By Elizabeth MS Flynn w/a Eilis Flynn
We see classic movies from another period and see how they translate to the modern day. So far, it’s been a mixed bag (The Philadelphia Story? Nope. The Marx Brothers’ Day at the Races? Yes! As two examples). Unfortunately, this movie, famous more for the first movie that Humphrey Bogart and the very young Lauren Bacall ever did together (and actually how they met) than the movie’s quality, is good only as a historical note.
The timing of this movie’s production and release notes to what might have been in the minds of those who greenlighted this film into existence. Only a few years after the success of Casablanca, dealing with the same war but taking place across the Atlantic Ocean (in Martinique), we realized that it might as well have been written on the same template. It takes place around a bar, but not owned by Bogart’s character this time (called the Zombie Bar instead of Rick’s), with two hot blondes, because just one wasn’t enough (although the producers had intended for the actress not Lauren Bacall to be the breakout star, and that just didn’t happen). This is, of course, the movie that the 19-year-old Bacall fluttered her eyelashes and purred her famous line about whistling. It enraptured the audience and, it turned out, (the much older, married) Bogart. She was memorable, certainly, and if that’s what age 19 looked like back then, really, women really did mature a lot faster back then!
I have to confess that I drifted off for a few minutes about halfway through, only to wake up to see a few minutes that reminded me and my husband both very, very, very strongly of Casablanca. It didn’t have enough tension or enough twisty things happening to keep my attention (I’m spoiled, I admit it, when it comes to story) to keep me glued or awake. But you couldn’t fault the movie for the cast; it did have Walter Brennan, actors who resembled Sidney Longstreet and Peter Lorre (I did say that Casablanca was an inspiration), and Bacall. And with this movie, this time, Bogart got the girl (Bacall).
If I had had my druthers, the story would have veered away into the Zombie Bar and voodoo. I would have been a lot more interested, but then, they probably wouldn’t have had the cast they had, either. If you’re a movie buff, you might like this film, even without the history around it. But me? I saw it long ago and couldn’t remember much about it. I just saw it again and it wasn’t that memorable! So as far as I’m concerned, it didn’t age well. But to each to his own.