Dark Passage (1947)

Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Bruce Bennett, Agnes Moorehead,
Dark Passage is a movie starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and Bruce Bennett. A man convicted of murdering his wife escapes from prison and works with a woman to try and prove his innocence.
  • 7.5 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • David Goodis, Writer:
  • Delmer Daves, Director:
  • Jerry Wald, Producer:

Trailer:

8 / 10

The Softer Side of Bogart and Bacall

The absorbing documentary featurette on the DVD edition of the 1947 mystery DARK PASSAGE (DP) suggests that Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall's participation in the star-studded Committee for the First Amendment, intended to defend colleagues called before the HUAC, might have been the reason that DP wasn't as big a hit as the real/reel-life couple's earlier screen collaborations. However, I suspect that audiences past and present may have found DP harder to cozy up to because, instead of the cool, insolent, wisecracking Bogart & Bacall of TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT and THE BIG SLEEP, this film version of David Goodis' novel THE DARK ROAD presents a more melancholy, vulnerable Bogart & Bacall -- which is not at all a bad thing, just unexpected from this star team at that time. That Bogart & Bacall chemistry is still there, but it's sweeter here, as if they'd decided to let down their collective guard and allow tenderness to take over. Instead of the cocksure Bogart character we all know and love, DP protagonist Vincent Parry is wary, fearful, fumbling in his attempts to clear himself of his wife's murder and elude the cops like he escapes from prison in the film's opening scenes. His only allies include the mysterious Irene Jansen (Bacall), who followed his case during his trial and ends up in a position to help hide him while he proves his innocence, and Sam (Tom D'Andrea), a kindly, lonesome cabbie who steers Parry to a back-alley plastic surgeon (Houseley Stevenson) to get a new face to help him fly under the law's radar.

1947 was The Year of the Subjective Camera, with DP's first hour shot from Bogart's point of view and Robert Montgomery's film adaptation of Raymond Chandler's LADY IN THE LAKE (which I've discussed elsewhere on the IMDb) using the technique throughout. Unlike LADY..., DP's plastic surgery gimmick provides a good plot reason for the audience not to initially see Bogart's face, though we frequently hear that unmistakable Bogart voice to make up for it. We also get to see the lovely Bacall and lots of spellbinding character actors in lieu of Bogie. There isn't an uninteresting face or a bad performance in the bunch, with standout performances from the leads, D'Andrea, Stevenson (wise, kindly, and vaguely sinister all at once), Rory Mallinson as Parry's musician friend, the ever-dependable Bruce Bennett, cheap hood Clifton Young (with an oily grin and a cleft chin that looks like it got lost on the way to Cary Grant's face), and especially the magnificent Agnes Moorehead as Madge Rapf, the kind of woman who won't join any club that'll have her as a member, a stylish dame who spreads stress and misery wherever she goes. Sticking her nose into everyone's business, Madge manages to lure people to her and push them away at the same time, and if she can't have you, she'll make damn sure nobody else canhave you, even if that means murder. With her delivery dripping honey one minute and venom the next (especially in her climactic scene with Bogart), the quicksilver Moorehead's commanding presence and her unconventional, undeniably striking good looks ensure that you can't take your eyes off her whenever she's on screen.

If you're looking for a tight mystery plot, look elsewhere. While DP has many suspenseful moments, it's primarily a character study and a mood piece about loneliness, redemption, and starting over, with a strong undercurrent of postwar paranoia, all underscored beautifully by Franz Waxman's stirring music (with contributions by an uncredited Max Steiner). The bus station scene is a touching example of this. But the reactions of people who meet Parry with his post-op face and new name, "Allan Linnell," are so suspicious I wondered if writer/director Delmer Daves (who cameos as the photo of Irene's doomed dad. His real-life kids have bit parts, too) was indicating that Parry was really projecting his own paranoia onto the people around him. His new name in particular makes people look at him like he just dropped in from the planet Neptune: "Linnell? That's a very unusual name." What's so freakin' unusual about it?! What, it's not blandly Anglo-Saxon enough? I wonder if John Linnell of They Might Be Giants fame ever had to field such questions...but I digress... :-)

Even when DP drops the subjective camera style so we can see Bogart in all his glory, the visuals are striking thanks to Sid Hickox's moody black-and-white photography (although with the emphasis on Madge's love of all things orange, I can imagine a partly-colorized version a la SIN CITY, with everything black-and-white except Madge's orange clothes and belongings... :-) and some innovative visual techniques. I particularly liked the use of the glass floor when Bogart discovers a dead body -- a tip of the hat to Alfred Hitchcock's THE LODGER, perhaps? Speaking of Hitchcock, DP and Hitch's 1958 classic VERTIGO might make an interesting double feature since they share themes of loss, loneliness, new identities and fresh starts as well as a San Francisco setting. If you want to see a softer side of Bogart & Bacall, DP is well worth watching. You may also enjoy the DVD's other fun extras, like the original theatrical trailer (for me, the hyperbole of that era's movie trailers is part of their charm) and SLICK HARE, one of the Bugs Bunny cartoons affectionately lampooning Bogart (rumor has it that Bogart liked to pal around with the animators at Warner Bros.' "Termite Terrace" and he actually did his own voice work for SLICK HARE and 8-BALL BUNNY).

8 / 10

You're too marvelous, too marvelous for words....

"Dark Passage" offers a different take on the San Francisco noir genre. This is a movie in which we get to know about the story that unfolds in front of us told in narrative style by the hero, who is never seen until about one hour into the picture. Delmer Daves, adapting the David Goodis novel has created something seldom seen in this type of films, in which, the hero's presence is required at all times.

The film has a great style, as it offers a view of the San Francisco of the 1940s in ways that hadn't been seen before. The director was lucky to be able to open up the book in excellent ways to keep the viewer hooked from the start. The 'moderne' style of that era is seen in glorious detail, especially Irene's apartment, where much of the action takes place. The effect of the glassed enclosed elevator makes a dramatic contribution to the look of this movie.

The story of an innocent man, falsely condemned to prison for killing his own wife, parallels other movies. What's unusual here is that the presence of this convict is seen in another light with his own slant in to what really happened to the dead woman. There are other elements in the film that make it appealing. as the relationship between the escaped man, Vincent Parry, and the woman who rescues him, Irene Jansen.

Sidney Hickox's stylish cinematography is one of the best assets of the film. The crisp images that one sees of the city, or the surrounding areas, add to the enjoyment of watching the mystery unfold. The mood is set by the swing music of the time as Frank Waxman's score is heard. Richard Whiting contributes the great song one hears in the background.

The film is dominated by Humphrey Bogart, which says a lot about his power as an actor, and as a personality. When one considers he is actually not seen completely until after an hour into the movie, it speaks volumes of how the actor and the director were able to pull it through. The Irene Jansen of Lauren Bacall is another of the things that work in the film. Ms. Bacall's radiant beauty dominates every scene she is in. This actress had such a style that no matter what she is doing, she pulls our attention to her. The camera loved Ms. Bacall.

The other best thing going for the film is the strong performances Mr. Daves has obtained from his cast. Agnes Moorehead makes a phenomenal appearance as the evil Madge Rapf. Her last scene with Mr. Bogart stands as one of the best moments in a film noir of the era. Ms. Moorehead's expressions as she is confronted with the facts, keep on changing as she absorbs everything being thrown at her. Clifton Young who plays Baker, the opportunistic would be criminal, is also effective, as he adds a layer of intrigue with an angle we didn't figure out existed. His fight with Parry at the bottom of the Golden Gate bridge is beautifully choreographed. Finally, the kind cab driver Sam, who helps Parry assume a new identity, as played by Tom D'Andrea is one of the highlights of the film, as well as the plastic surgeon, portrayed by Houseley Stevenson.

This film, while not perfect, shows how well Delmer Dave's gamble paid in his conception for the film.

9 / 10

Supporting Actors Outshine Two Stars

Watching a "feature" on the DVD the other day after viewing this movie, it was interesting to hear that "Dark Passage" was never a popular film despite the headliners being Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.

That was because studio head Jack Warner was displeased that Bogart's face wasn't shown for the first half of the film and so he didn't give the movie much publicity. The fact Bogey's face didn't appear for quite a while apparently didn't settle well with the public, either.

That was their loss: this is a fine film. The stars of it, really - the actors who put the spark in the story - aren't Bogey and Bacall anyway but the supporting actors. I can't recall a movie where the supporting cast was so good, so entertaining, as in this film.

Before naming them, let me preface by saying Bogart and Bacall still give good performances and Bacall still had a face in those early days that was mesmerizing BUT the people who make this movie click are:

Tom D'Andrea as the cab driver; Houseley Stevenson as the strange and extremely interesting plastic surgeon; Clifton Young as the blackmailer; Tory Mallison as Bogart's old best friend and Agnes Moorhead as the villainous snoop. These people are fantastic.

As an escaped convict on the run, we only see what Bogart sees until plastic surgery turns him into the familiar face we recognize. That sort of thing - seeing only what one character sees, using the camera as his eyes, was done in another noir, "Lady In The Lake," but not done as successfully as in this film. Here, it works as we meet these other weird characters as Bogart sees them. Actually, every character including Bacall's, is a bit odd. The script doesn't always make sense, either, to be honest, but it's fun to play along.

It was a simple but effective story with some neat twists along the way and pretty good suspense here and there, too. I think it's a very underrated film noir and very glad the long-awaited DVD gave it a nice transfer. This is another example of a classic film that looks far better on DVD than it ever did on tape. I hadn't realized how well-photographed this movie was until I saw it on disc.

7 / 10

Dark Passage is a forgotten masterpiece

Dark Passage is a forgotten masterpiece and a personal favorite. Delmer Davies captures the 1940's magic of San Francisco from hill hugging wooden stairs to fog horns to shrouded atrium elevators to some of the best character acting I've ever seen. Tom D'Andrea and Housely Stephenson are wonderful as the so smart but so decent cabbie and the end of the dark ally plastic surgeon. Agnes Morehead is persistent annoyance morphed into utter villainy personified. She is nails scraped on a blackboard good and you can't take your eyes off her Madge. Becall and Bogie tie it together with fine understated grace. The flick ends and you want to go find that little beach front café in Peru.

8 / 10

Agnes Moorehead steals the show!

Even if she has only two or three scenes she steals them all.And it speaks volumes when the stars are Bogart and Bacall.

This is my favorite B/B among the four films they made together."The big sleep" has a plot I've never understood -Hawks used to say it was the same to him-,"to have and to have not" fails to excite me (Bogart a resistant and Gaulliste at that!"Key Largo",on the other hand, is a close second to Daves' movie .

Not that the subjective viewpoint/camera was that much new.Robert Montgomery filmed his hero the same way in 1946 ("Lady in the lake" ,and we only saw his reflection in the mirrors).Hitchcock knew the technique as well and he used it with virtuosity during short sequences.But Daves who is best remembered for his westerns ("broken arrow") pulls it off effortlessly.The depth of field gives a dreamlike atmosphere to the first sequences with Bacall and the surgeon -dream which becomes nightmare during the operation when Bogart sees in his bad dream all the characters involved in the story- There are plot holes of course,particularly Madge 's character .Parry is in Irene's house and presto here she comes.It takes all Agnes Moorehead's talent to give this woman substance.

The first third is Bogartless,as an user points out.But he could add that the last third is almost Bacallless too.

Only the ending,which I will not reveal of course ,is not worthy of a film noir!Maybe the producers imposed it.