' Cinema Romantico: Key Largo

Monday, July 30, 2007

Key Largo

My recent re-watching of the wonderous (for 45 minutes, as we have established) "To Have and Have Not" I became thirsty for more Bogey and Bacall. Thus to my Netflix queue I dashed and added "Key Largo", a 1948 thriller starring, well, you-know-who and directed by the famed John Huston. Bogart is Frank McCloud, a war hero who has come to a hotel in aforementioned Key Largo to visit the father and the widow (Bacall) of his deceased war buddy. But alas, there is also a notorious gangster (the always suitably evil Edward G. Robinson) named Johnny Rocco who has commandeered the hotel to set in motion some vile plans. But alas, there is also a hurricane bearing down on the keys meaning all our characters will be forced to ride it out in said hotel while the other events play themselves out.

Admittedly Bogart's range as an actor was never that great ("The African Queen" was probably as much range as he ever displayed) but his character feels like yet another retread of the same anti-hero in "Casablanca" and not quite as believable this time out. His "I stick my neck out for no man" mantra is around yet again but I just didn't buy the McCloud character saying it. Nonetheless, the mere chance to have Bogey and Bacall work their magic onscreen is always worth the proverbial price of admission. And that brings me to my primary point.

The word Bogart has long been part of our lexicon. Dictionary.com advises that bogart can mean "to selfishly take or keep something" or "to bully someone into giving something up". For instance, if you were to be sitting at the bar and someone - gasp! - took your pint and made it their pint you could exclaim, "Hey! That guy just bogarted my pint!" Or if someone were to - gasp! - make a move on the woman that may have accompanied you to a small gathering you might holler, "Hey! That guy just bogarted my woman!"

Humphrey Bogart, or the characters he played, anyway, were uber-skilled at these activities. Bogey could enter a room all by his lonesome and without a cent in his pocket or a cigarette to his name but by the time he left he would have wooed the woman of the guy he had come to see, scored all the cash off that same guy, and bummed a cigarette from that guy which the guy (or perhaps the woman he wooed) would have lit for him. There is nary an actor alive today who displays all these traits. Maybe George Clooney. But then you've never heard anyone say, "Hey! That guy just clooneyed my pint!"

Today, however, Cinema Romantico is proposing that our lexicon add a new verb to honor Lauren Bacall. In watching "To Have and Have Not" and "Key Largo" and recalling our many viewings of "The Big Sleep" we smile as we remember the looks Ms. Bacall gave. Much like no actor alive today can bogart things the way Bogart could, there is no actress alive today who can look at people like Bacall.

It can be an icy stare. A smile that smolders. A grin so wicked Dick Cheney himself would burst into tears and hide in his room if he saw it. She can even do this thing where her face remains utterly expressionless while simultaneously displaying more expression than any other face in human history. Seriously, watch a Bacall film once just to get your bearings and then watch it a second time to do nothing more than keep an eye on Bacall so you can digest every look she gives.

Hence it is time our country's vernacular begin to refer to any look that maintains epic proportions as having been on the receiving end of a bacall. For instance, if that raven-haired beauty across the bar tilts her head in your direction and looks right through you then you would be able to turn to your drinking companion and yell, "Hey! I just got bacalled!"

Help me out, people. I urge you to write your congressman today.


2 comments:

Miss B said...

I thought the word "Bogart" came because he always managed to steal other actor's great lines, and steal the scenes he was in...

But I support any and all measures honoring the inestimable Dame Bacall. What a babe!

Wretched Genius said...

Woman: "The doctor told me I had a wicked case of Clooney, but then he gave me this special kind of shampoo and it cleared right up."