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Movie Critique - Brother Orchid

For review of all movies starring Humphrey Bogart, go here.

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: Almost gave a Hallmark Channel's Christmas movie feeling as the story progressed. With some funny lines, gangster moves and interesting twists the movie entertains you from start to end.

Brother Orchid is a 1940 American crime-comedy film starring Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and Ann Sothern in the lead cast. Directed by Lloyd Bacon and Produced by Hall B. Wallis and Mark Hellinger. The film also features Donald Crisp, Ralph Bellamy and Allen Jenkins among others.

Crime boss Little John Sarto (portrayed by Edward G. Robinson) comes out of his failed retirement to claim his gang and territory back from Jack Buck (portrayed by Humphrey Bogart), to whom he had given the leadership five years ago. But instead he ends up being hunted by Buck and his gang forcing him to hide in a Floracian monastery run by Brother Superior (portrayed by Donald Crisp) where the simple life of the monks brings a change of his heart.

The plot is based on a 1938 short story of the same name by Richard Edward Connell, published in the May edition of Collier's. Screenplay was written by Earl Baldwin with uncredited support from Jerry Wald and Richard Macaulay.

This is the fourth film of the five that Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson acted together in - 1936 Bullets or Ballots; 1937 Kid Galahad; 1938 The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse; and 1948 Key Largo. Of all the five films, except in Key Largo, Robinson either kills or subdues Bogart, and overall being a superior actor than Bogart. Although in this film neither one gets killed.

The theatrical poster comes with a comical tagline "We'd like youse to meet Brother Orchid!". 

Edward G. Robinson takes the lead role in this even though both him and Bogart play gangsters. Infact Bogart is billed third for this film. Robinson's Little John Sarto comes with a mile long comic flair as opposed to his ruthless gangster roles he had portrayed till then. 

Allen Jenkins, a constant presence in many of Bogart's movies, portrays the role of Willie "The Knife" Corson, one of the gang members faithful to Sarto. Supported by Ann Sothern as Florence "Flo" Adams, Sarto's character only enhances more. Flo's class mixes with his bumbling gangster persona perfectly.

Humphrey Bogart is polished gangster in the role of Jack Buck that viewers had come to see him more and more in the late 1930s and early 1940s until his luck changed to a leading man in the 1941 High Sierra and the very successful The Maltese Falcon released the same year. 

Ralph Bellamy, the fifth wheel of the entire outfit if I may say, portrays the role of Clarence P. Fletcher, a Texas ranch owner fascinated with Flo. I remember a few films of Bellamy in his youth that I watched. But whenever I see him, he reminds me of his role as Randolph Duke in the 1983 American comedy film Trading Places. Cant seem to forget that role of his. 

An oddball movie with half gangster and half comedy showcasing a different side of Robinson. To top it the filmmakers pick an unlikely place for a gangster to hide. Almost gave a Hallmark Channel's Christmas movie feeling as the story progressed. Robinson completely shadows Bogart in this film. With some funny lines, gangster moves and interesting twists the movie entertains you from start to end.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. A 30-minute radio adaptation was broadcast by The Screen Guild Theater on February 16, 1941 with Donald Crisp reprising his role.

b. Two more of Richard Edward Connell's short stories were turned into Hollywood movies - the 1932 The Most Dangerous Game and 1941 Meet John Doe. 

2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

a. Boom mic is visible in the door's glass panel of Flo's former apartment when Sarto is talking to the landlady on the steps.

b. John Sarto sees a news article about Flo's engagement to Clarence. However when John reads the story aloud he adds a sentence "Never in my life, Miss Addams told reporters, have I been so thrilled and happy." That sentence did not appear in the news article that was shown on-screen.


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