Forty-something private detective Humphrey Bogart finds himself on the case in the City of Available Young Women, chasing tails and kicking arses.
The biggest mistake you could make with this putative noir classic is rewinding to try and work out where you lost the plot. Don’t bother. When Bogart asked director Howard Hawks, ‘Who pushed Taylor off the pier?’ the phone calls went all the way to Chandler, who didn’t know either.
The recently departed Lauren Bacall was interesting off screen as well as on. In this case it played badly for the scene-stealing Martha “you’re cute” Vickers who acted Bacall’s younger sister. Vickers gave Bacall such a fright that she was substantially cut from the film, which only adds to the narrative confusion. It’s possible the best things about the film (e.g. more Vickers) aren’t in it. On the upside came the invention of the best scene in the final result. Yes that scene:
Bacall: “…speaking of horses, I like to play them myself. But I like to see them work out a little first. See if they’re front-runners or come from behind… I’d say you don’t like to be rated. You like to get out in front, open up a lead, take a little breather in the back stretch, and then come home free….”
Bogart: “You’ve got a touch of class, but I don’t know how far you can go.”
Bacall: “A lot depends on who’s in the saddle.”
RIP Bogey, RIP Bacall and RIP the less remembered Martha Vickers, who went on to a less than stellar life, including a short marriage to Mickey Rooney and death by cancer at age 46. Damn.