Friday, August 15, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Dark Passage (1947) ***

NR, 106 min.
Director: Delmer Daves
Writers: Delmer Daves, David Goodis (novel)
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Bruce Bennett, Agnes Moorehead, Tom D’Andrea, Clifton Young, Douglas Kennedy, Rory Mallinson, Houseley Stevenson

Earlier this week, we lost two Hollywood legends. While Robin Williams dominated the media coverage, it was quietly announced the next day that Lauren Bacall had also passed away. She was 89. She died in New York of an apparent stroke.

Bacall was probably best known for her sensual husky voice. She was hardly as prolific an actor as Williams. She chose her projects carefully. She was married to Hollywood legend Humphrey Bogart in one of Hollywood’s few successful real life romances. They met on Bacall’s first film “To Have and Have Not” (1944). They quickly married, had two children together and returned to the screen together three more times, first in “The Big Sleep” (1945) and finally in “Key Largo” (1948) before Bogey’s death in 1957.

In between, the two made “Dark Passage” (1947), in which Bogey plays an escaped convict who has plastic surgery so he can stay in San Francisco and find out who framed him for the murder of his wife. Bacall plays a young artist who helps him. The movie is unusual as it requires its star to remain unseen throughout the first third of its running time. We hear Bogey’s unmistakable voice but never see his face until after the surgery. Up to that point everything is shown point of view from his character. To have such a stylized approach to a murder mystery in 1947 was unusual indeed. The bonus of this daring approach is that we get to see as much of Bacall as we do of Bogart even though she is not the lead.

Bacall was one of the great Hollywood beauties who enjoyed a resurgence in her career late in life. In 1996, She was nominated for her supporting role in the Barbara Streisand directed “The Mirror Has Two Faces”. She won a Golden Globe for her performance. She received an honorary Oscar in 2010. Her beauty, voice and sharp tongue will be missed.

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