best film:   Casablanca reigns supreme here but The Big Sleep and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre are not far behind. Casablanca is often touted as the high-water mark of the Hollywood studio system. Michael Curtiz is at the helm and those trademark slow dolly shots to open a scene are abound in Casablanca. Curtiiz does a fantastic job overall behind the camera – and the screenplay is certainly one of the greatest of all-time. In front of the camera, the performances are sublime from Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in the lead – and that talented ensemble that includes Claude Rains, Peter Lorre, and Sydney Greenstreet.


best performance:   Casablanca. Bogart’s “Rick” is his iconic film role, and it barely edges out his outstanding work in Treasure of the Sierra Madre and In a Lonely Place. Rick is more even than the obsessive characters Bogart plays in Madre and Lonely Place – it is a bit more of a controlled, core performance but it is still, unquestionably, a great artist in complete command of his skills. He growls and puts on a tough peripheral of course but has the tender breakdown drinking with the flashback sequence. The dialogue at the final act is transcendentally delivered by Bogart – both with Bergman at the plane and with Claude Rains walking off.


Casablanca – the first evidence of Bogart’s ability to pull off a romantic lead came in 1942 – this is just one (1) year after his first success leading a movie (1941’s High Sierra) but he had already had a dozen archiveable films under his belt


stylistic innovations/traits:   If there very was a case for the actor as auteur theory, Humphrey Bogart has to be its poster child. Robert Mitchum (the closest second), Paul Newman, The Marx Brothers, Steve McQueen – all fine choices – but Bogart makes the most sense. He is so damn good from 1941 to 1955 seemingly almost regardless of the director or material.  He seems to elevate the level of every film he is in by a grade — making bad films tolerable, good films great, and even turns in a few masterpieces (without an Alfred Hitchcock, Jean Renoir, John Ford or Max Ophüls quality director to collaborate with). Bogart was a Warner Brothers contract player for much of his career and, until 1941, is the second (or third or fourth) fiddle character actor (often the heavy) backing up James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson or even George Raft. It is Raoul Walsh’s High Sierra (foreshadowing other great madman roles for Bogey – Caine Mutiny another later) when he takes off and becomes one of the best eight (8) actors of all-time. Bogart has a total of thirty-three (33) archiveable films and his archiveable debut was after the age of thirty (30) and he died before he was sixty (60). Bogart had an uncanny rhythm to his dialogue, often played detectives (he is cinema’s best detective), criminals, and the aforementioned maniacs. There were so many facets to his body of work – there are the Lauren Bacall films collaborations (4), the 1950s prestige films in color (African Queen, Caine Mutiny). Even something like Sabrina is a fascinating add to his body of work because he is miscast (far too old) and asked to play out of character (a business tycoon) and against type (cerebral) – yet somehow he pulls it off so wondrously.


Bogart as Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep (1946) – Bogart was cinema’s finest detective


directors worked with: John Huston (6), Michael Curtiz (4), Raoul Walsh (3), William Wyler (2), Howard Hawks (2), Lloyd Bacon (2) Nicholas Ray (1), Joseph L. Mankiewicz (1), Billy Wilder (1)


Bogart as Fred C. Dobbs in 1948’s The Treasure of Sierra Madre – brilliantly channeling obsession and greed


Bogart as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon. This is the first of six (6) archiveable films with the gifted writer turned director (his directorial debut here) John Huston. Bogart is oozing confidence – “You always have a smooth explanation”- his reply “What do you want me to do? Learn to stutter?”


top ten 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


Bogart was often the villain earlier in his career, then the hard boiled detective, but he has an entire wing of neurosis films where he is superb – this one is from In a Lonely Place with Nicholas Ray



archiveable films

1932- Three on a Match
1936- Bullets or Ballots
1936- Petrified Forest
1937- Dead End
1938- Angels with Dirty Faces
1939- Dark Victory
1939- The Oklahoma Kid
1939- The Roaring Twenties
1940- Brother Orchid
1940- They Drive by Night
1941- High Sierra
1941 -The Maltese Falcon
1942- Across the Pacific
1942- All Through the Night
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 U.S.A.
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