‘DARK PASSAGE’ NOTES

As much as I can watch DARK PASSAGE (1947) any day of the week and enjoy it, the more I see it the more I find to comment on. I love the San Francisco locations and all the character actors who appear in the film.

The story of Vincent Parry (Humphrey Bogart) who escapes from prison and tries to prove he didn’t kill his wife. Help comes in the shape of rich girl, Irene Jansen (Lauren Bacall) whose late father was also wrongly accused of murder .

 

Humphrey Bogart, Tom D’Andrea

Sam the friendly cab driver quickly recognises Parry as the escapee and quietly says,  “You’re a guy with plenty of trouble” .

Sam proposes they pay a visit to his pal, the surgeon who can give Parry a different face.

 

DARK PASSAGE, Tom D’Andrea, Humphrey Bogart, Houseley Stevenson, 1947.

i can’t better a phrase I found from one reviewer to describe Houseley Stevenson’s character – a clandestine face-rearranger “!

He might be a back street, discredited doctor, but he still takes pride in his work – and doesnt over charge! $200 for a 90 minute procedure and no need for check-ups. And no evidence of the operation one week later!

Tom D’Andrea and Housely Stevenson are part of the great ensemble cast who get to shine in just a scene or two.

 

Who is the face of Vincent Parry? The actor, Frank Wilcox has been mentioned, but I think it’s a portrait which has been drawn with some similarities to Bogart, especially around the eyes.

Frank Wilcox

Checking for a photo of Frank Wilcox, I discovered a site, http://www.frankwilcox.org which has organised a Wilcox festival for the past 7 years! How about that.

Based in De Soto,MO where Wilcox was born, the latest Festival is in March and will show 3 films he was in – LADY GANGSTER, SANTA FE TRAIL and MIRACLE OF THE BELLS.

 

Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart.

I’m still trying to figure out why Bacall’s character, ‘Irene ‘ would be friends with ‘Madge’ (Agnes Moorehead). We know Irene was at Parry’s trial every day. She would therefore have seen Madge give evidence that put  Parry in prison.

There’s no suggestion Irene kept close to Madge in order to help Parry. And wouldn’t Madge know about Irene’s involvement in the court case.

 

Scene stealer, Agnes Moorehead as the malevolent Madge . She really does steal all the scenes she is in. Madge is a woman scorned (by Parry) who happens to be just a little crazy!

 

Harry’s Wagon

The great thing about location shooting is that often you can put yourself right on the spot where a star stood decades  earlier.

Dark Passage had some great scenes filmed in San Francisco and a great website for information on films shot there is  www.reelsf.com

For instance there was a real Harry’s Wagon In 1947 at 1921 Post Street. These converted railway cars were popular at the time.

Douglas Kennedy, Humphrey Bogart.

The scene in Harry’s Wagon where an off duty detective played by Douglas Kennedy becomes suspicious.As with all the film’s casting, Kennedy is convincing in his couple of scenes as he questions the nervous Parry.

Douglas Kennedy and Bogart

 

Bogart as Vincent Parry.

 

And  just because I like him in his only scene in the film, here’s two shots of Rory Mallinson (1913-1976) who plays Parry’s best friend, ‘George Fellsinger’ who falls foul of the mad  Madge. I wish George had survived!

Rory Mallinson

 

 

In the scenes before we actually see Bogart’s face, I was surprised at the first person perspective which had been used less than a year earlier in LADY IN THE LAKE.  Though the camerawork in Dark Passage seemed much smoother, with the use of a hand held camera.

Which brings me to the premise of viewers not seeing Bogart in front of the camera till a third way through the film. Of course, without it, the plot line about plastic surgery wouldn’t work.

And Bogart couldn’t have been comfortable in the bandages that covered his face for several scenes.

Considering how big a star Bogart  was in 1947, Warner Brothers executives must have discussed how filmgoers would react. For the first 20 minutes you only hear Bogart’s voice, then his face is covered in bandages for several scenes.

On balance, I like the way it was filmed because it enhanced the mystery element and gave us all these great scenes with the cabbie, the doctor and the small time hood .

( Clifton Young ,who played ‘Baker ‘ who tries to blackmail Parry, was only 34 when he died in 1951. Young had a cleft chin to equal Kirk Douglas!)

Clifton Young.

 

That scene with Agnes Moorhead. Is it an accident as Vincent tells Irene later?  Why is she reaching for the drawer handle? I have no idea. But the crazy ‘Madge’ definitely throws herself out the open window as a final act against Vincent.

As ‘Madge’ screams,  “Nobody will ever have you…..They’ll believe me! They’ll believe me!”

 

 

What do I know about framing camera shots, but this one  does highlight the art. Bogart  in the foreground, the cop looking around  and the busy bus company clerk. And the hat brim set at just the right angle. Perfect. Bogart as Parry is so concentrated on talking to ‘Irene’, that he is unaware of the policeman. And simply by making the call at the right time, he isnt spotted.

 

The song  Vincent played on the juke box. Jo Stafford sang  it. Richard Whiting and Johnny  Mercer wrote it. Great song and a perfect musical theme for the film.

 

How does Dark Passage compare with the other Bogart/Bacall teamings. Simply looking at the characters they play,  they are so low key compared with the smouldering intensity of TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT or THE BIG SLEEP.

I’d argue that the role of Vincent Parry  didn’t really suit Bogart , at least not the Bogart the public expected in his films with Bacall. I couldn’t say that only Bogart could have played the role of the quiet spoken and reserved Parry.

But the whole film has you routing for Vincent Parry. He deserves a break and we want him to get it. He deserves that getaway to South America!

 

 

 

The original novel by David Goodis who adapted it for Warner Brothers.

Bogart and Bacall with author  David Goodis.

 

Bogart,Bacall and Director Delmer Daves.

The two children seen near the end of the film boarding  the bus Parry takes were Deborah and Michael Daves, children of Delmer Daves.

Mary Field, Deborah and Michael Daves, John Arledge.

 

In joke : Delmer Daves as Irene Jansen’s  father in this picture.

 

San Francisco on display.

At the Golden  Gate bridge where Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak had a powerful scene in  Vertigo.

 

Bogart takes a trolley car.

 

Irene’s apartment building.

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Comments welcome!

 

 

 

 

6 responses »

  1. It’s a great film! The song “Too Marvellous for Words” was originally written for the 1937 Warners musical “Ready, Willing and Able” – the studio liked to reuse their own music when they could!

  2. Vienna, a really fine write-up that I enjoyed reading. I’ve been a Humphrey Bogart fan as long as I can remember. Yes, before I realized there was such a thing as a “Bogie Cult.” Bogart is a screen legend, a pop-culture icon to generations of fans. Also, he was a very unlikely leading man movie star legend. His slight stature, shopworn rugged face, speaking with a slight lisp, didn’t exactly qualify him as the next Cary Grant, during the “Golden Age” of Hollywood.

  3. It is amazing how this actor who spent the 1930s in supporting roles should become such a big star. I guess it takes the right role to showcase talent. Thank goodness Warner Brothers gave him the chance.

  4. Yes! and thank goodness George Raft turned down so many
    roles that bolstered Bogart’s star power.
    Lovely to see some respect for Rory Mallinson although he
    does not have too much to do in DARK PASSAGE he has more
    screen time than in most of his roles.
    His features are perfect for Film Noir.
    Love the idea of a Frank Wilcox Film Festival.

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