It’s not exactly a bold claim to say that Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were two of the most iconic figures from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Bogart starred in numerous feature films throughout the 1930s before becoming a bigger star by that decade’s end, having numerous starring roles throughout the 1940s and ’50s until his passing in 1957. For her part, Bacall became a breakout star instantly upon entering the film industry in 1944 and married Bogart in 1945. The two stayed married until his passing, with Bacall continuing to act in the following decades before her passing in 2014.
The couple’s talents are worth celebrating, with Bogart being named the greatest male screen legend of all time by the AFI and Bacall ranked as the 20th greatest American female screen legend in the same poll. They might well be one of cinema’s most iconic power couples of all time, with the films they collaborated on becoming certified triumphs. Bacall and Bogart were in a total of five movies together, with four widely considered classics of the 1940s and the fifth being a film where the two simply appeared as themselves briefly. And while each of their collaborations is stellar, some are certainly more widely regarded.
5 ‘Two Guys from Milwaukee’ (1946)
Director: David Butler
Two Guys from Milwaukee could be an alternative name for Red Letter Media (admittedly, they’re sometimes more than two guys), but it’s also the title of a 1946 movie that features a Bogart + Bacall cameo appearance. The two briefly show up in the movie’s ending, playing themselves and ending the film on a comedic high. The protagonist has a crush on Lauren Bacall and thinks he can sit next to her on a plane, only for Humphrey Bogart to show up, telling him to beat it.
But that’s honestly just the ending, with the bulk of the movie being a fish-out-of-water-type story about a Balkan prince who wants to explore America for himself and potentially meet Lauren Bacall while there. It’s all very standard for comedy movies made during the 1940s; thus, it’s probably only worth seeking out for those who love old-fashioned Hollywood farcical films or anyone who wants to be a true Bogart + Bacall completionist.
4 ‘Dark Passage’ (1947)
Director: Delmer Daves
Dark Passage is among Bacall and Bogart’s most underrated movies. It might be the most non-traditional of their projects together and often gets comparatively overlooked, but it’s still more than worthy of attention. Part of what makes it unusual is that much of its first act plays out from a first-person perspective—that of Bogart’s character, who’s on the run from the law after being accused of murder. He eventually gets the help of Bacall’s character and gets plastic surgery to try and fit into a new identity that won’t get him recognized.
Essentially, from that point onwards, he looks like Bogart, and the film largely does away with the unique presentation of its opening scenes. Perhaps it feels a little less daring and exciting after this riveting and truly refreshing gimmick, but Dark Passage still works as a well above-average thriller. This is largely thanks to, of course, Bogart and Bacall’s on-screen chemistry, even though the traditional romance pretty much takes a backseat to the film’s crime themes.
3 ‘To Have and Have Not’ (1944)
Director: Howard Hawks
“You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve?” To Have and Have Not was the first movie that Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall starred in together, the only one released before their marriage and Bacall’s screen debut. Beyond these things, it’s also notable for how many genres it confidently tackles within a single 100-minute runtime, given it works as a World War II movie, a romance story, and an adventure film all at once.
The premise sees Bogart as a charismatic loner who gets involved in a series of events that lead to him assisting members of the French Resistance, not dissimilar to his character of Rick Blaine in the iconic Casablanca. During this, he also meets a young American drifter, played by Bacall, with the two characters instantly falling for each other much the same way the actors did in real life. Bogart and Bacall are electrifying together, with the kind of natural yet fiery chemistry most actors can only dream of having. Beyond that, To Have and Have Not holds up as a genuinely good and largely entertaining movie in its own right, too.
2 ‘Key Largo’ (1948)
Director: John Huston
Few actors played charismatic anti-heroes quite as well as Humphrey Bogart did back in the day, which made him perfectly suited to star in crime and film noir movies. Key Largo is one such Bogart-led noir film and one of his best, notably featuring not only Lauren Bacall but also Edward G. Robinson, another of his frequent co-stars. Robinson’s the villain here, taking a series of people hostage inside the titular hotel while a hurricane outside prevents help from coming.
A confined setting is always a good way to keep suspense high and characters on edge, which is something that Key Largo understands well. Despite being locked down, it feels like it’s always moving forward at a good pace, and the actors here all get to let loose and really shine. Bacall and Bogart have sparks flying around the confined space, preventing Robinson from utterly devouring the plot. The duo is in fine form here, crafting a compelling romance that never overwhelms the action but is engaging enough to enhance it. Key Largo has aged a good deal better than many comparable movies for its time and is worth a watch, thanks to its accessibility.
1 ‘The Big Sleep’ (1946)
Director: Howard Hawks
Classic and romantic crime movies don’t get much better than The Big Sleep, making it an easy choice for the top spot when it comes to ranking the films starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. It’s one of many movies to feature the iconic private investigator Philip Marlowe as the protagonist, with the narrative involving a very complicated and deadly case with the mysterious daughter (Bacall) of a General seemingly at its center.
The Big Sleep is one of those particularly dense film noir movies that has so much going on it can prove difficult to follow at times. Still, the confusion, intrigue, and overwhelming nature of it all is arguably the point. And if all else fails, The Big Sleep has remarkable style and perfect chemistry between Bogart and Bacall; the back and forth between their characters is dynamic and exciting, while the plot’s flow of events is very difficult to try and predict. The Big Sleep is easily the best of Bogart and Bacall’s collaborations, a timeless and enthralling noir that represents a peak in both their careers.
The Big Sleep
- Release Date
- August 31, 1946
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