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Genres and Production Trends - CASE STUDY : THE WARNERS CRIME FILM

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As we have seen, star-genre formulation was still very much the rule in prewar film-making, with the genres of Hollywood’s classical era maintaining their currency. Those genres were scarcely static or monolithic forms, of course, and in fact the changing social and industrial conditions in 1940-1941 clearly influenced the development of various genres. This influence was most evident perhaps in the realm of prestige production—those pictures featuring lavish production values, multiple stars, pre-sold stories, and a road-show release strategy. Tino Balio has pointed out that by the late 1930s virtually any genre was amenable to prestige-level treatment, but the majority of prestige pictures fell into three categories: biopics, epics, and adaptations. 66 These productions invariably employed top stars, of course, with their market appeal further enhanced by the pre-sold value of an established best-seller or stage hit or by the presumed interest in the historical figure or event.

As mentioned earlier regarding GONE WITH THE WIND , many of the period’s prestige pictures were distinctly “bigger” in terms of narrative scope and spectacle, were more likely to be shot in Technicolor and to incorporate location shooting, and were focused on distinctly American subjects. Hollywood still adapted European classics and popular fiction, of course, like PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and R EBECCA in 1940. And there were historical dramas about European events and figures—for example, Warners’ two 1940 biopics, A DISPATCH FROM REUTERS (about the development of the first European news service) and DR .EHRLICH’S MAGIC BULLET (about the discovery of a cure for venereal disease). But the far greater tendency in 1940 was to adapt American literature (OF MICE AND MEN , THE GRAPES OF WRATH ) and stage plays (OUR TOWN , THE LONG VOYAGE HOME , THE PHILADELPHIA STORY ), and to dramatize events and lives from American history (NORTHWEST PASSAGE , A BE LINCOLN IN ILLINOIS , NORTHWEST MOUNTED POLICE .

The animated feature also emerged as a new type of prestige picture in 1940-1941. Disney began systematically producing feature-length cartoons in the wake of SNOW WHITE’S success in 1937-1938, releasing PINOCCHIO and FANTASIA in 1940, and DUMBO and THE RELUCTANT DRAGON in 1941. While none was as successful as SNOW WHITE , these pictures did solidify the animated feature as an industry staple and the musical fantasy as its basic narrative form. They also established Disney as virtually the sole purveyor of the genre. Besides MGM’s THE WIZARD OF OZ , a live-action variation of the animated musical fantasy inspired by SNOW WHITE’S success, Disney’s only real challenge came from Paramount via Max Fleischer’s animation unit (the producer of the Popeye cartoon shorts), which produced two animated features: GULLIVER’S TRAVELS in 1939 and MR .BUG GOES TO TOWN in 1941. Both failed commercially, putting Fleischer out of commission and leaving Disney virtually alone in the animated feature market.

The animated features also indicated that the musical itself was undergoing a transition, and in fact many industry observers considered the genre to be in a period of serious decline in the late 1930s. Several important studio-based musical cycles either were fading badly or were phased out altogether at the time, notably RKO’s Astaire-Rogers dance musicals, MGM’s Jeanette MacDonald-Nelson Eddy operettas, Fox’s Shirley Temple vehicles, and Warners’ Busby Berkeley musicals. Astaire was scarcely going into retirement, however, and Berkeley was en route to MGM to rejuvenate the backstage formula with Rooney and Garland. And while the genre did undergo a crisis of sorts in 1939, sending musical talent back to Broadway or into other genres, by 1940 the trades were touting another musical cycle—the fourth since talkies, according to Variety . 67 By 1941, the genre was back in fashion, thanks primarily to the Disney features, the Rooney-Garland cycle at MGM, the Fred Astaire-Rita Hayworth musicals from Columbia, and Fox’s Betty Grable vehicles.

The A-class Western also enjoyed a regeneration during the prewar era. In March 1939, just after the release of STAGECOACH , Variety noted that more “major budget westerns” were in release than at any time in the past decade and pointed to DeMille’s UNION PACIFIC and Fox’s JESSE JAMES (both 1939) as the films which “revived the cycle.” 68 A few weeks later, Frank Nugent of the New York Times (who a decade later would be scripting Westerns for John Ford) noted that audiences had “formed the habit of taking our horse operas in a Class B stride…. But all that is changed now.” 69 Like most critics, Nugent singled out STAGECOACH as key to this change. It is worth noting, however, that STAGECOACH , set in the mythic expanse of Monument Valley and starring the B-Western hero John Wayne as the Ringo Kid, and with its cavalry-to-the-rescue and shootout-on-Main-Street climaxes, was an unabashed genre film and thus was distinctly out of step with the other A-class Westerns of the time.

Indeed, most of the other A-class Westerns of the prewar era staked claims to respectability on the grounds of being more historically “authentic.” Many of these were biopics, usually portraying outlaws—as in JESSE JAMES (1939), THE RETURN OF FRANK JAMES and WHEN THE DALTONS RODE (both 1940), BAD MEN OF MISSOURI (1941—about the Younger gang), and BELLE STARR and BILLY THE KID (both 1941). A number of historical epics also were set in the Old West, such as UNION PACIFIC (1939), NORTHWEST MOUNTED POLICE (1940), and VIRGINIA CITY (1940). Thus, the return of the A-class Western was, in one sense, another facet of the recent turn toward subjects taken from American history.

While the A-class Westerns resurgence was an important industry development, it actually involved a rather limited number of films. According to Ed Buscombe, the Big Eight released only nine A-class Westerns in 1939, thirteen in 1940, and nine in 1941. Meanwhile, Hollywood’s output of B-grade Westerns, an industry staple throughout the 1930s, was simply astonishing. In fact, B-class Western output accounted for roughly 15 percent of all releases in the prewar era. 71 These films, shot in five to ten days and bud geted under $100,000, did steady if unspectacular business, reliably taking in $150,000 to $ 175,000. 72 The most successful B-class Westerns were the “singing cowboy” series featuring stars like Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and Tex Ritter, whose popularity resulted from three factors: the commercial tie-ins with both radio and the record industry; their appeal to women as well as to men and boys, the predominant Western clientele; and the upgraded production values of their films, particularly Republic’s Autry vehicles.

Screen comedy also underwent significant changes in 1940-1941, owing largely to prevailing industrial and social conditions. In 1941, with enlistment on the rise and the draft reinstated, service comedies reached a peak with CAUGHT IN THE DRAFT , a huge Bob Hope hit, as well as Abbott and Costello’s BUCK PRIVATES , IN THE NAVY , and KEEP’EM FLYING . The Hope-Crosby Road pictures took them overseas—to Singapore in 1940, Zanzibar in 1941, and Morocco in 1942—and a similar brand of bizarre burlesque was equally evident in the prewar comedies of Jack Benny and W. C. Fields. Many critics saw the accelerated turn toward comedy as a form of escapism in the face of world war, and indeed much of the male-dominant comedy was not only lightweight but utterly incongruous. 73 Each of the Hope-Crosby Road comedies, for instance, was increasingly zany and self-reflexive, with the artificial locations and throwaway plots serving simply as a pretext for stringing together topical gags and vaudeville routines.

Another significant prewar development was the evolution of the screwball comedy, which had so utterly dominated the 1930s. Crucial to that Depression-era comedy trend was the “unruly” woman, best characterized by Katharine Hepburn, Carole Lombard, Jean Arthur, and Barbara Stanwyck. But disappointing revenues on several 1938 comedies, especially HOLIDAY and BRINGING UP BABY , signaled a decline in the genre’s popularity—leading Variety in 1939 to note the trend toward more staid romantic comedy, “with the screwball concoctions going out after a long cycle.” 74 Subsequent hits like HIS GIRL FRIDAY and THE PHILADELPHIA STORY in 1940 and THE BRIDE CAME COD and THE LADY EVE in 1941, however, indicated that there was still life in that comic variation, although the couples involved—especially the woman—were indeed on noticeably better behavior than their screwball predecessors. Many prewar romantic comedies, in fact, have been aptly termed “comedies of remarriage,” and their comic endorsement of the sanctity of matrimony was certainly more conservative than the Depression-era comedies, which tended to situate the marital embrace as an implicit outcome somewhere beyond the final fadeout.

Distinctly at odds with the general prewar taming of the screwball comedy was the offbeat comic vision of Preston Sturges, the longtime Paramount writer who graduated to writer-director in 1940 and quickly turned out four remarkable screen farces: THE GREAT MC GINTY , CHRISTMAS IN JULY (both 1940), THE LADY EVE , and SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS (1941). Deftly blending slapstick lunacy, social satire, sexual innuendo, and offbeat romance, Sturges established himself as a leading comic talent. Interestingly enough, Charlie Chaplin and Frank Capra also turned out prewar comedies that were darker and more politically astute than their previous work. Chaplin’s THE GREAT DICTATOR and Capra’s MEET JOHN DOE both begin as offbeat comedies but grow increasingly bleak, poised finally between social commentary and black comedy. Like Sturges’s comedies, these addressed vital social and political issues—the rise of fascism, the confusion of hero-worship and celebrity status, the manipulative power of the media, the nature of political propaganda. And like Sturges’s SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS , both THE GREAT DICTATOR and MEET JOHN DOE end not with a comic outburst but with a deadly earnest sermon delivered directly to the audience, underscoring the desperate social and political climate of a world on the brink of global war.

Despite the dominant male ethos in prewar Hollywood, the “woman’s picture” maintained its currency. Focused on female protagonists and targeted primarily at female audiences, these films traced the seemingly inevitable loss or self-sacrifice that was woman’s fate in a man’s world—thus the term “weepies” to describe not only the films but the viewer’s presumed emotional response to the heroine’s plight. Women’s pictures in 1940-1941 generally fell into one of three categories: ill-fated love stories (ALL THIS AND HEAVEN TOO , 1940; WATERLOO BRIDGE , 1940; HOLD BACK THE DAWN , 1941; BACK STREET , 1941), sagas of marital or maternal sacrifice (PENNY SERENADE , 1941; THE GREAT LIE , 1941; BLOSSOMS IN THE DUST , 1941), or lighter working-girl romantic dramas (KITTY FOYLE , 1940; THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER , TOM , DICK AND HARRY , 1941). Remarkably well tuned to the moral calculus of the Production Code as well as the popular tastes and sentiments of the era, these films were aggressively melodramatic, emotionally engaging, and often socially astute. They were not only commercially successful but critically acclaimed as well; in fact, four of the ten Oscar nominees for best picture in both 1940 and 1941 were woman’s pictures.

As mentioned earlier, the genre’s dominant figure at the time, Bette Davis, represented a fundamental ambivalence in the woman’s film in her capacity to personify victimization and to willfully destroy those who might victimize her. And in films like THE LETTER and THE LITTLE FOXES , Davis also anticipated the femme noire of war and postwar thrillers. Equally important was the distinctive dimension that Joan Fontaine brought to the woman’s picture with REBECCA (1940) and SUSPICION (1941), initiating the female Gothic cycle which would become increasingly prevalent during the war and postwar years, with its obvious ties to both the horror genre and the burgeoning film noir .

The horror genre itself had fallen into serious decline by the late 1930s but was resuscitated by Universal’s successful reissue of DRACULA (1931) and FRANKENSTEIN (1931) as a double bill in 1938. That revived the studio’s interests, and after some success with SON OF FRANKENSTEIN in 1939, the studio fully reactivated its horror cycle by teaming Lon Chaney Jr. (whose father had played the Hunchback of Notre Dame and the Phantom of the Opera for Universal in the 1920s) with the director George Waggner for two low-budget hits: MAN MADE MONSTER (1941) and THE WOLF MAN (1941). MGM made an unexpected venture into the horrific with its remake of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1941), costarring Spencer Tracy and Ingrid Bergman, which did reasonably well at the box office but did little to return the horror genre to respectability or A-class status.


Among the more significant prewar genre developments was the reformulation of Warners’ signature Depression-era genre, the gangster film. Key factors here were the unexpected rise to top stardom of the longtime contract player Humphrey Bogart and the concurrent emergence of a new crop of top filmmaking talent at Warners—notably Raoul Walsh, John Huston, Mark Hellinger, and Jerry Wald. And as with the regeneration of the MGM musical, the reformulation of the Warners crime film underscored both the viability of the studio’s established house style and genre traditions and also the flexibility of that style when it came into contact with new elements.

Oddly enough, Warners in the late 1930s was trying not to redirect but to reassert its gangster formula, the cornerstone in its house style. Dating back to LITTLE CAESAR (1930) and THE PUBLIC ENEMY (1931), two films which established the genre in Warners’ repertoire and made stars of Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney, respectively, the gangster film enjoyed tremendous popularity in the early Depression era. Despite efforts by the Legion of Decency, the PCA, and their ilk to subdue it, the gangster formula not only survived but flourished as the decade wore on in various subgenres—prison films, policiers (police dramas), juvenile delinquency films, and so on. Warners dominated the genre throughout the 1930s and closed out the decade with two successful Cagney vehicles, ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES (1938) and THE ROARING TWENTIES (1939), both obvious throwbacks to the gangster sagas of the early 1930s. And among Warners 1940 hits was BROTHER ORCHID , with Robinson as a mob boss “on the lam” who finds religion in a monastery. The undercurrent of nostalgia and self-parody in these later gangster films indicated that perhaps the genre’s classical period was on the wane. Moreover, both Cagney and Robinson wanted Warners to off-cast them in other types of roles, and both signed lucrative new contracts which guaranteed them that opportunity through story and role approval. 75 The stars’ increased authority studio clout was immediately evident, with Robinson portraying Dr. Paul Ehrlich and Paul Reuter in two 1940 prestige biopics, and Cagney playing light comedy in THE BRIDE CAME COD and THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE in 1941.

With Cagney and Robinson recasting their screen personas, Warners cultivated other actors as other gangster types, notably John Garfield and George Raft. Garfield signed a long-term deal in early 1939 (starting at $1,500 a week) and displayed the manic intensity and amoral charm of Cagney’s early films in T HEY MADE ME A CRIMINAL (1939), CASTLE ON THE HUDSON (1940), and OUT OF THE FOG (1941). 76 George Raft, who had established his gangster credentials as Paul Muni’s sidekick in the 1932 gangster classic SCARFACE , signed a one-year, three-picture deal for $55,000 per picture in June 1939; that year Raft costarred with Cagney in EACH DAWN IDIE and then was top-billed in INVISIBLE STRIPES . 77 Second-billed in the latter was Humphrey Bogart, who also played key supporting roles in ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES , THE ROARING TWENTIES , BROTHER ORCHID , and numerous other gangster pictures. Remarkably enough, Warners apparently did not deem Bogart a likely successor to Cagney and Robinson—at least in A-class crime films. Bogart, who appeared in twenty pictures from 1937 to 1939 and was making $1,250 per week at Warners, alternated between supporting roles in A-class crime films and lead roles in B-grade gangster sagas like You CAN’T GET AWAY WITH MURDER and KING OF THE UNDERWORLD (both 1939).

Besides signing Garfield and Raft, Warners made a number of other moves in 1939 to sustain its gangster formula. The most significant of these were related to THE ROARING TWENTIES , which despite being cast in the gangster mold was also a catalyst the reformulation of the Warners crime film. Mark Hellinger, a well-known New York journalist who had signed on as a writer at Warners in 1938, wrote the original story for the film, which was scripted by the team of Jerry Wald and Richard Macauley, then just making their way out of Bryan Foy’s B-picture unit. Most significantly, Warners signed Raoul Walsh in May 1939 (at $2,000 per week) in a one-picture deal to direct THE ROARING TWENTIES . 79 Then in his early fifties and with a quarter-century of directing experience, Walsh proved to be ideally suited to the project and to the Warners style—and in fact would make a long-term commitment to the studio, sharing with Michael Curtiz the status of ranking house director during the 1940s.

The opening reel of THE ROARING TWENTIES is pure Warners, a montage elliptical back story and intense action à la gangster classics like Public Enemy and I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG (1932). But once Cagney’s ill-fated gangster-hero is set in motion, especially in terms of his hopeless love for the virtuous Priscilla Lane, THE ROARING TWENTIES changes gears, taking on an oddly self-conscious, near-tragic dimension. Realizing both the error of his ways and his own inevitable doom, Cagney undergoes a redemption of sorts. In the film’s climax, he executes a cowering Bogart (who has taken over Cagney’s mob and threatened Lane and her family) before being gunned down by rival gangsters—thus fulfilling the genre’s requisite death-in-the-gutter finale.

The success of THE ROARING TWENTIES won Hellinger hyphenate status as a writerproducer and Walsh a five-year contract, and the two collaborated on three successive crime pictures—THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT (1940), HIGH SIERRA (1941), and MANPOWER (1941)—which further redirected the Warners crime film. 80 THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT was scripted by Wald and Macauley and centered on two truck-driving brothers (Raft and Bogart, with Ida Lupino costarring as Raft’s wife) who become caught up in hijacking and murder. THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT took the gangster from the confining urban milieu to the open highway, effectively opening up the formula to new narrative and visual possibilities. The picture was a moderate hit, enhancing the Walsh-Hellinger unit’s stature and moving Bogart one step closer to a starring role.

Bogart soon secured that role when Raft turned down the part of the star-crossed gangster-hero, Roy “Mad Dog” Earl, in HIGH SIERRA . Although he was second-billed to Ida Lupino, HIGH SIERRA was Bogart’s first opportunity to play the male lead in an A-class picture—or a near-A anyway. That opportunity was bolstered considerably when the script assignment went to John Huston, then a top Warners screenwriter who specialized in prestige-level biopics. Based on W. R. Burnett’s novel of the same title, which Warners purchased immediately after its March 1940 publication, HIGH SIERRA had the earmarks of the classic gangster saga, but it pushed even more aggressively beyond the confines of the genre’s conventional settings and characters. 81 The story centers on the career criminal   and “two-time loser” Roy Earl, who in the opening of the film leaves prison on a parole arranged by mobsters who want Earl to orchestrate a major heist.

Huston, who collaborated with Burnett on the adaptation, told the studio executive Hal Wallis that he wanted to retain the spirit of Burnett’s story, which he considered “the strange sense of inevitability that comes with our deepening understanding of the characters and the forces that motivate them.” 82 Huston and Burnett depicted “Mad Dog” Earl from the outset as an oddly sympathetic figure—a middle-aged, world-weary, and vaguely idealistic man whose only interest in the crime at hand is a function of his professionalism and his relief at being out of prison. Sympathy grows as Earl finds love and redemption en route to self-awareness and his inevitable demise, pushing the tragic qualities of the gangster-hero from latent subtext directly into the story itself. Huston stayed on the picture after shooting commenced in August 1940, and he soon realized that Bogart was ideal for the role. “Something happened when [Bogart] was playing the right part,” Huston later recalled. “Those lights and shadows composed themselves into another, nobler personality: heroic, as in HIGH SIERRA .”

Bogart’s low-key approach to the role jibed well with Walsh’s direction, which was noticeably more subdued and deliberate than in THE ROARING TWENTIES . Crucial to the film was not only Bogart’s masterminding of the crime but his inadvertent assembling of a “family” of losers and renegades—including Lupino and a mongrel dog, with whom Bogart flees into the mountains when the heist goes awry. Once in the Sierra Nevadas, both the love story and the flight take the gangster film into another realm altogether. David Thomson has noted that “visually, Walsh loves the long shot,” and he also observes that “many of [Walsh’s] films move inexorably towards remote, barren locales.” This assessment includes HIGH SIERRA , which Thomson considers Walsh’s “first clear statement of the inevitable destruction of the self-sufficient outsider.” 84 This fate is most evident, of course, in the film’s finale as Bogart’s doomed hero, realizing his pursuers are about to close in, leaves his “family” and flees alone into the mountains, where he is gunned down by state troopers with high-powered rifles.

HIGH SIERRA marked a major breakthrough for Bogart and a major advance in Warner’s’ treatment of the genre. Bosley Crowther in the New York Times termed Bogart’s performance “a perfection of hard-boiled vitality,” and the film itself “a perfect epilogue to the gangster film”—which Crowther clearly considered the studios sole domain. “We wouldn’t know for certain whether the twilight of the American gangster is here,” wrote Crowther in his January 1941 review of the film. “But the Warner Brothers, who should know if anybody does, have apparently taken it for granted and, in a solemn Wagnerian mood, are giving that figure a titanic send-off befitting a first-string god.”

Walsh displayed his versatility on his next assignment, THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE , then reteamed with Hellinger, Wald, and Macauley on another male action picture, MANPOWER , starring Robinson, Raft, and Marlene Dietrich. While the picture itself did little to advance the Warners crime film—it was, in fact, a thinly veiled remake of a 1932 Hawks-directed Robinson vehicle, TIGER SHARK —the production of MANPOWER had considerable indirect impact on the form. Hellinger and Hal Wallis feuded throughout the shoot, and the conflict became so intense that Hellinger resigned during production. 86 Wald was then elevated to writer-producer status to complete the picture—the first of many he would produce for Warners during the 1940s. 87 There were conflicts on the set as well between Robinson and Raft, which Walsh handled well enough—and which did little to improve Raft’s status at the studio. Because of his successful handling of that dispute, Walsh was asked to step in when Errol Flynn and his longtime director,  Michael Curtiz, had a severe falling-out during the shooting of THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON (1941). Walsh got on well with Flynn, and the picture was a solid hit. As a result, Walsh’s responsibilities at Warners changed radically. His next seven assignments, spanning the entire war era, were Flynn pictures, and thus Walsh necessarily shifted his focus to more upbeat and overtly heroic Westerns and war pictures.

With Walsh and Hellinger suddenly out of the picture, the revitalization of the Warners crime film—and the development of Bogart’s screen persona—fell to John Huston. In May 1941, Huston signed a new pact with the studio, boosting his weekly salary to $1,500 and giving him the option of directing at least one picture during the sixty-eight-week term of the contract. 88 Huston already had a project in mind: THE MALTESE FALCON , based on Dashiell Hammett’s pulp novel featuring the hard-boiled detective Sam Spade. Warners had adapted the novel twice before, in 1931 and 1936, but neither effort had been successful. The studio was willing to try the property again as a low-risk near-A, budgeted at a modest $380,000. 89 Raft was offered the role of Spade, which he turned down because, as Raft explained to Jack Warner in a 6 June 1941 letter, this was “not an important picture.” 90 Warner was amenable, knowing that Huston preferred Bogart for the role and that Bogart was very interested in the part.

Despite the relatively meager budget for THE MALTESE FALCON (1941), Huston and the associate producer, Henry Blanke, mounted a first-rate production. Bogart was teamed with Mary Astor (as the femme noire Brigid O’Shaughnessy), and Blanke also signed freelancers Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet (in his first screen role) for supporting roles. Huston brought the picture in some $50,000 under budget, and preview screenings indicated that Warners had an unexpected hit on its hands—and a new star in Bogart. Just before its October 1941 release, Warners revised the billing for THE MALTESE FALCON , moving Bogart from second-billed (after Astor) below the title to top billing above the title, with his name to appear in the same size type. 91 The picture was a modest commercial success but a tremendous critical hit, drawing rave reviews and Oscar nominations for best picture, best director, and best supporting actor (for Greenstreet). Typical of the critical response was Bosley Crowther’s review in the Times , which termed THE MALTESE FALCON “the best mystery thriller of the year” and praised first-time director Huston’s “brisk and supremely hardboiled” style.

Thus, THE MALTESE FALCON marked an important development in the Warners crime film and an obvious departure from the gangster sagas of the previous decade, including HIGH SIERRA . The criminal element was well represented in THE MALTESE FALCON , of course, primarily by Greenstreet’s well-bred, articulate, and utterly amoral heavy, Kasper Gutman, and by Astor’s lethal seductress, whom Spade falls for but then turns over to the police at film’s end for the murder of his partner. The story was only one episode in the ongoing pursuit of the “black bird” of the title, a jewel-encrusted statuette that actually is never found in the course of the film. Solving the crime, however, is scarcely the point of this particular strain of detective story, which is thoroughly focused on the style and worldview of the hero.

As a private eye, the hard-boiled hero was by nature an isolated loner, a rugged individualist, and a man with his own personal code of honor and justice. Indeed, in his murky past the detective invariably has resigned or been fired from an official law-and-order capacity, and he shares with the criminal element a deep resentment of the legitimate authorities. In that sense, he has more in common with the Western hero than either the gangster, the cop, or the more traditional Sherlock Holmes-style detective. Like the westerner, the detective’s capacity for violence and streetwise savvy ally him with the outlaw element, while his personal code and idealism commit him to the promise of social order. And as portrayed by Bogart, the hard-boiled detective proved to be an ideal screen type for the prewar era—an irreverent, reluctant hero and rumpled idealist whose tough, cynical exterior conceals a sensitive, vulnerable, and fundamentally moral man. And significantly enough, this screen type also proved readily adaptable to a war-related context, as Bogart would demonstrate after Pearl Harbor.

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