by Jason Gordon
American Film Institute in 1999 as the greatest male star in the history of American cinema, Humphrey DeForest Bogart was perhaps the greatest star of Hollywood’s Golden era. When you start a debate on who the greatest actor of all-time is to a young group of people, it is doubtful the great Bogart’s name is mentioned. They will probably rattle off the great actors of the 90s and today, such as Leonardo DiCaprio or Tom Hanks. Appearing in 75 feature films, these actors don’t hold a candle to Bogart’s filmography. Bogart played primarily grizzled and dark characters, often acting in an understated manner. Any of the following films will showcase one of the world’s finest actors at the height of his talents.
Generally considered Bogart’s greatest film, not much needs to be said about said about it as virtually all movie buffs have seen the story of bar owner Rick Blaine who operates the Rick’s Café Américain nightclub in the Moroccan capital of Casablanca during the early years of World War II.
- The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Bogart was never darker as an actor than in his role as Fred C. Dobbs. Bogart’s character is the most venal of the three treasure hunters in this film, which is considered to be the precursor of crime-based morality tales.
- The Maltese Falcon
This film marks Bogart’s best portrayal of a private eye with the character of Sam Spade in an adaptation of the book by Dashiell Hammett. It’s also one of the rare occasions when a remake of a film is better than the original.
- In a Lonely Place
In a Lonely Place is the third film produced by Bogart. He plays Dixon Steele, a fading screenwriter who is a drinker with a dour personality, but who also is a perceptive judge of character. The film is also an attack on the darker side of Hollywood during the McCarthy era.
- The Big Sleep
The plot of the The Big Sleep is convoluted and somewhat unintelligible, however it’s a great atmospheric work, thick with intrigue. It’s the second of the Bogart-Lauren Bacall collaborations, with the latter acting as an equal to Bogart’s Philip Marlowe.
- The African Queen
Shot on location in the Congo and Uganda, The African Queen pits Bogart’s drunken boat captain Charlie Allnut against prim missionary Rose Sayer, played by Katherine Hepburn. This adventure classic proved to be the only time in his career where Bogart would win a Best Actor Oscar.
- Key Largo
Based on the play of the same name, Key Largo is the “hurricane movie” where Bogart’s character, Frank McCloud, is trapped inside a Florida hotel by Edward G. Robinson’s gangster, Johnny Rocco, as a tropical storm approaches. This work is considered one of the great classic film noirs of the 1940s.
- The Caine Mutiny
Made on a tight budget, The Caine Mutiny has become one of the all-time classic war dramas with the script exploring the mental health of Captain Philip Queeg. His performance of the neurotic Navy man, filled with fear and contradictions, may be the greatest work of the latter part of Bogart’s career.
- To Have and Have Not
Capitalizing on the success of Casablanca two years earlier, this film is a classic in its own right because of the number of Hollywood heavyweights who worked on this story of Harry Morgan, captain of a fishing boat in Martinique in 1940.
This classic romantic comedy shows Bogart’s character actor skills pitting his Linus against the title character, played by Audrey Hepburn.
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