Bogart commands the screen as Warren “Rip” Murdock, a former Army paratrooper (lots of colorful references to parachutes and jumping here) and one of the most misogynistic good guys Bogart ever played. Who can blame Rip, after the wringer he’s put through in this film? Captain Rip tries to find out why his Sergeant and best pal Johnny Drake (William Prince) has a Yale pin with the name “John Joseph Preston” on it, and more importantly, why Johnny bolts rather than accept the Congressional Medal of Honor for his wartime heroism, to his peril. It turns out Johnny had been accused of murder before he hightailed it out of town and enlisted under an alias. Johnny’s trail ends in a fatal car crash, but Rip’s trail of vengeance has just begun. Indeed, Johnny’s ultimate fate haunts the film like a ghost, and Bogart’s performance is both rugged and poignant as he turns amateur detective in order to make sure his friend is posthumously cleared and the real killer nailed.
Rip’s investigation leads him to
For instance, Bogart’s speech to Scott early on about how men should be able to reduce women to pocket-size when necessary, and Scott’s interpretation of this theory, must be heard to be believed. But when DR works, it’s dynamite — literally, when Rip and the lovely “Mike” join forces with safecracker and explosives expert McGee, played by scene-stealing Wallace Ford! Even when the situation gets ugly, this movie is always gorgeous to look at, thanks to the stunning use of shadows and light in Leo Tover’s black-and-white photography. Also, keep your eyes peeled for two brief but memorable uncredited performances: grown-up Matthew “Stymie” Beard of The Little Rascals fame as a bellboy stiffed out of a tip by cheapskate cop Charles Cane; and Ruby Dandridge, Dorothy’s mom, as Coral’s lovable maid Mabel! If you love Bogart and you like your film noir grim yet glamorous and over-the-top at times, DR is well worth a look, so break out the night-blooming jasmine, grab a tall, cool Ramos Gin Fizz (hold the knockout drops, please) and enjoy!