CHINATOWN

“Forget it, Jake … it’s Chinatown.”

“Water is the life blood of every community.” With this statement, the Owens Valley History Site still does, and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power‘s website once used to begin its biography of William Mulholland, the real life model of two of this movie’s characters, water department chief Hollis Mulwray (an obvious play on words) and water tycoon Noah Cross. And indeed water, the access to it and the wealth it provides, is what drives everything and everybody in this movie set in the ever-thirsty Los Angeles of the first decades of this century, a budding boom town on the brink of victory or decay … and whether it will be one or the other depends on the city’s ongoing access to drinking water.

William Mulholland (1924):
William Mulholland (1924)

Chinatown‘s story is based on William Mulholland’s greatest coup; the construction of the Owens Valley aqueduct which provided Los Angeles with a steady source of drinking water but also entailed a lot of controversy. Splitting Mulholland’s complex real-life persona into two fictional characters (the noble Mulwray who thinks that water should belong to the people and who refuses to authorize an unsavory new dam construction project and the greedy, unscrupulous Cross who will use any means to advance his personal fortune) creates the movie’s one necessary black and white conflict … other than this, the predominant shades are those of gray.

Into the wars raging around L.A.’s water supply, private eye Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is unwittingly thrown when a woman introducing herself as Hollis Mulwray’s wife asks him to investigate her husband’s alleged infidelity. Before he realizes what is going on he is drawn into a web of treachery and treason, and fatally attracted to the real Mrs. Mulwray (Faye Dunaway), Noah Cross (John Huston)’s daughter. Soon reaching the conclusion that he has been used, he refuses to drop the investigation, and instead decides to dig his way to the source of the scheming he has witnessed – the classical film noir setup.

To say that this movie is one of the best examples of the genre ever made is stating the obvious … actually, it is beyond superfluous. Few other films are as tightly acted, scripted and directed, from Jack Nicholson’s dapper-dressed, dogged Jake Gittes, who like any good noir detective is not half as hard boiled as he would have us believe, to Faye Dunaway’s seductive and sad Evelyn Mulray, John Huston’s cold-blooded and corrupt Noah Cross, Roman Polanski’s brooding direction and Robert Towne’s award-winning screen play, so full of memorable lines and the classical noir gumshoe dialogue, yet far more than just a well-done copy. And throughout it all, there that idea of Chinatown – that place where you do as little as possible, and where if you try to help someone, you’re likely going to make double sure they’re getting hurt.

Chinatown was Roman Polanski’s return to Hollywood, five years after his wife (Sharon Tate) had been one of the victims of the Manson gang. Polanski and Towne fought hard whether the movie should have a happy ending or not. Polanski won, studio politics were favorable at the time, and the version we all know was produced. Towne later admitted that Polanski had been right; and in fact, it is hard to imagine what kind of happy ending would have worked with the movie at all – too deep-rooted are the conflicts presented, none of which lends itself to an easy solution. Unfortunately, being released the same year as The Godfather II robbed Chinatown much of the Academy Award attention it would have deserved; of 11 nominations (best movie, best actor – Jack Nicholson –, best actress – Faye Dunaway –, best director – Roman Polanski –, best screenplay – Robert Towne –, best original score – Jerry Goldsmith –, best cinematography, and others), the movie only won the Oscar for Towne’s screenplay. Generations of fans, however, have long since recognized that Chinatown is a milestone in the history of the film noir and in the professional history of its participants, and one of Hollywood’s finest hours.

 

Production Credits /
Cast and Crew

Production Credits
  • Studio: Paramount Pictures (1974)
  • Director: Roman Polanski
  • Producer: Robert Evans
  • Screenplay: Robert Towne (& Roman Polanski, uncredited)
  • Music: Jerry Goldsmith
  • Cinematography / Director of Photography: John A. Alonzo (& Stanley Cortez, uncredited)
Cast
  • Jack Nicholson: J.J. (Jake) Gittes
  • Faye Dunaway: Evelyn Mulwray
  • John Huston: Noah Cross
  • Darrell Zwerling: Hollis Mulwray
  • Diane Ladd: Ida Sessions
  • Perry Lopez: Escobar
  • John Hillerman: Yelburton
  • Belinda Palmer: Katherine
  • Joe Mantell: Walsh
  • Roy Jenson: Mulvihill
  • Roman Polanski: Man with Knife
  • Richard “Dick” Bakalyan: Loach
  • Bruce Glover: Duffy
  • Jerry Fujikawa: Gardener
  • Roy Roberts: Mayor Bagby

 

Major Awards

Academy Awards (1975)
  • Best Writing, Original Screenplay: Robert Towne
American Film Institute (AFI)
  • Top 100 American Films – No. 19
  • 10 Top 10 (10 greatest US films in 10 classic genres) – Mystery: No. 2
  • Top 100 Thrillers – No. 16
  • Top 50 Villains – No. 16 (Noah Cross)
  • Top 25 Film Scores – No. 9
  • Top 100 Movie Quotes – 74th: “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.”
Golden Globes (1975)
  • Best Motion Picture – Drama
  • Best Director – Motion Picture: Roman Polanski
  • Best Motion Picture Actor – Drama: Jack Nicholson
  • Best Screenplay – Motion Picture: Robert Towne
Directors Guild of America Awards (1975)
  • Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures: Roman Polanski
Writers Guild of America Awards (1975)
  • Best Drama Written Directly for the Screen: Robert Towne
Edgar (Allan Poe) Awards (1975)
  • Best Motion Picture: Robert Towne
BAFTA Awards (1975)
  • Best Direction: Roman Polanski
  • Best Actor: Jack Nicholson
  • Best Screenplay: Robert Towne
  • Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music: Jerry Goldsmith

 

Links

WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION

“It’s not the jury’s judgment that worries me. It’s mine.”

“No more murder cases,” is the doctor’s strict prohibition upon reluctantly releasing renowned barrister and recent heart attack survivor Sir Wilfrid Robarts (Charles Laughton) from hospital. (Although even the word “release” seems to be a matter of some dispute here, because according to Sir Wilfrid’s nurse Miss Plimsoll [Elsa Lanchester], he was “expelled for conduct unbecoming a cardiac patient.” But let’s leave that aside for now.) And following the doctor’s orders, Sir Wilfrid’s staff have lined up an array of civil cases: a divorce, a tax appeal, and a marine insurance claim – surely those will satisfy their hard-to-please employer’s demands?

Err … not likely.

So, try as he might to be a good patient, Sir Wilfrid needs only little encouragement to accept the case of handsome drifter and small-time inventor Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power), accused of murdering his rich benefactress Emily French (Norma Varden). Of course, the very circumstances that most disturb the famous barrister’s colleagues Mayhew and Brogan-Moore (Henry Daniell and John Williams) – Mrs. French’s infatuation with Vole, his visit to her on the night of the murder, the lack of an alternative suspect and his inheritance under her new will – just make the matter more interesting in Sir Wilfrid’s eyes. Most problematic, however, is Vole’s alibi, which depends entirely on the testimony of his German wife Christine (Marlene Dietrich), an actress he had met when stationed with the RAF in WWII-ravaged Hamburg. Troubling, insofar, isn’t only that Christine is her husband’s sole alibi witness and that – Sir Wilfrid explains – a devoted wife’s testimony doesn’t carry much weight anyway. The real problem is that Christine isn’t the loving, desperate wife one might expect: far from that, she is cool, calculating and surprisingly self-controlled; so much so that, worried because he cannot figure out her game, Sir Wilfrid decides not let her testify at all, rather than risk damaging his case. That, however, seems to have been one of his illustrious career’s few major miscalculations – because now he and his client suddenly have to face Christine as a witness for the prosecution. And her testimony on the stand is only one of several surprises that she has in store.

Witness for the Prosecution is based on a concept that Agatha Christie first realized as a four-person short story (published in the 1933 collection The Hound of Death) and subsequently adapted into what she herself would later call her best play, which opened in London in 1953 and in 1954 on Broadway, where it won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle citation as Best Foreign Play. Throughout the adaptations the storyline was fleshed out more and more, the focus shifted from the work of solicitor Mayherne (whose name changed to Mayhew) to that of QC Sir Wilfrid Robarts, and the screenplay ingeniously added Miss Plimsoll’s character, utilizing the proven on-screen chemistry of real-life spouses Laughton and Lanchester, for whom this was an astonishing eleventh collaboration, and whose banter bristles with director / co-screenwriter Billy Wilder’s dry wit and the fireworks of the couple’s pricelessly deadpan delivery, timing and genuine joy of performing together.

Perhaps most importantly, the story’s ending changed: not entirely, but enough to give it a different and, albeit very dramatic, less cynical slant than the short story’s original conclusion. – To those of us who have grown up with Christie‘s works, those of her idol Conan Doyle and on a steady diet of Perry Mason, Rumpole of the Bailey and the many subsequent other fictional attorneys, the plot twists of Witness for the Prosecution (including its ending) may not come as a major surprise. At the moment of the movie’s release, however, the ending was a much-guarded secret; viewers were encouraged not to reveal it both in the movie’s trailer and at the beginning of the film itself; and even the Royal Family were sworn to silence before a private showing. Similarly, features such as the skillful, methodical unveiling of a seemingly upstanding, disinterested witness’s hidden bias in cross-examination have long become standard fare in both real and fictional courtrooms, and any mystery fan worth their salt has heard more than one celluloid attorney yell at a cornered witness: “Were you lying then or are you lying now?” (Not recommended in real-life trial practice, incidentally.) Yet, in these and other respects it was Witness for the Prosecution which laid the groundwork for many a courtroom drama to come; and herein lies much of its ongoing importance.

Moreover, this is simply an outstandingly-acted film; not only by Laughton, Lanchester and a perfectly-cast Marlene Dietrich but by every single actor, also including Torin Thatcher (prosecutor Mr. Myers), Francis Compton (the presiding Judge) and, most noteably, Una O’Connor (Mrs. French’s disgruntled housekeeper). This is true even if Tyrone Power’s emotional outbursts in court may be bewildering to today’s viewers – and even if one wonders why an American-born star was acceptable for an Englishman’s role without even having to bother trying to put on an English accent in the first place, whereas Dietrich and other non-native English speakers of the period, like Greta Garbo and Ingrid Bergman, were routinely cast as foreigners. (Yes, yes, I know. Redford and Out of Africa come to mind somewhat more recently, too, but that’s a can of worms I won’t reopen here.)

Witness for the Prosecution won a Golden Globe for Elsa Lanchester, but unfortunately none of its six Oscar nominations (which undeservedly didn’t even include Marlene Dietrich), taking second seat to the year’s big winner Bridge on the River Kwai in the Best Picture, Best Director (David Lean), Best Actor (Alec Guinness) and Best Editing categories, and to Sayonara for Best Supporting Acress (Miyoshi Umeki) and Best Sound. No matter: with the noirish note resulting from its use of multiple levels of ambiguity – in noticeable contrast to Christie‘s Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries – it fits seamlessly next to such Billy Wilder masterpieces as Sunset Boulevard and Double Indemnity; and it has long since become a true classic, courtroom and otherwise.

 

Production Credits /
Cast and Crew

Production Credits
  • Studio: MGM / United Artists (1957)
  • Director: Billy Wilder
  • Producer: Arthur Hornblow, Jr.
  • Screenplay: Billy Wilder & Harry Kurnitz
  • Adaptation: Laurence B. “Larry” Marcus
  • Based on a play (and short story) by: Agatha Christie
  • Music: Matty Malneck
  • Cinematography / Director of Photography: Russell Harlan
Cast
  • Tyrone Power: Leonard Vole
  • Marlene Dietrich: Christine Vole
  • Charles Laughton: Sir Wilfrid Robarts
  • Elsa Lanchester: Miss Plimsoll
  •  Henry Daniell: Mayhew
  • John Williams: Brogan-Moore
  • Torin Thatcher: Mr. Myers
  • Francis Compton: Judge
  • Norma Varden: Mrs. Emily Jane French
  • Una O’Connor: Janet MacKenzie
  • Ian Wolfe: Carter
  • Philip Tonge: Inspector Hearne 

 

Major Awards and Honors

Golden Globes (1958)
  • Best Supporting Actress: Elsa Lanchester
American Film Institute (AFI)
  • 10 Top 10 (10 greatest US films in 10 classic genres) – Courtroom Drama: No. 6

 

Links

SE7EN

Septenary of Horror

“At first sin is a stranger in the soul; then it becomes a guest; and when we are habituated to it, it becomes as if the master of the house.” – Tolstoy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Although not originating from the bible, the concept of deadly sins is almost as old as Christian doctrine itself. Theologians like 4th century Greek monk Evagrius of Pontus first compiled catalogues of deadly offenses against the divine order, which 6th century Pope Gregory the Great consolidated into a list of seven sins, which in turn formed the basis of the works of medieval / renaissance writers like St. Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologiae), Geoffrey Chaucer (The Canterbury Tales), Christopher Marlowe (Dr. Faustus), Edmund Spenser (The Faerie Queene) and Dante Alighieri (Commedia Divina / Inferno). And in times when the ability to read was a privilege rather than a basic skill, the depiction of sin in paintings wasn’t far behind; particularly resulting from the 16th century’s reformulation of church doctrine, the works of artists like Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder brought the horrific results of humankind’s penchant to indulge in vice back into general consciousness with surrealistic eloquence, reminding their viewers that no sin goes unseen (Bosch, The Seven Deadly Sins) and that its commission leads straight into a hell reigned by gruesome, grotesque demons and devils whose sole purpose is to torture those fallen into their hands (Bosch, The Hay-Wagon and The Last Judgment; Bruegel, The Triumph of Death, The Tower of Babel, and The Fall of the Rebel Angels).


Antonio Manetti: The circles of Dante’s Hell
(woodcut, 1506)

More recently, the seven deadly sins have been the subject of Stephen Sondheim’s play Getting Away With Murder and a ballet by George Balanchine (Seven Deadly Sins); and on the silver screen the topic has been addressed almost since the beginning of filmmaking (Cabiria [1914], Intolerance [1916]). Thus, Se7en builds on a solid tradition both in its own domain and in other art forms, topically as well as in its approach, denouncing society’s apathy towards vice and crime. Yet – and although expressly referencing the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, Chaucer and Dante – David Fincher’s movie eschews well-trodden paths and grabs the viewer’s attention from the beginning; and it does so not merely by the depiction of serial killer John Doe’s (Kevin Spacey‘s) crimes, which could easily degenerate into a mindless bloodfest that would defeat the movie’s purpose. (Not that there isn’t a fair share of blood and gore on display; both visually and in the characters’ dialogue regarding those details not actually shown; but Fincher uses the crimes’ gruesome nature to create a sense of stark realism, rather than for shock value alone.) In addition, Doe’s mindset is painstakingly presented by the opening credits’ jumpy nature, his “lair”‘s apocalyptic makeup and his notebooks, all of which were actually written out (at considerable expense), and whose compilation is shown underlying the credits. The movie’s atmosphere of unrelenting doom is further underscored by a color scheme dominated by brown, gray and only subdued hues of other colors, and by the fact that almost every outdoors scene is set in rain. Moreover, although screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker explains on the DVD that the story was inspired by his observations in New York (and the movie was shot partly there, partly in L.A.), it is set in a faceless, nameless city, thus emphasizing that its concern isn’t a specific location but society generally.

Central to the movie is the contrast between world-weary Detective Somerset (Morgan Freeman) who, while decrying the rampant occurrence of violence in society, for much of the movie seems to have resigned himself to his inability to do something meaningful about this (and therefore seems to accept apathy for himself, too, until his reluctant final turnaround), and younger Detective Mills (Brad Pitt), who fought for a reassignment to this particular location, perhaps naively expecting his contributions to actually make a difference; only to become a pawn in Doe’s scheme instead and thus show that, given the right trigger, nobody is beyond temptation. As such, Somerset and Mills are not merely another incarnation of the well-known old-cop-young-cop pairing. Rather, their characters’ development over the course of the film forces each viewer to examine his/her own stance towards vice.

Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt perfectly portray the two detectives; while Freeman imbues his Will Somerset with a quiet dignity, professionalism and learning, muted by profound but not yet wholly irreversible resignation, Pitt’s David Mills is a brash everyman from the suburbs with an undeniable streak of prejudice, a penchant for quick judgment and a thorough lack of sophistication, both personally and culturally. Notable are also the appearances of Gwyneth Paltrow (significantly Brad Pitt’s real-life girlfriend at the time) as Mills’s wife Tracy and ex-marine R. Lee Ermey as the police captain. Yet, from his very first appearance onwards, this is entirely Kevin Spacey‘s film. Reportedly, Brad Pitt especially fought hard for his casting; and it is indeed hard to imagine Se7en with anybody other than the guy who, that same year, also won an Oscar for portraying devilish Keyser Söze in The Usual Suspects: No living actor has Spacey‘s ability to simultaneously express spine-chilling villainy, laconic indifference and limitless superiority with merely a few gestures and vocal inflections.

While Se7en can certainly claim the “sledgehammer” effect on its viewers sought by its fictional killer, the punishment meted out to Doe’s victims – taking their perceived sins to the extreme – pales in comparison to that awaiting sinners according to medieval teachings. (Inter alia, gluttons would thus be forced to eat vermin, toads and snakes, greed-mongers put in cauldrons of boiling oil and those guilty of lust smothered in fire and brimstone.) Most serial killers also have decidedly more mundane motivations than Doe. And after all, this is only a movie.

Right?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Sin … engenders vice by repetition of the same acts, [clouding the conscience and corrupting the judgment.] Thus sin tends to reproduce … and reinforce itself, but it cannot destroy the moral sense at its root.” Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994)

 

Hieronymus Bosch: The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things (c. 1500)

 

Production Credits /
Cast and Crew

Production Credits
  • Studio: New Line Cinema (1995)
  • Director: David Fincher
  • Executive Producers: Anne Kopelson & Dan Kolsrud
  • Producers: Arnold Kopelson & Phyllis Carlyle
  • Screenplay: Andrew Kevin Walker
  • Music: Howard Shore
  • Cinematography / Director of Photography: Darius Khondji
Cast
  • Morgan Freeman: Somerset
  • Brad Pitt: Mills
  • Kevin Spacey: John Doe
  • Gwyneth Paltrow: Tracy
  • R. Lee Ermey: Police Captain
  • Andrew Kevin Walker: Dead Man at 1st Crime Scene (as Andy Walker)

 

Pieter Brueghel the Elder: The Tower of Babel (c. 1563)

 

Major Awards

National Board of Review Awards (1995)
  • Best Supporting Actor: Kevin Spacey
    – also for “The Usual Suspects.”
ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) Awards (1996)
  • Top Box Office Films: Howard Shore
MTV Movie Awards (1996)
  • Best Movie
  • Best Villain: Kevin Spacey
  • Most Desirable Male: Brad Pitt

 

Links

 


Pieter Brueghel the Elder: The Fall of the Rebel Angels (1562)

 

Pieter Brueghel the Elder: The Triumph of Death (c. 1562)

 


Hieronymus Bosch: The Last Judgment (c. 1482)

THE USUAL SUSPECTS

The Usual Suspects (1995)Web of Evil

“Round up the usual suspects.” And so they do – and ending up in the lineup are career criminals Michael McManus, Fred Fenster and Todd Hockney (Stephen Baldwin, Benicio del Toro and Kevin Pollack), ex-cop gone bad gone good again Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne) and small-time con man Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey).

Wait a minute … five criminals in one lineup? There’s something wrong here, right? Right …

In The Usual Suspects, not only every line but every gesture, every facial expression and every camera cut counts. Even if you distrust the story being told, you can’t exactly pin down everything that’s wrong with it. The plot unfolds through the tale extracted from Kint, one of two survivors of a massacre and subsequent explosion on a boat docked in San Pedro Harbor, by U.S. Customs agent David Kujan (Chazz Palminteri). And at the same time as Kint is spinning his yarn, in a nearby hospital the other survivor (badly injured and fresh out of a coma) helps a police sketch artist draw a picture of the mastermind behind the scheme – “the devil,” Keyser Söze.

You can watch this movie countless times, and you will still discover new subtleties every single time. Not only will you find that it still makes sense after the story line has been unraveled at the end (which therefore is a plot twist, not a non-sequitur). You’ll also discover nuance upon nuance in Kevin Spacey‘s incredible performance. You’ll see that tiny apologetic grin on Todd Hockney’s face as attorney Kobayashi (Pete Postlethwaite) lists a weapons truck heist – the very act which brought them together in the initial lineup, and which they have all come to believe to have been a trumped-up charge – as Hockney’s latest sin against Keyser Söze, now forming part of the debt to be repaid by participating in the suicide mission in San Pedro Harbor. And at some point you’ll also have figured out all of Fenster’s lines (not being a native English speaker, I am relieved to find that I wasn’t the only one struggling with them at first) … although the mumbling is of course part of his character, and is as excellently delivered as every other aspect of Benicio del Toro’s acting, his lines are so funny and to the point you almost wish he’d speak more clearly so you wouldn’t miss half his punch lines the first time around.

Among a cast of tremendous actors (to name just two, Gabriel Byrne in one of his best performances and Benicio del Toro, deserving much more than just an “also starring” mentioning in the opening credits), Kevin Spacey‘s star shines brightest by far. To this day it is a mystery to me how he came to be awarded the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor – the only things the man supports (in fact carries, almost single-handedly) in this movie are Bryan Singer’s directing and Christopher McQuarrie’s screenplay, and that alone makes him the movie’s lead character. But regardless of its title, the award was more than justified, and so was the one for McQuarrie’s screenplay. With infinite trust in the audience’s ability to pick up on little gestures, looks and inflections of his voice, Kevin Spacey displays all the many aspects of his character at the same time; and even the tenth time around, his performance still holds as true as the first time you watch the movie. Almost expressionless he tells his tale, always seeming to give away just about as much as he has to, and only raising his voice for a pointed (and exquisitely timed) expletive upon first being confronted with the name Keyser Söze, and for a wailing “Why me??” as agent Kujan tries to convince him that his own archenemy, Keaton, has been behind their failed enterprise all along and purposely let him (Kint) live to tell their story.

This is one of those movies which have you quote their many memorable one-liners forever: not only the one about “the devil’s greatest trick” has long since gone down in film history. To the extent that it cites other works, those citations pay homage, they don’t merely copy – right down to the name of the movie’s production company (Blue Parrot/Bad Hat); like the title containing a reference to Casablanca, the prototype of all films noir (or those made in Hollywood at least). It is one of the best modern examples of the genre and has long since become a cult classic – it’s a must in every decent collection.

 

Production Credits /
Cast and Crew

Production Credits
  • Studio: PolyGram (1995)
  • Director: Bryan Singer
  • Executive Producers: Hans Brockmann / François Duplat / Art Horan / Robert Jones
  • Producer: Bryan Singer
  • Screenplay: Christopher McQuarrie
  • Music: John Ottman
  • Cinematography / Director of Photography: Newton Thomas Sigel
  • Editing: John Ottman
Cast
  • Kevin Spacey: Roger “Verbal” Kint
  • Gabriel Byrne: Dean Keaton
  • Stephen Baldwin: Michael McManus
  • Benicio Del Toro: Fred Fenster
  • Kevin Pollak: Todd Hockney
  • Chazz Palminteri: Dave Kujan
  • Pete Postlethwaite: Kobayashi
  • Suzy Amis: Edie Finneran
  • Giancarlo Esposito: FBI Special Agent Jack Baer
  • Dan Hedaya: Sergeant Jeffrey “Jeff” Rabin
  • Peter Greene: Redfoot the Fence (uncredited)

 

Major Awards

Academy Awards (1996)
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Kevin Spacey
  • Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen: Christopher McQuarrie
American Film Institute
  • Top 10 Mystery Films – No. 10
  • Top 50 Villains – No. 48 (Verbal Kint)
Golden Globe Awards
(Hollywood Foreign Press Association) (1996)
  • Best Editing: John Ottman
  • Best Film: Bryan Singer and Michael McDonnell
  • Best Screenplay (Original): Christopher McQuarrie
National Board of Review Awards (1995)
  • Best Ensemble Performance
  • Best Supporting Actor: Kevin Spacey
    – also for Se7en
New York Film Critics Circle Awards (1995)
  • Best Supporting Actor: Kevin Spacey
    – also for Swimming with Sharks, Outbreak, and Se7en
Seattle International Film Festival (1995)
  • Best Director: Bryan Singer
  • Best Supporting Actor: Kevin Spacey
    – also for Outbreak and Se7en
Edgar Allan Poe Awards (1996)
  • Best Motion Picture: Christopher McQuarrie
BAFTA Awards (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) (1996)
  • BAFTA Film Awards: Best Original Screenplay:Christopher McQuarrie
  • BAFTA Film Awards: Best Editing:John Ottman
Independent Spirit Awards (USA) (1995)
  • Best Screenplay (Original): Christopher McQuarrie
  • Best Supporting Male: Benicio del Toro
Empire Awards (Great Britain) (1996)
  • Best Debut: Bryan Singer

 

Favorite Quotes

“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

“And like that … he is gone.”

Dave Kujan: Do you believe in him, Verbal?
Verbal Kint: Keaton always said, ‘I don’t believe in God, but I’m afraid of him.’ Well I believe in God, and the only thing that scares me is Keyser Söze.”

“How do you shoot the devil in the back? What if you miss?”

“A man can convince anyone he’s somebody else, but never himself.”

 

Links

L.A. CONFIDENTIAL

L.A. Confidential (1997)Hush-Hush

What is a good cop? One who joined the police force because he was unable to save his mother from being killed by an abusive husband, but who now uses violence not only against wife-beaters but whenever called for by his superior officers; be it to beat a confession out of a suspect or to discourage criminals from settling in town? Or one who joined the police force to emulate his father, a department legend; to go after “Rollo Tommasi” (the guy who thinks he can get away with anything), but who thereafter lets his career and department politics dictate his actions? Or, in the end, is it the one who has let corruption wipe out so thoroughly the reasons why he once joined the police force that he doesn’t even remember a single one of them, but who for once in his life still finds it in himself to go after real criminals, even at the risk of his own life? This is just one, although maybe the central question asked in L.A. Confidential, the movie based on James Ellroy‘s novel with the same name. And as does the book, the movie refuses to provide an answer to this and the other questions it asks.

The story is set up by tabloid editor Sid Hudgens (Danny DeVito), who during the movie’s opening credits gleefully sums up the L.A. clichés that still hold true today: “Come to Los Angeles! The sun shines bright, the beaches are wide and inviting, … there are jobs aplenty, and land is cheap. Every working man can have his own house, and inside the house a happy, all American family. You can have all this, and who knows, you can even be discovered – become a movie star or at least, singer. Life is good in Los Angeles: it’s paradise on earth.” Laughing sarcastically, however, he adds: “That’s what they tell ya’, anyway, ’cause they’re selling an image. They’re selling it through movies, radio, and television.” Then Hudgens proceeds to tell the story of crime boss Mickey C.’s arrest, which left the void in the City of Angels’s organized crime scene that sets the stage for this movie’s story, and concludes with his tabloid’s tag line: “Remember, dear readers, you heard it here first: Off the record, on the QT, and very hush-hush …”

And as indicated in these opening lines, nothing is as it seems in this 1950s’ version of a Los Angeles populated by hookers cut to look like movie stars and cops with more or less disreputable alternative sources of income. As the story progresses, its three heroes – career-driven and pseudo-correct Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), tough-fisted and golden-hearted Wendell “Bud” White (Russell Crowe) and nonchalant, corrupt “celebrity crime stopper” Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) – become unlikely allies in their search for their city’s most elusive commodity: the truth. Shades of gray abound, and even the end, which (unlike the novel’s) has at least some redeeming aspects, is not a happy ending by a long shot.

Just when many people longingly remembered the days of The Maltese FalconThe Big Sleep or, for that matter, Chinatown, proclaimed “they don’t make ’em like that anymore,” and were ready to announce the death of the noir genre, along came a group of new directors and screenwriters and breathed new life into patient. The Usual Suspects (which not coincidentally likewise stars Kevin Spacey) is one excellent example, this one is another. Unlike other noir stories’, this tale’s heroes are no private detectives; but all the classic elements of a film noir are there, from a damsel in distress (Veronica Lake-look-alike hooker Lynn Bracken, award-winningly portrayed by Kim Basinger) to crime, corruption and abuse of power, and to dimmed lights and hard boiled dialogue with many memorable one-liners. In a year overshadowed by the success of the vastly overrated Titanic, L.A. Confidential managed to at least collect the Academy Awards in the best supporting actress and best adapted screenplay categories (Kim Basinger and Brian Helgeland/Curtis Hanson, respectively; the movie had also been nominated in the best picture, best director – again Curtis Hanson –, best original score – Jerry Goldsmith –, best cinematography, best art direction and best editing categories). And while the 1990s have seen a revival of the noir genre, this one is a standout even among the new films noirs which that decade has brought us. It made the careers of its writers, director and two of its stars (Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe), and boosted those of several others of its cast members (Kim Basinger and Kevin Spacey, to name just two). I am sure it will find its eternal place in the annals of Hollywood, alongside its famous predecessors. There are way too few movies like this these days – if you haven’t seen it already, do yourself a favor and remedy that soon. This is modern noir at its finest.

 

Production Credits /
Cast and Crew

Production Credits
  • Studio: Warner Bros. (1997)
  • Director: Curtis Hanson
  • Executive Producer: Dan Kolsrud
  • Producer: Curtis Hanson
  • Co-Producer: Brian Helgeland
  • Screenplay: Brian Helgeland & Curtis Hanson
  • Based on a novel by: James Ellroy
  • Music: Jerry Goldsmith
  • Cinematography / Director of Photography: Dante Spinotti
  • Editing: Peter Honess
  • Art Direction: William (Bill) Arnold
  • Sound: Terry Rodman / Roland N. Thai / Kirk Francis / Andy Nelson / Anna Behlmer / John Leveque
Cast
  • Kevin Spacey: Jack Vincennes
  • Russell Crowe: Bud White
  • Guy Pearce: Ed Exley
  • Kim Basinger: Lynn Bracken
  • Danny DeVito: Sid Hudgens
  • James Cromwell: Dudley Smith
  • David Strathairn: Pierce Patchett
  • Ron Rifkin: D.A. Ellis Loew
  • Matt McCoy: ‘Badge of Honor’ Star Brett Chase
  • Paul Guilfoyle: Mickey Cohen
  • Paolo Seganti: Johnny Stompanato
  • Graham Beckel: Dick Stensland
  • Amber Smith: Susan Lefferts
  • Darrell Sandeen: Buzz Meeks

 

Major Awards

Academy Awards (1998)
  • Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Kim Basinger
  • Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium: Brian Helgeland and Curtis Hanson
Golden Globe Awards
(Hollywood Foreign Press Association) (1998)
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture: Kim Basinger
National Board of Review Awards (1997)
  • Best Picture
  • Best Director: Curtis Hanson
Writers Guild of America Awards (1998)
  • Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published: Brian Helgeland and Curtis Hanson
Screen Actors Guild Awards (1998)
  • Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role: Kim Basinger
    Tied with Gloria Stuart (“Titanic ,” 1997).
National Society of Film Critics AWARDS (USA) (1997)
  • Best Film
  • Best Director: Curtis Hanson
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards (1997)
  • Best Film
New York Film Critics Circle AWARDS (1997)
  • Best Film
  • Best Director: Curtis Hanson
  • Best Screenplay: Curtis Hanson & Brian Helgeland
TIME Magazine (USA) (1997)
  • Best Film of the Year
Los Angeles Times (2008)
  • Best L.A. Film of the Last 25 Years
Society of Texas Film Critics Awards (1997)
  • Best Supporting Actor: Kevin Spacey
    – Also for “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”.
Edgar (Allan Poe) Awards (1998)
  • Best Motion Picture: Curtis Hanson and Brian Helgeland
BAFTA Awards (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) (1998)
  • BAFTA Film Awards: Best Editing: Peter Honess
  • BAFTA Film Awards: Best Sound: Terry Rodman, Roland N. Thai, Kirk Francis, Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer and John Leveque
  • Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music: Jerry Goldsmith
London Film Critics’ Circle (2009)
  • Top 10 Films of the Last 30 Years: No. 7

 

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THE MALTESE FALCON

The Birth of Hollywood’s Original Noir Anti-Hero

Like few other actors, Humphrey Bogart ruled the Hollywood of the 1940s and 1950s – epitome of the handsome, cynical and oh-so lonesome wolf and looking unbeatably cool in his fedora and trenchcoat, a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth; endowed with a legendary aura several times larger than his real life stature, and still admired by scores of women wishing they had been born 50+ years earlier, preferably somewhere in California and to parents connected with the movie business, so as to have at least a marginal chance of meeting him. The American Film Institute elected him the No. 1 film legend of the 20th century; and looking back, indeed no other actor seems to have been surrounded by the same kind of darkly magical aura as the one surrounding Bogart.

The Maltese Falcon (1941), directed by John Huston, based on Dashiell Hammett‘s eponymous 1930 novel and itself also ranking in the top quarter of the AFI’s list of the 100 best 20th century movies, laid the groundwork for Bogart‘s lasting image, by transforming his on-screen persona from the tough, often two-dimensional gangsters he had portrayed before; beginning with the 1936 adaptation of Robert Sherwood’s Petrified Forest where, like in its 1934 stage production, Bogart had starred opposite Leslie Howard, with Bette Davis as the female lead. Now imbuing his tough guy shell with a softer core, in The Maltese Falcon Bogart became not only Hammett‘s Sam Spade but, moreover, the film noir anti-hero per se; a role that stayed with him throughout the rest of his career, and in which he still remains virtually unparalleled.

The movie’s long-famous story centers around the mysterious statue of a falcon made from solid gold, diamonds and other precious stones; the 16th century Maltese Knights’ immeasurably precious gift of thanks to Emperor Charles V for the protection he had granted them. Stolen by pirates, blackened on the outside in order to conceal its true value and passed on through the centuries by a number of unsuspecting possessors, it finally attracts the attention of two rivaling pairs of equally cunning, ruthless and high-flying scoundrels, who chase each other and the statue halfway around the world and finally end up in Sam Spade’s San Francisco office – not without getting both Spade’s partner Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) and one of their own killed in the process; thus also causing additional grief for Spade, whom the police soon suspect of being behind the murders himself – or at least behind that of Archer – in order to make off with Archer’s widow Iva (Gladys George). And of course, it doesn’t exactly help that he has had his office sign changed from “Spade & Archer” to “Samuel Spade” within mere hours of his partner’s death.

Looking at the movie and its stars’ almost mythical fame, it is difficult to imagine that, produced at the height of the studio system era, this was originally just one of the roughly 50 films released by Warner Brothers over the course of one year. But mass production didn’t equal low quality; on the contrary, the great care given to all production values, from script-writing to camera work, editing, score and the stars’ presentation in the movie itself and in its trailer, was as responsible for its lasting success as were Humphrey Bogart and his outstanding costars; first and foremost Mary Astor as the double-crossing and now partner-less Brigid O’Shaughnessy, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet (in their first of several appearances opposite Bogart) as Joel Cairo and Kaspar Guttman, O’Shaughnessy/Astor’s competitors for possession of the precious statue, and Elisha Cook Jr., as Guttman’s rough but inept bodyguard Wilmer Cook. Genre-defining and the first truly giant highlight of Bogart‘s career, The Maltese Falcon is an unmissable piece of Hollywood history, captivating you from the first moment you spend in Sam Spade’s office all the way to its cynical conclusion, and a thrill to watch over and over again.

 

Production Credits /
Cast and Crew

Production Credits
  • Studio: Warner Bros. (1941)
  • Director: John Huston
  • Executive Producer: Hal B. Wallis
  • Screenplay: John Huston
  • Based on the novel by: Dashiell Hammett
  • Music: Adolph Deutsch
  • Cinematography / Director of Photography: Arthur Edeson
Cast
  • Humphrey Bogart: Samuel Spade
  • Mary Astor: Brigid O’Shaughnessy
  • Gladys George: Iva Archer
  • Peter Lorre: Joel Cairo
  • Barton MacLane: Lt. of Detectives Dundy
  • Lee Patrick: Effie Perine
  • Sydney Greenstreet: Kasper Gutman
  • Ward Bond: Detective Tom Polhaus
  • Jerome Cowan: Miles Archer
  • Elisha Cook Jr.: Wilmer Cook

 

Major Awards and Honors

American Film Institute
  • Top 25 Stars (male) – No. 1 (Humphrey Bogart)
  • Top 100 American Films – No. 23
  • Top 10 Mystery Films – No. 6
  • Top 100 Thrillers – No. 26
  • Top 100 Movie Quotes – 14th: “”The stuff that dreams are made of.” (Sam Spade)

 

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THE BIG SLEEP

Murder, mystery and the magnetism of Bogart and Bacall

They were one of Hollywood’s all-time legendary couples, both on screen and off; producing celluloid magic in the four films they made together between 1943 and 1948 as much as by their off-screen romance, which in itself was the stuff that dreams are made of. He was the American Film Insititute’s No. 1 star of the 20th century, Hollywood’s original noir anti-hero, who in addition to the AFI honors bestowed on his real-life persona also played two of the 20th century’s Top 50 film heroes (“Casablanca”‘s Rick Blaine and this movie’s Philip Marlowe); epitome of the handsome, cynical and oh-so lonesome wolf, looking unbeatably cool in dinner jacket, trenchcoat and fedora alike, a glass of whiskey in his hand and cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth; and endowed with a legendary aura several times larger than his physical stature. She, despite a 25-year age difference his equal in everything from grit and toughness to mysterious appeal; chillier than bourbon on the rocks, possessing more than just a touch of class whatever her role; and long since a bona fide AFI movie legend in her own right.

Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall met on the set of Howard Hawks’s 1944 realization of Ernest Hemingway’s “To Have and Have Not,” where an obvious chemistry quickly developed between 45-year-old veteran Bogart, who had just scored two of film history’s greatest-ever hits with “The Maltese Falcon” and “Casablanca” in the two preceding years, and the sassy, exciting 20-year-old newcomer who possessed the maturity and sex-appeal of a woman good and well 10 years her senior. They were reunited two years later for this adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s first Philip Marlowe novel “The Big Sleep” (1939), based on a screenplay written, like that of “To Have and Have Not,” by William Faulkner and Jules Furthman, together with Leigh Brackett (who had not participated in scripting the Hemingway adaptation). By the time the movie was released in 1946, Bogart and Bacall were married.

Reprising Bogart’s noir gumshoe role with a character not unlike Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade in “The Maltese Falcon,” the movie “The Big Sleep” is as infamous as Chandler’s literary original for its labyrinthine plot, which reportedly even the author himself couldn’t completely untangle (nor did he care to). The plot is essentially faithful to Chandler’s novel, from which it takes much of its dialogue; albeit streamlined and with some changes made to fit Bogart’s physical characteristics, and eliminating or softening a few scenes considered unfit for display to a moviegoing audience in the 1940s. The story begins when Marlowe is hired by wealthy old General Sternwood to handle a blackmailing attempt involving gambling debts incurred by Sternwood’s younger daughter Carmen (Martha Vickers) (whom the detective has already met when she literally threw herself into his arms upon his entry into the house, sucking her thumb and coyly telling him “you’re cute”). After his interview with the dying general in the latter’s hot and humid orchid house, a disheveled Marlowe is summoned to the rooms of the general’s older daughter Vivian (Lauren Bacall), who tries to worm out of him the purpose of his engagement and who, as Marlowe quickly concludes, has more than a minor hidden agenda of her own. Soon the detective is up to his ears in the classical film noir brew of murder, damsels in distress, shady characters and a world where nothing is what it appears to be, and where he’ll be able to consider himself lucky if he gets out alive – yet, he is determined to see the case through and will neither be bought off by money nor by sweetness and seduction.

Looking back at the movie and its stars’ almost mythical fame, it is difficult to imagine that, produced at the height of the studio system era, it was originally just one of the roughly 50 movies released by Warner Brothers over the course of one year. But mass production didn’t equal low quality; on the contrary, the great care given to all production values, from script-writing to camera work, editing, score (Max Steiner) and the stars’ presentation in the movie itself and in its trailer was at least partly responsible for its lasting success. Indeed, the release of “The Big Sleep” was delayed for an entire year – and not only because its first version was completed around the end of WWII and Warner Brothers wanted to get their still-unreleased war movies into theaters first, but also, and significantly, because Lauren Bacall’s agent convinced studio boss Jack Warner and director Howard Hawks to reshoot several scenes to better highlight the sassy, mysterious new star Bacall had become after “To Have and Have Not.” And it certainly paid off: “The Big Sleep” firmly established then-22-year-old Lauren Bacall as one of Hollywood’s new leading ladies, and even more than her first film with Humphrey Bogart laid the foundation for the couple’s mythical relationship.

Bogart and Bacall would star together two more times after “The Big Sleep”: In “Dark Passage” (1947) and “Key Largo” (1948). But of their four collaborations, the first two – and in particular, “The Big Sleep” – remain unparalleled for their secretive, shadowy aura, tight scripting, snappy dialogue, cynicism and underlying seductiveness; due in equal parts to the story crafted by Raymond Chandler , its adaptation by Faulkner, Furthman and Brackett, Howard Hawks’s masterful direction and its starring couple’s irresistible chemistry. After three failed marriages, after having produced on-screen magic with Mary Astor in “The Maltese Falcon” and, even more so, with Ingrid Bergman in “Casablanca” (and although he would go on to star in such memorable pairings as next to Katherine Hepburn in “The African Queen” and Audrey Hepburn in “Sabrina”), Humphrey Bogart had finally met his match – and while his and Bacall’s marriage was painfully cut short by the cancer to which he succumbed in 1957, the magnetism they created on screen will live on, and nowhere more brilliantly than in “The Big Sleep.”

 

Production Credits /
Cast and Crew

Production Credits
  • Studio: Warner Brothers (1946)
  • Director: Howard Hawks
  • Executive Producer: Jack L. Warner
  • Screenplay: William Faulkner / Leigh Brackett / Jules Furthman
  • Based on the novel by: Raymond Chandler
  • Music: Max Steiner
  • Cinematography / Director of Photography: Sidney Hickox (as Sid Hickox)
Cast
  • Humphrey Bogart: Philip Marlowe
  • Lauren Bacall: Vivian Sternwood Rutledge
  • John Ridgely: Eddie Mars
  • Martha Vickers: Carmen Sternwood
  • Dorothy Malone: Acme Book Shop Proprietress
  • Peggy Knudsen: Mona Mars
  • Regis Toomey: Chief Inspector Bernie Ohls
  • Charles Waldron: General Sternwood
  • Elisha Cook Jr.: Harry Jones

 

Major Awards and Honors

American Film Institute

Top 25 Stars (male) – No. 1 (Humphrey Bogart)
Top 25 Stars (female) – No. 20 (Lauren Bacall)
Top 50 Heroes – No. 32 (Philip Marlowe)

 

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CASABLANCA

You must remember this …

Aaaahhh … Bogey. AFI’s No. 1 film star of the 20th century. Hollywood’s original noir anti-hero, epitome of the handsome, cynical and oh-so lonesome wolf (with “Casablanca”‘s Rick Blaine alone, one of the Top 5 guys on the AFI’s list of greatest 20th century film heroes); looking unbeatably cool in white dinner jacket or trenchcoat and fedora alike, a glass of whiskey in his hand and a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth. Endowed with a legendary aura several times larger than his real life stature, and still admired by scores of women wishing they had been born 50+ years earlier, preferably somewhere in California and to parents connected with the movie business, so as to have at least a marginal chance of meeting him.

Triple-Oscar-winning “Casablanca,” directed by Michael Curtiz, was and still is without question Bogart’s greatest career-defining moment, the movie on which his legendary status is grounded more than on any other of his multiple successes. The film’s story is based on Murray Burnett and Joan Alison’s play “Everybody Comes to Rick’s,” renamed by Warner Brothers in order to tag onto the success of the studio’s 1938 hit “Algiers” (starring Charles Boyer and Hedy Lamarr). Building on the success of 1941’s “The Maltese Falcon” and further expanding Bogart’s increasingly complex on-screen personality, it added a romantic quality which had heretofore been missing; eventually making this the AFI’s Top 20th century love story (even before the No. 2 “Gone With the Wind”), while second only to “Citizen Kane” on the AFI’s overall list of Top 100 20th century movies; with a unique, inimitable blend of drama, passion, humor, exotic North African atmosphere, patriotism, unforgettable score (courtesy of Herman Hupfeld’s “As Time Goes By,” Max Steiner, and Louis Kaufman’s violin) and an all-star cast, consisting besides Bogart of Ingrid Bergman (Ilsa), Paul Henreid (Victor Laszlo), Claude Rains (Captain Renault), Dooley Wilson (who, a drummer by trade, had to fake his piano playing as Rick’s friend Sam), Conrad Veidt (Major Strasser), Sydney Greenstreet (Ferrari) and Peter Lorre (Ugarte). And the movie’s countless famous one-liners have long attained legendary status in their own right …

Looking at this movie’s and its stars’ almost mythical fame, it is difficult to imagine that, produced at the height of the studio system era, it was originally just one of the roughly 50 movies released over the course of one year. But mass production didn’t equal low quality; on the contrary, the great care given to all production values, from script-writing to camera work, editing, score and the stars’ presentation in the movies themselves and in their trailers, was at least partly responsible for its lasting success. In fact, the screenplay for “Casablanca” was constantly rewritten even throughout the filming process, to the point that particularly Ingrid Bergman was extremely worried because she was unsure whether at the end she (Ilsa) would leave Casablanca with Henreid’s Victor Laszlo or stay there with Humphrey Bogart (Rick).

Little needs to be said about the movie’s story. After the onset of WWII, Casablanca has become a point of refuge for Jews and other desperate souls from all corners of Europe, fleeing the old world with the hope of building a new life in America. Unofficial center of Casablanca’s society is Rick’s “Café Americain,” where gamblers, refugees, French police, Nazi troops, thieves, swindlers and soldiers of fortune come together on a nightly basis, to make connections, conduct their shady business, or simply forget the uncertainty of their fate for a few precious hours. And presiding over this mixed and colorful society is Rick Blaine, expatriate American without any hope of returning to the United States himself (for reasons never fully explained), officially not interested in politics but only the flourishing of his business, but soft-hearted underneath the hard shell of his cynicism. From Rick’s perspective, everything is going just swell and the way it is meant to be: he is reasonably well-respected, has a good working relationship with Captain Renault, the local representative of the Vichy government (based on mutual respect as much as on the fact that Renault is a guaranteed winner at Rick’s gambling tables and, by way of reciprocation, turns a blind eye to whatever less-than-squeaky-clean transactions Rick may be tolerating in his café, always ready to have his police round up “the usual suspects” instead of the truly guilty party of a crime if that person’s continued freedom promises to be more profitable); and although aware of Rick’s not quite so apolitical past, the Germans are leaving him alone as well, as long as he stays out of politics now. Until … well, until famous underground resistance leader and recent concentration camp-escapee Victor Laszlo and his wife Ilsa walk into Rick’s café, into his place “of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world” – and with one blow, administered to the melancholy tunes of “As Time Goes By,” the carefully maintained equilibrium of his little world comes crashing down around him.

Not only to Bogart and Bergman fans all over the world, “Casablanca” is film history’s all-time crowning achievement, a “must” in every movie lover’s collection, and one of the few films that truly deserve the title “classic.” If it is not yet included in your home collection, that is an omission that ought to be remedied sooner rather than later.

 

Production Credits /
Cast and Crew

Production Credits
  • Studio: Warner Bros. (1942)
  • Director: Michael Curtiz
  • Executive Producer: Jack L. Warner
  • Screenplay: Julius J. Epstein / Philip G. Epstein / Howard Koch / Casey Robinson (uncredited)
  • Based on a play by: Murray Burnett and Joan Alison
  • Music: Max Steiner
  • Cinematography / Director of Photography: Arthur Edeson
Cast
  • Humphrey Bogart: Rick Blaine
  • Ingrid Bergman: Ilsa Lund
  • Paul Henreid: Victor Laszlo
  • Claude Rains: Captain Louis Renault
  • Conrad Veidt: Major Heinrich Strasser
  • Sydney Greenstreet: Signor Ferrari
  • Peter Lorre: Ugarte
  • S.Z. Sakall: Carl (as S.K. Sakall)
  • Madeleine Lebeau: Yvonne (as Madeleine LeBeau)
  • Dooley Wilson: Sam

 

Major Awards

Academy Awards (1944)
  • Best Picture: Hal B. Wallis
  • Best Director: Michael Curtiz
  • Best Writing, Screenplay: Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch
American Film Institute (AFI)
  • Top 25 Stars (male) – No. 1 (Humphrey Bogart)
  • Top 100 Love Stories – No. 1
  • Top 100 American Films – No. 2
  • Top 100 Movie Songs – No. 2 (“As Time Goes By”)
  • Top 25 Stars (female) – No. 4 (Ingrid Bergman)
  • Top 50 Heroes – No. 4 (Rick Blaine)
  • Top 100 Thrillers – No. 37
  • Top 100 Movie Quotes – 5th: “Here’s looking at you, kid.”  (Rick Blaine)
  • Top 100 Movie Quotes – 20th: “Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” (Rick Blaine)
  • Top 100 Movie Quotes –28th: “Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By.'” (Ilsa Lund)
  • Top 100 Movie Quotes – 32nd: “Round up the usual suspects.” (Captain Louis Renault)
  • Top 100 Movie Quotes – 43rd: “We’ll always have Paris.” (Rick Blaine)
  • Top 100 Movie Quotes – 67th: “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” (Rick Blaine)

 

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