The Big Shot (1942)

Directed by Lewis Seiler

Cinematography by

Sidney Hickox

The Big Shot (1942) is an American film noir crime drama film starring Humphrey Bogart as a crime boss and Irene Manning as the woman he falls in love with. This was the last film in which former supporting player Bogart, who had finally reached stardom with High Sierra (1940) and The Maltese Falcon (1941), would portray a gangster.

One of Bogart’s lesser-known works,it was released on DVD for the first time by Warner Archive early in 2015.

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Bogie returns doing what he does best

19 October 2004 | by gullwing592003 (United States) – See all my reviews

A very exciting fast paced gangster saga, It’s interesting seeing Bogart reverting back to his 30’s style tough guy persona one more time immediately after his acclaim as Sam Spade in “The Maltese Falcon” & just before his next triumph as Rick Blaine in “Casablanca”. This was a transitional period in his career when his image was being redefined from gangster to anti hero. This movie was released at the wrong time, it was seen either too late or too early. Had it been made & seen in the 1930’s or had it been withheld & shown in the postwar years along side of “White Heat” it might’ve went over like gangbusters. But not in 1942 during World War II? We had much more pressing concerns & worries with the Japanese & the Germans. This movie is every bit as good as “High Sierra” if not better, the car chase scene down the slippery slope is exciting & well done. This film literally puts the pedal to the metal & never let’s up once. The story moves at lightening speed & will blast you right out of your seat.

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The Big Shot marked the last time Humphrey Bogart would appear as a gangster, he would not play a gangster for another 13 years until he appeared in a television production revival of “The Petrified Forest” recreating his famous Duke Mantee character. Bogart returned to the movies bringing Duke Mantee with him as escaped convict Glenn Griffin in the William Wyler directed suspense thriller The Desperate Hours in 1955. The Big Shot is essential viewing for fans of old gangster movies & for Bogart fans as well, I like both. So get your tommy guns & tear gas out & enjoy this shoot em up farewell send off to an exciting genre!

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Bogart Makes It Worthwhile

7/10
Author: telegonus from brighton, ma
29 April 2003

The Big Shot is a decent crime picture, reminiscent in theme to the previous year’s High Sierra, which also featured Humphrey Bogart. Director Lewis Seiler was no Raoul Walsh but handles the familiar plot about the doomed criminal nicely, giving it shadings of atmosphere, urban and rural. The movie is one of the last flowerings of the second major wave of gangster pictures, of which it is a late example. Bogart is excellent, yet one can sense the genre running out of steam despite his performance and the nice pace of the film. There were more pressing issues at hand by the time the movie was made, such as a world war with Germany and Japan, as overall the activity of the criminals in the movie seem small potatoes compared to what was going on elsewhere, in Europe and in the Pacific.

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“You were a big shot, you knew all the smart angles, you couldn’t miss.”

7/10
Author: classicsoncall from Florida, New York
9 April 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Humphrey Bogart portrays three time convict Joseph “Duke” Berne, with twenty years of prison time under his belt. But he’s running gun shy now, as the next offense will put him away for life. When former cohorts show up planning an armored car heist, the Duke is in, until he runs into former flame Lorna (Irene Manning), now married to mob lawyer Martin T. Fleming (Stanley Ridges). He sits out the heist while the gang gets pinched, but gets fingered anyway by a nervous witness who’s pressured to make an ID during intense police grilling.

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Now he needs attorney Fleming’s help with an alibi, which comes in the form of young car salesman George Anderson (Richard Travis). Anderson’s testimony will get Duke released, but small time hood Frenchy (Joe Downing), with a score to settle with Duke, rats out his involvement with Mrs. Fleming to her husband. The prosecuting attorney brings in Anderson’s girlfriend who doesn’t corroborate the salesman’s story. Now Anderson and Duke both find themselves behind bars.

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Almost immediately, Duke starts planning his escape, and forms an alliance with The Dancer (Chick Chandler), a talented con man who will head up the prison’s talent show. With the help of James Cagney lookalike Quinto (Murray Alper), who plants a gun under the warden’s car to be retrieved by Duke in the prison machine shop, the stage for the breakout has been set.

Meanwhile, George is implicated in the escape and faces more hard time if he doesn’t spill his guts to the warden. With his conscience getting the better of him, Duke decides to turn himself in. What follows is a quite thrilling car chase scene over slick, snow covered mountain roads. Lorna takes a bullet in the chase, and when she doesn’t make it, Duke’s revenge on Fleming takes form. In a confrontation with Fleming, Duke gets his revenge, but takes a bullet himself.vlcsnap-2017-01-18-05h28m22s633

Told in flashback from the prison’s hospital ward, “The Big Shot” is an interesting period piece. Note the sign in a scene from Sardo’s Restaurant – “Italian Dinner – 60 cents”! The film’s not in the same league with edgier gangster dramas like Cagney’s “White Heat” or “Public Enemy”, or even Bogey’s earlier effort “Bullets or Ballots” with Edward G. Robinson. But it’s not bad either, and a well spent hour and a half or so if you can find it. The film hasn’t been released commercially, so you’ll have to scour the late night cable movie channels, or source it from a private collector.

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Bogie’s last gasp as a gangster as his image turns a corner

6/10
Author: blanche-2 from United States
24 December 2009

“The Big Shot” is a 1942 film starring Humphrey Bogart and Irene Manning. Bogie is a career criminal, Joseph Berne, who is sent to prison for life for something he didn’t do – set up by his own attorney (Stanley Ridges), who finds out that Joe is involved with his wife (Manning). Berne’s fake alibi is provided by a young salesman, George Anderson, who needed money and instead gets a year for perjury. It’s George’s predicament later on that gives Joe a crisis of conscience.screenshot_20

After years of toil at Warner Brothers, Bogart is now a star, and his image as a gangster is softening and would morph with Casablanca into an anti-hero. He does a good job in this film – his story is told in flashback from the prison hospital. The script is problematic. One glaring offense is that the police locate a criminal in a cabin. When they get there, they don’t surround it, and their prey, not even aware the police are there, go out the back and drive away. Most viewers are aware that the cops surround an edifice. Not here. The movie is not particularly well directed by Lewis Seiler. There is, however, an exciting car chase.

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Of interest here is George’s girlfriend, the beautiful and doomed Susan Peters, who less than three years later would be paralyzed in a hunting accident. She was signed by MGM after this film. 1942 was a banner year for her, as she was nominated for a supporting Best Actress Oscar for “Random Harvest.” She died in 1952. One of Hollywood’s saddest stories.

An Air of Doom

7/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
25 April 2007

The Big Shot was completed just as the USA was getting into World War II and it would be many years before Humphrey Bogart once again played a gangster role. He ended his career as Warner Brothers gangster however with a good role that more than faintly resembled his High Sierra and George Raft’s part in Each Dawn I Die.

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The story of The Big Shot is told in flashback as Bogart lies in a prison hospital. As he relates it, Bogey’s a three time loser who if he gets another conviction it’s permanent accommodations for him at the state’s expense. Like Roy Earle in High Sierra, it’s really too late for him to go straight.

But what a surprise he gets when he finds his former girl friend, Irene Manning, now married to big shot criminal attorney and criminal mastermind Stanley Ridges. When they start taking up where they left off, it’s the beginning of the end for Bogey.

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Like Roy Earle and Hood Stacey in Each Dawn I Die, there is an air of doom about Bogey’s Duke Berne in The Big Shot. No matter what he does it will end bad for him as it does for those other characters. But the audience gets quite a ride. Best bit of action is that police chase with Bogart and Manning being pursued by upstate cops.

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Best supporting performance in the film is that of Chick Chandler who plays another convict Dancer with whom Bogey makes a prison break. Chandler did work in vaudeville and was a song and dance man and got to use those skills in the role. Also Stanley Ridges is one mean and nasty villain.

This was the time that Bogart was between classics The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca. Though The Big Shot is not up there with those two, it’s a lot better than other stuff he was doing at the time like All Through the Night and Across the Pacific. This is a good film for a Bogart fan to introduce someone else to the charisma and persona of Humphrey Bogart without using a classic.

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Bogart can’t rid himself of a life of crime…

6/10
Author: Neil Doyle from U.S.A.
25 April 2007

HUMPHREY BOGART once admitted that he had to spend years at Warner Bros. dodging bullets and writhing around on the floor as a bullet-ridden gangster type, before being taken seriously in other roles.

THE BIG SHOT is a prime example. It came at a stage in his career where he was on the verge of becoming one of the biggest stars ever, with CASABALANA giving him the iconic role of Rick and taking him away from gangster roles for awhile. But until then, he was still a full-fledged gangster star.

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Basically, it’s a grade-B yarn with IRENE MANNING (who starred in “The Desert Song” opposite Dennis Morgan a year later), as his romantic interest in a cast that includes SUSAN PETERS, STANLEY RIDGES, MINOR WATSON and HOWARD DA SILVA.

Bogart is an ex-inmate, a three-time loser trying to go straight and we see his story in flashback as he lies on a hospital bed. Lured back into a life of crime when he can’t find a job, he joins Da Silva’s gang and has to deal with romantic complications involving ex-girlfriend Manning, married to crime boss Stanley Ridges. He gets accused of being one of the armored car bandits and has to figure a way to get himself clear of a frame-up. Ridges frames him while posing as his lawyer and Bogart gets sent to prison for a life term.

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The prison break scene is the highlight of the drama and rescues the film from a slow pace that only steams up toward the conclusion. Bogart has a moral problem. A good guy (RICHARD TRAVIS) who tried to prevent Bogie and friend from making a jail break, gets accused of being mixed up in the escape. When a prison guard dies during the attempt, Travis has to take the blame.

The plot takes a turn when Bogart decides he can’t let Travis, an innocent man, take the rap.

Summing up: Worthwhile for Bogie fans, but we’ve all seen this kind of crime drama before.

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Taking the shot.

8/10
Author: morrison-dylan-fan from United Kingdom
19 January 2014
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Despite having heard of him for a number of years,I have somehow never got round to taking a look at a film starring Humphrey Bogart.Taking a look at movie reviews on IMDb a few months ago,I suddenly stumbled upon what sounded like an excellent Gangster movie starring Bogart.Expecting to find the title on Amazon,I was shocked to find out that the film had not come out on DVD,or VHS.Sadly accepting that I would probably be unable to see the film,I was pleasantly caught by surprise,when I discovered a TV screened edition of the title,which led to me excitingly getting ready to see Bogart take a big shot.

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The plot:

Lying in a prison hospital bed after surviving a shootout,Joseph “Duke” Berne is greeted by a former prisoner called George Anderson,who along with his girlfriend,wants to thank Joseph from stopping him being wrongly sent to death row.Feeling that this hospital bed,may soon become his death bed,”Duke” decides to tell Anderson about what led to him laying in this hospital bed.

The past:

Freed from prison after serving 5 years,Berne vows to leave his past life behind,and to instead “go straight”.Soon after coming out of jail,Joseph runs into some old “friends” who ask if he can do them some favours.Angered about them trying to pull him back into the underworld,”Duke” pushes one of the gangsters to the ground,and tells him the that part of his life is now long gone.

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Being told by one of his (now former “friends” ) that a local attorney called Martin T. Fleming is interested in talking to him,Joseph decides to pay Fleming a surprise visit.Entering Fleming’s office,”Duke” is shocked to discover,that a former long time girlfriend of his’s named Lorna,has now become Fleming’s wife.

With having heard about Berne’s past skills,Fleming asks Joseph if he would be willing to do “one last job”,which would involve him working with a gang on Fleming’s payroll to steal $100,000.Feeling that his back is up against the wall,”Duke” agrees to Flemings demands.

Later that night:

Getting ready to go out on his “one last job”,Berne is stopped in his tracks,when Lorna’s suddenly appears,holding a gun and telling Joseph that if he goes out to commit the crime,she will shoot him right away.Caving in to Lorna’s demand’s,”Duke” inadvertently ends up losing his last “big shot” at freedom.

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View on the film:

Whilst the second half of the movie shows the title’s age by featuring some…less than pc moments,such as one of the actors (not Bogart) covering himself with black pant,director Lewis Seiler and cinematography Sidney Hickox closely work together to give this wonderful Film Noir a raw,gritty atmosphere.

Going “back in time” to the events that have led to “Duke” being on his “death bed”,by stylishly scattering images and voices across Berne’s eyes,Seiler and Hickox gradually drain any sense of light from “Duke’s” shadow filled world,as Berne finds his “going straight” road to disappear into the darkness.

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Whilst Joseph Berne’s nickname of “Duke” did leave me to temporary think about John Wayne, (aka:”Da Duke!”) the terrific screenplay by Abem Finkel,Daniel Fuchs and Bertram Millhauser ruthlessly kicks “Duke’s” body down their low-lit gutter street the moment his body lands on the hospital bed,with the writers showing Berne’s big shot at freedom being something that he is unable to free from his shadowy past,and the ruthless corruption that will eventually choke the life out of him.

Showing that despite starting the movie in bed,that he is not going to give a performance laying down,Humphrey Bogart gives a powerful performance as Berne’s,with Bogart showing “Duke’s” desire to “go straight” to be at the centre of the character’s conflicted heart,as Berne’s discovers that everything he desires and holds dear is connected to his crocked past.

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Joining Bogart,Stanley Ridges gives an excellent,gleeful performance as Martin T.Fleming,with Ridges showing Fleming to be prepared to do anything to get his hands filled with cash.Giving a vicious femme fatale swipe,the terrific Irene Manning gives a stunning performance as Lorna Fleming,with Manning showing “Duke” all of the temptations in front of him,as long as he gives up on his last ever big shot.

Warner, Bogart, Gangster

Author: Michael_Elliott from Louisville, KY
26 February 2008

Big Shot, The (1942)

** 1/2 (out of 4)

B-grade gangster film from Warner features Humphrey Bogart as a three-time hood who gets out of prison and tries to go straight because one more mess up will get him life in prison.

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After not being able to make a straight living he sets up a heist for a crooked attorney but gets double crossed. Once back in prison Bogart must find a way to escape and get revenge. This really isn’t anything we haven’t seen in countless other prison/gangster films from Warner but as usual Bogart makes it worth watching. He plays the tough guy perfectly and his image as a tough guy can never be questioned. He even gets a few funny moments including one segment where he’s on the hideout in the deep woods and can’t get use to cutting wood for a fire. The supporting cast includes Richard Travis, Susan Peters and Irene Manning as Bogie’s love interest. Manning isn’t too good in her role and it probably would have been better with a stronger actress here but either way, if you’re a fan of Bogart then this is worth checking out. It’s also worth noting that there’s a scene in the prison where Bogart is pitching a baseball, which is filmed pretty much shot for shot like a scene in The Shawshank Redemption.

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Warner Brother’s Waste of Bogart Talent

4/10
Author: denscul from virginia
25 April 2007
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Not even Bogart can save this film. Bogart’s fame had caught up with his talent by the time this film was made. Its surprising that Warner would make such a bad film that could have wrecked the career of its star. If anyone thinks this film is great, just ask somebody who is film buff, which means a Bogart fan who played in “Big Shot”, chances are the question will go unanswered. This film is hardly ever played, and its no wonder. For those commentators who liked the chase scene in the snow, they must have never ridden a motorcycle, let alone in the snow on mountain roads.

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The cops do eventually crash, but not before firing about twenty shots,which means they would have had to reload at least twice, while driving one handed. For those not familiar with revolvers, and apparently the writer’s were not, loading a revolver is basically a two handed operation. So that means the cops would have been driving in the snow with no hands on the bars.

Unrealistic court rooms are not unusual for most movies, but this one is really bad. Surprise witnesses may be dramatic, but they are hardly an accurate portrait of the court system.

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Unlike most Bogart gangster movies, you can never figure out whether he’s a robin hood bad guy, or just a bad guy. In this film, the writer’s created someone who comes across as a little sappy. Wasn’t it quite unlike other Bogart characters to be stopped from pulling an armored car robbery by his former girl friend now married to the crooked attorney who for some never quite explained reason will get most of the loot.

The only good line in this film is during the prison break scene where the former girl friend is trying to fool around, and Bogart retorts, “I can only do one thing at a time.” Not only was it a funny line, but one of the most believable.

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I am still trying to figure out how Bogart and girlfriend got out of the house into their car. The prison seemed more like a refuge for bad actors, rather than bad characters. If a guy acted like “Dancer Smith” in prison, he would probably been raped so often, he would never been able to dance. This also was the first prison break that used a spot light to put out the lights. A novel but highly unlikely way of to start a break.

Its hard to believe that Warner Brothers put this film out at the same time it put out the Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, High Sierra. Some of Best films ever made which makes this film a real stinker.

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