All things must come to a beginning.  Had Paul Gavin’s course been charted for him? The movies certainly cast their spell over this impressionable child.  Or could his

 

In 1942,Humphrey Bogart ,43 years old, a two-fisted scotch
drinker,five pack a day cigarette addict, with a prolific four letter
word vocabulary, veteran of 44 movies , was cast in a B-picture. THE
BIG SHOT, a rehash of HIGH SIERRA  followed his big hit ,which  at its
last preview was called  The GENT FROM FRISCO , now renamed THE
MALTESE FALCON.As Sam Spade , a permanent  identifying role, he at last
became a romantic hero. It isn’t clear why his co-star, Irene Manning,
primarily known as a musical stage star, was cast as his gun moll,
other than  she had time off between her debut in YANKEE DOODLE DANDY
and the start of THE DESERT SONG. Irene,age 25,a non smoker, non
drinker, embarrased at the least bit of profanity, considered  herself
“a square.” She had appeared previously  in two undistinguished films
,TWO WISE MAIDS, and THE OLD CORRAL, with Gene Autry and Roy Rogers
for Republic Studios. .( When Autry kissed her at THE END  his fans
rebelled.  They wanted him pure for themselves. From then on Autry
smooched only with his horse   Champion )   Warners now assigned
Manning  to a straight dramatic role . Her first day on the set,
director Lewis Seiler  asked her”if she was going to sing her lines,:
unsettling her. #   #    #                              Prior to her
current role ,she recalled when she was given a screen test at Warners.
It was an elaborate color test costing over $5,000, a great deal in
those days. The front office was very excited with the results. Her
agent, Vic Orsatti, arranged a 27 page seven-year contract with the
studio. They changed her name from Hope Manning to Irene. And for her
fist picture they cast her in the studio’s biggest production
scheduled,YANKEE DOODLE DANDY  “I loved every moment . Cagney was a
wide-open Irishman, personality plus.” Irene finshed her scenes on that
picture on Saturday and reported to work for her  next film the
following Monday.  Casting off her period  costumes she went to
wardrobe for the latest 40’s look as the ex-moll, now the wealthy wife
of the lawyer who had sent her lover (Bogart) to prison. She had seen
Bogie on the lot from a distance walking around with his girlfriend
Betty Bacall. Before Baby, the” old creep  as he called himself   swore
he ‘d never marry again. (He was 45 she 21) After the star treament she
had been given  and  now to be treated by Seiler so  demeaningly . she
said,” I hated every minute of it.(THE BIG SHOT) I went home and cried
every night. The director was what we call in the trade a button hole
maker.He was so miserable and upbraided me terribly.” Bogie advised her
to ignore it!” Listen kid, don’t worry about the camera. Just know your
lines and be prepared.” He was completely honest ( a rarity among
actors). He didn’t turn  his charm on and off. You took him as he was.
I trusted his straightforwardness and we got along fine.”  One reason
was that he didn’t have to wear lifts to add to his height. Irene was
just 5’2″ to his 5″7″   .  . Bogie would come onto the set each morning
and say,” OK, what’s on for today? as if he didn’t know what scene he
would be doing, or what lines he had. He knew his lines backward. He
was so professional.” She was not in awe of her co-star  but was
impressed with his”tennis anyone” background: educated, socially
prominent, legitimate  theatre experience. The well-bred son of Dr.
Belmont Bogart and his illustrator wife, Margaret Humphrey.  Bogie
attended the exclusive Trinity School and Phillips Andover Academy and
was a dedicated  stage actor before he went to Hollywood. Actually
there were two Bogies. He was in a class of his own. He was essentially
a man’s man and enjoyed tying one on with his cronies. He played
bridge, and  chess, while singing a few obscene sea chanteys, bantered
with Noel Coward, went fishing with Hemingway, intellectualized with
Tracy,, and chided Hepburn for being an expert on St. Thomas Aquinas.
Irene continued,” His home in Beverely Hills was lavishly furnished
with Picassos and Dufys on the walls of the living room. The library
was stacked with the classics and  leather bound copies of High Sierra,
The Maltese Falcon and other Bogart masterpieces. “Can you imagine
Humphrey Bogart being mistaken  for anyone else but Humphrey Bogart?”
She suspected that under that tough guy image beat a heart as
sentimental as his birthday December 25th ” He didn’t want to do the
picture. None of us wanted to. But you had to or go on suspension.
Bogie quipped , “This studio  has more suspensions than the Golden Gate
Bridge. Ask Davis, Flynn, Lupino, De Havilland, Garfield and – me. ”
– Although Irene was prepared to
kiss Bogie in the love scenes it never happened. The most intimate
scene between them took place in a cabin , up in the Sierra mountains,
where they were  “on the lamb hiding out from the cops”  She was to
make pancakes for him and he was to help her.” The day before I had
done a series of cheesecake publicity shots in sexy outfits,” she
confided.” I was photographed from all different angles , always
leaning on something.When I finished the session I had a sprained wrist
That day, doing the scene, I was in pain as I mixed the batter. I was
supposed to cry and tell Bogie “we couldn’t go on like this”. The
director said, “Do you want glycerine to make you cry?” No thank you, I
don’t need any, I was ready to cry the minute I arrived. In the scene
she shooed Bogey out of the kitchen to sit before the fireplace until
the pancakes  were ready. While mixing the batter  she was talking to
him seriously, now this was not in the script,  when he suddenly fell
backward in the  rocking chair. She laughed and said something
teasingly while he pulled himelf together and got up..Instead of saying
cut Seiler said print. And the scene remained as is.  In the climax
chase scene, through the snow banked mountain roads, with the cops hot
on their trail, Irene got shot in the back from a bullet meant for
Bogart. Bravely she tells her lover to drive faster to make his
getaway. Suddenly she slumps over and dies in Bogart’s arms. Remaing
kissless til the very end.      #    #              SPY SHIP was next
on her agenda. In this one Irene paid for her traitious deeds by
getting shot ( again) and dumped into the trunk of a car. THE BIG SHOT
and SPY SHIP took 6 weeks to shoot while YANKEE DOODLE DANDY took over
6 months ,” she said.. She did, however, get back to her singing for
her next, the long awaited start of THE DESERT SONG  with Dennis
Morgan,( a contender for Rick in Casablanca.) The plot was updated
(1942) by Nazi machinations in French Morocco,( filmed in Gallop, New
Mexico) infilterated by spies and enemy agents. Bogie wasn’t far away
as CASABLANCA was shooting on the next lot. DESERT SONG and CASABLANCA
interchanged  sets… The Blue Parrot, (which became the rival club run
by Sidney Greenstreet) and the Black Market were sets built
specifically for DESERT SONG. While shooting  interplayed at the same
time.because of this  the companies had to work around the DESERT SONG
schedule..often waiting until they were available.
Had Irene not been busy with DESERT SONG Warners considered her for
Bogart’s next as they had an undeniable chemistry in THE BIG SHOT.
However,   Bogie was  back in heels to measure up to his new co-star
Ingrid Bergman.  Irene recalled  They had a special song written into
the picture for Irene ,GAY  Parisenne.” The day they shot the number
Bergman came over from the  CASABLANCA set to watch.  “She was terribly
curious as she had never been in a musical.” When it was over Bergman
waited to tell the singer how much she enjoyed her performance.” I
thought she was pretty wonderful. And I still do.”,
Bogart who died in
1957, at age 57  , is very comptemporary as the anitestablishment young
have made a cult of him.  And he leads the 50 greatest screen legends
roster. As for Irene Manning, she had to disappoint those who asked,”
what was it like to kiss Bogie,” – as she never did.

 

Gene Arceri has gained world attention as a writer, critic, award winning PBS reviewer and publicist. A native New Yorker, Gene resides in San Francisco and spends considerable time in London. Among his best selling books are: ‘Elizabeth Taylor: Her Life. Her Loves. Her Future’, Susan Hayward’s ‘RED’ and ‘Charlie of Nob Hill’. {San Francisco’s most famous cat}arcgen@sbcglobal.net





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