I just wanted to haul Gloria Grahame’s character aside and tell her in no uncertain terms: “Honey, forget him. He’s bad news, even if he’s not a murderer.” Sure, he’s Humphrey Bogart, and a very vulnerable Humphrey Bogart at that, but he’s trouble from the get-go.
Imagine what a basket case Rick must’ve been right after Ilsa left him, before he opened that night club in Morocco. If he’d gone back to the U.S. and started hanging out with cynical Hollywood people instead, he might have turned into the mean drunk he plays in this picture, a guy who picks fights and gets into road rage incidents, beats women around and displays not a trace of emotion when the innocent hatcheck girl he was with the night before turns up dead.
It’s certainly a change, to see Bogart playing the line between alienated artist and psychopath — and coming out on the psychopath side. None of the people in his orbit know how to take him. They’re all walking on eggshells, bracing themselves for the next explosion and yet, inexplicably, they keep coming back for more abuse.
Grahame’s character is attracted to him, and you do see why. He gives off a dangerous allure and there’s an animal intensity to their first encounter. Bogart’s hot!
Flash forward three weeks and he’s grown cuddly. Nothing like the love of a good woman to turn a guy around. But soon it’s Grahame’s character who’s a basket case. She suspects Bogey of murder (with good reason) and he picks up on her doubts and gets paranoid and possessive.
The movie turns into a mess at this point, although you’ll keep watching. Stick with it and you’ll get the ironic twist on Bogey’s best line, from the screenplay he manages to finish with Grahame’s loving support: “I was born when she kissed me, I died when she left me, I lived a few weeks while she loved me.”