When discussing the decades of cinema, 1939, has always been considered to be the greatest year for movies, and that is indeed correct, as it was during this twelve months that beloved classics like “The Wizard Of Oz” and “Gone With The Wind”, as well as several other notable productions, including my favorite “Dark Victory” hit the cinemas. Though 1939, was not the only time that motion pictures reached it’s pinnacle. During the annals of cinematic history, there has been many triumphant years, where the movies were at great depths. One of these years is 1947, which is also known to be an hellacious period for movies, with an array of memorable classics being released that year. Not only did some of the world’s top grossing films arrive at the box office, it was also a time when the Film Noir genre was at it’s zenith.
Without a doubt “Dark Passage” is one of the most eminent films to be released in 1947, though at the time it was considered rather disastrous for a few different reasons. For one thing the vehicle was to showcase the indelible talents of Humphrey Bogart, who was enthroned as the best actor of the period and to highlight the sexual tension between him and Lauren Bacall. Instead it was largely panned by critics, who were not impressed with the finished production and Bogart’s performance that seemed to be overshadowed by the subjective use of the camera which functioned as his eyes while he told the story from his point of view until forty minutes into the film when Humphrey Bogart finally emerged onscreen as Vincent Parry with a new face after undergoing plastic surgery.
The subjective camera technique was the latest concept that year. Prior to “Dark Passage”, Orson Welles had planned to use it for his proposed adaptation of “Heart Of Darkness” before abandoning the idea. That device however piqued an interest in Robert Montgomery, who shot his entire adaptation of “Lady In The Lake” using the subjective camera, but on it’s release the results of this new technique were unsuccessful. By the time Delmer Daves experimented with the procedure things were a little bit more propitious, as he was able to execute the task and blend it into the story so it has a virtue, though the method wasn’t well received by audiences, who found it to gimmicky and distracting. That being said, “Dark Passage” wasn’t entirely a failure. It had the potential to be a masterpiece, and in my opinion it is. The main reason why the film was disregarded is the fact that it was amassed together with the three other Bogart and Bacall collaborations which were highly acknowledged on their initial release, and have since became monumental cinematic treasures.
Ever since her movie debut in “To Have And Have Not” in 1944, at the age of nineteen, and winning the heart of Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall has been captivating audiences for many years with her husky voice, sultry beauty and her blossoming romance with Humphrey Bogart, that would make for the screen’s most celebrated on-screen couple.
After the triumphant success of their two previous films, “To Have And Have Not” and “The Big Sleep”, the sizzling romance between Bogart and Bacall were one of the most talked about subjects regarding cinema. Witnessing the two leads falling in love on-screen melted the hearts of millions worldwide. That is what everyone wanted to see, and that is why Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were among the top drawing stars of the decade.
On May 21st, 1945, Humphrey Bogart married Lauren Bacall, and a year later they heard word that they were going to star in a third picture together, a perennial Film Noir titled “Dark Passage”, which was to be directed by Delmer Daves, and produced by Jerry Wald. The story was based on the 1946 novel of the same name by David Goodis, a notable author of crime fiction, who was known for his prolific amount of stories and novels that really symbolized Film Noir, but it wasn’t until 1946, when his novel “Dark Passage” was serialized in the ‘Saturday Evening Post’ that he would make his big break. Before then, most of his novels had been rejected by publishers and most of David’s work hit the cutting room floor, though with the consummation that he attained with this novel, he was offered a six year contract with Warner Brothers, where he would write stories and scripts for several Film Noir’s of the forties and fifties.
In the Winter of 1946, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall traveled to San Francisco for a month of location shooting for “Dark Passage”. On their arrival, they were welcomed by more than fifteen hundred fans, who gathered at the Golden Gate Bridge hoping to a catch a glimpse of the two stars as they arrived. After greeting the assembled crowd, they were transported to the Mark Hopkins Hotel, where they would reside for the duration of filming. For Lauren Bacall, this was a new experience. It was her first visit to the city and it all seemed spectacular. The atmosphere was congenial and the views from their balcony to the Golden Gate Bridge were breathtaking. However things took a slight turn when Lauren became alarmed by Bogart’s nerves, which seemed to exacerbate as time progressed. This problem was first noticed when Bogart refused to answer the telephone, but when he would awake each morning to discover clumps of hair on the pillow, it turned serious, so much that he would have to resort to wearing a wig for the last scene of the movie. As soon as the production came to a cessation, he consulted the doctor, where he was diagnosed with the disease known as Alopecia Areata, which was the result of vitamin deficiencies.
Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall illuminate the screen in this powerful Film Noir directed by Delmer Daves. The film tells the story of Vincent Parry ( Humphrey Bogart ), a prison escapee who is accused of murdering his wife. While on the run from San Quentin he meets Irene Jansen ( Lauren Bacall ) his lone ally, who offers him shelter in her commodious San Francisco apartment.
Vincent at first doesn’t understand Irene, and why she is going out of her way to help him, so he plans to leave that night, where he is recognized by a cab driver named Sam, who appears to be affable and believes that Vincent is inculpable. At Sam’s suggestion Vincent has his face changed and emerges from plastic surgery with a new face only to discover that his best friend has been murdered. Vincent then realizes that Irene is now the only person for him to turn to, so he stumbles his way back to Irene’s apartment with his face covered in bandages. After he recuperates Vincent begins the peregrination of trying to unveil the murderer. Along the way he finds himself amid many conflicts, including one with Madge ( Agnes Moorehead ) a rather predatory person who finds pleasure in the dysphoria of others.
Along with Bogart and Bacall, “Dark Passage” also spotlights a stellar supporting cast including Agnes Moorehead and Bruce Bennett, who both deliver commendable performances. The film is superbly crafted with great cinematography as San Francisco serves as the location with backdrops of the Golden Gate Bridge, and with the musical score “Too Marvelous For Words” that really augments that romantic aura. The film is also unique in the way of the camera work. For the first forty minutes you don’t see Bogart. The gimmick is that the movie is seen from his perspective until he undergoes plastic surgery, then the new Parry emerges as Humphrey Bogart.
I have always been avid fans of both Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart. As much as I love all the movies they made together “Dark Passage” is my favorite of the whole four. The chemistry between Bogie and Bacall is undeniable, and there are certain scenes in this film that really epitomize the way they felt about one another. From the moment Bacall looked in his eyes there was fire. They truly loved each other and that is clearly evident in all the films they made together.
Almost sixty eight years since it’s release, “Dark Passage” is a film that stands the test of time, and will continue to enthrall audiences for many years to come.
The actual Art Deco apartment building used in the film (located at 1360 Montgomery St in San Francisco) is still standing as of December, 2008. The actual apartment is marked by a cardboard cut-out of Humphrey Bogart, which can be seen from the street. The site is visited frequently by fans of vintage film noir.
Between the film’s unorthodox “first person perspective” and Humphrey Bogart‘s negative press from his support of the Committee for the First Amendment established in the face of the hearings being done by the House Un-American Activities Committee led to the film having a poor performance at the box office.
Viveca Lindfors was considered for the role of Irene Jansen.
Quotes from film:
Vincent: ( looking in a mirror after the bandages are taken off. ) “Same eyes. Same nose. Same hair. Everything else seems to be in a different place. I sure look older. That’s all right, I’m not. If it’s all right with me, it ought to be all right with you.”
Irene: “Can you shave?”
Vincent: “The Doc said that I could.”
Irene: “Why don’t you get dressed. I’ll wait downstairs and sort of get a fresh impression.”
Irene: ( Upon seeing Vincent after he shaves ) “It’s unbelievable. but it’s good. I think I even like you better.”
Vincent: “Well, don’t let it give you any ideas.”
Irene: “What kind?”
Vincent: “Don’t change yours. I like it just as it is.”
Humphrey Bogart: Born Humphrey DeForest Bogart on December 25th, 1899 in New York City. Died: January 14th, 1957, in Los Angeles, California. Aged 57.
Lauren Bacall: Born Betty Joan Perske on September 16th, 1924, in The Bronx, New York. Died: August 12th, 2014, in New York. Aged 89.