evening at the Noir City Film Festival, a screening of DARK PASSAGE (1947) which included an interview with Stephen Bogart, son of stars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
The screening was completely sold out. When we arrived who should be ahead of us in the member line but Bruce Boxleitner, who we'd seen on multiple occasions at the Lone Pine Film Festival last fall. My husband chatted with him a bit and learned he had just joined the American Cinematheque.
Boxleitner wasn't the only distinguished guest -- we later learned we were sitting just a couple of rows away from Tyrone Power Jr., who significantly resembles his father.
I hadn't seen DARK PASSAGE since I was quite young. At that time it didn't impress me very much, especially compared to Bogart and Bacall's other films together. I watched their other movies over and over, especially TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (1944), but never felt the urge to return to this one, so I was quite interested to finally revisit it.
Seeing the film from today's vantage point, the story is still pretty "out there," but I appreciated more aspects of the movie, including its noir style, the music, and excellent location shooting in San Francisco. Incidentally, Lauren Bacall's lovely apartment building in the movie is still standing!
It seems Irene's father was also unjustly convicted of murder, and Irene had followed Vincent's case with interest. Vincent is also aided by a sympathetic cabby (Tom D'Andrea) who takes him to an unlicensed surgeon (Houseley Stevenson) who agrees to change his appearance for a couple hundred bucks.
It's all pretty improbable, and I can't say I especially enjoyed watching Bogart with his face covered in bandages for an extended time, but Bogart and Bacall do their best to sell it and make it a fun ride.
I'd forgotten how the movie ended and confess I was a bit surprised at a certain lack of story resolution; it's a bit as though the writers put themselves in a corner and simply decided to say everything is now OK even though Vincent's future is not exactly resolved. I was also a bit confused about other aspects, including how George was killed by the person who committed the crime.
One of the movie's most notable aspects is that much of the first section of the movie is shot in the first person, from Bogart's point of view. The viewer doesn't see him full face until after he's had plastic surgery. 1947 seems to have been the year for film noir shot in the first person, as a few months earlier MGM released Robert Montgomery's LADY IN THE LAKE (1947), which utilized the same technique -- in that case for the entire movie.
One of the aspects of DARK PASSAGE I enjoyed the most was the film's effective utilization of the 1937 Mercer-Whiting song "Too Marvelous for Words," which was originally written for the Warner Bros. film READY, WILLING & ABLE (1937).
DARK PASSAGE runs 106 minutes. It was written and directed by Delmer Daves, based on a novel by David Goodis.
DARK PASSAGE is available on DVD as a single title or in the Bogie & Bacall Signature Collection. It also had a release on VHS. (2016 Update: DARK PASSAGE has now been released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive. My review of the Blu-ray is here.)
DARK PASSAGE can be seen from time to time on Turner Classic Movies, where it will next be shown on June 5, 2015. The trailer is available at TCM.
After the film Eddie Muller interviewed Stephen Bogart:
Stephen was asked if it was odd to see his iconic parents on the screen, and in response he said it's sort of like anyone experiences seeing their parents at work, but his parents simply had a different kind of job. He shared that though he was very young when his father died, he does have a few memories of him, although unfortunately they didn't have as much time together as they otherwise might have, due to his father going on location fairly often, such as for THE AFRICAN QUEEN (1951).
There were some jokes about his mother's legendary "forthrightness," being something of a pistol in interviews in her later years; Eddie shared that she had been extremely gracious to him in an interview a number of years ago, giving him considerable time.
Lauren Bacall's recent passing was also discussed, and Stephen shared that he had spoken with her just hours before she died. He said that while he missed her, it was hard to be sad because she'd had a fantastic life filled with so many adventures and accomplishments, and her passing came very quickly, without prolonged illness.
The Bogart Estate has produced a new film, THIS LAST LONELY PLACE (2014), which was shown as the second half of the double bill, but we needed to make it an early night and weren't able to check it out.
All in all, this was another wonderful evening in Noir City!