It’s A Wrap: The 2014 Humphrey Bogart Film Festival

Humphrey Bogart Estate and Key Largo Chamber of Commerce Announce Creation of Humphrey Bogart Film Festival; Fans Can Help Select Movies at (PRNewsFoto/Humphrey Bogart Film Festival)

I just got back from the second annual Humphrey Bogart Film Festival in Key Largo, FL, and like many of my fellow attendees, I am already looking forward to next year’s festival. Attendees were treated to a series of events where they could meet and greet festival organizer and son of the actor, Stephen Bogart (host of WXEL’s Bogart on Movies), and renowned film critic and historian Leonard Maltin, as well as take in a list of over twenty classic films, all celebrating the theme of “Romance.”

I was lucky to be able to see some classic Humphrey Bogart-Lauren Bacall films over the weekend: To Have and Have Not, screened outside under the moon and stars; Key Largo at the nearby Lion’s Club, which was transformed into Rick’s Cafe Americaine; and Casablanca and The Big Sleep for the first time on a big screen.

In a panel discussion hosted by Caroline Breder-Watts, film historian and host of WXEL’s “Listening to Movies,” she and Bogart and Maltin and the audience engaged in a lively discussion of the diversity of Humphrey Bogart’s roles throughout his long career. Clips from The Petrified Forest, Dark Victory, The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, The African Queen, and The Caine Mutiny were featured. Bogart talked about how Key Largo was the perfect setting for the festival, as his father was laid-back and loved sailing, and he really wanted to “Celebrate the man and let the movies speak for themselves.” Key Largo is also the location of The African Queen steamboat, which still can take people out on the water for short cruises.

That Humphrey Bogart was meticulous about his craft was also a theme of the discussion, as his son reminded the audience that his father didn’t have much patience for method actors. “Acting to him was a craft to learn more and more and more.” Maltin underlined that point, and why our fascination with Bogart and his films endures – because he was the ultimate anti-hero. Other contemporary stars (Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, etc) don’t have quite the cachet that Humphrey Bogart does, simply because, “He made so many great movies …” After watching just a sampling of the man’s extensive and impressive career I can’t help but agree. The dialogue, production, and acting in all of his films were first-rate, but Bogie still shines brightest. It is impossible not to look at him, stare even, whenever he is on screen.

The festival began with the premiere of This Last Lonely Place, the first new film from the Humphrey Bogart Estate’s Santana Films. It was topped off by The Bogart Ball, which featured an auction of Bogart memorabilia, dining, and dancing. The next day at the farewell brunch Stephen Bogart announced the theme of next year’s festival, “The Best of Bogart.” The festival is growing, and Stephen Bogart promised even more events and great movies next year, including some of his father’s most celebrated work in such film classics as The Maltese Falcon, High Sierra, and Treasure of the Sierra Madre (his favorite of his father’s films). Bogart also promised to expand the number of other classic films that will be shown during the course of the festival, with more pre-1965 movies, and “some gangster stuff in there too.” Dates for next year’s festival have been not set yet, but film buffs can check in with the Humphrey Bogart Estate’s Facebook page for schedule updates.

It is great that so many fans of Humphrey Bogart were able to come together and share their love of classic films. It will be wonderful for Santana Films and the Humphrey Bogart Estate as the festival continues to grow and evolve. There is something about the laid-back atmosphere of Key Largo and its environs and the current more intimate size of the festival that also added to its fun. There was a real opportunity for attendees to share their enthusiasm for old movies with each other and VIPs like Stephen Bogart and Leonard Maltin that might be hard to replicate if the festival grows in size.

The Humphrey Bogart Film Festival is quickly becoming a tradition for film buffs and Bogie enthusiasts. As Leonard Maltin shared at the festival’s closing brunch on Sunday, “Movies are meant to be a communal experience. … they can make difference in your life. [when you see a great one it sounds] a loud gong that doesn’t go away.”

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Elizabeth Periale

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