Cast & Crew
In a prison hospital ward, dying gangster Duke Berne tells Warden Booth and two young people, George Anderson and Ruth Carter, the story of his recent past: Knowing that as a three time loser, he will be sentenced to life in prison if he is arrested again, Duke decides to go straight. He is unable to get a job, however, and is totally broke when crooks Frenchy and Sander invite him to join them in a robbery set up by wealthy lawyer Martin T. Fleming. Initially Duke is not interested in the job, but pays a visit to Fleming's office to look into it. There he is introduced to Fleming's wife Lorna, who, unknown to Fleming, is Duke's former lover. Duke agrees to carry out the robbery. Later, Lorna, who broke off with Duke when he insisted on going through with the robbery that sent him to prison, visits his room and begs him not to do this job, promising to come back to him. Impressed by the intensity of her feeling, Duke agrees to back out of the job. The robbery fails and only Frenchy escapes with his life. The police are convinced that Duke was involved and persuade a witness to falsely identify him as the man who held her hostage after the robbery. Lorna wants to tell the police that she was with him during the crime and thus provide him with an alibi, but Duke does not want her to be exposed to a scandal. Instead, he asks Fleming to provide him with an alibi and threatens to reveal his complicity if he does not cooperate. Fleming hires George Anderson, who needs the money in order to get married, to provide Duke's alibi. With Fleming as his lawyer, Duke is set to go to trial when Frenchy contacts Fleming and tells him that Lorna was with Duke during the robbery. After George testifies that he was with Duke, the prosecution, with Fleming's secret help, introduces a new witness, George's fiancée Ruth, who, not knowing that George has lied about his activities, testifies that George was with her the night of the robbery, thus proving that George is lying. Duke receives a life sentence, and George is sentenced to a year in prison for perjury. On a prison visit, Ruth gives George a message for Duke from Lorna, telling him that she has left her husband. Duke then plans a prison break, aided by Lorna, who places the necessary tools under the warden's car. During a prison show, Duke and another convict break out and George tries to stop them. The other man is killed but Duke escapes over the wall where Lorna is waiting. When one of the guards dies, George is charged with his murder, despite his honest statement that he was not trying to escape. Fleming discovers Duke's hideout and sends the police after him. In the meantime, Duke learns of George's murder charge and knows he must clear him. He and Lorna leave just as the police arrive and a chase ensues. Lorna is killed during the chase, but Duke manages to get to Fleming. Holding him at gunpoint, Duke calls the warden. Fleming shoots Duke and Duke returns his fire. Fleming is killed and Duke is fatally wounded, but before he dies in the hospital, Duke clears George's name.
Howard Da Silva
Leo F. Forbstein
The Big Shot
The Big Shot (1942) was the last bona fide gangster film of Humphrey Bogart's career. In fact, Warner Brothers might not have assigned it to him had the original lead actor George Raft not backed out. In what must surely be one of the worst cases of short-sightedness in Hollywood history, Raft previously turned down High Sierra (1941) and The Maltese Falcon (1941), the two films that really gave Bogart an opportunity to shine as an actor and established him as one of the great stars of the Forties. Despite the formulaic nature of the script, Bogart brings to The Big Shot some of the emotional complexity he had demonstrated in his previous gangster film, High Sierra. The director, Lewis Seiler, had worked with Bogart on various lesser projects such as Crime School (1938), King of the Underworld (1939), You Can't Get Away with Murder (1939), and It All Came True (1940). He was best known for directing a number of silent Tom Mix Westerns and the hard-hitting war film Guadalcanal Diary (1943), the latter for Twentieth-Century Fox.
Irene Manning, the lead actress, got her start at Republic Pictures under the name "Hope Manning," appearing in films such as the Gene Autry vehicle The Old Corral (1936). Her real forte was the stage, especially musical theater; her move to Warner Brothers in the Forties reflected that accordingly, with a memorable role in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942). She also landed major roles in the musicals The Desert Song (1943) and Shine on Harvest Moon (1944), and the wartime comedies Hollywood Canteen (1944) and The Doughgirls (1944). Manning spent the latter half of the decade on the stage in England, and even briefly hosted a BBC television show entitled An American in England before returning to the US.
The frank atmosphere surrounding gangster pictures was evidently not Manning's cup of tea. She recalls about Bogart in Jeffrey Meyers' 1997 biography on the actor: "He was basically all business, not really my kind of guy. He used a lot of four-letter words, which shocked me. Still, he was always prepared and professional, and he did give me some good advice." Some of this advice, she recalled, included: "Never mind the camera, never mind the lights. Just get to the set, and say the lines."
While The Big Shot is by all accounts a minor entry in Bogart's career, it was nonetheless moderately well received. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote: "Mr. Bogart, with his patient fatalism and his sense of the futility of it all, is able to impart a certain dignity to an otherwise silly role." He also praised the "sharply written script and a good cast." While not holding much regard for the script, the reviewer for Variety similarly took note of Bogart's performance and the director Lewis Seiler's ability to bring out the suspenseful aspects of the story.
Director: Lewis Seiler
Script: Bertram Millhauser, Abem Finkel, Daniel Fuchs
Director of Photography: Sid Hickox
Art Director: John Hughes
Film Editor: Jack Killifer
Music: Adolph Deutsch and Leo F. Forbstein
Cast: Humphrey Bogart (Duke Berne), Irene Manning (Lorna Fleming), Richard Travis (George Anderson), Susan Peters (Ruth Carter), Stanley Ridges (Martin Fleming), Minor Watson (Warden Booth), Chick Chandler (Dancer), Joseph Downing (Frenchy), Howard Da Silva (Sander), Murray Alper (Quinto), Roland Drew (Faye), John Ridgely (Tim), Joseph King (Toohey), John Hamilton (Judge).
by James Steffen
The Big Shot
The original screenplay was entitled The World Is Ours. The film's working title was Escape from Crime. Press releases included in the file on the film in the AMPAS Library announced first Brenda Marshall, then Nancy Coleman in the role of "Ruth Carter." A January 12, 1942 Hollywood Reporter news item states that Susan Peters took over the role from Nancy Coleman when the latter replaced Olivia de Havilland in The Gay Sisters.
Released in United States 1942
Released in United States 1942