CLASSIC REEL : Dark Passage

Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and Agnes Moorehead 
Year of Release: 1947

Directed by: Delmer Daves

Plot: An escaped convict is unexpectedly helped by a beautiful stranger. 

This film noir was an adaptation of  David Goodis’ crime novel of the same name and the third pairing of real-life husband and wife actors; Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall- their first being  To Have and Have Not.   
Dark Passage was unique at the time because the beginning scenes were shot in the main character’s point of view; Bogart’s voice is heard but his face is not seen for almost half of the movie.

Bogart’s character- Vincent Perry escapes from San Quentin prison and after a tussle with a nosy stranger, who gave him a ride, encounters another stranger, Irene Jansen (Bacall), a young woman who was painting nearby. Viewers would be baffled by Irene’s unconditional willingness to give shelter to an escaped convict and wonder if it was a case of subtle entrapment, even when she reveals she closely followed Vincent’s trial, because of a personal experience.  Vincent on the other hand almost immediately comes off as a sympathetic character and we find ourselves wanting to believe he was innocent and clear his name. We don’t see his face until the latter half of the film and it was handled realistically enough, a lot more realistic than a young woman helping out a hitchhiking convict!
Despite the 25 year age gap, Bogie- as he was fondly nicknamed- and Lauren were a perfect foil to each other and radiated deep chemistry; very obvious from their banters, line delivery and Bogie’s smothering glances at Lauren.  If it wasn't the 1940s, we would probably have been treated to a hot love scene but the scene where Vincent passionately kisses Irene was more than enough to leave us sighing over them. 

Unlike To Have And Have Not and The Big Sleep, we see Bogie and Bacall’s softer and vulnerable side, no words are needed to see that their characters were falling in love, amidst the danger hovering over them. Bogart was his suave, smooth self while Lauren’s sultry face and tone disguised the fact she was  23 years old at
the time. But her vulnerability is closely seen via her tears when Vincent says goodbye to her and his when he holds her in his arms, obviously not wanting to leave her but must.

Playing a supportive role is Agnes Moorehead (who much later on went on to play the very memorable Endora in the classic sitcom Bewitched and lent her voice as Mother Goose in the 1973 cartoon adaptation of Charlotte’s Web), the woman who testified against Vincent in court, apparently for spiteful reasons and is terrified Vincent will come after her, since his escape was in the papers. There are several nail-biting moments that leave us at the edge of our seats (sorry, again no spoilers for first time viewers), emphasised by the dramatic music scores and the film being shot in black and white, along with the wonder if Vincent will achieve his goal or not and if he and Irene will eventually drive off to the sunset.


Bogie and Lauren’s fourth film was Key Largo, released in 1948. 


Popular Posts