Here’s Looking At You, Kid: Bogie, Bacall, and Books

Posted: October 23, 2013 by generationgbooks in Books
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I’ve decided to declare a postmortem on my vinyl blogs, at least for the next couple of posts. I don’t feel like I have much to contribute that isn’t tied into relationships of foregone pasts, and there’s no reason for me to revisit those cellar junkies. So I’m going to do my next few posts on different things. Besides, says my inner optimist, maybe changing things up will attract some new readers to the blog. And variety is the spice of life, if not, the undefinable ingredient we need to mix it up, toss it around, and get some things percolating. What am I talking about? Honestly, I have no damn clue.

I am talking about the fact that much of my cinematic appreciation lies at the doorstep of my parents and what they put me through growing up. My mom loved to watch foreign films, horror movies, romantic comedies (the hip set call them “rom coms”, which sounds like robots on porn cam), and anything that Svengoolie enthusiastically recommended. I think my first regular cinema experience was in the living room of the condo that George and I got my parents thrown out of with our abhorrent behavior. Saturday nights she would flip between Svengoolie and Saturday Night Live. My father would find an excuse to go smoke cigars in the kitchen and fix smoke alarms that he seemed to fix every Saturday night when we went through our weekly ritual. My father’s favorite movies are old school and comedies. His favorite movies and actors are Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Charles Bronson, war movies of any type, Mad Max movies, anything Leslie Nielsen was in, and horror of all horrors, his all time favorite, The Christmas Story. I swear, if I have to see that stupid kid and that stupid leg lamp one more time, I may have to take the leg lamp I got my dad two years ago and hit my bitch neighbor with it. (You wouldn’t have to pay me.). My parents, immediately after marrying at the courthouse, went and saw a matinee show of the James Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever. Since my mother was 4 months prego with me at the time, it gives me a perfect excuse to blame both of them for my lifetime love of the Bond movies. My mom and I did not always share the same film tastes; making me watch The Blob at an earlier age not only gave me nightmares, but it made me weary of future coworkers. Making me watch Dirty Dancing 100 times in a year, not to mention Cocktail, her all-time favorite Tom Cruise movie (really), did not endear her movie tastes into my arsenal. In fact, it made me rebel against them. I do enjoy horror flicks, I just don’t meet many people who do, besides my other best friend Jennie. My father’s taste in movies, as stated, was old school classic cinema or modern day comedies, or vigilante justice. Quite a mixed bag between the two. The one thing I got from both of them that I am eternally grateful for? A love of Mr. Humphrey Bogart.

I own every single Bogart movie on DVD. I still have some, on VHS, in my closet. Bogart’s classy, cool, nonstop cigarette smoking joie de vivre, instantly captivated me. Some dude came in a couple of weeks back and bought a salebook copy of The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. The customer went on to talk about how most “young kids these days would have no idea that the movie was a book first.” I should have spoken up at that point in agreement, but we were close to closing time, and neither myself nor my coworker felt like being there later than necessary. That’s likely what planted the seeds for this blog. I saw all of the Bogart movies on his own first, then started into the Bogie/Bacall movies. Since I’m a sucker for old school romance (laugh. snicker. suck it.), I really do love those movies the best. You can’t fake real chemistry, kids, it just oozes from both of them through the movies they made together. We all know how that fairytale ended. It wasn’t the end of my fascination, though. I did end up reading all of the Dashiell Hammett books, and the movies were almost perfect in every way. I also decided to read the best Bogart and Bacall biographies I could find.

The above image for the book Bogart by A.M. Sperber, is my all time favorite biography of Humphrey Bogart. I have read quite a few. This one is not only the most comprehensive in terms of detail, but also in terms of critical analysis of his movies, his marriages, his rough childhood, and ultimately, his end. I hunted high and low for it, and finally obtained a first edition hardcover through Edward R. Hamilton, Bookseller. He does out-of-print titles through mail order. And yes, this one was a bitch to find in the normal channels, so i went through a mail order catalog and got it for $7.98. It was in perfect condition. It is still, miraculously, in perfect condition. And if you want a thorough biography of Bogart, this is the one. mfyO8MJFe0EO4yg2ZgI7Zdw

I went through a Lauren Bacall phase, as well, and I got lucky one night while staying by my friend Misti’s apartment overnight. She shared a room with her mom, while Angie and Tami, her sisters, shared another room. Linda, Misti’s mom, had books all over the room. I asked Misti if she would mind if I found a book to read while she was waxing philosophical over a guy she liked (who later tied her to a tree near the Fuzzy Pelican.). Misti was used to this; she would be chain smoking and applying eyeliner at 2am while I was captivated by a book. That’s how I first came to read Lauren Bacall’s biography, By Myself.  I also enjoyed this title, although I haven’t seen nearly as many Lauren Bacall movies as Bogie films, I’m not as big of a fan, although I have seen almost everything she’s been in this lifetime.  I felt like since that was the love of Bogart’s life, I should get her side of the story. I didn’t have to hunt this book down, as I read it in two days by Misti’s house. Her mom and I had quite the discussion about it also.

I guess what this post is about is how those things that we grew up with shape us in some undefinable way and stays with us through our lifetimes. I’m pretty sure that if my mom didn’t put us through Svengoolie every Saturday night or Cocktail multiple times a week, I would not love horror or slasher flicks, nor would I think Tom Cruise is a cocktail weenie. I thank her for both. I am also pretty certain that I would not have grown to love Humphrey Bogart as much as I did and still do, if my father had not made me watch Treasure of the Sierra Madre with him one late night on WGN Movie After Dark (that was the movie they would play after Cannon every Thur night during the 80’s). I was hooked. It continues to this day. If I have the shittiest fucking day on the planet (more of them lately than I care to admit), I put in a Bogart movie, and not only do I flash back to a simpler time in movies, but a simpler, happier time in life.


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