Chain Lightning (1950)

Chain Lightning poster 1

A somewhat corny look at early jet aircraft test jockeys, mentioning but not showing Chuck Jaeger, and focusing more on the balls of the test pilot – Bogart – than the technical problems of flying faster than sound and higher than unaided human beings can survive.

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Sahara (1943)

sahara-poster

Forgettable and low-budget war-time propaganda film. My pleasure only for Bogart as a tank commander who outsmarts the dastardly Germans in a battle of wits. An American Beau Geste of sorts at a time in which the American desert experience had been pretty disastrous.

The production featured a genuine M3 Lee battle tank, nicknamed Lulu Belle in the film. maybe some more modern film-makers stole that idea.

Dan Duryea is an added bonus. That tall, melancholy drink of water always infused the films he was in with a certain mood.

J Carrol Naish was apparently nominated for an academy award, as was Rudolph Maté for cinematography, and John Livadary for sound. I’m not sure the panel didn’t have sunglasses on to reach that conclusion.

Credits

Columbia, 97 minutes, black and white.

Directed by Zoltán Korda. Written by John Howard Lawson, James O’Hanlon from a story by Philip MacDonald. Cinematography by Rudolph Maté, Produced by Harry Joe Brown. Music by Miklós Rózsa.

Humphrey Bogart as Sergeant Joe Gunn, Dan Duryea as Jimmy Doyle, Bruce Bennett as ‘Waco’ Hoyt, Richard Nugent as Captain Jason Halliday, Lloyd Bridges as Fred Clarkson, Patrick O’Moore as Osmond ‘Ozzie’ Bates, Guy Kingsford as Peter Stegman, Carl Harbord as Marty Williams. Louis Mercier as Jean ‘Frenchie’ Leroux, Rex Ingram as Sergeant Major Tambul, J Carrol Naish as Giuseppe, Kurt Kreuger as Captain von Schletow, John Wengraf as Major von Falken.

Across the Pacific (1942)

Charming propaganda film that apparently foresaw Pearl Harbor, and changed the action to Panama after the real attack. If Americans knew the attack was coming at Pearl Harbor, is the rumour true that Roosevelt let it happen to force America into the war?

The old crew of Astor and Greenstreet from the Maltese Falcon reunited with Bogart a year on. Works well. The budding romance between Leland (Bogart) and Marlow (Astor) was well-scripted and decidedly mature compared to the usual mush.

Huston had to be replaced as director part-way through the production when he joined the Signal Corps at the outbreak of war.

I sometimes wonder how Adolph Deutsch didn’t change his name (‘Deutsch’ literally meaning ‘German’).

Credits

Warner Brothers, 97 minutes, black and white.

Directed by John Huston, Vincent Sherman. Written by Robert Garson, Richard Macaulay. Cinematography by Arthur Edeson. Produced by Jerry Wald, Jack Saper. Music by Adolph Deutsch.

Featuring Humphrey Bogart as Rick Leland, Mary Astor as Alberta Marlow, Sydney Greenstreet as Dr Lorenz, Kam Tong as T Oki, Charles Halton as AV Smith, Victor Sen Yung as Joe Totsuiko, Roland Got as Sugi, Lee Tung Foo as Sam Wing On, Frank Wilcox as Captain Morrison, Paul Stanton as Colonel Hart, Chester Gan as Captain Higoto, Richard Loo as First Officer Miyuma.

Action in the North Atlantic (1943)

Routine war-time propaganda film extolling the importance of merchant marine sailors dying to get supplies across the Atlantic, this time to Murmansk. Rare pro-Soviet film.

Pretty tedious except for Bogart and Massey in the lead roles.

Writer john Howard Lawson was one of the Hollywood Ten, and also a long-time head of the Hollywood branch of the Communist Party of America. Still, not much in the way of Soviet propaganda in this one, other than the patriotism of helping Soviet Russia defeat the Nazis.

A young Robert Mitchum gets a walk-on part in this one.

Credits

Warner Brothers, 126 minutes, black and white.

Directed by Lloyd Bacon, Byron Haskin, Raoul Walsh(!!!). Written by John Howard Lawson from a story by Guy Gilpatric. Cinematography by Ted D McCord. Produced by Jerry Wald. Music by Adolph Deutsch, George Lipschultz.

Featuring Humphrey Bogart as First Officer Joe Rossi, Raymond Massey as Captain Steve Jarvis, Alan Hale as Alfred ‘Boats’ O’Hara, Julie Bishop as Pearl O’Neill, Ruth Gordon as Sarah Jarvis. Sam Levene as ‘Chips’ Abrams, Dane Clark as Johnnie Pulaski, Peter Whitney as ‘Whitey’ Lara, Dick Hogan as Cadet Ezra Parker.

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

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This film owes more to the conventions of stage performance than to the still developing craft of film-making, relying heavily on static indoor dialogue, though there are innovative crossovers, such as the seven-minute, single-take scene showing Bogart and Gutman ‘walk ‘n’ talk’ through four sets.

It was an incredible camera setup. We rehearsed two days. The camera followed Greenstreet and Bogart from one room into another, then down a long hallway and finally into a living room; there the camera moved up and down in what is referred to as a boom-up and boom-down shot, then panned from left to right and back to Bogart’s drunken face; the next pan shot was to Greenstreet’s massive stomach from Bogart’s point of view. … One miss and we had to begin all over again.

— Meta Wilde, Huston’s longtime script supervisor.

Cinematographer Arthur Edesons’s low-angle work,is unobtrusive if you don’t look for it, and can summon the vague discomfort of a claustrophobia not quite realised in framing ceilings and walls as containers. More obvious are his exaggerated shots of Greenstreet’s already considerable girth, and the barred shadows or patterns he used in various places to resemble the steel cage of a jail cell. The visualisation bears watching with the sound off just for its own sake.

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