Sunday, January 08, 2006

Bogart; review

Watched my favorite Bogart movie tonight, The Harder They Fall. I read Budd Schulberg's great novel when I was in ninth grade and while I didn't understand a lot of it, it made me a Schulberg fan for life.

I've never cared much for Bogart as a tough guy. I don't believe him. Lawrence Tierney is a tough guy, Robert Ryan is a tough guy, Michael Madsen is a tough guy. Hell, I never believe Clint Eastwood as a tough guy. Way too mannered and theatrical. There's got to be something crazed in tough guys to work.

The Bogart pictures I like best are In A Lonely Place, High Sierra, The Treasure of Sierra Madre and The Harder They Fall. Oddly, what Bogart's best at is not playing tough but playing vulnerable. In Lonely, Sierra and Harder he's not only vulnerable, he's compromised. In each of these he reminds me of the Deke Thornton charcater Robert Ryan plays in The Wild Bunch.

In these pictures he conveys male grief about as well as I've ever seen it portrayed on the screen. He was dying when he took on Harder. He was heavier than usual and the booze had certainly taken over his face. Those are the sad dead eyes of the drunk you're seeing there. For me, Harder is every bit as magnificent a work as On The Waterfront. I'd give Bogart the crown for turning in a better performance than Brando did because it was, quiet, insular and painful. No Brandoesque bravado and innumerable curtain calls. Bogart makes you share his weariness and what selling out has done to his soul. He's a hell of a lot more interesting and unforgettable here than he was in his fake performance as Sam Spade.


A plug for our latest book from the Chicago Tribune this morning by Dick Adler:

he Adventure of the Missing Detective

Edited by Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg

Carroll & Graf, $16.95 paper

The name might be changed, but the annual series previously known as "The World's Finest Mystery and Crime Stories" continues with its collection of useful--some might even say invaluable--information as well as fiction. An important addition to the book's detail-packed surveys of all aspects of the crime field is a new one by Sarah Weinman (whose blog "Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind" is a daily part of many word-lovers' lives), who explores the online world with deft depth. She has also selected the three stories here that were originally published on various Web sites--including one called "Just Pretend" by a Brit named Martyn Waites whose novel "The Mercy Seat" will be out in April. Other notable stories of the print-and-paper persuasion include impressive efforts by Robert S. Levinson, Duane Swierczynski, Val McDermid and Laura Lippman--all of whom also managed to come up with solid crime novels in 2005.


Blogger Harry said...

Nice plug, Ed! And I agree that Michael Madsen seems to be the contemporary "tough guy," someone whose presence harkens back to the great ones. Richard Widmark could pull it off from time to time, too.

7:55 PM  

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