Sorry, Ronald, but your competition is Cary Grant!
Ronald Colman, Jean Arthur. TALK OF THE TOWN.
- Taking a break. Three of The Sons of Katie Elder.
Michael Anderson, Dean Martin, John Wayne.
- Doris Day.
- Lizabeth Scott.
- An early “MASH? BATTLE CIRCUS (1953)
- Still think it’s an odd pairing – June Allyson, Humphrey Bogart.
And you don’t have to guess who’s the doctor and who’s the nurse.
- Tab Hunter. Handsome guy, good actor.
- Victor Mature.
Love this shot of Jeanette MacDonald.
They made four films together and I haven’t seen any of them. Must start looking.
- Joel McCrea, Constance Bennett.
- BORN TO LOVE. THE COMMON LAW. Both in 1931.
- ROCKABYE (1932).
- BED OF ROSES (1933)
Why is Bette wearing a Swedish National costume?
Bette looks a bit like Uma Thurman in that shot.
Maybe it’s a fancy dress party outfit!
There’s this cottage industry that has grown over the years and polished the Bogie legend until it just gleams. When we actually look at his body of work, though, we find something very different. Battle Circus is a dog of a movie that collapses for the same reason that all of Bogie’s failed movies collapse. Humphrey Bogart had a limited acting range and a weak screen presence. Shocking? Examine it. Take Bogart out of his typecasting – hardboiled city criminal, hardboiled city detective, hardboiled city playboy – and he’s in over his head.
Here’s the list of Bogart’s great leading roles: High Sierra. Maltese Falcon. Casablanca. To Have & Have Not. Big Sleep. Dark Passage. Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Key Largo. Lonely Place. African Queen. Sabrina.
He never made a memorable or great leading character outside of the role of the hardboiled city-dweller. Not even one. Closest is probably Treasure of the Sierra Madre; but even in that role he’s clearly a hardboiled city something-or-other who strikes it rich. There’s no question where he’s going as soon as he gets his gold dust – A Big City.
Bogart owns these roles, and it can be argued that they come closest to acting perfection that we have seen onscreen. Nobody could replace him in his great roles – none of these movies would work as well with another actor (Mitchum tries hardest, with his 1970s Marlowes). It is striking that Treasure is the only great Bogie role that did not have an enormously talented lead actress working beside him. These actresses carried dozens of movies. Excepting perhaps Lupino, we see before us a stunning array of talent: Astor, Bergman, Bacall, Grahame, and both Hepburns. Truly names to conjure with.
Some might argue for Petrified Forest or Caine Mutiny but instead those roles serve to bring the point into focus. Both films would have instantly improved by replacing Bogie with Edward G. Robinson or Jimmy Cagney. In the same way, Battle Circus would improve by replacing Bogart with Gregory Peck. Or Henry Fonda. Or Jimmy Stewart or Gary Cooper or Robert Mitchum or, at his best, Alan Ladd. We could get a Western actor like Randolph Scott and arguably get a better picture. Wayne too. Any of these actors would have dominated this film and made it… not just better. A lot better.
When Bogart steps out of his typecasting, his films abruptly decline in quality.
Put a great actress in Battle Circus and she could probably carry it. Pair Humphrey Bogart with a weaker actress like June Allyson and there just is no hope for that picture.
This acting range problem is accentuated because Bogart’s screen presence is always very small. Quality directors understood this fact right down to the ground. Bogie is – almost always – framed very closely in all his scenes. He sits or stands in a room. He’s in a car. If he’s outdoors, it’s either a very brief scene, typically a closeup, or an establishing shot, such as a street while he walks to a door. There’s always a very strong background framing Bogart. I often feel slightly claustrophobic watching a Bogie film. He simply does not work in the big wide shots that all those other great actors used regularly. Compare the camera shots of African Queen, Hepburn & Bogart down the river: with those of Hepburn & Wayne going down river in Rooster Cogburn. Bogie gets mid screen shots from the bow at a distance of 8 or 10 feet; Wayne gets sweeping, panoramic vistas. Directors know what scenes their actors can fill.
Fonda in Grapes of Wrath, or Mitchum in Longest Day, Peck in Captain Hormblower… and these guys all made some terrific Westerns. This is acting range & screen presence. Bogie never had that. The studios knew it and it’s why Bogie never got to try them until the studio system ended and it’s why Battle Circus fails.
At his best, Bogie put on dazzling displays of acting, but it was always within a small, well-defined and well-contained scene. The perfect, tiny, claustrophobic detail of scrimshaw.