At the Hollywood Canteen, Irene Manning entertained servicemen evenings, while wrapping up filming of THE BIG SHOT by day at Warner Bros.  In the JO LEE Autumn issue Irene revealed how she was left kiss-less in the picture by Bogie. However, the sailors, soldiers and marines lined up making up for that when they all kissed Irene Good Night.

After completion of THE BIG SHOT with Humphrey Bogart, SPY SHIP was next on Irene Manning’s agenda. In this one Irene paid for her traitorous deeds by getting shot {again} and dumped into the trunk of a car. Prior to BIG SHOT and YANKEE DOODLE DANDY {with James Cagney}, she had appeared in two undistinguished films for Republic Studios, TWO WISE MAIDS and THE OLD CORRAL with Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. While Bogie left her kiss-less, Autry had not. That too had caused a stir among fans. When Autry kissed her at the end of CORRAL his fans rebelled.  They wanted him pure for themselves. From then on Autry smooched only with his horse, Champion.

“THE BIG SHOT and SPY SHIP took six weeks to shoot while YANKEE DOODLE DANDY took over six months,” Irene said. She did, however, get back to her singing for her next, the long-awaited start of a remake of THE DESERT SONG with Dennis Morgan, {a contender for Rick in CASABLANCA}. The plot was updated to 1942, with Nazi machinations in a French Morocco, {filmed in Gallop, New Mexico} infiltrated by spies and enemy agents.

As it happens, Bogie wasn’t far away: CASABLANCA was shooting on the next lot. Co-incidentally, DESERT SONG and CASABLANCA interchanged sets. The Blue Parrot, which became the rival club run by Sidney Greenstreet in CASABLANCA and the Black Market area were sets built specifically for DESERT SONG. Because of this, while shooting inter-played at the same time, the companies had to work around the DESERT SONG schedule, often waiting until the sets were available.

Had Irene not been busy with DESERT SONG, Warner’s would have 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 DESERT SONG for her, Gay Parisenne. “The day they shot the number, Bergman came over from the CASABLANCA set to watch,” said Irene.  “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.”

Irene Manning died May 28, 2004. A few days before, I went to see her as per usual. At 91, frail, with macular degeneration, still beautiful, she went to the piano and sang, incomparably, Mary’s A Grand Old Name.

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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