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TomJH

DARK PASSAGE

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Even though Dark Passage has fairly frequent broadcasts on TCM, I'm glad that I was able to re-visit this old movie friend last evening thanks to Eddie Muller's selection of it as part of his evening tribute to novelist David Goodis.

 

(SPOILER ALERT!!!): And I really appreciate Muller's anecdote about the somewhat confusing death scene of Agnes Moorehead's character in the film. As she backs up from Bogart and disappears behind that huge billowing curtain to suddenly fall to her death, it seems like a bizarre accident. In the Goodis novel, however, this obsessive wacko character actually commits suicide in an attempt to frame the man she cannot have with her own "murder." The Hollywood production code, however, Muller said, wouldn't allow a murderess to escape justice in this manner.

 

Still, if the novel's murderess does do this, it seems to me that it is exactly what Gene Tierney's character had done on screen just two years before in Leave Her to Heaven (a Technicolor noir). While Tierney (unlike Moorehead) is not actually a murderess, she is clearly morally responsible for the death of another character in the film (not to mention bringing about the death of an unborn baby). Not a big difference, as far as I'm concerned, but I guess it was enough to get past the Hollywood censors at the time. In any event, if you're reading this, Mr. Muller, thanks for the anecdote.

 

 

Dark Passage has always been ranked, it seems to me, as a sort of slightly neglected orphan child of the four films co-starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. It has never enjoyed the same status as their other three films. Yes, this film's story is pretty far fetched, I concede, and perhaps some Bogart fans are ticked that their screen favourite isn't fully seen until an hour into the production.

 

 

However, Delmer Daves, who also wrote the screenplay from Goodis' novel, is inventive and energetic as director. Of course, most audaciously, he utilizes a subjective camera technique for a little more than the film's first half hour, Bogart not appearing on screen, all the action seen through the camera, representing his eyes. (Robert Montgomery, as director/star, of course, would do this for the entire run of his own noir released the same year, Lady in the Lake).

 

 

Daves also makes expressive use of shooting many of the film's scenes on location in San Francisco. In fact, the building at which Bacall's character has an apartment stills exists today at 1360 Montgomery Street. Those endless stairs that Bogart climbs with his face bandaged still exist today too. See here:

 

 

http://www.movie-locations.com/movies/d/darkpassage.html

 

 

A few comments about the film. First, while on the surface, Dark Passage seems very much like a typical late '40s Bogart star vehicle, a murder and mayhem story, shots of dark film noirish streets and with his favourite leading lady, in one key aspect, it's different. And that's in the kind of character that the star is playing.

 

 

Unlike the unflappably cool tough guy persona that Bogart immortalized in Casablanca and The Big Sleep, his Vincent Perry in Dark Passage is a frightened man in little control of his fate, who has to depend upon the assistance of others for his survival after he has escaped from San Quentin for a murder he didn't commit. Not only is there Bacall's character who allows him to hide at her place, but also a cab driver (who actually talks him out of surrendering to the police) and a back alley plastic surgeon who assist him. Bogie plays a character in this film so desperate that he allows his face to be surgically altered in order to assist him in his escape (fortunately for Bogart fans, however, he emerges looking just like Bogart).

 

 

Bogie had already been experimenting with his screen image by playing a couple of wife murderers and soon, far more famously, would play a paranoid gold prospector. Vincent Perry in Dark Passage was a more subtle variation on his usual screen character, albeit this time done in what seems like a typical star vehicle for him.

 

 

One of the chief joys that I have always derived from Dark Passage are contained in the colourful small roles played by character actors whose names might not mean much to many film buffs today: Clifton James as a scheming blackmailer (he of the horse toothed smile, perhaps best remembered today to TCM fans for his contributions to the Joe McDoakes comedy shorts), Houseley Stevenson in a truly bizarre performance as the plastic surgeon and, perhaps best of all for me, Tom D'Andrea as a lonely, talkative cabbie.

 

 

D'Andrea's everyman face (not unlike that of Dane Clark) and laconic, conversational speaking style makes a vivid impression in his few (too few) scenes as the cab driver who takes a liking to a frightened Bogie-on-the-run and decides to help him. And D'Andrea is assisted by some great writing. In particular, what a joy it must have been for that actor to be provided with the opportunity to tell that marvelous anecdote about the travails of a passenger in his back seat with two goldfish in bowl that takes a ride up and down seven hills in his cab.

 

 

"Slippity slop," D'Andrea says as he describes the water being spilled all over the back seat and the fish falling out of the bowl only to be thrown back into it again. "You never saw such a wet guy in your life," the actor concludes his tale, "and two tireder goldfish."

 

 

images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSaTVxkCOWlZ9K_TUe8Y3V

 

 

Dark Passage does not have the usual film noir closing chapter. Even though things look pretty bleak for Bogart's character to prove his innocence at the end, Warners decided to give Bogart-Bacall fans a happy ending by allowing Bogie to escape the police, soon afterward reuniting with her in a small Peruvian cafe. The film fades out with the two embracing on a dance floor, all to the memorable strains of a ten year old Richard Whiting/Johnny Mercer hit, "Too Marvelous for Words." It's an ending designed to satisfy film romantics. Love (and luck) triumphs over all the adversarial forces of the dark world in which their characters exist. Film noir purists may cringe a bit at that ending but it works just fine for me.

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Tom, I totally dig your review of DARK PASSAGE!!!! I'm kinda guilty of down-lowing this flick as well, but you know what, every time I watch it, as I did last night, I find that I like it more than I remember!!! Weird! It does suck you in and more so with the secondary characters that you mentioned in your review, than the primary ones, IMO! All of them rock, but Clifton James kind of goes against type from what we typically see him in! It works really well, but does unsettle the viewer, initially, I think!

 

I also totally dig the ending, and in a way, though you know Bogie must have gone through some clearing of his name process, it has a bit of a pre-code feel, as though he was able to just get away with everything!

 

Awesome flick, and made more enjoyable both by Eddie Muller's fantastic presentation, and your equally fantastic review!!! Thank you mucho!!

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Thanks, Mark. Glad you liked the writeup, plus the fact that your admiration for the film itself is increasing.

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Tom, I *always* enjoy your film analysis. :)

 

I will admit Dark Passage isn't a particular favorite of mine. Certainly my least-prefered Bogart-Bacall picture. I realize there was a need not to show Bogie pre-surgery, but the first-person POV method just comes off as gimmicky (for the record, I have the same issue with Lady in the Lake ). Bacall's role is also disappointingly colorless. I don't instinctively object to plot intricacies or contrivances (or I couldn't very well love the often-labyrinthine Neverland of noir ;) ), but I have to be compensated by being well-invested in the characters, style, etc. Unfortunately, Dark Passage never really gets me there.

 

That said, I don't find the film to be void of interest. You rightly sited the San Francisco location work as a big asset. It has a wonderful time-capsule quality, and I do love that elevator! :x

 

 

 

 

> {quote:title=TomJH wrote:}{quote}

>

> Still, if the novel's murderess does do this, it seems to me that it is exactly what Gene Tierney's character had done on screen just two years before in Leave Her to Heaven (a Technicolor noir). While Tierney (unlike Moorehead) is not actually a murderess, she is clearly morally responsible for the death of another character in the film (not to mention bringing about the death of an unborn baby). Not a big difference, as far as I'm concerned, but I guess it was enough to get past the Hollywood censors at the time. In any event, if you're reading this, Mr. Muller, thanks for the anecdote.

>

Oh boy - never try to fathom the minds of 1940s movie censors. You'll only succeed in making your brain ache! ?:|

 

And this is completely silly, but what the hell? I remember when I viewed this movie for the first time years ago that I'd never before seen a glass drinking straw. Now I use one every day - so there you are! :D

 

Thanks again, Tom, for your insight.

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I didn't watch the film last night, and I didn't know anything about the book, but I was always convinced that Agnes committed suicide in the film. There is the double suicide at the end of *The Strange Love of Martha Ivers*, and Martha (Stanwyck) was a murderess in that film. *Dark Passage* is a great film in any case, and Delmar Daves an oddly great director.

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Swithin, I can understand why Moorehead's plunge to her death comes as a surprise to many, primarily because it happens so suddenly and there's no preparation for it. Moorehead, in fact, is very defiant and in Bogart's face, to to speak, just before she smashes through the window. She only backs away from Bogie because she may be physically afraid of him as he suddenly lurches towards her. But her then smashing through the window is definitely NOT a suicide in its presentation, in my opinion, but rather a freak accident.

 

Perhaps if you get the opportunity to see that scene again you'll have a different feeling about your perception of it being a suicide.

 

 

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Tom, what's the line she utters before she falls? I don't remember it exactly, but doesn't it lean toward the suicide theory? (This controversy is almost -- not quite -- along the lines of was Adela raped or was it consensual in A Passage to India. I say the former). Alot of the evidence is not in the specific action itself, which is unseen in that case.

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Thanks very much, NoraCharles, for your compliment. I really appreciate it.

 

Dark Passage was released in the U.S. seven months after Lady in the Lake. While the subjective camera technique had been used on a few occasions previously by some directors, I don't believe that any of them used it as extensively as did Robert Montgomery with Lady in the Lake or Delmer Daves in this film.

 

Yes, it certainly is gimmicky, as you say. I found the Montgomery film tiresome because there was no break from it while, to me, the Daves effort is more interesting and, fortunately, doesn't extend too much past the first half hour. But I can understand if others may think that it is still too much. For 1947 it was fairly experimental. (Off hand, I know of no other director that used that technique for the entire length of the film, as did Montgomery. One film is quite enough, I feel).

 

 

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Swithin, Agnes Moorehead's final words before her plunge were (with a sneer on her face): "She wants you very badly, doesn't she. She's willing to run away with you and keep on running and ruin everything for herself. But she wouldn't care because she'd be with you and that's what she wants.

 

"But she doesn't have you now and she'll never have you. Nobody will ever have you. That's the way I want it. You're nothing but an escaped convict. Nobody knows what you wrote down. They'll believe me! They'll believe me!"

 

She then backs up, flees behind the curtain and smashes through the window. Those are not, in my opinion, the words of a character about to commit suicide.

 

 

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I think Madge is so obsessed with ruining Bogie at that point, that she does commit suicide, so that she can't be questioned for the murder again. I believe her last words refer to the testimony she had already given. Fleeing behind the curtains? What was back there, besides the window and her final attempt to ruin him? Daves was pretty clever; sometimes we have to look beyond the simplest of explanations for the director's intentions.

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I always think of Tom D'Andrea as a cab driver. Did he play a cab driver in any other films beside DARK PASSAGE?

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Suicide or not, the act still put Bogey in a bind.

 

 

I didn't view this film on the night in question. But I had seen it many times before, and always enjoy it.

 

 

I also enjoy seeing many actors in roles "out of image" so to speak. Which is why Queeg is one of my favorite Bogart roles. His part in this movie works for me for the same reason.

 

 

Ultimately, non actor JIMI HENDRIX said it best, in a discussion with JONI MITCHELL..."As a performer, if you keep doing the same thing over and over and never change, you kind of DIE inside!"

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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{font:arial, helvetica, sans-serif}*Sepiatone wrote: Suicide or not, the act still put Bogey in a bind.*

 

It sure did. He needed her confession to prove his innocence. {font}

 

 

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I love this film. My absolute fave part of the film is when Clifton James' charactor tells Bogie he should have mixed in 'Quentin. "They got some smart guys at 'Quentin." And Bogie gives him that look that says, "Yeah. That's why they're in there."

 

Excellent film. One of my fave Bogie & Bacalls. Thanks so much for the info.

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I don't know, last night after maybe my fourth or fifth viewing of this film over the years, which is enjoyable to watch but still feel is the least of the Bogie and Bacall flicks, I'm starting to see why some around here believe Bacall "isn't the greatest actress ever". Though then again, she WAS only 23 y/o when she made this one.

 

(...btw Tom, just as everyone else has stated here, I also think your reviews of films are excellently written and usually bring an interesting element into them which one might not have thought about before, such as the "Gene Tierney" thing in this instance)

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I have no doubt it was suicide. Suicide is at times an act of defiance. She was refusing to allow all she had attained to be ruined by further investigation by authorities. Her death was the only way to seal her testimony. It was her form of: "It is a good day to die" mentality.

 

It would be a great suspension of disbelief to see it as an accident.

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Suicide doesn't make much sense. She was too afraid of Bogie killing her, and she was too selfish. She was just trying to get away from him, and I've always seen it as an accident.

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> {quote:title=finance wrote:}{quote}I always think of Tom D'Andrea as a cab driver. Did he play a cab driver in any other films beside DARK PASSAGE?

He has no wikipedia entry, but he is on imdb. He was in a bunch of stuff ( Tension, Two Guys From Milwaulkee, Kill the Umpire ) I've never hoid of (although that last one does sound fun) , but he did play Garfield's brother in Humoresque and was credited in Night and Day as "Bernie"- who was quite possibly a cab driver, I'm not gonna watch it again to find out. He was also in Pride of the Marines.

 

I was really struck by *how good* he was in Dark Passage, and heaven knows it was not an easy role to pull off (more of a question mark than a character). However, the shooting demands of the story meant, I guess, a lot of close-ups for him- many more and much longer than the average supporting player would get in those days, so I'd think he had fun doing it.

 

 

Either way he pulled it off really well.

 

ps- Maybe it's a too modern perspective, and maybe I don't visit urban areas enough, but one so rarely finds a cabbie in *any city* whose name does not contain five syllables in a row and who is well-versed in English...much less one who takes you to a kindly plastic surgeon who turns you in to Humphrey Bogart "but older...only a little older" for $200, then begrudgingly takes your tip after passing up on the reward money for you. See: it's these things that make me unable to take DarK Passage with complete seriousness.

 

 

 

Edited by: AddisonDeWitless on Jun 15, 2013 3:44 PM

 

Edited by: AddisonDeWitless on Jun 15, 2013 3:49 PM

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If this is some kinda "Inquiry" here, I'm voting with Fred here, Your Honor!

 

'Cause yeah, the battle axe in question here exhibited all the traits which our our learned counsel Fred here has mentioned. And besides, if it WAS suicide, then why would said battle axe scream bloody murder as she fell 10 stories upon the Streets of San Francisco???

 

(...and years before Karl Malden would be the detective assigned with investigating this incident) ;)

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Thanks very much, Dargo. All compliments are most gratifyingly accepted here.

 

As I stated in my original posting, your take that Dark Passage is the least of the Bogart-Bacall films has always been the general consensus among film buffs. Most will probably disagree with me but I think that Dark Passage is, if not a better film, at least a more fun one than their last outing together, Key Largo.

 

There's a wee bit too much preachy speechifying in that film for my sensitivities. Bacall is virtually a blank slate in the movie (far and away her least interesting performance when co-starring with her husband) and even Bogart is really just doing a rather tired reprise of his cynic-who-will-come-through-in-the-end role from Casablanca (except that in that film it seems a lot fresher, even upon countless repeat viewings).

 

Largo has a solid cast, of course, with Claire Trevor scoring well, and Edward G. Robinson giving a truly great performance as Rocco. To be honest, though, if Key Largo didn't have Robinson, I don't know that I would ever bother to watch it again. Dark Passage, though, still keeps me entertained, even with the undeniable implausibilities of its story.

 

And another thing, nowhere in Key Largo do you find Tom D'Andrea as a cabbie telling his "slippity slop" story. There's only ONE film in which that happens, and we know which one that is.

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SansFin, Moorehead's very last words "They'll believe me!" reflect her defiance of Bogart, her emphatic belief that her word with the police carries more weight than his as a convicted murderer. Yet just THREE SECONDS (!!!) later she crashes through the window. It just doesn't make sense to me that that could be anything other than a bizarre accident.

 

By the way, I've always thought that Moorehead's fall in full scream, with first an overhead shot, her body becoming smaller as it plummets towards the ground, followed by a side angle of her dropping past a window as a screaming woman looks out it, is a pretty impressive moment. And it all occurs within just nine seconds. For any viewer not expecting this moment it must come as quite a shock.

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>And another thing, nowhere in Key Largo do you find Tom D'Andrea as a cabbie telling his "slippity slop" story. There's only ONE film in which that happens, and we know which one that is.

 

Yeah, good point, though maybe you didn't know this, but there WAS originally parts filmed WITH a talkative Cabbie in that Bogie/Bacall Florida flick TOO.

 

(...but ALL of Frank Faylen's scenes were left lying on the cutting room floor!!!) ;)

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I still think her words, "They'll believe me" refer to words already spoken, off camera, at the trial, which Madge believes will continue to carry weight after she's dead. Suicide in this case represents her ultimate power over Bogie, meaning she can possess him even if she can't possess him physically. According to one analysis, Madge's threat "you will never be able to prove anything because I won't be there" indicates her intent to suicide. That book also states "It is never clear (even with motion-analyzing equipment or freeze framing), how Madge manages to fall from the apartment window to her death." If Daves was somehow not allowed to show her commit suicide for some reason (despite numerous suicides in films), his intent was, I believe quite clean.

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>her words, "They'll believe me" refer to words already spoken,

 

She is talking about her version of the recent events. Bogie has just told her he knows what happened and what she did and who she killed, but she tells him that no one will believe his version and they will believe her.

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Watching the scene in question last night, (Agnes at the window), I thought to myself - she's going to kill herself, she's going to jump out a window. But then the film so abruptly cut to her falling - I thought it was an error in the video as if seconds were missing from the print. It could have been the most powerful scene in the movie but it comes across as only clumsy.

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