Sunday, April 05, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Dark Passage (1947) at the Noir City Film Festival

Last night was a special 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!

Humphrey Bogart plays Vincent Parry, who as the movie begins has just escaped San Quentin, where he was sent after being convicted for his wife's murder. He's picked up by Irene Jansen (Lauren Bacall), an artist who was painting in the area and oddly knows exactly who Vincent is and wants to help him.

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.

Vincent tries to stay one step ahead of the police while figuring out who really killed his wife and, more recently, his good friend George (Rory Mallinson). Meanwhile, Irene and Vincent experience growing feelings for one another.

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.

The supporting cast includes Agnes Moorehead, Bruce Bennett, Douglas Kennedy, Clifton Young, and Mary Field.

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!

2017 Update: Here are a couple photos of the movie's apartment location.


Blogger Bill O said...

Always thought that Bogart spends so much much time bandaged so as to ease the audience into his aged appearance opposite his young bride. Earlier his surgeon says his new face will make him "look older".

3:09 AM  
Blogger Kristina said...

Outlandish but great shots of SF, I like Agnes Moorehead's part here and fun bit of trivia is that Dane Clark is a voice heard on the car radio. Fun time you had there, with Power Jr. so close by, my goodness :))

8:00 AM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

I'm quite interested in the question as to whether one's initial viewing of a movie presents an impression that stays or whether it alters over time. I find that although the latter happens from time to time, it amazes me how the impression gained initially remains even after many years, sometimes from childhood or teenage!
I remember my first impression of "THE BIG SHOT", for instance, was that it was OK but a disappointment for a Bogie movie. On the other hand, my first impression of "DARK PASSAGE" was that it was no classic but nevertheless an unusual and very entertaining noir. I still think that initial impression(50 years ago) wasn't far off the mark.

Thanks for a great review, Laura.

9:47 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Interesting thought, Bill! Although the age difference isn't really an issue in KEY LARGO the next year.

That is great trivia, Kristina, I didn't know that! Agnes seemed to be having a good time chewing the scenery in this one LOL.

Jerry, very interested in your impressions of both films, thanks! My initial impressions usually hold steady but there are some films I have come to like more (or less) with the passage of time and a new viewing context.

Best wishes,

6:25 PM  
Blogger Bill O said...

Laura, The Bogarts aren't presented as a romantic couple in Key Largo, tho that's a foregone conclusion. There's no reason for that "look older" line other than Parry looks older cuz Bogart does.

7:59 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I dunno, Bill, I saw them as a *very* romantic couple in KEY LARGO, though it was between the lines. ;) But I agree the fact that there is more than one reference to "You'll look older" is an interesting choice to emphasize in DARK PASSAGE.

Best wishes,

8:03 PM  
Blogger Bill O said...

Agree there's an undercurrent between them in Key Largo, in a John Huston way. But she's dressed down here, looking less the model she was, and Robinson's sneering naming Bogart "soldier" puts some years on him, as well as Bogart knowing Robinson's history.Fact is we know how long he's been around, tho it's not to the detriment of either film in hindsight.

8:27 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Bogarat and Bacall:

They had already made To have and Have not and The Big Sleep, so no surprise relative to their age differential.

Jack Warner was unhappy with the treatment of Bogart's character in Dark Passage, and particularly criticized keeping his top star off screen, so-to-speak for half, or more, of the picture. Can't help but agree with him.

9:21 PM  
Blogger Bill O said...

Hate to belabor this, but yes, we know they'd been paired before, but Bogart looked older in Dark Passage, so the age difference IS more pronounced. He looks like Justin Bieber in To Have and Have Not in comparison. That could justify the long reveal, normally suicide in a star vehicle.

9:33 PM  

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