Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Bogart and Hepburn in The African Queen
Okay, a couple of nights ago I went with a few friends to Whittier's Uptown Cinema for their classic film series to see The African Queen.  I was excited to see this Oscar-winning film from 1951 on the big screen.

One of the great things about a movie theatre showing classic films is that most of us have never had the opportunity to see these classic films on a big screen.  If we've seen them at all, it's been on TV, usually chopped to shreds to make room for the inevitable and, sadly, necessary commercials.

It was a lot of fun to see this film the way it was meant to be seen.  The actors are wonderful and the story is gripping.  The African Queen garnered several Oscar nods and wins in its day, and they were all well-deserved, but that's not really what I want to discuss here.

Humphrey Bogart
It's Humphrey Bogart I want to discuss.  Or, rather, the screen magic that was Bogey.  He's universally recognized as one of the greatest film actors of all time, and deservedly so.  He's also more popular now, more than 50 years after his death, than he ever was in his lifetime.
Bogart and Bergman sizzled in Casablanca
I guess I just don't get it.  He's a wonderful actor, don't get me wrong, but he holds nothing particularly appealing for me. He's just not a guy I'd swoon over.

Bogart really rocked a fedora!
I mean, he wasn't particularly tall, was kinda skinny, had slightly protruding teeth, and was not even that good looking.  So what was it about him that made movie magic?  And, would he have achieved the same degree of stardom today, if he'd been born later, say, in the 1970s or 80s?

I asked myself that several times while watching The African Queen the other night.

I still have no clue.

One of my favorite movies of all time
What makes one person rise to fame and someone else, maybe just as talented, never amount to much of anything?  Is it the right timing?  The right roles?  Does it have to do with your bone structure and how well you look on-camera, or how well clothes hang on your person? Or is it simply written in the stars?

Humphrey Bogart achieved an incredible stardom in his three decades on the big screen.  Perhaps it was his on-screen persona that made the difference: he was a tough guy in the years leading up to, and following World War II.  Perhaps he held an appeal for the male audience with his tough exterior, all the while letting that soft, mushy center show through for the ladies?    

I have no idea.

His personal life seems to have been a mess - he was married 4 times.  He is remembered as a nice, hard-working man, but he appears to have been as flawed as anyone in Hollywood.

It's one of those questions to ponder.

Bogart as Linus Larrabee in Sabrina
As a tribute to his continued fame, there is a Humphrey Bogart Film Festival in Key Largo Florida this coming May (May 1-4, 2014).  Check it out at

If you would like to weigh in on Bogart's appeal, feel free to comment.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

If you are interested in attending the Village Theatres' Cinema Classic series, check out their website at:

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