Humphrey Bogart: The Essential Collection
Black Legion (1937) – Robert Lord who’d won an Academy Award for his original story One Way Passage (1932) received his second and last Oscar nomination for this drama on which he was also an associate producer. Directed by Archie Mayo with a screenplay by Abem Finkel and William Wister Haines the story explores the root causes of hatred and xenophobia that can seduce (i.e. less educated) persons to join a KKK-like (e.g. the titled) organization and the corruption within it. It features Humphrey Bogart (in his first lead role) as a working class factory worker that’s passed over for a promotion to foreman which instead is given to an American immigrant. Radio ads and a bigoted co-worker (Joe Sawyer) help convince Bogart’s character to join the hooded group which wreaks havoc on anyone that gets in its way. While he initially ‘benefits’ financially and gains confidence with this newfound ‘power’ Bogie eventually sees what the evil has done to him through the collapse of his marriage (Erin O’Brien-Moore) and a tragedy that befalls his best friend and former co-worker (Dick Foran). Moralizing by a judge (Samuel Hinds) at his trial concludes the message in this picture. Ann Sheridan Paul Harvey Dickie Jones Eddie Acuff John Litel Charles Halton and Harry Hayden also appear.
San Quentin (1937) – directed by Lloyd Bacon with a screenplay by Peter Milne and Humphrey Cobb from the story by Robert Tasker and John Bright this average prison drama features Pat O’Brien as an army officer – Stephen Jameson – hired to improve the conditions at the titled prison. The inmates had been being treated badly by the acting captain hardnosed Lieutenant Druggin (Barton MacLane) whose quick trigger solution to every problem is lockup in solitary confinement. The warden (Joseph King) tries a new approach using Jameson who coincidentally is dating inmate Joe ‘Red’ Kennedy’s (Humphrey Bogart) sister May (Ann Sheridan). Red has a pretty quick temper himself until Jameson’s reforms – which include indentifying and separating the career criminals from those who’ve just had tough breaks – begin to soften his hard edge. Just when it seems that Red is content to serve out the rest of his time peacefully ‘Sailor Boy’ Hansen (Joseph Sawyer) turns his loyalties with help from the jealous Lieutenant Druggin. Veda Ann Borg plays Hansen’s girl on the outside; she helps Red and Sailor Boy escape. Marc Lawrence also appears as do Frank Faylen & Edward Gargan (both uncredited) among many others.
Virginia City (1940) – directed by Michael Curtiz and written by Robert Buckner this Warner Bros. drama features the unusual casting of Humphrey Bogart as a Mexican bandito named John Murrell who unintentionally heals the conflict between Errol Flynn’s Union Captain Kerry Bradford and Randolph Scott’s Confederate Captain Vance Irby after their Civil War moves west to Nevada’s wild (and movie titled) outpost. Miriam Hopkins plays the conflicted Julia Hayne. As a saloon singer in the Northern leaning town Julia conceals the fact that she’s the daughter of a deceased Confederate colonel. Indeed she’s just proposed a plan to have Irby transport $5 million in gold from Confederate sympathizers aka “Copperheads” in Nevada City to Jefferson Davis (Charles Middleton) and the nearly bankrupt Confederacy in the east. But after 21 days of riding back west in a stagecoach with Bradford a Union spy who suspects that such a plan is in the works and innocently falling in love with him she has second thoughts. Still she helps Irby capture Bradford who’s forced to ride on the very wagon train of gold he and his (comic relief) sidekicks (Alan Hale of course and Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams) were trying to stop. Murrell and his murdering gang of bandits intercept the convoy forcing North and South to join forces before the (cliché) cavalry shows up to save the day. Frank McHugh appears as another passenger on the westbound coach; John Litel Douglas Dumbrille Moroni Olsen Dickie Jones Russell Simpson and Victor Kilian (as the unmistakable voice of Abraham Lincoln no less) also appear among the credited cast while Ward Bond and Charles Halton are among the dozens of uncredited actors in the cast.