When the best thing in a film is your own blooming terrier dog showing off and stealing all the top scenes right from under your nose. What was Humphrey Bogart to do with this camera hogging pooch Zero, well he had to up his game and show his four legged friend who the boss was! And work his ass off he did.
I’d been psyched to see High Sierra for sometime. Working my way through Bogies back catalogue, this crime drama in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada looked a real winner. Well not only did it have HB but also the delectable and enchanting Ida Lupino. It’s gonna be a sure fire hit, for sure, right?
I know this is much liked by many so please excuse my offhand remarks. I’m only being tongue in cheek and saying how I felt. Don’t get me wrong through, I did really enjoy the film.
Tagline – HUMPHREY BOGART in one of his most powerful portrayals
This is the story of the recently incarcerated Roy Earle (Humphrey Bogart). This notorious thief is released from jail after an eight year stretch and put straight to work by his old gangster boss Big Mac (Donald MacBride). Sent to a California resort hotel in the mountains with one of those, “so perfect plans that, hey nothing can go wrong”, you know the ones? Big Mac wants the experienced Roy to take charge of the heist and keep an eye on two young rookies, Red (Arthur Kennedy) and Babe (Alan Curtis). These two feuding knuckleheads have in tow a young dancer called Marie (Ida Lupino).
Roy wanders around with prison swagger, he don’t have the time or patience for any nonsense, letting everyone know with a backhand here and there. The threat of exploding violence is bubbling everywhere Roy struts. Marie takes a shine to Roy and a shiner from Babe. Roy isn’t interested, he’s got his eye on some yokel young farm girl, a piece of totty with a clubfoot! Marie tags along, she might get lucky.
What with staking out the joint and keeping their informant cool, calm and collective. Making sure the two rookies don’t bash each others heads in whilst he’s off gallivanting around the area on home visits, booty calls and cashing in favours. What with his dying boozing boss banging back the bourbons and this big job to organise, Roy has his work cut out……….
A few observations!
- It’s written by John Huston from a novel by W.R Burnett and directed by Raoul Walsh.
- Clarence the angel is here playing Pa (Henry Travers), the slightly stupid but very kind jack-rabbit saving dad of Velma (Joan Leslie), the star gazing wanna be dancer who has taken our Roy’s eye.
- The lovely Ida Lupino is great but she just isn’t feisty enough for me. Marie wanders around after Roy, gets on a coach, gets off a coach and follows some more. I was expecting her to be a tough broad like her Lilli Marlowe character in Private Hell 36 and superwoman. I’m still to see her in Road House (1948) starring with Cornel Wilde and Richard Widmark.
- Talking of Cornel Wilde he pops up in High Sierra. I saw the name at the end, I hadn’t recognized him. I had to go back and look, there he was as latino Louis Mendoza. Their inside man.
- I liked the cool way the beginning credits roll over the mountains.
- The random over aged wigged white haired doctor looked like an extra from Big Trouble In Little China! What was all that about?
- What was with the wandering eyed cringy stereotyped “comic relief” black guy called Algernon (Willie Best)!
- I read that HB and Ida didn’t get on at all well and I have another film with them both starring together to see They Drive By Night (1940). Also directed by Raoul Walsh. Can’t wait to see that.
- Ida is mentioned to be a taxi dancer in the film. I’d never heard of it. It involves dancers being paid on a dance by dance basis. Not lap dancing but regular dancing for company.
- Zero the “omen” dog was brilliant as he latched onto his next friend. I guess after it was curtains for Zero that Bogie and Lauren Bacall would get their beloved Boxer dogs.
Don’t get me wrong Bogart was superb and read it was his real breakout role that showed his tough talents. I think I had over anticipated this one for too long and in my head thought it was a film noir. I didn’t care for the traveling family that much, it felt a distraction. Understand it was to show his past and his dilemma of whether he could become good, bad or just crashout. Would loved to have seen Ida tougher.
I did really enjoy it, a strong 7/10 but there was a lot I didn’t like.
This is where I get smashed, fire away in the comments, I won’t claw back! hehe