Wednesday, March 26, 2008

High Sierra

Humphrey Bogart in a very Bogartesque role - a tough guy (that stare in the shot above!) with a hidden sentimental and soft side. It was his first major hit as a leading man. It was co-written by John Huston, who directed him in The Maltese Falcon which came a few months after this and which really made him a big Hollywood star. Raoul Walsh, the director of the film, is more well-known for his straightforward gangster and action films so may be it was the presence of Huston which gave this film depth, complexity and pathos and which places it in the great noir tradition. (Though admittedly I am not really familiar with Walsh's work.) It does boast of some very impressive chase sequences and location shooting however.

1 comment:

Puccinio said...

''High Sierra'' is probably my favourite Humphrey Bogart role, along with ''The Barefoot Contessa'' and ''In A Lonely Place''. It's actually the film that proved he was leading man material taking away from his earlier tough guy gangster roles. What I love about this film is Bogart's so natural and so vulnerable in this film and he works beautifully with Ida Lupino, the first of his great female co-stars.

And the film is entirely a Raoul Walsh film. John Huston's script is important but the visual style, the landscapes, the composition and the romanticism is entirely Walsh's. Walsh was a director who began his career as an actor in D. W. Griffith's ''Birth of a Nation'' and he worked in his silent career as both actor and director in his films and others.

Then what happened was he had a car accident(which he re-creates in this film) when he was driving a car an a rabbit popped out of nowhere and he crashed, losing an eye forever(he wore an eye-patch starting a long line of directors who wore patches). His films in the sound era were comedies, dramas and gangster films(his ''The Roaring Twenties'' with Bogart is a masterpiece).

His films all dealt with masculinity and with tragic male characters who are done in by both their egos and society or who live a life of adventure finding solace in girls and adventure. Not that he was misogynist, his ''The Man I Love'' is one of the great female roles in Film Noir with Ida Lupino.

And in films like ''The Roaring Twenties'', ''The Strawberry Blonde'' and ''High Sierra'' he deals with male characters who are in a love triangle between two women. He returned to it again with ''Colorado Territory''.

Walsh was a very important American director alongside Ford and Hawks. He was a great influence on the French New Wave and especially on Fassbinder who sometimes credited himself as Franz Walsh in hommage to his hero.