What to Watch is a continuing series that showcases some film recommendations in a specific category.
Logline: A private eye takes on a case involving a group of eccentric criminals all vying for a priceless statuette.
Director John Huston’s film debut, The Maltese Falcon (1941) is one of my favorites. Sam Spade was a breakthrough role for the forty-two year old Bogart and is easily one of his most memorable performances. However, Spade is just one of many great characters in this undisputed noir classic. Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, and Sydney Greenstreet are all wonderful and the film is teeming with fast, razor sharp dialogue that will make you grimace with delight.
Logline: In Morocco, a cynical American expatriate is reunited with an old flame whose husband is evading the Nazis.
Though it feels cliche to call it a favorite, Casablanca (1942) is just as wonderful as its reputation suggests. The film features an array of memorable characters and one of the greatest movie romances. “Here’s looking at you, kid.”
Logline: Private eye Phillip Marlowe gets mixed up in a case of blackmail, murder, and deceit.
Based on the book by pulp novelist Raymond Chandler, Howard Hawks’ The Big Sleep (1946) is the second of four films that Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall made together in the 40s. The film’s convoluted plot is inconsequential. The Big Sleep is Bogie’s movie through and through and Philip Marlowe is one of his best, most memorable performances. Bogie and Bacall are electrifying in this noir classic.
Logline: In 1925, two American drifters and an old prospector go searching for gold in the Sierra Madre mountains.
John Huston’s The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) is my favorite Bogart film. It is simply timeless. The interplay between the three characters is fantastic. Bogart plays Fred C. Dobbs, whose thirst for greed exposes his own paranoia and selfishness. The film is notable for being one of the earliest Hollywood films shot on location outside of the U.S.
Logline: A veteran visits an old friend’s wife and father in Florida but when a hurricane strikes, he finds himself trapped in the company of a ruthless gangster and his thugs.
Put a bunch of great actors from classic Hollywood in a hotel during a violent storm and what do you get? – Key Largo (1948). The film stars Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Edward G. Robinson, and Lionel Barrymore. It is a delight to watch these wonderful actors play off one another in this dialogue-heavy noir classic, the last of the Bogie-Bacall pairings.
Logline: A violent screenwriter becomes the prime suspect in a murder investigation all the while becoming romantically involved with his beautiful neighbor.
Along with The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), In A Lonely Place (1950) may be Bogie’s best performance as a washed up screenwriter with some serious anger issues. Bogart produced this noir gem with the great Nicholas Ray behind the camera. In A Lonely Place is a fascinating character study and a scathing critique of the Hollywood establishment.
Logline: In East African during World War I, a missionary persuades a riverboat captain to use his vessel to attack an enemy warship.
John Huston’s The African Queen (1951) features one of cinema’s greatest screen pairings – Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. In an unprecedented move, Huston took his cast and crew to Africa to shoot the film. Bogart won his first and only Oscar for his performance here.