Strange but true: many of the stars most frequently accused of “just playing themselves” — John Wayne, Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart among them — were those who took years developing and polishing their screen personas. Bogart is a particularly fascinating example of a late bloomer — a performer who found that the style he’d developed for Broadway didn’t work at all in the movies, thanks to a camera that read him, not has a handsome Park Avenue ingenue, but as a shifty, glowering malcontent. By the time “Bogie” appeared in his more or less mature state in Raoul Walsh’s 1941 “High Sierra,” Humphrey Bogart had been in movies for thirteen years, playing the kind of roles that Ralf Harolde or Barton MacLaine might have turned down. But something was there that even Bogart didn’t seem to know about, and once it emerged it took on a life of its own.
A new gift set from Warner Home Video, “Humphrey Bogart: The Essential Collection,” brings together no less that 24 features on 12 double sided discs, conveniently packaged in slim cases and priced at an irresistible $99.98, currently discounted to $69.99 at many outlets. There’s little here that most visitors to this space would not have already seen, and one might have wished for a few more of Bogart’s harder-to-see B pictures, like Frank McDonald’s “Isle of Fury” or Lloyd Bacon’s “Racket Busters,” rather than A films, like “Dark Victory” or “Virgina City,” in which he’s only a supporting presence. But as near as I can tell these are the same high quality transfers that WHV has been offering for years, now offered at approximately $3 a title. Was you ever bit by a dead bee? My New York Times review is here.