The LBL Presents: Ladies Night- Beat the Devil (1953)
Hey, hey. The Bug here posting on a special Wednesday to kick off Ladies Night which hopefully will be a monthly feature from Miss Directed and Fran Goria. Starting next month Thursdays will become thHERSdays with flicks focusing on the kick ass ladies of the silver screen, so look for Ladies Night there. Without further ado I'm gonna let the Ladies of the Lair do their thing....
Beat the Devil (1953) starring Humphrey Bogart, Gina Lollobrigida, Edward Underdown, Jennifer Jones, Peter Lorre, Robert Morley, Ivor Barnard, and Marco Tulli. Directed by John Huston.
Billy Dannreuther (Bogart) and his pals "The Committee" have a plan. It's simple enough. Just hop over to Africa and get rich in a uranium deal. While waiting for their boat captain to sober up, they meet the naive British couple, Gwendolyn and Harry Clem. Gwendolyn is a fan of telling tall tales, and one of them gets overheard by Julius O'Hara (Lorre) who takes it back to the rest of the Committee. It seems she had made claims that her hubby had a land rich with Uranium. This sparks the interest in Peterson (Morley), and the Committee decides to fly to Africa with them to make sure the deal doesn't fall through.
While on the way to the plane, they run into a spot of car trouble. To make it worse the car rolls off a cliff and Billy and Peterson are presumed dead. Then Gwendolyn goes off on another flight of fancy and confesses to her husband that she was in love with Billy. After a bit of confusion, Billy and Peterson show up just in time for the captain to sober up and the ship to sail. After a trip filled with double and triple crosses, sinking ships, and an argument over a box of Harry's papers, the travelers "row all night and row all day" until they end up in the court of a hookah smoking sheik, and their madcap caper is just getting started.
--The film was very loosely based on a novel of the same name by British critic Claud Cockburn writing under the pseudonym James Helvick.
--During the making of the film, Bogart was involved in an auto accident which knocked out some of his teeth and impaired his speech. John Huston brought in a British actor known for his gifts in mimicry to re-record some of Bogie's dialog. That actor was comedy legend Peter Sellers.
--Bernard Lee who appeared in the film as Inspector Jack Clayton is better know for his work in the James Bond series as 'M'.
The Ladies of the Lair Speak
Fran Goria: This is a film I have always enjoyed. It's a caper movie with no actual caper. The plot is full of many twists an turns without getting bogged down in the details. The characters are developed just enough to make it work. Some of the comedy is veiled, but the film amuses from beginning to end and the crazy one liners keep coming throughout. If you like old movies, Bogart being Bogie at his best, and dark comedy then you should definitely check it out.
Miss Directed: The fifties were a simpler time. Some long for the days of bobby socks. They live in self built tunnels, black and white TV's, old movies, and music that was stolen from Chuck Berry. If you're looking for a movie to spark your nostalgia, Beat the Devil would not be it. The story written by Truman Capote and John Huston hearkens to the great caper tales of the '70's. Only the humor definitely belongs to the '50's. This is shown mainly in the treatment of the gossipy female characters who build worlds of fantasy in their bored minds.
So ladies next time you want to spice up your love life, don't read Cosmo, just tell criminals lies about your husbands wealth. One way or another things will change.
It is apparent from the beginning in the old days they could really make a movie. The shots are beautiful. If great care did not go into casting then someone just got lucky. The script goes from intrigue to comedy quickly, and it could have easily been trampled on. Everyone gives the words room to work while delivering great performances. A moment here needs to be taken to speak of the king of cool, Bogie. All the great performances in this movie pale to the easy competence he uses to dominate the screen. So overall folks, make an egg cream and give this flick a spin.
This is another public domain gem. So enjoy the film on us (and the Internet Archive)