was directed by Michael Curtiz, cinematography by James Wong Howe, with a musical score by Max Steiner and along with Bogart it starred Michèle Morgan, and old friends Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre. As well, there was a huge cast of men. It’s the story of the patriotic French, with the aid of England, fighting the Nazis. How are the English helping? The French have a top secret bombing squadron stationed in a remote English faming village, Somewhere. In a nano-second—well almost—this idyllic countryside landscape transforms into a Free French armed-forces airport. The only visual that made me want to laugh were the shots of the traffic controller’s head sticking out of a haystack with a glass bubble, the type you would see protecting a Royal Doulton figurine, covering his whole head.
I’ve always liked films with flashbacks. The Locket (1946) always comes to mind as a most interesting movie with a flashback within a flashback. Passage to Marseille has gone one step further.
Capt. Freycinet (Claude Rains) tells a visiting official, Manning (John Loder) the background story of heroic flyer Jean Matrac (Bogart). We first meet a crew of French army types who are on a ship captained by Patain Malo (Victor Francen). Major Duval (Sydney Greenstreet) wants to create a new France in Marseille, as his ideas lie more in line with the Germans, which comes out later in the film when Captain Malo hears that France has fallen and changes the ship’s course to England.
But before this mutiny, while the ship is on course to England, they discover a dugout boat with five half-dead men in it—Matrac, Renault (Philip Dorn), Marius (Peter Lorre), Petit (George Tobias) and Garou (Helmut Dantine). Duval immediately identifies them as convicts from French Guyana, which turns out to be correct. With the five men held together in a room and visited by Captain Freycinet, the story of their escape from captivity is told in a second flashback.
And during this flashback, a third flashback to 1938 is introduced which explains how Matrac, a reporter, married to Paula (Michele Morgan), becomes a fugitive and is eventually arrested for a murder which he did not commit.
Flash forward to their escape off the island. It had been planned by an old-timer who everyone refers to as Grandpere (Vladimir Sokoloff). But when the time comes, and he realizes that the boat won’t hold six, he sacrifices his spot so that all five younger men can escape.
Now we are back on the rescue boat where the five men have finished telling their tale to Captain Freycinet. Suddenly, the Captain is taken as a prisoner by Major Duval. He and his men have mutinied, and he declares that he is redirecting the boat to Marseille where he, along with the Germans, can create a new France. A huge civil war-like battle ensues with our heroes taking over the machine guns and overwhelming the mutineers. But one of the Major’s men has radioed the ship’s position to the German’s and, even though he is overcome by Petit, the damage has been done. A Nazi plane has been sent to bomb them into oblivion. Now for the second battle, plane against ship. It’s intense but Matrac and Marius, who have a simple but sweet signal between them, take over the machine gunning. When it’s over, and the plane has been downed, there are many casualties with Matrac still standing.
Now for what I think is the most astonishing scene. With the plane drifting on the water, the German survivors climb onto the wing, either expecting to be rescued or to be left to float away. When Matrac sees there are survivors, he jumps and races from one end of the ship to the machine gun that is closer to the plane. I was taken aback since a) I thought it was so unlike Bogart to be able to do such a stunt; it just seemed unlike the actor’s nature to be able to run and leap in such a fantastic manner. And here’s the spoiler: it was a double; but b) it still was quite an impressive moment. What also hits you is that the reason Matrac has headed to the closer machine gun is that he’s not about to let any of those Germans survive. Patain Malo, the ethical captain of the ship, says it’s wrong to kill any survivors. Matrac tells him that they are the survivors and with much gusto guns down the enemy. I immediately thought this was boldly defiant since it would be against the rules of the Geneva Convention.
Finally, this is where all the flashbacks end and we are once again back in England waiting for the Free French fighters to return from their mission. All but one plane returns on time and we must wait out the last five or so minutes to find out if Matrac has survived or not.
Directly afterwards we went to see the second war film which I had never seen before, Action in the North Atlantic (1943). Directed by Lloyd Bacon and an uncredited Byron Haskin (whose noir film Too Late for Tears I recently saw), and was written by John Howard Lawson, one of the famous 10 who was blacklisted during the HUAC era. Along side the obvious star, it also featured Raymond Massey in a real meaty role, with the not-seen-enough Ruth Gordon as his wife, Alan Hale and Sam Levene.
Unlike Passage to Marseille, Action in the North Atlantic felt like a propaganda film but it was still entertaining and had some educational content. The camerawork was smooth and artistic, and although I’m not familiar with the name Ted D. McCord, I am with the uncredited cinematographer Tony Gaudio who shot many pre-Code films that I know and love.
The strategy laid out by the British for the formation of the allied ships was something which I never knew about but found quite interesting. The battles in this film were basically between the allied battleships and enemy submarines. It’s a long affair, with each participant trying to fool the other into thinking thaey are no longer in the vicinity. At the end, when the Americans give a funeral service for their dead, Abel ‘Chips’ Abrams (Sam Levene) recites Kaddish for one of the fallen who was Jewish.
I found some dialogue and scenes somewhat misogynist. There’s a scene earlier on in the film when the crew are in the mess room of their ship and someone complains about a record that is repeatedly played over and over. When it starts to skip, the man who owns it, breaks it and Alan Hale remarks that he “couldn’t shut a dame up that easily.” Later on, he’s sued for divorce by his current wife, who is dressed like a floozy. When Captain Steve Jarvis (Raymond Massey) comes to fetch Lt. Joe Rossi (Bogart) back to the ship and war, he is so rude to the woman who answers the door, that it’s embarrassing. When he finds out that Joe and Pearl (Julie Bishop) are legally wed, well, then he’s embarrassed for what was none of his business to begin with and becomes much kinder.
When Joe takes leave of his wife, his dialogue is reminiscent of the film he made just previously, Casablanca, when he tells Pearl “Goodbye kid” and “Take care of yourself kid”.
The film was long, running just over two hours, and we rushed back to the hotel for the cocktail party and outdoor screening of The African Queen (1951). Unfortunately, we had missed the party although Bogart gin, vodka and rum were still being served throughout the screening. As well, they unfortunately had started the last film early and so we didn’t get there until about 15 or 20 minutes into the movie. Even though I had seen the film before, it had been a very long time ago, and I was looking forward to it because I remembered it being just delightful! Truly Bogart is wonderful and deserved his Oscar. Now, I’ll just have to put it on at home and watch what I missed.
Incidentally, while my friend and I were roaming around a bookstore just a day before heading down to Key Largo, he picked up Katherine Hepburn’s book, The Making of the African Queen or How I Went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind (1987). I’m in the process of reading it and if I finish it before I complete my write up, and if there is anything of major interest to report, I’ll include it later.
That wraps up Day 1 at the Bogart Film Festival. Stay tuned for Day 2.
Thursday, October 19, 2017
Thursday morning, we headed down to hear Jessica Rains being interviewed. She was sweet, charming and funny in the way that people who don’t seem to know that they are being funny, are.
The interviewer started out by saying that Claude Rains was an actor’s actor, explaining that other actors loved working with him. Jessica’s response was that her father wasn’t interested in Hollywood glitz. She was raised on a farm in Pennsylvania and when he was making a film, they would stay in a house in Hollywood for the couple of months it took to make the film and then they headed right back to their 600-acre farm. Claude Rains took his job as a farmer very seriously, driving his tractor, and doing the bookkeeping. One of the innovative things he did, because he couldn’t stand the look of the electric wires above ground, was meet with his neighbours to discuss burying the them. They all agreed and paid the electric company to do just that.
He was shy and not social; his work was his work and he didn’t discuss his acting jobs with his daughter. Rains only went to parties when he had to, but he really wasn’t into being part of the Hollywood scene. People would ask her, “What did he say about making Casablanca?” “Well”, she said, “I was four when he made it and he was more likely to tell me to eat my peas.”
Jessica’s mother, Frances, was Claude’s fourth wife and they both raised Jessica until they divorced when she was 17 and heading off to college.
She was mostly raised outside of Hollywood but there were instances when she socialized with the children of other actors. One such time was the day her mother received a phone call from Joan Crawford announcing that her daughter Christina was having a birthday party and wanted Jessica to attend. Frances asked Joan what her daughter should wear and Joan replied, “blue jeans”. When Christina answered the door, she was dressed up in a pinafore and immediately took her to meet her mother. Joan was reclining on a chaise lounge with one woman giving her a pedicure while another, a manicure. When Christina introduced her, Joan said, “Hello. Now you may go.”
Even though he never talked about acting or Hollywood to her at all, Jessica was also involved in the industry as an actress. There’s a lot of rejection which she experienced first-hand, and even her father would complain that he spent a lot of time waiting for his agent to call with the next job.
Rains came from a very poor, large British family. Eleven children were born to his parents, Claude being the 7th. Sadly, all but three died from poverty-related illnesses when they were children or infants. He never went to school past the second grade and was very proud of the fact that Jessica went to college. He was picked to be in a boys’ choir when he was in second grade and that was the end of his formal education. He ended up pretty much raised in the theatre and was happy to be there to get away from home as his father beat him. He loved his mother but never talked very much about her. His first job in the theatre was as a call boy, letting actors know a few minutes beforehand when they had to be on stage. Moving upward, he then became a prompter, a stage manager, and finally, when someone didn’t show up and knowing the lines, he filled the role. And that was it—an actor was born.
Claude had an incredibly strong Cockney accent. So strong, that Jessica couldn’t understand a word he said when he spoke in his native dialect. Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, who was his boss, gave him money to buy elocution books and he told Claude to come back in a year, “and I don’t want to hear a trace of Cockney.” So, he studied with these books in front of the mirror. He also had some other impediments. He had what was called a lallation, which means he was unable to say his “L”s and “R”s and there was an odd kind of lilt to his speech as well. He was able to purge himself of these imperfections, along with his Cockney accent, all on his own without any formal training. And amazingly, the voice we all know and love was totally crafted by him alone.
He was in WWI and during the war, lost part of his vision in his left eye. How he joined up is quite a story. He was walking down the street in London and saw a couple of Scotsmen in kilts and thought, “Oh, that looks terrific! I want to wear a kilt.” He went and registered with the Scottish army and told Jessica that they don’t wear underwear underneath. “So did he?” asked the interviewer. “I don’t know!”, cried Jessica. He said that when the enemy came, the Scots would rush toward them and throw their kilts up. Whether that’s true or not, it made for a visually entertaining story.
Claude came to the States with the Theatre Guild and did a number of plays in New York. When he did start appearing in films, he was so horrified at how he looked that he never watched the movies he made. Except when Jessica was ten years old, he said one cold, snowy day, “Put on something warm, I’m taking you to the movies.” They drove into town and went up to the movie theatre, where Claude said to the man behind the kiosk in that voice, that he’d like to purchase two tickets. The man, recognizing him, said, “Oh no, Mr. Rains, we can’t let you pay for your tickets. You need to go in for nothing.” And with that sly look on his face, they sat down in the very back of the theatre to watch The Invisible Man. “But he couldn’t keep his mouth shut,” exclaims Jessica, and he explained to his daughter in a too-loud voice how the studio had done all the special effects. Meanwhile, the entire theatre wasn’t watching the movie any longer, they had all turned around to watch Claude Rains explain. Apparently, the reason he liked this film was that he was invisible for most of it and didn’t have to see himself. Apparently seeing rushes “horrified” him. And because of his aversion, he shockingly never saw the film Casablanca!
As mentioned yesterday, Claude Rains and Better Davis were tremendous friends. “She used to come to the farm whenever she broke up with a husband”, explains Jessica. The Rains would take care of and love her. But, the story goes as Jessica informs us, that supposedly Bette had a yen for her father and he was nervous about this. At the end of her life, Jessica and Bette became friends because a woman by the name of Ethridge wanted to write a book about Claude and Jessica asked Bette if she could bring the writer to meet her. Bette agreed and spoke about Rains for two hours. At this point she asked for the tape recorder to be turned off and she looked at Jessica and said, “Call me, and we’ll talk about, well, you know, men!” Unfortunately, the women never followed through!
In the days of answering services, Bette Davis gave a thrill by leaving a message for Jessica with the woman whose service Jessica used. When Jessica returned the call, Bette said she wanted her to come visit her at the studio she was working at, at the time. “And”, Jessica says, “you never say no to Bette!” So, when she arrived at her trailer, Bette said, “Get in here and shut the door! Now I’m going to tell you Claude Rains’ stories.” So, for an hour she talked, and when she was finished she said, “And now you can leave.” And to our dismay Jessica said she just sat there and listened “in shock” as if she were on “auto-pilot” and didn’t remember a word that Bette said!
As an actress, Jessica played in Summer Stock and Regional Theatre. When she was doing “You Can’t Take it With You” in Buffalo, NY her father flew out to see her. Afterwards, the went up to a restaurant where the cast usually went after the play and he enthralled them all with two hours of story telling, which bored Jessica because she had heard these many times before. During the time she was in the play “A Thousand Clowns” which she was doing with Jeffrey Lynn who her father had worked with in the 1938 film Four Daughters, Rains came to watch, because, she felt, he really wanted to see Lynn. Ha! After the play, her father was sitting alone after everyone had gone with tears streaming down his face. He was so proud of his daughter. The only piece of acting advice he ever gave her was on that night, “Don’t ever look at the floor when you’re on stage!”
“He was a lovely father”, Jessica says, “he was really amazing.” He was 49 when she was born and his only child. Jessica’s job on the farm was looking after the chickens, which she hated—both the job and the chickens! It made sense for Rains, she said, to own a 600-acre farm particularly in Pennsylvania because it very much reflected the English countryside; and to an Englishman to own farmland was a show of affluence, especifically to Rains because of his background of growing up in poverty. He didn’t miss England, and became an American citizen sometime before Jessica’s birth in 1938.
Although Jessica and Monika Henreid are good friends, their fathers weren’t. “Why?” she was asked. Monika, who was in the audience, spoke up and said that they came from very different backgrounds and although they worked well together, they would never socialize. Paul Henreid, she said, would never have been caught on a farm and Jessica quipped, “That’s because my father would put him to work.” Big laugh! The two men both had a good relationship with Bogart but neither of them either could or would say what made that so. Henreid played chess with Bogart, but Rains didn’t play chess. Interestingly, Bette was their best common Hollywood friend and both men felt close to her.
In later years, Claude acted on stage in “Darkness at Noon” directed by Sidney Kingley. Eventually the director and actor weren’t on speaking terms, so Jessica’s mother had to repeat the director’s instructions while they sat in the audience next to each other during rehearsals.
He was a “flirty” man, married women who were much younger than him but sadly none of the marriages worked out. Jessica felt he was a lonely man, always looking for the perfect romance or relationship. The best marriage and the longest was the one to her mother. He drank too much and died from liver failure but never appeared intoxicated. As Jessica says, “They can hold their liquor, those Brits, let me tell you!”
Jessica’s first film was Kotch with Walter Matthau (incidentally Jack Lemmon’s only time as director) and when Matthau received a Best Actor Academy Award nomination, the clip they kept showing was the one with Jessica in it. Her friends kept telling her, this was it, her chance for the big time. But it wasn’t. After quite a number of acting roles, at the age of 47, she decided to become a producer. After attending the American Film Institute for a year to learn the trade, “about 50% of what I needed to know”, she produced her very first film on the very small budget of $60,000. It was shot in her house in nine days using a crew of eight or nine, with the sound man sleeping in her bathtub! The finished product was then sent to a film festival in Italy where the movie sold for the whopping amount of $400,000. This was the first of 11 films that Jessica produced in the next ten years. “When you do films that cheaply, you become the whole cast and crew’s psychiatrist—and I hadn’t gone to school for that!”
The interviewer and her touched on the topic of sexual harassment and Jessica said that the only time she ever felt that something was out of line was many years ago when she was meeting a producer about a play. When he got up and locked the door, her response was to get up and unlock it, and from there they carried on with their discussion as if nothing had happened.
Her father felt she should study with Lee Strasberg who taught using the very difficult process, “The Method”. Claude himself never studied at a school, but he would go to the theatre two hours in advance of the curtain going up and think about his character until it was time to go on. When it came to film acting, he would memorize the whole script, knowing everyone’s role. While driving Jessica to school in her young days, she would often rehearse the scripts with him, so he could practice his role. She never told him that reading made her car-sick but continued to do so as she knew this was important to him.
Her mom was “adorable”. She loved living on a farm. She was raised by Jewish parents in the Bronx. She had a huge garden of flowers which she tended while Claude maintained the vegetable garden. She also churned butter; and most everything they consumed was grown on the farm. Then came the day when her father told her he thought it was time for Jessica to learn about artificial insemination! “What?!”, she replied. They had no bull on the farm and Claude Rains operated this unattractive machine himself. Not a pretty experience, she declared.
She called her parents by their first names, Claude and Frances, as many children did during the time, once she became a teenager.
When they were in California during one Halloween, Claude went to Universal and got the cape and hat from The Phantom of the Opera and she and her two girlfriends, Jan, Albert Dekker’s daughter, and a producer’s daughter, would dress as gremlins and hide underneath her father’s cape. Her mother would drive them around and they would only go to houses where they knew the people. Rains would recite a poem about All Hallows Eve and the girls would rush out when the cape was opened. Then they knew they would be invited in for a drink and by the end of the evening, things continued to be fun but, as she put it, “disintegrating”.
Jessica didn’t believe her father knew how talented he was. He studied hard and he knew his roles, but she didn’t believe he really understood the depth of his innate talent. “If he had been here in attendance today, first he would have been upset with me” (big laugh) and would be amazed at the cult status surrounding him.” During the time that writer David J. Skal was working on his biography, “Claude Rains: An Actor’s Voice”, Jessica was informed of a website where women posted their sexual romantic fantasies involving Claude Rains. “It’s weird!” exclaims Jessica. Jessica knew him as a very faithful, honest husband of her mother’s during the course of their marriage. Afterwards, he married Agi Jambor, a famous Hungarian harpsichord player who would jump off trains to record on her tape recorder gypsy music in Europe. “She was some character!” exclaimed Jessica. His last marriage was to a woman named Rosemary McGroarty Clark, who was not someone Jessica favoured. If Claude had dalliances, Jessica wondered when he would have had the time for them. When the biography came out, the women from the website claimed Jessica was shielding her readers from the real truth, that Claude Rains was a man with many Hollywood lovers. Although Jessica is listed as co-author of the biography, she said that her role was to talk while Skal recorded, asking questions and listening.
In case it isn’t apparent by now, Jessica adored her father. Her favourite film of her father’s was Deception. She didn’t see any of her father’s film, except for The Invisible Man, until she was 33 or 34 when her friend, actor Don Adams, would screen many of them for her at his home.
Her mother, Frances, was an actress and the two met when they were in a play together. It seems he “romanced” her by telling her she wasn’t a very good actress—or at least that’s Frances’s story says Jessica—and that was it, although he was married to Beatrix Thomson at the time.
Claude loved Alfred Hitchcock and he believed the feeling was mutual. One evening after dinner at the Hitchcock’s, the two couples retired into the den. Hitch started to fall asleep in his chair and Claude turned to Frances and said he thought it might be time to leave, where Hitchcock sat bolt upright in his chair and said, “What, am I boring you?!” Another time, when Hitchcock had had an operation for possibly a hernia, he called Claude to announce, “They threw my spleen on the floor!” Jessica never had the opportunity to meet him herself.
Someone asked about Claude’s reminiscences of when he was making Lawrence of Arabia, but all Jessica could say was that he was very ill during the shooting of that film. Another audience member wanted to say that he was quite taken with Rains’s eulogy speech in Passage to Marseille and that one of his favourite Rains roles was the title role in Mr. Skeffington.
Jessica first studied with Uta Hagan at the HB Studio in New York (I spent a couple of semesters there before I realized I was no actress). She continued her studies at Lee Strasberg’s Actors Studio, who, while during her audition, she was intimidated in the presence of, wondering why he would want her in his class, and couldn’t reply when he asked her who her favourite actor was. “So, who was your favourite actor,” was a question from the audience. “Well, it certainly wasn’t Lee Strasberg, let me tell you!” replied Jessica. “I once saw him in a play and thought, he’s such a terrific teacher and such a terrible actor.” Big laugh from us all! Anthony Hopkins is a favourite actor of hers while Ansel Elgort is her favourite up-and-coming young actor.
Jessica sweetly boasted about her daughter who lives in Mississippi, and created Hattie’s Burlesque in bible belt Hattiesburg Mississippi. “A nice little Jewish girl”, named after her grandmother, and, overcoming all kinds of rules and regulations, her burlesque show is a huge hit, incorporating actors of all races, colours and sizes. Jessica is incredulous and delighted with her daughter’s theatrical creation.
She ended the interview saying that, “Sometimes I think my father thought he was very cute!” And so he was, we all agreed.
Afterwards, we went to see the film Beat the Devil (1953) which I had recently seen at a Toronto Film Society screening in July 2016. It’s a film that didn’t do well at the box office but is now considered a quirky classic by many film buffs. Directed by John Huston and with the aid of many screenplay writers including, Truman Capote, Peter Viertel and Huston himself, and a fine cast of actors, Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollobrigida, Robert Morley, Peter Lorre and Edward Underdown, the oddball story works by the bitter end.
Next was The Maltese Falcon (1941), the most famous of the three versions—The Maltese Falcon made a decade earlier and Satan Met a Lady (1936). If anyone reading this has never seen the film, shame on you. Go and watch it now!
Afterwards, we returned to Playa Largo and got ready for the cocktail party, costume and trivia contest. We didn’t really know what to expect so both my friend and I dressed up somewhat for the evening, my friend in a suit and fedora and myself in an outfit from the sixties. Most people came, au natural (meaning not in costume) but there were a few that outdid themselves, dressing in characters from Bogart films.
There was a trivia contest and a costume contest, with the winners each winning a bottle of Bogart booze. It was a nice mingling of people.
Afterwards we headed out to the beach to watch the screening of Key Largo (1948), where else but in Key Largo. Even the waving of the screen by the wind added to the filmic atmosphere of the event. Again, directed by John Huston, with Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Lauren Bacall (in their fourth and last film together), Lionel Barrymore, Claire Trevor and Thomas Gomez, it’s a magnificent film.
I once heard that when EG Robinson and Bogart played together in films, you always knew who was at the top, studio and box office-wise, depending on who played the hero and who played the villain. I’m not totally sure this is 100% true, because it would have been hard to see those two actors reversing their roles. But, who knows, maybe they could have, being such fine actors.
Another story I heard with regard to Claire Trevor’s role as Gaye Dawn was that she was told she wouldn’t have to do the scene where she sings a cappella until nearer to the end of the shooting. But instead, Huston put her on the spot and had her do her song close to or during her first day on the set. So, the nerves she displays in the film weren’t necessarily all an act!
As an aside, I just finished reading the biography on Paul Muni, “Actor”, written by Jerome Lawrence, a co-playwright of Inherit the Wind. When Maxwell Anderson, who wrote the play “Key Largo”, was first looking into having it cast on Broadway, Paul Muni was his first choice back in the late 30’s. The play opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on November 27, 1939.
And this ended Day 2 of the Bogart Film Festival. Stay tuned for Day 3.
Day 3 – Friday, October 20, 2017
At the Friday morning discussion, Illeana Douglas, the granddaughter of Melvyn Douglas and an actress in her own right, interviewed Stephen Bogart.
Illeana has, to date, 112 acting credits to her name. Her breakout role was in the iconic film Goodfellas (1990) directed by Martin Scorsese. In the films I have seen, she acted alongside Robert DeNiro (Guilty by Suspicion, Cape Fear), Ralph Fiennes (Quiz Show), Nicole Kidman (To Die For) and Steve Buscemi (Ghost World). As well, she played Angela in one of my favourite TV series, Six Feet Under where two out of the three episodes she was in were directed by Jeremy Podeswa, who just happens to be someone I have known for many years. Six degrees of separation.
First though, Stephen Bogart introduced Illeana by beginning with her grandfather. He, along with Stephen’s father, was involved in not naming names in the HUAC era. Her first job—although she didn’t say what it was—was with Steve Rubell (the infamous founder of Studio 54) in 1981-82, who went into the hotel business after being incarcerated and paroled for tax evasion. Currently, she hosts the program, “Trail-Blazing Women” on TCM Monday nights and if you go to Disneyworld, Illeana plays the manager of Aerosmith in a trailer presented there.
They touched upon the current topic of “Harvey Weinstein” and the problem of sexual harassment in the business. Bacall, Stephen said, was lucky when she was brought out to Hollywood at the age of 19, by being under the wing of Slim Hayward—then married to Howard Hawks—who immediately married Bogart and didn’t have to work her way up through the “casting couch” phenomenon.
When Illeana said that Scorsese’s favourite line was “You gotta get up pretty early in the morning…” (Fred C. Dobb’s in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre ) while she was making Goodfellas, it set the two of them off talking about Stephen’s favourite all-time film—no, not his dad’s, but Scorsese’s! But back to his father, Stephen admitted he hadn’t seen all of his father’s films mentioning that for the first half of his career, Bogart mainly played tough guys who died at the end. His breakthrough role was in The Petrified Forest (1936). Just an aside and in case you didn’t know, it was Leslie Howard who insisted that Bogart, who had been playing Duke Mantee on Broadway, be cast in the role in the film. And that’s who Stephen’s sister, Leslie Bogart, was named after.
Bogart was a great reader of scripts. He wasn’t sure though, when he read the script of Sierra Madre, if he wanted to do the film. When he talked to his manager, Sam Jaffe (not the actor), about not wanting to do it because it wasn’t the lead role, Jaffe told him, “John wants to make it with his father and if you aren’t in it, he won’t make it. Huston is your best friend. What’s more important?” And the rest is history. And that’s Stephen’s favourite film of his dad’s.
While making Sierra Madre, Bogart wanted to make it to a boat race that was set for after the completion of the filming. Huston was known for his long takes and going over schedule so Bogart kept urging him he had to hurry up. So the story goes, John grabbed Bogart by the nose, said he was going to stay there as long as it took to make the picture, “or” he threatened, “I’m going to twist your nose off.” That’s the type of friendship they had. How did John and Humphrey meet, he was asked? Through the making of The Maltese Falcon.
The first home Stephen lived in was in Holmby Hills, but eventually they moved to Mapleton. Their next-door neighbor was Judy Garland and Stephen remembers playing with Liza Minnelli. Across the road lived Art Linkletter, and his best friend growing up was Art’s daughter Diane who sadly committed suicide at the young age of 20 in 1969.
His parents liked to hang around with writers such as George Axelrod (The Seven Year Itch), Adolph Green and Richard Brooks. After his father died, his mother sold the Mapleton home and the three of them moved into the house previously owned by Robert Taylor in Bel Air. By 1959, the family left Los Angeles and moved to New York. Bacall started dating Jason Robards, who, although an alcoholic, was a very nice man and a brilliant actor and the father of Stephen’s half-brother, Sam.
People would mention to Bacall how alike in looks Bogart and Robards were, something she would never admit to. Because it would be such a hard thing for anyone to be compared to Humphrey Bogart, whether it was someone who was dating Bacall or whether it was Stephen himself, who only remotely thought of going into the acting business, he felt this comparison would not make life easier for anyone.
And how did Humphrey Bogart get the nickname Bogie? It was Spencer Tracy who called him that one day and it stuck—and it had nothing to do with the scoring term used in golf. So, Illeana ventures to ask, “Where did the saying ‘don’t bogart that joint’ come from?” Big laugh! “So, I’ve been told,” claims Stephen, “that when one partakes in smoking a joint, you want to keep it. And my father held his cigarettes in the same fashion, not passing it on.” “Well, we’ve got that solved,” quipped Illeana.
Illeana asks Stephen if he’s a Nicholas Ray fan. Both he and Gloria Grahame lived directly behind them. The kids would climb over and play with their Airedales. One of Bogart’s best performances many people agreed, was in In a Lonely Place; just not a happy role.
Illeana asked what he thought of The Big Sleep as it was one of the films they featured on her show on TCM as one of the screenwriters was Leigh Brackett. Howard Hawks, the director of the film, had originally hired her because he thought she was a man! Leigh Brackett adapted the Raymond Chandler book for The Big Sleep along with William Faulkner. And instead of working together, they worked on it separately which is rather unusual, with neither knowing what the other was writing. So, when the Owen Taylor character died, they called Chandler to find out who killed him, but, as the story goes, he didn’t know “who’d done it” either!
Stephen and his wife enjoy film noir and with regard to The Big Sleep, he told us that Bogart had offered some input into the film ideas. He was an intellectual, enjoyed playing chess (even once drawing a grand master to a tie), was well read, and was one of the first to have his own production company. Somehow, a debate about toilets grew out of these comments with our hosts and the audience trying to figure out which film showed one first. Someone spoke up that Psycho was the first film where the audience heard a toilet flush. Good to know!
Apparently, Bogart didn’t much like Billy Wilder, who directed him in Sabrina. One explanation was that Bogart believed more in improvisation when acting. An example given by Stephen was during the shooting of The Big Sleep when Bacall comes out of a bedroom to enter the living room, and does so with a flourish. Bogart stops her and explains that even though the audience hasn’t seen her until she makes her entrance, she needs to remember that she was doing something in that bedroom, and should come out with having just done that activity in her mind, whether it was dressing her hair or thinking of something specific. Wilder, on the other hand, was very structured and told his actors what they were supposed to be doing.
When Bogart died, Bacall gave away most of Bogie’s clothes and belongings to his friends. A big mistake was selling the Mapleton house, she later admitted. Other than making How to Marry a Millionaire, she became a stay-at-home mom. (I think Stephen must have meant Designing Woman as Millionaire was made in 1953, three years before Bogart died. Millionaire is also the film that features the cute little line where Bacall tells William Powell that she likes older men, “You know, like that guy who’s in the film The African Queen.”)
Illeana asked about his parents’ meeting on the set of To Have and Have Not. Bogart was married to actress Mayo Methot and when Bacall and Bogart started falling for each other, the marriage had already begun to go downhill. The two would spend time together after a day of filming, which was much nicer than going home for Bogart since he and Methot were drinking heavily and fighting, something that Bacall declared she would not stand for. Incidentally, when they married, the wedding took place at Pulitzer Prize winner Louis Bromfield’s Malabar farm situated near Lucas, Ohio.
Bacall came off as a confident woman, but in truth, Stephen said, she never felt confident. When Bogart died, she was ignored by Hollywood. She could be funny and the people she was most interested in hanging around with were top artists in painting, sculpture and literature; she was very good friends with Henry Moore.
Stephen took piano lessons with Tina Sinatra when he was a kid and was friends with Frank Jr. as an adult. He remembers Frank Sr. being a very nice man, but when Sinatra and Bacall began dating after Bogart’s death, their relationship took a dive and he ended it when it came out, through Hedda Hopper, that they were engaged to be married.
Stephen told us about his attending Liza Minelli’s wedding to David Gest in March 2002. Michael Jackson was Best Man and Liz Taylor was a Bride’s Maid. Elizabeth forgot her shoes at the hotel and Michael went back to get them, which held up the wedding. Stephen tried to get near him, but even he couldn’t—meaning he wasn’t “a somebody”! When Jackson spoke, Stephen was quite surprised to him talk in normal tones and act like a “regular guy”! It was an unbelievable, very, very expensive event, like, as Illeana interjected, “a circus”.
There are two stories as to how Bogart hurt his upper lip. 1: that during his stint in the Navy while he was escorting a prisoner, the prisoner turned and tried to get away, smacking Bogart in the lip with his chain. When he tackled the prisoner and put him back under custody, that’s when he felt it. Or 2: when Bogart fell down and a piece of boat hit him in the lip. It depends, Stephen said, on who tells the story, but I would say the first is certainly more dramatic and interesting.
He never saw combat but joined the Navy because he didn’t like being in school, saying the institutions never taught you the “why” of a thing.
Bogart’s life was a simple routine. He loved his family, loved spending time on his boat on the weekends and enjoyed hanging out with friends. In the early part of their marriage, Bacall would join him on the boat but eventually that was dissuaded because during the 1940s and 50s, so we were told, the men couldn’t pee off the edge of the boat when the women were in attendance!
Melvyn Douglas was involved with the anti-Nazi league and Illeana was proud that both her grandparents were involved in social causes. Her grandmother, Helen Gahagan, ran against Richard Nixon. Illeana was asked about her grandfather playing with Garbo in Ninotchka and the most famous story she said was during the scene when Garbo Laughs. Apparently, Garbo could not vocalize a laugh; no sound came out, so her laugh had to be dubbed in. Since this wasn’t an interview about Melvyn Douglas, nothing more was asked with regard to the other two films he starred in with her, the pre-Code As You Desire Me and her very last film, Two-Faced Woman. Three films with Garbo; I’m sure he had interesting stories about Hollywood’s most enigmatic star!
Stephen was born in 1949 and back then, because of the world’s issues with Jews, his parents decided to bring him up in his father’s religion, which was Episcopalian. He never participated in anything Jewish until he lived in New York with his maternal Hungarian grandmother, although the religion wasn’t something Stephen or his sister personally got involved in.
Stephen Bogart said that at times he felt in awe that he was born to parents who are such icons. He gave the impression that he believes in the randomness of life events and hoped that if there is such a thing as reincarnation, that he doesn’t come back as another person—because how could he top this life that he was given! One of the coolest things growing up was seeing his parents portrayed in the Bugs Bunny Cartoon Slick Hare! As well, he felt that part of the reason his dad was so famous was because of his dying so young, at the age of 57. (Although I think that it is certainly young by today’s standards, I wonder if people thought so back in 1957.)
A few little mentions: Although Bogart had a very good relationship with Frank Sinatra, he didn’t get on well with his wife Ava Gardner during the making of The Barefoot Contessa. Lauren Bacall was a big Adlai Stevenson supporter. She somehow managed to switch Bogart’s allegiance from Republican to Democrat. Although it doesn’t show, The Harder They Fall, Bogart’s last film, was made while he was growing ill.
Back in 1995, Stephen wrote the memoir, “Bogart: In Search of My Father”. (I had a copy of the book which I asked Stephen to sign.) Being only eight years old when Bogart died, it contains information about Stephen’s life up to that point and information about his father which he gathered from his mother and family friends. It was probably cathartic for him and an interesting read for us who are interested in his parents.
After the interview, my friend and I had planned to see Sabrina and In a Lonely Place. With regard to the former, Sabrina is not a film I particularly like, so I decided to skip it and relax while my friend went off to see it. If I ever feel the need to see it again, I have a copy in my library. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see In a Lonely Place without missing the Bogart family memorabilia collection presented by Stephen and Illeana. I had last seen In a Lonely Place during Toronto Film Society’s Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid Weekend in 2012 and really was looking forward to seeing it again. So instead, we decided to see it on the Sunday in place of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre which I had seen more recently in 2014.
The Memorabilia Collection had many interesting pieces: Bogart’s chess set; a first anniversary gift, a magnifying glass, from Bacall engraved to her husband in her own hand, saying “For Year One and I Hope You’re Satisfied”; a book of stills from one of their films together, The Big Sleep; a lighter given to Bogart by Tony Curtis reading “Bogie, Happy Birthday, Tony 12-25-54; Bogart’s dressing room key for Warner Brother’s Studio reading “Dressing Room 8A, H. Bogart” and on the reverse side “Warner Bros.”; to name but a few.
What was notable to me was while we were walking around, Leslie Bogart was also viewing the items alongside her husband. Her reaction to seeing her father’s striped dressing jacket and pyjama bottoms implied, to me at least, that she thought they were odd things to display to the public. Certainly, a very personal item, bringing to mind that just like anybody, Bogart, at times, liked to hang out at home in his comfy, well-worn pyjamas.
Afterwards we got ready to see the outdoor screening of To Have and Have Not, the first film Bogart and Bacall made together. It was certainly charming to watch them fall in love on screen not only in the story but in real life.
And that ends Day 3. Stay tuned for Days 4 and 5.
Saturday, October 21, 2017
The discussion for this morning included Stephen, Jessica and Monika, interviewed by Illeana and the topic was Casablanca in its anniversary year. Illeana began by pointing out the striking resemblance between Jessica and her father Claude with Jessica replying that she’s always been told that she resembles her mother’s side of the family. Resemblance is in the eye of the beholder, I say.
They were asked if they remember when they first saw Casablanca. Jessica was 32 before she saw it. Monika doesn’t remember never seeing it. She refers to the film as her “older sibling”, the entity that she always had to emulate. What’s it like growing up as the child of a celebrity and one who was part of Casablanca she was asked. You can’t get away from it; you walk into an elevator and the music is playing “As Time Goes By”. Stephen has attended so many film festivals where Casablanca has been shown and has seen it so many times that he no longer has any idea when he saw first saw it. It’s grown in mythology over the years.
There were asked if all of their fathers were under contract to Warner Brothers and if they knew the process of how each was cast in the film? Monika’s reply was that her father’s career had already grown in Europe and England and this was his third film made in the US. His services as a leading man were growing in demand and since both leading men and women’s names were usually listed above the title, he expected his would be in Casablanca. However, in the original play, Victor Laszlo was only mentioned, never seen. So, when Henreid saw the first treatment of the screenplay, he wondered why he should bother to make the film as his character had hardly any screen time and he had already achieved status of leading man in Joan of Paris and Now, Voyager made earlier that year. The negotiations were either conducted between the studio’s head Jack Warner, or, more probably Hal Wallace, and Henreid’s agent, Lew Wasserman. Paul didn’t live long enough to see how famous Casablanca became as he died just prior to its 15th-year anniversary. So, Monika was very happy to be at the Bogart Festival’s 75th year celebration.
Stephen’s father benefited from George Raft’s refusal of a number of roles and, he told us, that Raft was first offered the role of Rick but turned the part down. When that happened, Hal Wallace was happy because he had really wanted Bogart for the role. Raft reconsidered but Jack Warner told him that he would leave the final decision up to producer Wallace, who wanted to stick with Bogart. So, Stephen says on behalf of his father, thank you George for turning down Casablance, The Maltese Falcon and High Sierra. Another story Stephen heard was that, although Ingrid Bergman and Bogart didn’t get along (which I feel from some later discussion wasn’t exactly true—more that they didn’t know each other very well and Ingrid was an “outsider”), they played poker on the set and would try and figure out how to get out of making the film, complaining that the dialogue was weird and the story was off-the-wall.
Jessica understood that there was no one else being considered to play the role of Captain Renault but her father. As well, it was written in Rains’ contract that he was allowed to turn down two roles a year and she believes that he had already turned down “crap” and had to take this one, regardless. And that was it. How he felt about it, she doesn’t know; he was probably thinking about crops and pigs!
Any recollections of the director, Michael Curtiz, they were asked? Claude Rains and Curtiz were friends and Jessica remembers being at his house. Stephen’s recollection is that Curtiz, being Hungarian, had an incredibly strong accent, so much so that sometimes the actors couldn’t understand him. One story goes that he once told his assistant that he needed a “poodle” and after frantically procuring one, Curtiz exclaimed, “no, I needed a poodle of water!” Monika counters that Curtiz was a brilliant director with a huge body of work. He could do any genre; noir, comedy, drama, musicals—amazing and slightly “cracked”. Curtiz was married to writer Bess Meredyth and when he had trouble with the script, he would call her in between takes, going over the dialogue. So here we have a bunch of errors glued together to make this masterpiece. Both Henreid and Rains would walk across the soundstage from where they were making Now, Voyageur to work on Casablanca. That’s just the way it was done in the studio era.
How did they get their first big break? When Claude Rains arrived in the United States, he was sent to Hollywood to do a screen test, which was a failure. He was very studied and theatrical, unnatural, so he went back to New York to continue working in plays. While the director of The Invisible Man was watching screen tests prior to casting the film, he heard from the next room raucous laughter and that was the voice of the man he wanted to play the role.
Paul Henreid’s big break came when, shortly after arriving in the United States, he was acting in a play on Broadway while at the same time, one of the film’s he made in England opened there as well. This meant that his name was ablaze on two marquees. Tall, handsome and a good actor, Hollywood came a-calling.
Bogart’s mother, Maud Humphrey, was an illustrator and his father, Belmont DeForest Bogart, was a doctor. Still, Bogart was a lousy student, educated at Trinity School in NYC. After being expelled from Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, he joined the Navy, served, got out and got a job in the theatre which eventually let to acting. He went out to LA and made the film Up the River (1930) but had a hard time getting decent roles so went back to New York to continue to act on the stage. While acting in The Petrified Forest with Leslie Howard, Hollywood decided to make the play into a movie, with Howard reprising his role. Leslie said he wouldn’t make the film unless they cast Bogart in his stage role of the gangster. That’s why Stephen’s sister is named Leslie, after Leslie Howard. It was mentioned that he didn’t have a big role in Dark Victory but he was a working actor, doing what the studio told him to do, carousing after work and having a grand old time. When he was called in by John Huston to act in The Maltese Falcon, that’s when his career began to take off. This underlined that all three of their fathers, Bogart, Henreid and Rains, were all theatre-trained.
What would the cast have noticed with regards to the political and social angles of WWII while they were making Casablanca during the middle of the war years? Were they aware of the refuges used as extras in the film? Paul Henreid would have been very aware of the refuges and as the camera pans through the night club we can see how emotional the non-speaking actors feel by the tears in their eyes. Only three people in the film were born in the USA, Humphrey, Dooley Wilson (who Stephen claimed was a drunk) and Jack Warner’s stepdaughter, Joy Page.
What do they know of their fathers’ recollections of what it was like to work with Ingrid Bergman? Stephen mentions that supposedly his father and her didn’t get along. She seemed to be the one most unhappy with the indecisiveness of the script and was the one who had the hardest time getting into the film. Martin Scorsese thought that Michael Curtiz was underrated as a director along with feeling he wasn’t structured enough. Bogart was very disciplined on set, but off he liked to have a lot of fun and Stephen wasn’t sure if Ingrid liked having fun off the set, and that may have rubbed her the wrong way. She not only was a bit uncomfortable about how this film was being made but she was already projecting her thoughts onto the next role, Maria in For Whom the Bell Tolls, a role she desperately wanted and was politically campaigning for. Max Steiner was unhappy with the song “As Time Goes By” (written by Herman Hupfeld) and wanted to put in an original piece of music. That meant that they would have had to go back and rerecord and reshoot a couple of scenes with Ingrid in it but when the film was finished Ingrid walked out the door, off the lot and into her next role. She was gone. And so—and aren’t we grateful—that they couldn’t change the ending!
Jessica said that she met Ingrid once when she was with an ex-husband, (“I didn’t have as many as my father”) who was in a movie with her and she came over to Jessica and told her that, “I think you should know that when I worked with your father they had to dig a trench for me”. That’s because she was very tall and Claude was very short. Jessica said she was very sweet and friendly, but four minutes of chatter and that was it.
They, of course, had to mention Peter Lorre. Bogart loved working with him. And when Paul Henreid became a director, one of the things he liked to do was hire his friends and unemployable co-actors, middle age making them so. In Hitchcock Presents, Peter Lorre was “just absolutely wonderful” in The Diplomatic Corpse directed by Henreid. Was Henreid happier as a director? Yes, he was always thinking like one even when he was acting. When he made Now, Voyageur with director Irving Rapper, he knew what he wanted to do. When Rapper next directed him in Deception, Rapper knew there was not much he could say and let Henreid “do his thing” while Warners wanted to keep using Henreid as the “continental” leading man and Bogart as a “gangster”.
Any favourite scenes from Casablanca? The last scene was Stephen’s favourite. There was no more love-angst, the war was somewhere else, so let’s go back to the bar, have some fun and make a bit of money. Jessica liked her father when he was “mean”. He was a gentle and sweet father, and when he was acting as a nasty character, she noticed some sort of twinkle in his eye. For Monika, she sees her father every time Laszlo speaks out against an injustice. That’s who he really was. In real life he was chased all over Europe by the Nazis parallel to Victor Laszlo, so he meant what the said from his heart.
Illeana asked Stephen if he knew if his mother had seen the film Casablanca in 1942 and then had some sort of impression of Bogart when she met him two years later when making To Have and Have Not. Although she never mentioned it, nor was she asked, she was only 19 at the time they met and he was an “old guy” at 44, so probably the falling-in-love happened when they met in person. She was most likely standoffish, but she had the protection of Howard Hawks who remained a life-long friend and someone they saw all the time. She didn’t like Bogart in the beginning, but obviously changed her mind. And she changed his life.
A question from the audience was asked of Stephen, did he know if Bogart thought of Casablanca as one of his crowning achievements? Stephen never spoke with him about it, but he felt that probably working with Huston so many times was probably what his father most cherished as an actor. However, Casablanca is probably his most widely seen film. Illeana’s favourite Bogart roles are in the African Queen and The Caine Mutiny when he’s psychologically “off his rocker.” Bogart, Stephen said, liked the diversity.
They mentioned how they all liked the Looney Tunes adaptation of Casablanca, entitled CarrotBlanca. I have to say that Tweety Bird does a mean Peter Lorre impersonation!
Casablanca was released twice in 1942. When it was finished, they didn’t release it right away. Instead they put it on the rack and waited for an appropriate moment, which wasn’t until Operation Torch hit the headlines in November 1942. Jack Warner asked if the studio had a film set in North Africa where it was pulled off the shelf and released, but only in New York. It was only somewhat successful as it was out for only a limited time when Warner pulled it back out of the theatres. Then in January 1943, during the Casablanca Conference which put Casablanca back into the newspaper headlines again, the studio pulled it back off the rack for international release where it got decent, but not spectacular reviews and was popular. In those days a movie didn’t stay in the theatre forever although it was nominated in eight categories including Best Picture. It was irksome that Jack Warner jumped up and grabbed the Oscar, taking credit for the film before Producer Hal Wallis could take what he had rightfully earned.
Illeana is proud that her grandfather, Melvyn Douglas, was one of the people involved in starting the anti-Nazi league in Hollywood in 1939. Many émigrés themselves found it tough, especially depending on where they came from. Most had a curfew and were not allowed out after dark and so they had to find safe places they could go to congregate. One of those places was at Salka Viertel’s home, Greta Garbo’s best friend and confidant. They would come in the morning, have strudel, Viennese coffee and wine, knowing that they would have to leave before sundown to make it home before dark. This was the United States of the 1940s.
It was interesting, one of the audience members said, that the film was made in 1942 during the war, well before it was over while the outcome was not known, yet the scriptwriters seemed to get it right even if it was a propaganda-laced film. And, Stephen informs us, at that time enemies were always portrayed as German or Italian, with the film ending on an uplifting note, saying everyone did the right thing and now, let’s get on with life.
Someone wondered if anyone on the panel knew what the original last line was. There wasn’t any line and with the censorship of the day, there was no way that Ilsa being a married woman, would have been allowed to stay with any man other than her husband. So the issue was, what were they going to say to each other at the end? Since the dialogue was being written and rewritten on the fly, there was no original last line.
Have any of you spoken to your peer, Isabella Rossellini, they were asked. Yes, she’s a wonderful, funny woman, Stephen replied. He had worked for several years at channel 4 in New York in the 1980s and he became good buddies with entertainment reporter, Pia Lindstrom, Ingrid’s daughter from her first marriage. Isabella was invited to attend the Bogart Festival but she couldn’t as she was shooting a film and Pia also had wanted to attend but she was in Iran with her husband.
An audience member asked if they had seen The Feud, Mommie Dearest or Postcards from the Edge and do these movies shine a light on what it was like for any of the panel growing up? Monika said her life was nothing like what was portrayed in those films. She grew up in a lovely part of California on a beautiful property, her parents’ friends were non-Hollywood people for the most part and if there were, they were mostly émigré literati-types. “Hey, I was a spoiled brat. Lucky me!” (Big laugh) Jessica felt her life was very ordinary growing up on a farm. When her father had a movie to make, her dad went off to California and either her and her mother went with him or they didn’t. When he went to makle Caesar and Cleopatra during war-time, the studio sent a warplane to take him there. He wanted to do the film so badly that he was willing to take the risk of flying. Until she was about 10, she thought her father was only a farmer. The acting “thing” was something he didn’t carry into the home. “ In Pennsylvania you’re not going to get a lot of unknown women coming around. There were only his six marriages and me!” On the day that her father died in Sandwich, New Hampshire there were three phone calls from drunken sailors in bars saying that they were his children. “Where was their cut—which there wasn’t much of since he paid off the wives instead of paying alimony. Weird,” said Jessica. One day a lovely British woman showed up at the door, claiming to be Claude Rains’ lover and that there were nightshirts in the bottom drawer of the highboy in his bedroom and since they had such fun together, would Jessica give her one of the nightshirts as a keepsake. She thought it was a little creepy so went running to her lawyer who was there at the time and exclaimed, “What should I do? What should I do?” He said, “Give her a nightshirt!” So Jessica did.
Illeana said to Jessica, “Your father in Now, Voyager, it was always my fantasy to be on some funny farm where he was the psychiatrist. It seemed like he could cure anyone.” Jessica replied, “Believe me, he was nothing like a psychiatrist.”
It was disputed whether Lauren Bacall did her own singing in To Have and Have Not. One of the audience members looked it up and found the claim that, “Bacall shimmies out at the end of the movie to a faster “How Little We Know”. A persistent myth is that a teenage Andy Williams at 15, the future singing star, dubbed the singing for Bacall. According to authoritative sources, including Hawks and Bacall, this was not true.” What a fabulous, sultry voice Bacall had! Did she then sing in The Big Sleep, someone asked? Stephen believed she did not.
How long did it take to shoot Casablanca and did everyone just come in for their particular scenes or did they live on the lot? Monika thought it was a relatively short shoot, 35 or 40 days, and said the cast thought of it as just another film they were making. The people involved had to follow a schedule and Bogart had a commitment to make another film while Henreid and Rains were still on Now, Voyager when they started making Casablanca. The latter two both caught cold and while Rains recovered first, the powers that be kept having to rearrange the schedule while both men were out sick. Since there is nothing unusual with shooting out of sequence, that’s what was done. Filming began in August, editing was done in October and it was on the shelf by November. And with Ingrid gone, as mentioned above, they couldn’t reshoot the music. And nothing was left on the editing table since it was just a script of pages glued together, different colours. No original screenplay. So, all these “mistakes” is what made up this classic, iconic film.
Jessica has a spontaneous thought. She wondered how her father would have felt if he could see his daughter sitting here talking to all of us about him. She thinks he would have been very surprised to know that we are all enamoured of him, and the film. It would be an enigma to him. Both Monika and Stephen felt their fathers would feel the same way. And grateful.
A question for Jessica was that it was obvious that Claude was able to read and memorize scripts with apparent ease. With little education, how did he accomplish that? “Grade 2 British education, I guess,” was the simple answer. She went on to say that he was very smart, new a great deal and loved to read, always recommending books to his daughter. One day he told Jessica that he was reading an amazing book and that he wanted her start reading it that night so that the next day they could begin to discuss it. It was a book by Anaïs Nin and he hadn’t gotten to the sexy part. The next day, when she asked him why she hadn’t been able to find the book, he informed her that it was because she wasn’t allowed to read it!
It was mentioned earlier that Ingrid had a hard time on the set with the group of actors; how much would this have contributed to the fact that she was on loan from David O. Selznick while the rest of the cast were Warner stable actors? Sometimes this could make for better acting; actors were loaned out to different studios all the time; with the contracts at the time, the studios owned you per se and could do with you what they wished. And if they talked back, as Monika’s father often did, they would get suspended.
Any Sydney Greenstreet stories, they were asked? He wasn’t really an actor, starting out very late in life, his first film being The Maltese Falcon. Paul Henreid made three or four films with him and they got along well, talking literature.
Jessica was very good friends with director Vincent Sherman and knew the family from when his daughter was born. She interviewed him, wanting him to tell her about her father’s background because they were dear friends for a long time. He knew nothing about his background and she wondered what they ever talked about!!!
When did Casablanca become iconic? Stephen thought it supposedly started in Boston when Bogart’s films were shown, maybe in the 1970s. Even before that, Monika suggested, when televisions were introduced into homes and there wasn’t enough product. The producers would get licenses to show films and people who had never had the opportunity to see these films when they were first-run could watch them at home. In the Mid-West a film could be contracted to play five nights a week at a specific time., and if it was popular, people would tell their friends to watch it the following night.
And that ended the final discussion of the Festival.
Afterwards, we went off to see Sahara (1943), directed by Zoltan Korda. It was the last of the three films that I had never seen and the least favourite for me of the war films. It did, however, remind me of a film that I especially did like, The Lost Patrol (1934), a John Ford film, which also had men being eliminated by the enemy one by one. In Sahara, the remaining soldiers are saved by lack of water, an elusive clue. Still, it was interesting to note that it was based on an incident in the Soviet photoplay, “The Thirteen” by Philip Macdonald and, along with Korda, the screenplay was adapted by John Howard Lawson, one of the members of the Hollywood 10. It’s always a treat to see Dan Duryea, and here he plays an atypical role.
From there we went to see The Big Sleep (1946). What can I say other than it was a good film to see at the Bogart Festival with the husband and wife team. I’ve always enjoy watching Martha Vickers and Dorothy Malone, two beautiful women along with Bacall.
It’s a pretty well-known fact nowadays that the details of the story don’t make all that much sense, and I remember the first time I saw this film my mother told me that. But I just thought I understood it better than her and began to explain it. When I got up to the scene where Marlowe starts deciphering a code, I had to stop there. I realized it meant nothing.
Afterwards we changed for the Festival dinner followed by the screening of Casablanca. There was a crooner with an amazing voice, someone you might find singing at a party for the Sopranos, followed by a sit-down meal. There was a “head table” where the descendants of Bogart, Henreid and Rains sat, along with their spouses and Stephen’s sons and Illeana Douglas.
Before the film was to be screened, Monika mentioned that Hugh Hefner of Playboy fame, was the financier who paid for the restoration of Casablanca. She knew him personally, liked him and wanted to acknowledge his generosity.
When it came time to watch the film, only Jessica sat there until the end. Afterwards, when I spoke with her, she said that she realized that her father was the only character in the film who had a sense of humour. He really was the light-touch in the film. Sardonic, sarcastic and knowingly corrupt, you can’t help but like him. You feel that he and Rick will be good friends, for at least the time until the war ends. Casablanca is truly a film that can be seen repeatedly in fairly close proximity to the last viewing time.
Sunday, October 22, 2017
On Sunday, we woke up to a delicious brunch, the last time we would be able to schmooze and say goodbye to some of the people we met including Monika and Jessica, who incidentally loved the brunch!
Monika told my friend and I a story about Bette Davis’s daughter, B.D. Hyman with whom she was acquainted. She knew her growing up and believed that B.D. was always jealous of Bette. Monika thought Bette was a terrific mother and did whatever she could to give her daughter a good life. She paid for everything, including her grandchildren’s education. Because of her association with Bette, Monika would call B.D. once a year to wish her a happy birthday. Not that long ago, when B.D. started bragging about her two sons working for an ammunitions company, she felt that just took-the-cake. Here B.D., a born-again-Christian who headed her own ministry and was pastor of her church, seemed proud that her children were creators of war weapons. Monika stopped calling her.
We were now packed up and ready to hit the road, but before that, we still had two more films to catch. The first was We’re No Angels (1955), directed by last night’s film director, Michael Curtiz. When I was young I watched this film, and thought it was hilarious.
I remember Peter Ustinov being my least favourite of the three scoundrels which included Bogart and Aldo Ray of the scratchy voice. As an adult, I have grown to enjoy and admire Ustinov, especially since reading his “Dear Me” autobiography and noticing how his wit and humour extend into his film characters. This film was no exception. His droll deliverance holds quite an appeal.
And with the added enjoyment of the acting skills of Joan Bennett, Leo G. Carroll and especially Basil Rathbone, along with the beautiful Technicolor cinematography, the film is a delight even if it didn’t contain the same amount of hilarity I once thought it had.
And lastly, as I mentioned a couple of days above, instead of watching Treasure of the Sierra Madre, we went to see In a Lonely Place (1950), directed by Nicholas Ray and starring his then-wife Gloria Grahame.
I’m sure that Bogart was happy to get this role which was very different from most of the others that he did, and like most good actors, was up for a new challenge. He does remarkably well as the brilliant, alcoholic Hollywood writer who feels he needs a muse in order to create. But with a murder charge in the midst of things and an abusive side that comes out especially when under stress and alcohol, Dixon Steele is a character to be reckoned with by an actor—and the rest of the cast!
And that ended our five days at the Humphrey Bogart Film Festival celebrating Casablanca’s 75th anniversary. Next year they’ll be celebrating Key Largo’s 70th and holding it, where else but in the same perfect location, at the Playa Largo resort in Key Largo.