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Saturday Night Cinema
Beat the Devil

Beat the Devil  Directed in 1953 by John Huston. Screenplay by Truman Capote and John Huston. Starring Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollobrigida, Robert Morley and Peter Lorre.

The village band pounds out an oompah-pah tune, as police march
four disreputable characters across the square. Already we’re smiling.
One is tall and round, one is tall and cadaverous, one is short and
round and the fourth is a little rat face with a bristling mustache. On
the soundtrack, Humphrey Bogart tells us they are all criminals, but we know that; they were born looking guilty.

John Huston‘s
"Beat the Devil" (1953) shows how much Hollywood has lost by devaluing
its character actors. In an age when a $20 million star must be on the
screen every second, this picture could not be made. Huston has stars,
too: Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollobrigida,
but his movie is so funny because he throws them into the pot with a
seedy gang of charlatans. "We have to beware of them," the Jones
character warns her husband. "They’re desperate characters. Not one of
them looked at my legs."

"Beat the Devil" went straight from box
office flop to cult classic and has been called the first camp movie,
although Bogart, who sank his own money into it, said, "Only phonies
like it." It’s a movie that was made up on the spot; Huston tore up the
original screenplay on the first day of filming, flew the young Truman
Capote to Ravallo, Italy, to crank out new scenes against a daily
deadline and allowed his supporting stars, especially Robert Morley and Peter Lorre,
to create dialogue for their own characters. (Capote spoke daily by
telephone with his pet raven, and one day when the raven refused to
answer he flew to Rome to console it, further delaying the production.) Read more at Roger Ebert.com


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