John Huston and Humphrey Bogart: The Mise-en-Scène Magazine’s Exploration of the Legendary Director-Actor Partnership

John Huston with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall on the set of Key Largo (1945). Production still photographer: Mac Julian © Warner Bros.

When someone mentions the most famous director-actor collaborations, there are usually several monumental pairs that come to an average film lover’s mind before this great partnership that marked the middle of the 20th century. John Huston and Humphrey Bogart made six films together, or seven, if you count the Raoul Walsh-directed High Sierra, for which Huston worked on the screenplay. It all started with The Maltese Falcon in 1941, followed by Across the Pacific a year later. The Second World War led to a hiatus in their work together, but the collaboration intensified afterwards with a series of successful films such as The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), Key Largo (1948), The African Queen (1951) and Beat the Devil (1953), a movie first labeled as a failure due to its box office underperformance, but a title that gradually found its audience and that Roger Ebert included in his Great Films list. Huston, one of the best and most acclaimed filmmakers of American cinema, and Bogart, the charismatic quintessential Hollywood lead man, worked great together, clicking perfectly on set just as they had in their private lives. On the professional plane, they helped each other quite a lot, as Huston practically made a star out of Bogart, who had labored on B movies or had to be satisfied with tiny roles in more serious Hollywood projects until his definitive breakthrough in The Maltese Falcon. Bogart, on the other hand, used his stardom and general appeal to bring light to Huston’s projects, and at least three of the movies they shot together (The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The African Queen) now stand out as some of the best works American cinema had ever produced. Both passionate drinkers and people who ignored stardom, remaining dedicated strictly to their work, Huston and Bogart also found a connection with regard to the rabid anti-communist movement that raged across the film community, forming a lasting friendship that ended only when Bogart lost his battle with cancer in 1957, after which the filmmaker gave a touching eulogy.

The reason we’re bringing this fruitful friendship to your radars is, once again, the beloved Mise-en-Scène magazine, the Case Western Reserve University Film Society’s short-lived publication that continues to educate us even four decades upon its untimely termination. After presenting you with the first issue’s fantastic articles on Fritz Lang and, later, John Ford, his westerns and The Grapes of Wrath, we wipe the dust off this invaluable magazine once again, and for a really good reason: Joseph F. Bressi’s essay entitled ‘Huston and Bogart.’ What the author does is illuminate the details and the background of the two icons’ friendship and professional association in a far better and more detailed way than we could in this short introduction. Dig in and enjoy: one of the most significant director-actor partnerships in history is enough of a reason to take a little break from life. You can download the PDF here. All material for educational and noncommercial purposes only.

John Huston with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall on the set of Key Largo (1945). Production still photographer: Mac Julian © Warner Bros. All material for educational and noncommercial purposes only.

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