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This year’s American Film Festival honors the silver-screen legend Humphrey Bogart.

Published: November 28, 2012 (Issue # 1737)


The classic film noir ‘In a Lonely Place’ (1950), starring Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame, will be shown on Nov. 29.

Humphrey Bogart, a Hollywood legend and one of America’s cultural icons, takes center stage at the upcoming American Film Festival, which will run at the Avrora movie theater from Nov. 28 through Dec. 2. Bogart’s name graces the festival’s title this year as it marks the first retrospective festival of the celebrated actor in Russia.

The star of the golden age of Hollywood, Bogart gained worldwide fame and began building his reputation in cinema’s romantic repertoire after starring in Michael Curtiz’s 1942 classic “Casablanca,” which opens the festival’s program at 7 p.m. on Nov. 28.

Bogart’s name is inextricably linked with that of Lauren Bacall, and the cinematic alliance between them is one of the most striking in the history of Hollywood. The two actors, who met in 1944 when shooting “To Have and Have Not,” made four successful films together and were happily married right up until Bogart’s death in 1957.

Audiences at the American Film Festival will be able to appreciate the Bogart-Bacall partnership in two film noir movies: “The Big Sleep,” which will be shown on Nov. 30 at 7 p.m., and “Key Largo” on Dec. 2 at 5 p.m.

The films on the festival’s menu also include “Sabrina” (Dec. 1), “The Two Mrs Carrolls” (Dec. 1), “Across the Pacific” (Dec. 2) and “In a Lonely Place” (Nov. 29).

The festival in St. Petersburg marks the 70th anniversary of the Oscar-winning “Casablanca,” in which Bogart plays a charming world-weary cynic who unexpectedly displays his honorable side at a most unlikely moment.

For the actor, who played opposite Ingrid Bergman in the film, the shooting process was one of the most memorable experiences of his life.

“I didn’t do anything [in ‘Casablanca’] I’ve never done before, but when the camera moves in on that Bergman face, and she’s saying she loves you, it would make anybody feel romantic,” Bogart would later say.

In 2010, “Casablanca” was rated the second most romantic film of all time by Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

“The romantic or erotic energy is sublimated in the most impeccable cause of all — the war effort. Rick forsakes Ilsa as part of his new commitment to the fight against fascism,” reads the review in The Guardian. “Casablanca stands for movie romance in great part because it is hardly true to life. It seemed to be history coming to life — it opened just after the allies had occupied the real Casablanca. In fact, divorce and infidelity rates increased rapidly during the war. But Casablanca reassured us all; it promised that honor was intact.”

Although he possessed an impressive dramatic range, Bogart cultivated the image that brought him international success: That of a noble-hearted cynic, a tough guy with icy humor and an impenetrable face, yet a sensitive soul and a generous heart. Bogart excelled in the portrayal of exquisite nuances, where his charms were irresistible — lighting a cigarette, smiling, raising his eyebrows and putting on a stylish hat.

“Acting is experience with something sweet behind it,” Bogart once famously said, and this phrase seems to summarize the natural approach of the actor, who openly indulged in every moment of the filming process.

The American Film Festival features seven films, in which Bogart is partnered by some of the finest actresses that the film industry ever produced, including Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Audrey Hepburn, Gloria Grahame and Barbara Stanwyck.

In “Across the Pacific” (1942), Bogart plays a U.S. secret service agent operating during World War II in the territory of Japan. This gripping spy thriller is a high-level detective drama, complete with agents, femmes fatales and enemy bomb plots. Interestingly, when the film was being conceived, the plot featured the Japanese plotting an attack on Pearl Harbor. When the shooting on the movie began, that imagined attack took place in reality, forcing the team to urgently move the action to Panama.

A classic example of film noir, “The Big Sleep” (1946) shows the real chemistry between Bogart, who plays a private detective, and Bacall. The actors’ romance was in full swing on set, and the cunning producers convinced the screenwriters to add a few additional scenes that allowed audiences to get a taste of the mutual attraction.

“In a Lonely Place” (1950) is an outstanding example of intense film noir, bordering on a psychological thriller. It features Bogart in the challenging and highly complex role of screenwriter Dixon Steele, whose uncontrollable explosions of anger are ruining his relationship with his beloved (Gloria Grahame). This role became arguably Bogart’s deepest and most complete, and came closest to a representation of him as a person. Critics recommend this film to those with an interest in seeing the man behind the roles that he played.

Organized by the international festival agency Tour de Film, the festival is supported by the cultural section of the U.S. Consulate General in St. Petersburg.

For a full festival program, see

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