Dark Passage

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DARK PASSAGE—– BOGART: I’m hiding.  DETECTIVE: From what?  BOGART: My wife, my friends, my family, everybody. DETECTIVE: Come on now, it can’t be as bad as all that. BOGART:  Well, I tell you what you do. You go up there and spend seven years with my wife, and then if you’re still in your right mind, come back down here and tell me about it.

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Entertaining Bogey crime melodrama from 1947, directed and written by Delmer Daves, co-starring Lauren Bacall, Agnes Moorehead and Bruce Bennett. Bogart has plastic surgery to disguise himself after escaping from San Quentin. With help from sympathetic Bacall he plans to find the person who murdered his wife and framed him for the crime.

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Though the script has too many coincidences, easy escapes, a darned unlikely finale and is a plot pretzel from the start, it’s also engaging, fast-moving and fun, and is buoyed by great location filming in pre-skyscraper San Francisco; director Daves and ace Warner’s cameraman Sid Hickox giving the sunny vistas of hills, bridges, and streetcars an odd kind of bright noir, not seamy like the usual New York or Los Angeles settings, but unsettling just the same (was this the first location-shot use of the Bay City?).

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Bogart and Bacall click once again (3rd time out) and former ‘Our Gang’ star Clifton Young is effectively repellent as the story’s weasel du jour.* YOUNG: I got the license number. I always had a good head for figures. BOGART: My only interest in your head is how easy it’ll crack open.

Best of all is a ragingly venomous Agnes Moorehead, bantering with Bogart. While she was always a great actress, this is about the only movie I recall where she seems rather sexy (live,learn,repeat). It’s one of her all-time best: she should have been nominated in the supporting category at Oscar time** .

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It came in 31st for the year, money-wise (around $8,100,000), less than a perturbed Jack Warner hoped. He’d been fuming that Bogart’s face was not shown for the first 62 minutes of the 106-minute running time, as Daves used subjective first-person point-of-view camera  for the surgery-bandaged character. Experimentally interesting, but critics carped (of course) and audiences were not nuts about the gimmick.

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With Tom D’Andrea, Douglas Kennedy, Houseley Stevenson and a 19-year old Vince Edwards, unaccredited, in his first gig. As to the films hard-to-digest contrivances, mind a trenchant quote from author Barry Gifford: “movies aren’t meant to be real; the reality is in the feelings produced by the viewing.”

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*Young only lived to be 33, dying in a fire in 1951. This was probably his best movie role as an adult. He’d started in the Our Gang comedies at age seven. After a spat with his wife, Young checked into a hotel, and fell asleep while smoking a cigarette, which started the blaze.

**Winner that year was Celeste Holm in Gentlemen’s Agreement. Moorehead was up for that trophy for The Magnificent Ambersons, Mrs. Parkington, Johnny Belinda and Hush..Hush Sweet Charlotte.f0f2b9657bd0a9fa868b821728075720

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