Tuesday, June 5, 2007

June 5th Log

1941, Raoul Walsh, United States
Repeat Viewing, Turner Classic Movies

High Sierra is a film most remembered as being the film that turned Humphrey Bogart into a star. Though he played key supporting roles in some significant films (including They Drive By Night, The Roaring Twenties, Dark Victory, Angels With Dirty Faces, The Petrified Forest), it was his role as Roy “Mad Dog” Earle in High Sierra that shaped his famous persona and ultimately made him one of Hollywood’s most beloved movie stars. In High Sierra Bogart earned second billing, but he would be top billing on every film that followed, including his definitive role in the landmark film The Maltese Falcon, which was released later the same year. Top billing on High Sierra went to Ida Lupino, who had a memorable performance in her previous film They Drive By Night (which also starred Bogart and was directed by Raoul Walsh). As Roy “Mad Dog” Earle, Bogart plays a role that would embody himself as an actor, playing the sympathetic anti-hero. His chemistry with Lupino really makes this film. Really Lupino’s performance can not be overlooked as the good bad girl. Walsh uses just the right lightning to express her face and heighten the performance. The film has its flaws (mostly with the subplots, such as the farm family Earle takes care of), but it is worth watching to see the early development of Bogart’s stardom, and is really most effective when Lupino is onscreen. The film is uneven but does reach thrilling lengths in the climax- a desperate chase into the high sierras. The ending is a memorable as a noir tragedy. Certainly not the best film from Walsh, Bogart, Lupino, or even screenwriter John Huston, but High Sierra is well worth watching as a significant early 1940s Hollywood film.

1940, Raoul Walsh, United States
Repeat Viewing, Turner Classic Movies

They Drive By Night is a film that essentially shifts itself from one film to another. The film is held together by the rhythmic multi-genre filmmaking of director Raoul Walsh. They Drive by Night opens as a fast-paced drama involving a trucker looking to build up his business to avoid the exploits of his boss. The shift comes in the presence of Ida Lupino, as it turns into her on trial for killing her husband. The two halves are mostly connected in the treatment of the two main characters: the trucker (excellently played by George Raft), and the ambitious and sensual wife who is driven to insanity at the thought of killing her husband. Lupino overacts a bit here (particularly in the courtroom scene), but it is a marvelous performance to witness. As the film progresses she continuously takes it over more and more until she steals the show. They Live By Night is a strange film and in the way it shifts genres it can only be considered a quintessential Raoul Walsh picture. Certainly not perfect, but a recommended classic.


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