Monday, May 16, 2011

Tough Without a Gun

LRB · Jenny Diski · A bout de Bogart:

Bogey and Bacall (via the Daily Mail)

This mixture of jobbing actor’s insecurity and confusion between himself and his characters’ idealism played out in the politics of the time and Bogart’s part in it. He joined a planeload of stars to tour the US and ended up in Washington in support of Hollywood’s Unfriendly Nineteen (‘unfriendly’, that is, to the House Un-American Activities Committee). These were dangerous times for unwitting (witless?) actors. Ginger Rogers’s mother assured the committee that her daughter had refused to say ‘Share and share alike – that’s democracy’ in Tender Comrade because of the line’s red tint. But Bogart stood shoulder to shoulder with Bacall, Danny Kaye, Paul Henreid and others, in defence of their fellow actors and scriptwriters. However, when the blacklists began, Sam Spade started to shade into the paranoid, whingeing Fred C. Dobbs of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and the deluded Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny. Kanfer quotes Alistair Cooke: ‘Bogart was aghast to discover [that many of the protestors] were down-the-line Communists coolly exploiting the protection of the First and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution. He had thought they were just freewheeling anarchists, like himself.’ Not so freewheeling, not so anarchistic; and surely Harry Morgan of To Have and Have Not wouldn’t have had an aghast moment in his life. Bogart signed an article entitled ‘I’m No Communist’ in Photoplay in which he (or a Warner Brothers publicist) explained that the trip to Washington was ‘ill-advised’ and that he was a dupe, a ‘foolish and impetuous American’.

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