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Sirocco (1951)

From Humphrey Bogart’s Santana Productions by way of Columbia’s distributing we find Bogie once again donning the trench coat in far off Damascus mixed up with gun running, spies and the French military in 1925. Though the film may be somewhat run of the mill it does feature a first rate performance by Lee J. Cobb.

sirocco_ver3

The backdrop of this black and white Curtis Bernhardt film is the French Military run by Everett Sloane ruling Damascus while the Syrian underground want the military out and the governing of their country returned to them. With the constant ambushing of French soldiers, Sloane wants to play rough and orders five executions for every French soldier killed. This doesn’t sit well with his second in command Lee J. Cobb. Cobb would much rather seek peace and have men discussing their differences by means of diplomacy then with arms.

Turning up is Bogie as an “importer/exporter” in most any kind of goods. Notably he’s been running guns and ammunition to the Syrians and is the man that Cobb seeks to stop. According to Bogies file “he’s a man with a colorful past.” Cobb has his suspicions and his personal life is about to be upended when his wife played by Marta Toren takes a liking to the man she meets in a nightclub. You guessed it. Bogie himself.

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You’ll find Zero Mostel in here as another businessman in various goods that Cobb puts pressure on to snoop around his friends and competitors turning Mostel into his very own Judas. Mostel actually appeared opposite Bogie in two consecutive films. This one and another 1951 release, The Enforcer.

While Cobbs life at home off the battle field is coming apart with Toren, Bogie’s has crumbled when his and partner Nick (Va Va Voom) Dennis are unveiled as the gun runners. The French are hunting the catacombs and back alleys for them. To complicate matters for our man in the trench coat, Toren has run away from her slap happy husband and wants to escape with Bogie by dead of night.

Nothing will come easy for any of the characters down the stretch in this film that one could almost look at as a continuation of the Rick Blaine character though it precedes Casablanca in the era of which the story takes place. Though it’s not quite the future life many may have envisioned for the famous Bogie character.

SIROCCO, Humphrey Bogart, Lee J. Cobb, 1951

Cobb’s portrayal is a man of contradictions. On the battle field he seeks peace and abhors violence looking down his nose at Sloane’s brutish tactics. At home with Toren he is incapable of holding back his anger and abuses her when she will not bend to his will. It’s a matter of appearance to the public and her dalliance with Bogart only increases the rages with in. Before the film concludes he’ll have to confront his own demons, Bogie and what to do with Toren.

By no means a bad film, it’s just not memorable in the Bogie catalogue of winners. Having said that it’s still the classic image of Bogie and any one of several scenes casts Bogie in the classic pose we see on countless posters to this day.

Humphrey_Bogart_in_3125558b

There are plenty of well known cast members sprinkled throughout including Jeff Corey under a ton of make up, young Harry Guardino and Gerald Mohr.

Leading lady Marta Toren would sadly pass away at the age of 30 in 1957 due to a brain hemorrhage. Other titles in her brief career include One Way Street and Assignment: Paris.

When it’s all said and done, just remember it’s a Bogie film. In the end that’s good enough for me.

 

11 Comments »

  1. The film appears to work better for you than it did for me, Mike. Personally, I found it all a bit flat and uninvolving. The biggest problems for me came from the characterizations, the lead roles were generally too unappealing.
    I agree with you that Cobb is good, probably the best thing abut the picture. Toren, on the other hand, has a thankless and unattractive part to play and it’s difficult to sympathize with her. And the development of Bogart’s smuggler is unconvincing to my mind. The cynicism is laid on thick, and then suddenly he seems hell bent on being as honorable as possible.

      • Yes, I agree on the look, the classic Bogart image that’s present throughout. In fact, the whole movie has a fine appearance, very noir and stylish.
        It’s a film I want to like better, essentially for the reasons you drew attention to, but it left me feeling dissatisfied the last few times I saw it.
        It’s certainly not a bad movie, there’s polish and professionalism on show at all times, yet I find it flatters to deceive.

  2. One of a handful of Bogart films I’ve never seen, so I would give it a look for that reason alone…but your descriptions of its espionage elements and Colin’s comment on it being ‘very noir and stylish’ have definitely piqued my interest. Hopefully Netflix or Amazon Prime will have it available to stream, depending on which one I sign up for.

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