A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

High Sierra (Raoul Walsh, 1941)

Ida Lupino and Humphrey Bogart in High Sierra
Roy Earle: Humphrey Bogart
Marie: Ida Lupino
Red: Arthur Kennedy
Babe: Alan Curtis
Velma: Joan Leslie
Pa: Henry Travers
Louis Mendoza: Cornel Wilde
Big Mac: Donald MacBride
"Doc" Banton: Henry Hull
Algernon: Willie Best
Jake Kranmer: Barton MacLane
Healy: Jerome Cowan

Director: Raoul Walsh
Screenplay: John Huston, W.R. Burnett
Based on a novel by W.R. Burnett
Cinematography: Tony Gaudio
Film editing: Jack Killifer
Music: Adolph Deutsch

Ida Lupino gets first billing in High Sierra, an indication of where Humphrey Bogart's career stood at the time. He had labored for Warner Bros. for more than a decade as a supporting actor, usually in gangster films and occasionally miscast in roles like the Irish stablemaster in Dark Victory (Edmund Goulding, 1939). High Sierra would be a breakthrough into leading man roles, establishing his persona as a tough guy with a soft heart, as in films like Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942) and To Have and Have Not (Howard Hawks, 1944). He owes his role in High Sierra in large part to its screenwriter, John Huston, who as a director would emphasize the tough Bogart over the softie: the brutal Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (1941) and the vicious Fred C. Dobbs in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948). In High Sierra, however, although Roy Earle has just been released from prison and is off to pull another caper, he's full of nostalgia for his childhood as a farmboy and along the road adopts a family heading west, where Pa hopes to get a job and help his granddaughter, Velma, get surgery for her clubfoot. Roy gets soft on Velma and pays for the operation, but his proposal is turned down. Just as Roy has a soft side, Velma is at heart a party girl and wants to go back east and hook up with her ne'er-do-well boyfriend. High Sierra is full of reversals like that. Lupino, for example, plays a party girl who goes soft on Roy and turns into a stand-by-your-man accomplice. And there's even a cute little dog who turns out to be a jinx and rats on Roy at a crucial moment. There's a good deal of silliness in the plotting of High Sierra, as well as some lamentable racist shtick forced on the fine comic actor Willie Best, who is usually caught napping and awakens with his eyes crossed. But at its best, especially in the climactic chase scene along winding dirt roads in the Sierra, the film is a good vehicle for Bogart's leap into superstardom.

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