“Whether in a white dinner jacket or in a trench coat and a snap-brim fedora, he became a new and timely symbol of the post-Pearl Harbor American: tough but compassionate, skeptical yet idealistic, betrayed yet ready to believe again, and above all, a potentially deadly opponent.” – Ann M. Sperber, author
A lot of what we do here at the Noir Factory revolves around noir films, crime history, and pulp stories. And like it or not, whenever the subject of noir comes up, it has only one face. And that face has a scar on its upper lip, sleepy eyes, a fedora worn at a roguish angle, and a cigarette dangling from its lips.
And most of us wouldn’t have it any other way.
Humphrey DeForest Bogart was a Christmas baby, born on December 25th, 1899 in New York City. And while that sounds like a typical “tough-guy” bio, it was anything but.
Bogart was the son of a prominent New York surgeon with the unfortunate name “Belmont Bogart,” and successful commercial illustrator Elizabeth Bogart. Humphrey Bogart was raised in the Upper West Side, in a fairly privileged home, and before we go any further into Humphrey Bogart’s childhood, we have to address the elephant in the room regarding his childhood.
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“He is the Napoleon of crime, Watson. He is the organizer of half that is evil and of nearly all that is undetected in this great city, He is a genius, a philosopher, an abstract thinker. He has a brain of the first order. He sits motionless, like a spider in the center of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them. He does little himself. He only plans.” – Arthur Conan Doyle
He was the World’s Greatest Detective, but what did that mean if he went up against purse snatchers and sneak-thieves. He matched wits with the best criminals in London, but how impressive was that if you always came out on top? If you always won?
Doyle’s detective bored quickly and needed the game to keep his senses sharp, his intellect keen. So if you are Arthur Conan Doyle and you have the great Sherlock Holmes at your disposal, you don’t need a good villain or even a brilliant foe.
You need the greatest criminal mind ever.
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“Science gave us forensics. Law gave us crime.” – Mokokoma Mokhonoana, author
Arthur Conan Doyle published his first Sherlock Holmes story in 1887 to mild reception. The story, A Study in Scarlet, introduced the Holmes character to the world. An eccentric investigator with an encyclopedic mind, razor-sharp instincts, and a lightning-fast wit, Holmes is the prototype detective, the model against which all others are measured.
Arthur Conan Doyle, himself a medical doctor, was considered a highly-intelligent man by those who knew him, and it was thought he brought much of himself to the creation of the perfect detective. Doyle was fascinated with puzzles and riddles, the great mysteries.
He studies procedure and methods of investigation and criminology, and even lent his voice to the odd court case.
Later on the Noir Factory will open a case on Arthur Conan Doyle, but for today, we’ll focus on the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes.
Liebow, E. (1982). Dr. Joe Bell: Model for Sherlock Holmes. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green University Popular Press.
Edwards, W. (2013). The Real Life Sherlock Holmes. CreateSpace.
Guy, F. (2015). Forensics Science And Dr Joseph Bell – The Real Sherlock Holmes | Crime Traveller. http://www.crimetraveller.org/2015/07/forensics-science-dr-joseph-bell-html
“The world of Doc Savage and The Shadow was one of absolute values, where what was good was never in the slightest doubt and where what was evil inevitably suffered some fitting punishment.” – Alan Moore, writer
The Shadow first cast his presence over the airwaves on July 31st of 1930. It was on CBS’s The Detective Story Magazine Hour where a mysterious narrator introduced a dramatic story that appeared in the latest issue of Street and Smith’s Detective Story Magazine. Back then the Shadow was merely a story-telling device, a mysterious identity to bookend a detective story.
“I…am The Shadow! Conscience is a taskmaster no crook can escape. It is a jeering shadow even in the blackest lives. The Shadow knows… and you too shall know if you listen as Street & Smith’s Detective Story Magazine relates for you …”
Yada yada yada…
The intro was followed by a hard-boiled detective story, and each episode ended with the now-famous maniacal laughter. The stories were pedestrian but the narrator struck a chord with the audience. His mysterious voice and background music made a promise to the listener. That promise was of adventure, intrigue, and action. Sometimes that promise was a little hard to hold up, and the show was canceled after only 52 episodes.
That mysterious narrator, however, lived on to narrate the Blue Coal Radio Revue and Love Story Hour. The mysterious narrator eventually went on to have his own show, The Shadow, but he continued to serve as a narrator and book-ended the stories.
The first person to fill the Shadow’s wide-brimmed fedora was voice actor James La Curto, but he was almost immediately replaced by another voice actor, Frank Readick Jr. and much to the surprise of Street and Smith, the radio show’s producers and the magazine publishers, the character of the Shadow soon became more popular than the hard-boiled stories he narrated.
Murray, W., Gibson, W. B., Sampson, R., & Tinsley, T. (1980). The Duende History of The Shadow Magazine. Greenwood, MA: Odyssey.
Gibson, W. B., & Tollin, A. (1979). The Shadow Scrapbook. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
J. (n.d.). The Shadow in Pulps: History.http://www.shadowsanctum.net/pulp/pulp.html
929, Kent Allard decided that America had become a focal point for criminal. (n.d.). Who Knows What Evil Lurks? The Shadow Knows. http://www.internationalhero.co.uk/s/shadpulp.htm
“My agent told me that he was going to make me the Janet Gaynor of England – I was going to play all the sweet roles. Whereupon, at the tender age of thirteen, I set upon the path of playing nothing but hookers.” – Ida Lupino
There are certain family names in Hollywood make you sit up and take notice. Today those names are the Fonda and the Bridges, Coppola and Sheen.
It wasn’t any different in the early days of Tinseltown. The names were different, but royalty was still royalty. Back then if you were a Barrymore than it caught people’s attention, and if you were a Huston, then folks wanted to see what you had.
For Ida Lupino, the family tree she grew out of was just as solid and sturdy as any in Hollywood, but the roots went deeper than most. She wasn’t a Coppola or a Barrymore. She was a Lupino.
And that name had a weight all of its own.
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