WEIRDLAND: Bogart & Cagney, Gene Kelly & Fred Astaire

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Bogart & Cagney, Gene Kelly & Fred Astaire

"Bogart had the crucial friendship of John Huston, who wrote and/or directed most of his best movies. And it was Huston’s script for the first great one, “High Sierra”, that established the persona the actor would embody for the rest of his career — the wounded idealist who pretends to be a cynic, the fighter who loves best the battles he can’t win.

“Casablanca” wrote that character large and made Bogart an icon, but it was Huston who first made Bogart “Bogie”. And that is why, whatever their merits as actors, Bogart remains the more mythical figure. Scrappy, up-from-the-slums Cagney was the emblem of the first half of the American century; weary, wounded, cynical Bogart became the symbol of a post-war nation that had seen its own blind confidence shaken. And so, when the nostalgia craze first hit college campuses in the late ’50s and early ’60s, the recently deceased actor seemed more current than ever.

By then, it was increasingly hard to truly identify with Cagney’s cocky, whaddaya-hear-whaddaya-say optimist; Bogie’s existentialist loner seemed absolutely made to order. And he remains so. Combine them, though, and you have a picture of the country’s 20th-century entire — as well as deft, different performers and perhaps two dozen classic films.

Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney in "Angels With Dirty Faces" (1938) directed by Michael Curtiz

James Cagney & Humphrey Bogart in "The Roaring Twenties" (1939) directed by Raoul Walsh

Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, rivals and co-stars in "What happened to Baby Jane" (1962) directed by Robert Aldrich

Bogart vs. Cagney? It’s as endless — and unnecessary — a quarrel as Davis vs. Crawford, or Astaire vs. Kelly.

Who’s best? Luckily for real film lovers, we don’t have to choose. We can have both, forever — striding down those mean, rain-washed streets, their eyes squinting against the wind, a thin, tight smile on their lips". Source:

Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse in "The Band Wagon" (1953) directed by Vincente Minnelli

Cyd Charisse and Gene Kelly in "It's Always Fair Weather" (1955) directed by Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly

"At 14, I discovered girls. At that time, dancing was the only way you could put your arm around the girl. Dancing was courtship. Only later did I discover that you dance joy. You dance love. You dance dreams." -Gene Kelly

Marilyn Monroe dancing with Gene Kelly on the set of "Let's Make Love" (1960) directed by George Cukor

“Kelly’s appearance in the film was due entirely to producer-director Stanley Kramer, who cast the picture with precisely the actors he wanted: “I’ve always thought Gene Kelly was a wonderfully sensitive actor. He had a sharply satirical quality in ‘Pal Joey’ on the stage and he seemed a natural choice for a character based on H.L. Mencken in ‘Inherit the Wind’.” -Director Stanley Kramer about Gene Kelly in "The Films of Gene Kelly" by T. Thomas (1976)

Gene Kelly in "An American in Paris" (1951) directed by Vincente Minnelli (ballet sequence). Minnelli decreed: "It has to be something to do with emotions, the time in his mind, the way he feels just having lost his girl, and a whole thing about Paris".

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