Posts Tagged ‘Bacall’

On Oscar night, our happiness and delight for the winners vanish in comparison to the rage that we feel for those who went home with only a magnificent career and millions of dollars in the bank, but no award. We are only a few years away from what I predict will be called Participation Oscars being awarded to all who show up, so let us relish these last few years of cutthroat competition, boycotts, and fashion victims (shout-out to Miss Rivers).

Before they eliminate the barroom brawls of Oscar rivalries, perhaps we’ll see a few more categories added to the list, and therefore I propose an Academy Award for Best Movie Line. Below we remember a few of our favorites from movies that took home nothing more than a program on Oscar night . . . but don’t let’s ask for the moon; we have the stars.

 

AnnaChr“You was going on as if one of you had to own me. But, nobody owns me, see; excepting myself. I’ll do what I please and no man, I don’t give a darn who he is, can tell me what to do. I haven’t asked either of you for a living. I’ll make it myself, one way or another. I am my own boss. So put that in your pipe and smoke it!” – Anna, Anna Christie (1930)

 

 

PublicEn“There you go with that wishin’ stuff again. I wish you was a wishing well. So that I could tie a bucket to ya and sink ya.” – Tom Powers, The Public Enemy (1931)

 

 

KlondikeAnn“When I’m caught between two evils, I generally like to take the one I never tried.” – Rose Carlton, Klondike Annie (1936)

 

 

DarkPass“You know, it’s wonderful when guys like you lose out. Makes guys like me think maybe we got a chance in this world.” – Vincent Parry, Dark Passage (1947)

 

 

TheRose“So what do you do when he comes home with the smell of another woman on him? Do you say, ‘Oh honey, let me open up my lovin’ arms and my lovin’ legs. Dive right in, baby, the water is fine?’ Is that what you say, girls? Or do you say, ‘Fuck this shit! I’ve had enough of you, you asshole! Pack your bags. I’m putting on my little waitress cap and my fancy high-heeled shoes, I’m gonna go find me a real man, a good man, a true man. A man to love me for sure.’ ” Mary Rose Foster, The Rose (1979)

 

 

NinetoFive“If you ever say another word about me or make another indecent proposal, I’m gonna get that gun of mine, and I’m gonna change you from a rooster to a hen with one shot!” – Doralee Rhodes, Nine to Five (1980)

 

 

Clue“Husbands should be like Kleenex: soft, strong, and disposable.” – Mrs. White, Clue (1985)

 

 

Heathers“Come on, it’ll be very. The note’ll give her shower-nozzle masturbation material for weeks.” – Heather Chandler, Heathers (1988)

 

 

LarryF“Now I have a message for all you good, moral, Christian people who are complaining that breasts and vaginas are obscene. Hey, don’t complain to me. Complain to the manufacturer.” – Larry Flynt, The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996)

 

 

“He never spoke up to you, because you would never listen. I never spoke up to you, because I could never get a word in!” – LV, Little Voice (1998)

 

 

MSDTWHU EC005“You could stand there naked with a mattress strapped to your back and still look like a vestal virgin.” – Monica, 200 Cigarettes (1999)

 

 

Devil1“Is there some reason that my coffee isn’t here? Has she died or something?” – Miranda Priestly, The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

If no one wore a hat like Spencer Tracy, I’ll lay down a similar hand cards by saying that no one held a gun like Humphrey Bogart. The first time I saw Dark Passage, I wasn’t sure how much I liked the third film Bogie and Bacall made together. I classified it as many critics had after its release — good, but not great. I can understand their points of view, as some audiences were unhappy with the fact that they did not see Bogie’s face until an hour into the movie. Filmed in what I imagine was venturesome at the time, the first half of Dark Passage is shot almost completely from Bogie’s point of view, possibly affecting those of his critics. I’ve probably seen other Bogie and Bacall films in my life, but this was the first of which I had a clear memory, and although I didn’t know how I felt about it at the time, now it finds its way into my DVD player two or three times a month.

Dark Passage follows Bogie’s Vincent Parry, a convict who escapes from San Quentin in the film’s opening scene. Always willing to lend him a hand, Miss Lauren Bacall, in all her gorgeousness, enters as Irene Jansen, an artist who begins to help Vincent for reasons unknown. She hides him in her apartment, buys him new clothes (including a hat, of course!), and even nurses him back to health after he undergoes plastic surgery. Because the first half is filmed from his point of view, we are truly in Vincent’s head, and although I’m thrilled to see one of my favorite actresses, I don’t trust Miss Bacall right away. What’s more enjoyable than a femme fatale? Very little, I feel, except perhaps a potential femme fatale. “Lie still, hold your breath, cross your fingers” is what she tells him as she smuggles him across the Golden Gate Bridge. What a voice! 

Because we’re experiencing it all through Vincent’s eyes, it’s easy to fall for Bacall along with him. Since I wasn’t quite sure of from where her character’s generosity stems, that element of danger only heightens that thrill reserved specifically for film noir. That glimpse of Irene through Vincent’s eyes also gives us a peek at Bacall through Bogie’s eyes; a bit of that truth of which I’m so fond! At first I wondered what kind of gamble was made when the studio decided on this filming technique. From what I’ve heard, the idea of not seeing Mr. Bogart’s face for half of the film did not thrill Jack Warner of Warner Brothers, but they were too far into filming to turn back. Tagging along in Vincent’s head reminds me of the Choose Your Own Adventure books from good ol’ childhood. The concept of control — mixed with a complete lack of it — draws me into a film that the majority seems to consider pretty mediocre.

Far from mediocre is the always-enjoyable Miss Agnes Moorehead. If that “how do I know that name” light is flashing in your head, just add about a pound of eye makeup to the above photo, and soon you’ll see of my favorite characters (and names) staring back at you. Best remembered as Endora, Samantha’s mother on Bewitched, Miss Moorehead always had that X-factor found only in a handful of actors and actresses. It’s more than just a witchable… sorry, watchable quality; it’s that unspoken effort that goes into making something look so effortless. Madge Rapf, Miss Moorehead’s character in Dark Passage, certainly is not the most likeable of women — she’s that person in your group of friends whom nobody really likes or wants around, and yet somehow she’s always there. You know, the type who wears leopard print but doesn’t have the personality to pull it off, although she’s convinced herself that she does. While her character may not succeed with the leopard print, Miss Moorehead certainly succeeds in pulling off “not pulling it off.” She’s an added bonus to the film, and surely Bogie and Bacall deserve nothing less than stellar from their supporting cast.

To me, Dark Passage is such a “movie.” Watching it is like watching the birth of film clichés, left and right, which I understand may not appeal to some viewers whose eyes roll with little effort. Vincent keeps getting lucky in his unlucky situation, flying under the radar with the help not only of Irene but also with assistance from a plastic surgeon. As soon as he wakes up with his face covered in bandages, we’re finally out of his head and become more of a viewer than a participant. At this point, I feel like I’m now in everyone else’s head, watching Vincent and trying to predict his next move. All I know for sure is that eventually Bogie will point a gun at someone. This movie also treats me to some of my classic film favorites — filmed mostly on location in San Francisco, it has some beautiful scenes of the city and its bridges. One little gem is a “One Way” street sign that is bordered completely with light bulbs. Behind it is a sign for a parking lot that costs 25 cents for the day. And so integral to the plot is Irene’s phonograph, a word that is just as soothing to me as the imagined sound it produces.

Part of me assumed that after riding around in his character’s head for an hour, Bogie would be less intimidating when he finally gets a revolver in his hand. Nope, I should have known better — when that hat and gun team up with that deep voice of his, who wouldn’t feel a bit unnerved? Well, probably not Miss Bette Davis (as reports go from the set of The Petrified Forest), but the rest of us fall victim to an avalanche of emotions when that gun molds itself to Bogie’s hand. Frightened, excited, relieved, worried, and yes indeed, intimidated. Bogie is as confident with that gun as Bacall is when she gives that look of hers, both weapons able to level anything in their paths. But it’s not just the gun, the hat, or the look that draws me happily into the world of Bogie and Bacall. Finding truth within fantasy is a bit easier with an off-screen couple, since the chemistry is almost always there from the opening scene. Bogie, Bacall, and Dark Passage prove this point to me every time.

Some movie couples aren’t always so natural, and sometimes that’s precisely why their film works so well . . .

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A few months ago I was out at happy hour when someone posed an interesting question — if I had the power to pick my dream job, what would it be? After a bit of negotiating, she allowed me two answers, the first being that I could easily become a travel writer. Circling the world and blissfully writing day and night sounds like heaven to me, as long as I can fit some of my classic DVDs in my bag. Venturing more into the “fantasy” aspect of the question, my second answer was that, if I could, I would be Katharine Hepburn. The love and respect with which I always speak that name had barely escaped my lips when, quite innocently as if she hadn’t heard me, my host replied, “Who?” A bit of this blog was born that evening . . .

A few words about the magnificent Miss Katharine Hepburn, the woman who, to this day, holds the record for number of Academy Awards won by an actor or actress. Of the 12 nominations she received throughout her career, four Oscar statues went to Miss Hepburn. And as with so many remarkable artists of Hollywood’s golden age, my first introduction to Miss Hepburn was at a very young age. If I were ever to write an autobiography, the title would have to be Katharine Hepburn Taught Me How to Give the Finger. Yes indeed, my first exposure to the woman who is the very definition of “classy” and all its synonyms was in her film On Golden Pond (1982), Hepburn’s fourth Oscar win. Imitating Henry Fonda, who plays her husband in the film, she gives the bird to a group of young people in a speed boat, shouting “Buzz off!” as they motor by and scare the loons away. Now I ask you, what six-year-old boy wouldn’t fall into worship with a woman like that? Almost 24 years later, I’m learning that sadly, the answer is very few.

Yearning to expand my collection of women who misbehave (I may have begun the retirement of my witch’s hat at this point), it didn’t take me to long to mimic the 75-year-old Hepburn in the back my mother’s Volvo station wagon. I don’t know if they still make them as they once did, but in the Volvo of the 1980s, the back of the station wagon had a seat that would fold out, easily fitting two children who would then be riding backwards. Perhaps the people behind us were tailgating, maybe I found them unattractive, or it’s possible I didn’t even look at them — regardless, the Hepburn magic I felt dancing around in my middle finger was not to be contained. That car riding at our heels received a proper “Buzz off!” that I felt would have done Miss Hepburn proud. My mother, not so much with the “proud” at the time, but today she’ll smile about it more than anyone else.

Ahhh Tracy and Hepburn . . . once again I find myself tackling a topic about which so much has already been said. Since I could find two conflicting stories of Miss Hepburn’s relationship with the married Mr. Spencer Tracy, I’ll leave you to your own devices (or mine, if you visit the “Some Good Reads” page of my blog). Undeniable is the chemistry on-screen that occurs between these two incredible artists, so perhaps we’re safe in assuming that the offscreen chemistry made its way to the movie soundstage. So convincing are Hepburn and Tracy as a couple onscreen, that the love always feels just as authentic as the bickering.

Adam’s Rib tells the story of a married couple, both lawyers, battling each other in court over a woman who attempted to shoot her cheating husband. Hepburn’s Amanda Bonner defends of her client (played by the hilarious Miss Judy Holliday) by invoking equal treatment for women, claiming if the sexes were reversed in this case, the outcome would be quite different indeed. Adam (Tracy) sticks to his guns as the prosecutor, maintaining that the law is the law, and no person has the right to shoot another, regardless of sex. The case shines certain light on the Bonner’s own marriage, and as the cuddling and kisses turn to bickering, Hepburn and Tracy give us yet another gem, reminding us of how far we think society has come.

I realize I harp on about the cigarettes, drinks, and hats of classic films, but I have to say, no one wore a hat like Spencer Tracy. Cocked to the side just slightly, Tracy’s hat always threatened to fall off (in my eyes, at least), but his commanding presence wouldn’t allow it — that hat wasn’t going anywhere until he said so. In this particular film, Adam Bonner is in less control of the hats he gives his wife. After he surprises Amanda with an “absolute miracle” of hat, she turns around and gives it to her client, attempting to rattle her husband in court. If nothing else, Adam’s Rib taught me not to underestimate the power and importance of a hat in 1949 — she succeeds in rattling him like nobody’s business!

As the courtroom antics spiral further into the ridiculous, the film doesn’t seem to lose its message of inequality between the sexes. Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin, who received an Oscar nomination for the film’s screenplay, pulled off one of my favorite techniques — the ever-changing “whose side are you on?” Like watching my parents argue over the proper use of the dishcloth (can one towel be used for both hands and dishes?), I’m constantly switching alliances, as both the defense and prosecution continue to make reasonable points. But since Miss Judy Holliday really captures my heart while cracking me up, I do find myself siding with the lovable defendant. As she rehashes the film’s opening scene in which she shoots at her husband and his mistress, my face starts to hurt from smiling. The events of the shooting are interspersed with details of what she ate, where, and how it was cooked. The priceless scene is filmed as one shot with no cuts (as far as I can tell), giving it a theatrical feel and allowing Miss Holliday to draw my attention away from Miss Hepburn . . . an accomplishment not to be sniffed at!

And dear Mr. Spencer Tracy; his voice is as soothing to me as the slant of his hat. At times a willing punching bag in Adam’s Rib, Mr. Tracy allows himself to be hoisted up in the air by a rather strong circus woman who’s testifying on behalf of the defendant. The cable that is actually holding up Mr. Tracy may as well have its own spotlight and cartoon arrows pointing to it, but those are the little things about old movies that I enjoy — this lack of perfection has a comforting truth to it that I rarely see today. Like Hepburn and Tracy themselves, the movie simply is what it is, without the help of green screens, explosions, or chase scenes. I’ve learned recently there’s little that can annoy my father more than a movie chase scene, and while sometimes I can appreciate a frantic pursuit in a film, I’m back to the dishcloth, agreeing with both sides of the argument.

Duplicating the effect of a “Hepburn and Tracy” combo is impossible, but then again no two couples are exactly alike. No better or worse, but simply different, there is one other couple that makes me smile in that “slump-my-shoulders-up-and-look-at-the-ground” kind of way. I’m grateful to say that documented for all of us to see is a 19-year-old Miss Betty Perske in her first film with a 45-year-old (and married) Mr. Humphrey Bogart. The well-known formula of a tough man and his even tougher woman worked wonders on the black-and-white screen, and the folks of the 1940s were about to see just how well. Miss Perske and Mr. Bogart began a relationship that eventually led not only to marriage but also to one of the greatest onscreen couples I’ve ever seen: Bogie and Bacall. 

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