Tag Archives: Humphrey Bogart

A Prequel to CASABLANCA?

Are you a fan of the film CASABLANCA?

Do you have a pulse?

Are you worth knowing at all?

Depending on what day I’m asked, my reply to “What’s your favorite film?” is any one of about a half a dozen films, one of which is CASABLANCA. I could go on and on about the flick, but I’ll spare you the gush except on one point. Every time I see the ending of CASABLANCA, I wish there was more.

Duh-h.

Well, it’s Movie Night and tonight’s entrée is the 1937 French offering; PEPE LE MOKO. This is well worth a look. There is much about this flick that is reminiscent of CASABLANCA, though CASABLANCA was actually made five years later.

Claude Rains played Captain Renaud in CASABLANCA as a man despicable in action but sympathetic in heart…and as smart as Rick (Humphrey Bogart). In PEPE LE MOKO, we have an outsider policeman named Slimane. He is played wonderfully by an actor I know nothing about; Lucas Gridoux. He also is despicable in action, but despicable as well in heart…and as smart as Pepe Le Moko (Jean Gabin). Gridoux slithers. He insinuates. He invades people’s space. He smokes their cigarettes…and needs a light. I felt the need for a shower after each of his scenes. It’s a fine performance.

Pepe, a thief and all-around rascal, is perfectly free to live as he pleases in the Casbah. The police are incapable of touching him there. He is also imprisoned in the Casbah. His power and immunity evaporate should he leave his safe haven. He pines for freedom. He pines for a Paris he remembers with a street-by-street affection. Sound like someone else you know? Maybe someone named Rick?

His memories of Paris are re-ignited by Gaby, played luminously by Mireille Balin. I watched their scenes with the phrase “We’ll always have Paris” running in my heart.

The connection between these two films is further emphasized by the inclusion of Marcel Dalio in the casts. He plays an ill-fated messenger in PEPE, but is better remembered as the unfortunate croupier requesting additional funds in Rick’s Café Americaine in CASABLANCA. Mr. Dalio in real life was also married to the beautiful Madeleine Lebeau, who played Yvonne, Rick’s jilted local lover in CASABLANCA. Their real life desperate escape and winding journey from France to Portugal to Canada to the United States mirrors that of the refugees pictured in CASABLANCA. Marcel Dalio also appeared to good effect in LA GRANDE ILLUSION, TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT, THE RULES OF THE GAME, and CATCH-22. Interestingly enough, he also played Captain Renaud in the TV series of CASABLANCA (1955-56).

Finally, there’s Jean Gabin.

I really like watching Mr. Gabin work. I have seen him referred to as a French Humphrey Bogart and I can see why though I see him more as a French Jean Gabin. His work in PORT OF SHADOWS and LA BETE HUMAINE (both 1938) is compelling. Later in his career, in FOUR BAGS FULL (1956) he gives a performance full of surprise and relatively free of cliché. I’m a fan.

If you cherish CASABLANCA as I do, you will find much to delight you in PEPE LE MOKO.

Rescue Me!

janie 40 sprite in the bag
Sprite, Our Lady of Daily Distress aka Gloria Talbott

Movie night!

I’m completing my own little Gloria Talbott film festival by following up WE’RE NO ANGELS and THE LEECH WOMAN with I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE. Hey, someone’s gotta do it.

What a career stretch this was for Ms. Talbott; from Humphrey Bogart to Tom Tryon. Ms. Talbott seemed best at playing characters that were moderately perky and cute, not particularly bright nor quick, and perpetually anxious and in distress – in short, always in need of rescue. Perhaps that’s why Sprite, my kitten, enjoys her performances. Sprite believes her own raison d’etre on this planet is to be always in need of rescue…from everything…hunger, swinging gates, other cats, outdoors, indoors, Tuesdays…she’s a feline Gloria Talbott. We may change her name to Gloria.

WE’RE NO ANGELS is one of my favorite Christmas movies, probably because of its un-Christmas-like ingredients. You don’t expect a Christmas flick to feature;

  • Humphrey Bogart and Basil Rathbone.
  • A poisonous snake.
  • A convicted murderer, an embezzler, and a safecracker – all apparently unrepentant.
  • Palm trees and 100-degree heat.

Despite the outré components, the Christmas payoff at the end is genuine and moving, and the redemptive dénouement is pleasing if not exactly plausible.

Oh, and Ms. Talbott is rescued in the end from her wicked uncle. Thus fulfilling her contract.

THE LEECH WOMAN is better than the title implies. How could it not be? And Ms. Talbott is again rescued, this time from a gruesome crone while the native drums pound. Nuff said ‘bout dat.

Our third film comes from a time when a significant part of our population was living in fear and sometimes considering poor decisions because of that fear. My current fear is we may be living in a similar emotional state now. My hope is that we will resist making catastrophically poor decisions as our parents resisted in the 1950’s. In the United States in the 50’s, people were fearful of surreptitious infiltration by enemies of our way of life. Spies were everywhere. Communists were everywhere. Free-thinkers and agitators disguised as Protestants were everywhere. A goodly number of movies in that decade picked up on those fears to scare the be-jeezus out of us. My favorite of these films is INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. It posited the classic conundrum of conspiracy fear; your neighbor/colleague/spouse looks like your neighbor/colleague/spouse, but is it really them? I harbor an intense fear of pods to this day. If I’m elected I will build a wall to deflect all pods.

I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE is another of these paranoid delicacies. Gloria Talbott’s fiancé’s body and identity is taken over by a Cthulhu look-alike space alien the night before their wedding. The marriage proceeds anyway and a year later Ms. Talbott notices her husband has changed. It took a year – like I said before, she’s good at playing not particularly bright nor quick. From this point the film proceeds along the lines of BODY SNATCHERS with Ms. Talbott assuming the storytelling duties Kevin McCarthy performed in SNATCHERS. This film is pretty interesting but is burdened by Tom Tryon’s performance as the husband. There’s no discernible difference between the original husband and the alien co-opted husband: both are uniformly wooden. You can almost understand why it took his wife a year to sense a change…almost.

The bottom line is the aliens are repulsed, the planet is saved, and Gloria Talbott is once again rescued.

Whew!

Now, I’d best go see if Sprite the cat is imperiled again.

A Prequel to CASABLANCA?

Are you a fan of the film CASABLANCA?

Do you have a pulse?

Are you worth knowing at all?

Depending on what day I’m asked, my reply to “What’s your favorite film?” is any one of about a half a dozen films, one of which is CASABLANCA. I could go on and on about the flick, but I’ll spare you the gush except on one point. Every time I see the ending of CASABLANCA, I wish there was more.

Duh-h.

Well, it’s Movie Night and tonight’s entrée is the 1937 French offering; PEPE LE MOKO. This is well worth a look. There is much about this flick that is reminiscent of CASABLANCA, though CASABLANCA was actually made five years later.

Claude Rains played Captain Renaud in CASABLANCA as despicable in action but sympathetic in heart…and as smart as Rick (Humphrey Bogart). In PEPE LE MOKO, we have an outsider policeman named Slimane. He is played wonderfully by an actor I know nothing about; Lucas Gridoux. He is despicable in action, despicable in heart…and as smart as Pepe Le Moko (Jean Gabin). Gridoux slithers. He insinuates. He invades people’s space. He smokes their cigarettes…and needs a light. I felt the need for a shower after each of his scenes. It’s a fine performance.

Pepe, a thief and all-around rascal, is perfectly free to live as he pleases in the Casbah. The police are incapable of touching him there. He is also imprisoned in the Casbah. His power and immunity evaporate should he leave his safe haven. He pines for freedom and a Paris he remembers with a street-by-street affection. Sound like someone else you know? Maybe someone named Rick?

His memories of Paris are re-ignited by Gaby, played luminously by Mireille Balin. I watched their scenes with the phrase “We’ll always have Paris” running in my heart.

The connection between these two films is further emphasized by the inclusion of Marcel Dalio in the casts. He plays an ill-fated messenger in PEPE, but is better remembered as the unfortunate croupier requesting additional funds in Rick’s Café Americaine in CASABLANCA. Mr. Dalio in real life was also married to the beautiful Madeleine Lebeau, who played Yvonne, Rick’s jilted local lover in CASABLANCA. Their desperate escape and winding journey from France to Portugal to Canada to the United States mirrors that of the refugees pictured in CASABLANCA. Marcel Dalio also appeared to good effect in LA GRANDE ILLUSION, TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT, THE RULES OF THE GAME, and CATCH-22. Interestingly enough, he also played Captain Renaud in the TV series of CASABLANCA (1955-56).

Finally, there’s Jean Gabin.

I really like watching Mr. Gabin work. I have seen him referred to as a French Humphrey Bogart and I can see why though I see him more as a French Jean Gabin. His work in PORT OF SHADOWS and LA BETE HUMAINE (both 1938) is compelling. Later in his career, in FOUR BAGS FULL (1956) he gives a performance full of surprise and relatively free of cliché. I’m a fan.

If you cherish CASABLANCA as I do, you will find much to delight you in PEPE LE MOKO.