Friday, 23 December 2011

The African Queen (1951) and Sabrina (1954) - For The Humphrey Bogart Blogathon

For the Humphrey Bogart blogathon hosted by Meredith I've decided to write about the older Bogie in two roles that many people wouldn't have consider very Bogie at all. He played the older, business orientated brother in a rich Long Island family who falls for his chauffer's daughter in Sabrina; and a boatman delivering mail and supplies to people in German East Africa who teams up with and falls for Rose Sayer, an English missionary, in The African Queen. Neither of these films involve gangsters, and neither  involves a sexy temptress such as Lauren Bacall coming to seduce him. Both require him to step out of his comfort zone somewhat and they both have interesting leading ladies that you might not think of for Humphrey Bogart normally. Both of these are fantastic and outstanding films. Each is one of my very favourites. I'm going to write about them in chronological order.

The African Queen (1951) Dir. John Huston

Brief Synopsis: 

Rose pouring out Charlie's liquor.

A rough and tumble captain of a boat, Charlie Allnut and a prim yet spirited missionary, Rose Sayer join forces to try and destroy the German battleship, the Louisa, in German East Africa in WWI. Rose's brother has died and their missionary camp has been destroyed by the Germans, and Charlie just wants to stay out of danger at first. Fuelled by Rose's ambition and determination and their growing love for each other, they set out for the biggest adventure of their lives

"It's a great thing to have a lady aboard with clean habits. It sets the man a good example. A man alone, he gets to living like a hog. "

{I could write DVD covers y'all.}

This was surprisingly the only film that Bogie ever won an Oscar for. He works fantastically with his leading lady, my favourite, Katharine Hepburn. You'd never think initially to put them together but they work like a dream. Her eccentric mannerisms and amazing physical acting are matched to perfection with Humphrey Bogart and his honest and fearless portrayal of Charlie Allnut. He really steps out of the box for this character.  I can't think of any other Bogart performance where he is so free and totally at ease with a character. Much as I love Bogie, his usual characteristic on screen is his laid-back attitude and almost stern facial expressions. It's a characteristic that I think usually works and it did become his fall-back attitude on-screen but only in his face and voice. He is as experimental and interesting with his physical acting as Katharine Hepburn is.

My Scan.

Overall I would list this as one of my favourite Humphrey Bogart performances. He worked stupendously with John Huston (who infuriated Hepburn at the start of the production by not finishing the script or talking to her, just hunting elephants). You can see that just from the way that everything runs so smoothly. The camera work is also amazing thanks to the wonderful Powell and Pressburger cameraman Jack Cardiff. The scenery is beautiful and so is Charlie and Rose's relationship. A really quite special film. If you haven't seen this film yet, then I strongly recommend it. It's a truly classic film and a riveting adventure too.

Bogie snoozes. My scan.

For more info and stories, read the wonderful "The Making Of The African Queen, or how I went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall and Huston and almost lost my mind" by Katharine Hepburn.

The Bogarts. My Scan.

Sabrina (1954) Dir. and  co Written by Billy Wilder

Brief Synopsis: 

Chauffeur's daughter Sabrina Fairchild has been in love with the younger, most overtly attractive son of the rich Long Island family her father works for all her life. So much is she in love with him that her father sends her away to Paris to learn how to cook like her late mother, hoping that she will forget all about David, who doesn't notice her. His plan backfires when she comes back a very sophisticated young lady who David immediately falls for, even though he is engaged to someone else. David's engagement, to the daughter of a sugar cane magnate, is a crucial part of  his brother Linus's latest business venture. So Linus tries to make Sabrina fall in love with him as part of a cunning plan to ship her back to Paris while David is recuperating from a nasty 'accident' with two champagne glasses. 

"David . Yes, I got over that. I'm cured. But now how to get over the cure..."

Humphrey Bogart yet again out of his comfort zone starring with the young Audrey Hepburn in her second picture. This time Bogart showed his discomfort and made quite the nuisance of himself on set. He made it known that he disliked Wilder and William Holden, playing David. He was a last minute replacement for Cary Grant who was to play Linus until he realised (probably rightly) that he wasn't the one for the part. This also angered Bogart: he was second best to Cary Grant. He also reportedly wanted Lauren Bacall for the part of Sabrina (WHAT THE HELL!?!?!?!?!?) and that made him also dislike Audrey Hepburn. He reportedly apologised later for his on-set behaviour.

Despite this, in this role he gives what I think to be one of his best performances. He is sophisticated, mature, yet still very romantic in spite of himself. It's a touching performance that goes right to the heart just as Audrey Hepburn's Sabrina does (It's my favourite of her movies. Actually, it's one of my top five ever movies). Perfectly complementing William Holden's equally brilliant performance as David, Humphrey Bogart is completely syllable perfect as Linus. It was a difficult part to be sure, but Humphrey Bogart handled it with the thought and emotion that he put into all of his roles. You need to watch this movie, my love for it knows no bounds :-D.

I hope you enjoyed this post about older Bogie and that I've inspired you to maybe go and watch one or both of these films again or for the first time. And thanks ever so for Meredith hosting this great blogathon :-D



Meredith said...

Thank you so much for participating! The African Queen and Sabrina and 2 of my favorite Bogie films

Sofia said...

Thanks for the wonderful scans, Bette! I can't believe Bogart only won one oscar, he was so incredible. and Sabrina is now on the top of my to-watch list - eh and audrey is too perfect. I think this is the first time I comment here, you have a great blog, and you are so young, it's amazing, really!

Kate Gorman said...

Love Sabrina! xx

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