best film:  Casablanca is the best of four masterpieces starring Bogart. Those four are (in order of quality): Casablanca, The Big Sleep, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The Maltese Falcon. I have In a Lonely Place as a high-end Must-See film. They’re a tear below this work— but the work with Raoul Walsh (Roaring Twenties, High Sierra and They Drive By Night) is there, too. Casablanca is often touted as the high-water mark, artistically, from the Hollywood studio system. That’s a mantle/title that’s hard to nail down as Hollywood produced so many great works and that seems to also take credit away from Michel Curtiz—who does a fantastic job behind the camera (those trademark slow dollies into a scene). The screenplay is one of the handful of the greatest of all time. In front of the camera it doesn’t get much better than Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.

best performance: Casablanca. Bogart’s “Rick” is his iconic film role and it edges out the superlative work in Treasure of the Sierra Madre and In a Lonely Place. Rick is more “even” than the obsessive characters he plays in Madre and Lonely Place—it’s a bit more of a controlled, internal performance but it’s certainly a great artist in complete command. He growls and puts on a tough peripheral of course, but has the tender break down drinking and flashback sequence. Of course the dialogue at the ending is transcendentally delivered by Bogart—both with Bergman at the plane and with Claude Rains walking off.

stylistic innovations/traits: I’m not a big believer in the actor as auteur concept—but of all the actors you could put forth with this theory—Robert Mitchum. Paul Newman, The Marx Brothers, Steve McQueen— Bogart makes the most sense. He’s so damn good from 1941 to 1955 regardless of the director or material—he elevates the level of the film he’s in by at least a grade—making bad films tolerable, good films great, and turns top films into masterpieces. There are stages of his career. Until 1941 he’s the second fiddle in gritty Warner Brothers (usually backing up Cagney but occasionally even George Raft like They Dive By Night). It’s in Walsh’s High Sierra (another “madman” role for Bogey—Caine Mutiny is another) that he takes off and becomes one of the best four actors of all-time. He’s in 29 archiveable films in 21 years. That’s ridiculous—12-13 of them warrant being in their respective year’s top 10. Bogart had a rhythm to his dialogue, often played detectives (he’s cinema’s best detective) and criminals. There were so many facets to his body of work. I mentioned the supporting/thug period in the 30’s, but you also have the Bacall films (4), the 50’s and work in color (African Queen, Caine Mutiny). Even in something like Sabrina when he’s miscast (far too old) and asked to play out of character (a business tycoon) and against type (cerebral) he pulls it off so wondrously.

directors worked with:  John Huston (5), Curtiz (4), Walsh (3), Wyler (2), Hawks (2) and then once a piece with Nicholas Ray and Billy Wilder

Top 10 Performances:

  1. Casablanca
  2. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  3. In a Lonely Place
  4. The Big Sleep
  5. The Maltese Falcon
  6. To Have and Have Not
  7. The Caine Mutiny
  8. High Sierra
  9. Key Largo
  10. The African Queen

Archiveable films

1936- Petrified Forest
1937- Dead End
1938- Angels with Dirty Faces
1939- Dark Victory
1939- Oklahoma Kid
1939- The Roaring Twenties
1940- They Drive By Night
1941- All Through the Night
1941- High Sierra
1941 -The Maltese Falcon
1942- Casablanca
1943- Sahara
1944- Passage to Marseille
1944- To Have and Have Not
1946- The Big Sleep
1947- Dark Passage
1948- Key Largo
1948- The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
1950- In a Lonely Place
1951- The African Queen
1951- The Enforcer
1952- Deadline USA
1953- Beat the Devil
1954- Sabrina
1954- The Barefoot Contessa
1954- The Caine Mutiny
1955- The Desperate Hours
1955- We’re No Angels
1956- The Harder They Fall