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Four solid Lauren Bacall classics for a bargain price
on April 29, 2013
This entry in TCM/Warner Home Video's budget-priced classic movie collection is one of the best they've assembled. Lauren Bacall, one of the greatest actresses from the golden age, is featured in four memorable movies (sharing the screen in two of them with husband Humphrey Bogart). The pick of the bunch is DESIGNING WOMAN (which had actually been out-of-print for a couple of years before being reissued in this set).
The two Bogie/Bacall titles are 1947's DARK PASSAGE and what was to be their final screen pairing, 1948's KEY LARGO. DARK PASSAGE is my personal favourite of all the Bogart-Bacall films. Wrongly jailed for the murder of his wife, Vincent Parry (Humphrey Bogart) escapes from San Quentin and is picked up by Irene Jansen (Lauren Bacall), a sympathiser who frequented Parry's trial, and by sheer coincidence, was in the area when Parry fled. Back in San Francisco, Parry undergoes plastic surgery in an attempt to disguise himself, but when his best friend is murdered and a small-time crook recognises the fugitive, Parry must track down whom he believes is the real person who killed his wife.
KEY LARGO boasts an Academy Award-winning performance from Claire Trevor as a tragic gangster's moll, co-starring opposite Edward G. Robinson, who holds a group of disparate strangers hostage in a run-down hotel during a hurricane. Bacall is Nora Temple, the daughter of the hotel's aged owner (played by Lionel Barrymore in one of his great autumnal turns).
Bacall stars opposite John Wayne in the splashy CinemaScope adventure BLOOD ALLEY, a 1955 production from Wayne's film company, Batjac. Set in Communist China, Bacall is Cathy Grainger, the daughter of a local doctor who has been murdered by the regime and begs sea captain Tom Wilder (John Wayne) to transport a boatload of Chinese refugees down the dangerous waterway known as "Blood Alley".
Finally in the sparkling 1957 Vincente Minnelli-directed gem, DESIGNING WOMAN, Bacall gets to shine in a delicious "battle of the sexes" romp co-starring amiable Gregory Peck as a sportswriter who romances fashion designer Marilla (Bacall). Clarion-voiced Broadway import Dolores Gray co-stars as one of Peck's former flames who cannot help but meddle in their affairs.
Conceived by longtime MGM costume designer Helen Rose, the shoot of DESIGNING WOMAN was scheduled around the time when Humphrey Bogart was gravely-ill with cancer. The lighthearted mood of the film must have provided a welcome distraction for Bacall - who turns in one of her greatest performances.
Extra features replicate those on the original DVD releases. Each film has its own disc (no more of those cumbersome double-sided discs). A no-brainer if you've yet to collect any of these movie greats - or if you missed out on the single release of DESIGNING WOMAN.