Monday, December 24, 2012

one of my favorite holiday movies ...

... is We're No Angels, with Humphrey Bogart. "Bogie in a Christmas movie?" you say? Yes! Not only is it a Christmas-themed movie, but it's a comedy, and Bogart, along with costars Peter Ustinov and Aldo Ray, are quite funny.

The basic plot concerns three Devil's Island convicts in 1895 — Joseph (Bogart), Albert (Ray), and Jules (Ustinov), who escape from prison at Christmastime. They hide from the authorities at a local general store, run by the Ducotels family, Felix (Leo G. Carroll), Amelie (Joan Bennett), and Isabelle (Gloria Talbott), their teenage daughter. The trio manage to ingratiate themselves with the family by performing odd jobs, but soon get caught up in the family's personal dramas, which include an evil cousin (Basil Rathbone) and his equally evil nephew Paul (John Baer) who plan to take over the failing store and eject the Ducotels. With the help of the three "angels" and their pet snake Adolphe the Ducotels end up having a very merry Christmas.

Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov, and Aldo Ray fix the roof  well as fix a family's problems
The film, directed by Michael Curtiz, who also directed Bogie in Casablanca, shows its stage roots in the enclosed spaces and farcical nature of the situations. It's all pretty silly stuff, but it's done with good humor and it's hard not to like the three convicts and their adopted family. It's clear that Bogie and everyone involved are having a great time, and it's impossible to watch the movie without laughing and smiling, even when the comedy takes a black turn.

There's something about We're No Angels that reminds me a bit of Arsenic and Old Lace, except at a much more laid-back pace. The humor strays far from logic at times, but it rolls on inevitably to  a satisfying conclusion. Not to be confused with the sorry attempt at a remake starring Robert DeNiro and Sean Penn, We're No Angels is a great chance to see Bogie try his hand at comedy as well as dispense some Christmas cheer.

Happy Christmas Eve!

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