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An Air of Doom
bkoganbing25 April 2007
The Big Shot was completed just as the USA was getting into World War II and it would be many years before Humphrey Bogart once again played a gangster role. He ended his career as Warner Brothers gangster however with a good role that more than faintly resembled his High Sierra and George Raft's part in Each Dawn I Die.

The story of The Big Shot is told in flashback as Bogart lies in a prison hospital. As he relates it, Bogey's a three time loser who if he gets another conviction it's permanent accommodations for him at the state's expense. Like Roy Earle in High Sierra, it's really too late for him to go straight.

But what a surprise he gets when he finds his former girl friend, Irene Manning, now married to big shot criminal attorney and criminal mastermind Stanley Ridges. When they start taking up where they left off, it's the beginning of the end for Bogey.

Like Roy Earle and Hood Stacey in Each Dawn I Die, there is an air of doom about Bogey's Duke Berne in The Big Shot. No matter what he does it will end bad for him as it does for those other characters. But the audience gets quite a ride. Best bit of action is that police chase with Bogart and Manning being pursued by upstate cops.

Best supporting performance in the film is that of Chick Chandler who plays another convict Dancer with whom Bogey makes a prison break. Chandler did work in vaudeville and was a song and dance man and got to use those skills in the role. Also Stanley Ridges is one mean and nasty villain.

This was the time that Bogart was between classics The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca. Though The Big Shot is not up there with those two, it's a lot better than other stuff he was doing at the time like All Through the Night and Across the Pacific. This is a good film for a Bogart fan to introduce someone else to the charisma and persona of Humphrey Bogart without using a classic.
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Bogart Makes It Worthwhile
telegonus29 April 2003
The Big Shot is a decent crime picture, reminiscent in theme to the previous year's High Sierra, which also featured Humphrey Bogart. Director Lewis Seiler was no Raoul Walsh but handles the familiar plot about the doomed criminal nicely, giving it shadings of atmosphere, urban and rural. The movie is one of the last flowerings of the second major wave of gangster pictures, of which it is a late example. Bogart is excellent, yet one can sense the genre running out of steam despite his performance and the nice pace of the film. There were more pressing issues at hand by the time the movie was made, such as a world war with Germany and Japan, as overall the activity of the criminals in the movie seem small potatoes compared to what was going on elsewhere, in Europe and in the Pacific.
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Bogie's last gasp as a gangster as his image turns a corner
blanche-224 December 2009
"The Big Shot" is a 1942 film starring Humphrey Bogart and Irene Manning. Bogie is a career criminal, Joseph Berne, who is sent to prison for life for something he didn't do - set up by his own attorney (Stanley Ridges), who finds out that Joe is involved with his wife (Manning). Berne's fake alibi is provided by a young salesman, George Anderson, who needed money and instead gets a year for perjury. It's George's predicament later on that gives Joe a crisis of conscience.

After years of toil at Warner Brothers, Bogart is now a star, and his image as a gangster is softening and would morph with Casablanca into an anti-hero. He does a good job in this film - his story is told in flashback from the prison hospital. The script is problematic. One glaring offense is that the police locate a criminal in a cabin. When they get there, they don't surround it, and their prey, not even aware the police are there, go out the back and drive away. Most viewers are aware that the cops surround an edifice. Not here. The movie is not particularly well directed by Lewis Seiler. There is, however, an exciting car chase.

Of interest here is George's girlfriend, the beautiful and doomed Susan Peters, who less than three years later would be paralyzed in a hunting accident. She was signed by MGM after this film. 1942 was a banner year for her, as she was nominated for a supporting Best Actress Oscar for "Random Harvest." She died in 1952. One of Hollywood's saddest stories.
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Bogie returns doing what he does best
gullwing59200319 October 2004
A very exciting fast paced gangster saga, It's interesting seeing Bogart reverting back to his 30's style tough guy persona one more time immediately after his acclaim as Sam Spade in "The Maltese Falcon" & just before his next triumph as Rick Blaine in "Casablanca". This was a transitional period in his career when his image was being redefined from gangster to anti hero. This movie was released at the wrong time, it was seen either too late or too early. Had it been made & seen in the 1930's or had it been withheld & shown in the postwar years along side of "White Heat" it might've went over like gangbusters. But not in 1942 during World War II? We had much more pressing concerns & worries with the Japanese & the Germans. This movie is every bit as good as "High Sierra" if not better, the car chase scene down the slippery slope is exciting & well done. This film literally puts the pedal to the metal & never let's up once. The story moves at lightening speed & will blast you right out of your seat. The Big Shot marked the last time Humphrey Bogart would appear as a gangster, he would not play a gangster for another 13 years until he appeared in a television production revival of "The Petrified Forest" recreating his famous Duke Mantee character. Bogart returned to the movies bringing Duke Mantee with him as escaped convict Glenn Griffin in the William Wyler directed suspense thriller The Desperate Hours in 1955. The Big Shot is essential viewing for fans of old gangster movies & for Bogart fans as well, I like both. So get your tommy guns & tear gas out & enjoy this shoot em up farewell send off to an exciting genre!
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A bit of afternoon noir
DCBlank-58 November 2000
This lost little bit of film noir featuring Bogart in his usual tough guy role (this film being made just previous to Casablanca) is not a bad watch for a lazy afternoon. There is nothing stellar about the plot, the performances, or the action, and some of it is even quite funny. Watch as the camera is pushed in at the actors' faces at key moments time and time again. Another fun part is the snowy car/motorcycle chase, a danger anyone who has fish-tailed their car on the way to work on a cold winter morning can relate to. If you haven't seen "Casablanca" or the "The Maltese Falcon," make sure you've seen those first, but you could certainly do worse than "The Big Shot."
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"You were a big shot, you knew all the smart angles, you couldn't miss."
classicsoncall9 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Humphrey Bogart portrays three time convict Joseph "Duke" Berne, with twenty years of prison time under his belt. But he's running gun shy now, as the next offense will put him away for life. When former cohorts show up planning an armored car heist, the Duke is in, until he runs into former flame Lorna (Irene Manning), now married to mob lawyer Martin T. Fleming (Stanley Ridges). He sits out the heist while the gang gets pinched, but gets fingered anyway by a nervous witness who's pressured to make an ID during intense police grilling.

Now he needs attorney Fleming's help with an alibi, which comes in the form of young car salesman George Anderson (Richard Travis). Anderson's testimony will get Duke released, but small time hood Frenchy (Joe Downing), with a score to settle with Duke, rats out his involvement with Mrs. Fleming to her husband. The prosecuting attorney brings in Anderson's girlfriend who doesn't corroborate the salesman's story. Now Anderson and Duke both find themselves behind bars.

Almost immediately, Duke starts planning his escape, and forms an alliance with The Dancer (Chick Chandler), a talented con man who will head up the prison's talent show. With the help of James Cagney lookalike Quinto (Murray Alper), who plants a gun under the warden's car to be retrieved by Duke in the prison machine shop, the stage for the breakout has been set.

Meanwhile, George is implicated in the escape and faces more hard time if he doesn't spill his guts to the warden. With his conscience getting the better of him, Duke decides to turn himself in. What follows is a quite thrilling car chase scene over slick, snow covered mountain roads. Lorna takes a bullet in the chase, and when she doesn't make it, Duke's revenge on Fleming takes form. In a confrontation with Fleming, Duke gets his revenge, but takes a bullet himself.

Told in flashback from the prison's hospital ward, "The Big Shot" is an interesting period piece. Note the sign in a scene from Sardo's Restaurant - "Italian Dinner - 60 cents"! The film's not in the same league with edgier gangster dramas like Cagney's "White Heat" or "Public Enemy", or even Bogey's earlier effort "Bullets or Ballots" with Edward G. Robinson. But it's not bad either, and a well spent hour and a half or so if you can find it. The film hasn't been released commercially, so you'll have to scour the late night cable movie channels, or source it from a private collector.
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Score One for "The Big Shot" ***1/2
edwagreen25 April 2007
Humphrey Bogart, a master-actor of crime, did it again in this 1942 film. Ironically, it's when Bogie tries to go straight that things begin to go awry.

While we have all the familiar elements to a Warner's Gangster Film, this picture is done incredibly well. There are the small time crooks, the fancy lawyer who plots the jobs, two innocent young lovers caught up in this mess and a dame, Irene Manning, who gives a splendid performance.

Manning, the wife of the crooked lawyer, will not allow her lover, Bogart, to participate in a heist. That's when the action begins. Her husband discovers her indiscretion and makes sure that Bogart, who is blamed for being part of the robbery team, goes to prison on a life sentence as it is his third offense.

The lawyer causes more havoc until Bogie breaks out of jail and is finally able to deal with him.

With all his sinister gangster ways, Humphrey Bogart shows that he has a heart and will not let the "kid" take the rap and go to the chair as a result.
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Better than Expected with Great Stunts
tlswan224 September 2007
This movie is very similar to Bogie's first movie "Up the River." Having seen all but three of his movies I was not expecting very much and chose to watch it only because it was one I had never seen before. I was pleasantly surprised by the acting. But, the location shoots and especially the stunt work was extremely well done for the time. The first car crash was very different than those of most movies that are over 65 years old, showing a car crashing through other cars and then flying off of a ramp and rotating through the air before it exploded into flames. The location shots taken in the snow covered high mountain country provide glimpses of vintage life in rural America of 1940. And the ending car chase and motorcycle stunts were very impressive for stunt men without the safety equipment that is now used. Even the dance scenes that "Dancer" was in were also enjoyable and revealed some of the dancing style of vaudeville. All in all the movie was entertaining and worth seeing, especially if you are a fan of Bogart and early stunt work.
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Taking the shot.
morrison-dylan-fan19 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Despite having heard of him for a number of years,I have somehow never got round to taking a look at a film starring Humphrey Bogart.Taking a look at movie reviews on IMDb a few months ago,I suddenly stumbled upon what sounded like an excellent Gangster movie starring Bogart.Expecting to find the title on Amazon,I was shocked to find out that the film had not come out on DVD,or VHS.Sadly accepting that I would probably be unable to see the film,I was pleasantly caught by surprise,when I discovered a TV screened edition of the title,which led to me excitingly getting ready to see Bogart take a big shot.

The plot:

Lying in a prison hospital bed after surviving a shootout,Joseph "Duke" Berne is greeted by a former prisoner called George Anderson,who along with his girlfriend,wants to thank Joseph from stopping him being wrongly sent to death row.Feeling that this hospital bed,may soon become his death bed,"Duke" decides to tell Anderson about what led to him laying in this hospital bed.

The past:

Freed from prison after serving 5 years,Berne vows to leave his past life behind,and to instead "go straight".Soon after coming out of jail,Joseph runs into some old "friends" who ask if he can do them some favours.Angered about them trying to pull him back into the underworld,"Duke" pushes one of the gangsters to the ground,and tells him the that part of his life is now long gone.

Being told by one of his (now former "friends" ) that a local attorney called Martin T. Fleming is interested in talking to him,Joseph decides to pay Fleming a surprise visit.Entering Fleming's office,"Duke" is shocked to discover,that a former long time girlfriend of his's named Lorna,has now become Fleming's wife.

With having heard about Berne's past skills,Fleming asks Joseph if he would be willing to do "one last job",which would involve him working with a gang on Fleming's payroll to steal $100,000.Feeling that his back is up against the wall,"Duke" agrees to Flemings demands.

Later that night:

Getting ready to go out on his "one last job",Berne is stopped in his tracks,when Lorna's suddenly appears,holding a gun and telling Joseph that if he goes out to commit the crime,she will shoot him right away.Caving in to Lorna's demand's,"Duke" inadvertently ends up losing his last "big shot" at freedom.

View on the film:

Whilst the second half of the movie shows the title's age by featuring some…less than pc moments,such as one of the actors (not Bogart) covering himself with black pant,director Lewis Seiler and cinematography Sidney Hickox closely work together to give this wonderful Film Noir a raw,gritty atmosphere.

Going "back in time" to the events that have led to "Duke" being on his "death bed",by stylishly scattering images and voices across Berne's eyes,Seiler and Hickox gradually drain any sense of light from "Duke's" shadow filled world,as Berne finds his "going straight" road to disappear into the darkness.

Whilst Joseph Berne's nickname of "Duke" did leave me to temporary think about John Wayne, (aka:"Da Duke!") the terrific screenplay by Abem Finkel,Daniel Fuchs and Bertram Millhauser ruthlessly kicks "Duke's" body down their low-lit gutter street the moment his body lands on the hospital bed,with the writers showing Berne's big shot at freedom being something that he is unable to free from his shadowy past,and the ruthless corruption that will eventually choke the life out of him.

Showing that despite starting the movie in bed,that he is not going to give a performance laying down,Humphrey Bogart gives a powerful performance as Berne's,with Bogart showing "Duke's" desire to "go straight" to be at the centre of the character's conflicted heart,as Berne's discovers that everything he desires and holds dear is connected to his crocked past.

Joining Bogart,Stanley Ridges gives an excellent,gleeful performance as Martin T.Fleming,with Ridges showing Fleming to be prepared to do anything to get his hands filled with cash.Giving a vicious femme fatale swipe,the terrific Irene Manning gives a stunning performance as Lorna Fleming,with Manning showing "Duke" all of the temptations in front of him,as long as he gives up on his last ever big shot.
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Bogart can't rid himself of a life of crime...
Doylenf25 April 2007
HUMPHREY BOGART once admitted that he had to spend years at Warner Bros. dodging bullets and writhing around on the floor as a bullet-ridden gangster type, before being taken seriously in other roles.

THE BIG SHOT is a prime example. It came at a stage in his career where he was on the verge of becoming one of the biggest stars ever, with CASABALANA giving him the iconic role of Rick and taking him away from gangster roles for awhile. But until then, he was still a full-fledged gangster star.

Basically, it's a grade-B yarn with IRENE MANNING (who starred in "The Desert Song" opposite Dennis Morgan a year later), as his romantic interest in a cast that includes SUSAN PETERS, STANLEY RIDGES, MINOR WATSON and HOWARD DA SILVA.

Bogart is an ex-inmate, a three-time loser trying to go straight and we see his story in flashback as he lies on a hospital bed. Lured back into a life of crime when he can't find a job, he joins Da Silva's gang and has to deal with romantic complications involving ex-girlfriend Manning, married to crime boss Stanley Ridges. He gets accused of being one of the armored car bandits and has to figure a way to get himself clear of a frame-up. Ridges frames him while posing as his lawyer and Bogart gets sent to prison for a life term.

The prison break scene is the highlight of the drama and rescues the film from a slow pace that only steams up toward the conclusion. Bogart has a moral problem. A good guy (RICHARD TRAVIS) who tried to prevent Bogie and friend from making a jail break, gets accused of being mixed up in the escape. When a prison guard dies during the attempt, Travis has to take the blame.

The plot takes a turn when Bogart decides he can't let Travis, an innocent man, take the rap.

Summing up: Worthwhile for Bogie fans, but we've all seen this kind of crime drama before.
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The gangster returns
jonerogers18 October 2018
Here we Have a film headed in the cast by that now cultural icon Humphrey Bogart. I grew up watching films from him, cagney and Edward G Robinson.

It tells the story of a gangster on his deathbed telling us of his end years and what put him in that bed. What you have is a very good story and like all classics not a cgi filled film but a masterpiece. Bogart with his wry giggle and square chin shines through and is at a time where his leading role was very well deserved.

The film chops through romance, revenge, jealousy and Bogart the bad guy ends up being the good guy all to his demise.

You won't be disappointed with this film, and although the genre is not Film Noir it's close to it.
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The Last Ga(n)Gster
writers_reign11 August 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Director Lewis Seiler started out as a gagman and graduated to helming thick-ear mellers at Warners including this entry which marked Bogie's last outing as a gangster having just scored as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon and about to score even bigger as Rick Blane in Casablanca. There's not a lot wrong with this and Seiler throws in some imaginative angles and touches of light and shade but the timing was just about as wrong as it could be - 1942, a beat or two after Pearl Harbor so that it more or less fell off the radar. Perhaps the odd man out is Howard Da Sylva, a long way from Paramount for what amounts to a nothing role, elsewhere familiar faces like Chick Chandler, Joe Downing, Stanley Ridges and Minor Watson as, what else, the warden, give solid support. Irene Manning does sterling work as the femme lead while ironically fourth-billed Susan Peters got her big break here but stopped a bullet in a hunting accident three years later cutting short a promising career.
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Big Shot No Big Deal
zsenorsock30 April 2019
There's some great shots and remarkable cinematography in this film that almost make it worth watching for that alone. Bogart is also very good as Duke. But I found the script had major flaws.

Bogart is recruited for the bank robbery because he is supposed to be some sort of mastermind in planning jobs. Trouble is the plan they come up with to rob the armored car is crap. It's a crappy plan! There's nothing that makes it very clever or likely to succeed. And I think they would need a spotter to be able to tell just when the armored car is coming down the street to know when to go. From their starting position they couldn't possibly see the armored car coming.

Then Bogart makes a plan to break out of prison. Again the plan is crap! Its a terrible plan and again with nothing clever that would make it likely to succeed.

And as far as their hiding place goes, its pretty but wouldn't the first thing Duke would have asked (if he's such a mastermind) is "does anybody else know about this place?"

There's also the embarrassment of fellow convict Dancer dressing in blackface and dancing with a black doll that makes this film probably unairable in most markets today.
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A little deft re-editing could improve the film enormously.
JohnHowardReid2 June 2018
Warning: Spoilers
It is hard to believe that Lewis Seiler directed all of this film, remembering the very routine handling of his other Bogart vehicles: Crime School, King of the Underworld, You Can't Get Away With Murder and It All Came True. Most likely he took over the direction from some more inventive director and made a game attempt to follow to some degree the film's original remarkably visual style - e.g. the opening scenes of the flashback, a low angle camera tracking with Bogart through the seedy streets, the mood of depression and desperation set by the narration re-inforced by the moody lighting photography with its shadows and great blocks of black.

There are odd snips of the original director's conception throughout: Bogart's face framed by doorways and curtains, a spotlight picking out the dancer on the stage, devices which are used both atmospherically and symbolically (Bogart is "framed" and the dancer is killed in a spotlight). Then there's the obvious one of the cigarette being stamped out before the end title. And there is a remarkable, brief-but-nightmarish montage routine with Bogie sent to prison a four-time loser, the judges rapping out the sentence and the high gates closing.

There's also an effective use of mirrors in a couple of key scenes, and the action spots are excitingly staged and edited. But mostly the film is directed in Seiler's usual routine and unremarkable style - but it does have some great performances.

The script has a couple of flaws. The dialogue tends to be cliched (in fact some of it could be transposed without change into one of those joke books on How To Write Dialogue For the Movies) but in the lips of such wonderful players as Bogie, Irene Manning (looking very attractive here in lighting and costumes), Stanley Ridges (perfect as the criminal mastermind attorney double-dealer), Chick Chandler (giving the performance of his career as the charming, talented but ruthless dancer), Joseph Downing (a ruthless thug to end all ruthless thugs) and others we love every word of it.

The support cast is first-rate with Howard da Silva effective in a small role as Downing's running-mate, Murray Alper ditto as an unwilling stoolie, John Ridgely in a two-line bit as an eager but blind cop, Joseph King as the biding-his-time prosecutor, William Edmunds as the "No trouble in here please, Duke" sleazy cafe proprietor, Virginia Sale as a screamer and Ralph Dunn as the always-standing-around prison guard. Richard Travis is okay as the eager-beaver George though he has some sooky lines to say which he does not manage over well; and while Susan Peters has only a small part as his lady-love, she makes her court-room breakdown fairly convincing.

The plot is improbable, but we don't mind that so much as the fact that with the film three-quarters over, the scriptwriters try to insert a little cosy domesticity and comic relief, which they do very badly and ineptly and quite jarring the mood of the rest of the film. A little deft re-editing could completely eliminate these objectionable scenes and improve the film enormously.
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Warner Brother's Waste of Bogart Talent
denscul25 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Not even Bogart can save this film. Bogart's fame had caught up with his talent by the time this film was made. Its surprising that Warner would make such a bad film that could have wrecked the career of its star. If anyone thinks this film is great, just ask somebody who is film buff, which means a Bogart fan who played in "Big Shot", chances are the question will go unanswered. This film is hardly ever played, and its no wonder. For those commentators who liked the chase scene in the snow, they must have never ridden a motorcycle, let alone in the snow on mountain roads. The cops do eventually crash, but not before firing about twenty shots,which means they would have had to reload at least twice, while driving one handed. For those not familiar with revolvers, and apparently the writer's were not, loading a revolver is basically a two handed operation. So that means the cops would have been driving in the snow with no hands on the bars.

Unrealistic court rooms are not unusual for most movies, but this one is really bad. Surprise witnesses may be dramatic, but they are hardly an accurate portrait of the court system.

Unlike most Bogart gangster movies, you can never figure out whether he's a robin hood bad guy, or just a bad guy. In this film, the writer's created someone who comes across as a little sappy. Wasn't it quite unlike other Bogart characters to be stopped from pulling an armored car robbery by his former girl friend now married to the crooked attorney who for some never quite explained reason will get most of the loot.

The only good line in this film is during the prison break scene where the former girl friend is trying to fool around, and Bogart retorts, "I can only do one thing at a time." Not only was it a funny line, but one of the most believable.

I am still trying to figure out how Bogart and girlfriend got out of the house into their car. The prison seemed more like a refuge for bad actors, rather than bad characters. If a guy acted like "Dancer Smith" in prison, he would probably been raped so often, he would never been able to dance. This also was the first prison break that used a spot light to put out the lights. A novel but highly unlikely way of to start a break.

Its hard to believe that Warner Brothers put this film out at the same time it put out the Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, High Sierra. Some of Best films ever made which makes this film a real stinker.
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Warner, Bogart, Gangster
Michael_Elliott26 February 2008
Big Shot, The (1942)

** 1/2 (out of 4)

B-grade gangster film from Warner features Humphrey Bogart as a three-time hood who gets out of prison and tries to go straight because one more mess up will get him life in prison. After not being able to make a straight living he sets up a heist for a crooked attorney but gets double crossed. Once back in prison Bogart must find a way to escape and get revenge. This really isn't anything we haven't seen in countless other prison/gangster films from Warner but as usual Bogart makes it worth watching. He plays the tough guy perfectly and his image as a tough guy can never be questioned. He even gets a few funny moments including one segment where he's on the hideout in the deep woods and can't get use to cutting wood for a fire. The supporting cast includes Richard Travis, Susan Peters and Irene Manning as Bogie's love interest. Manning isn't too good in her role and it probably would have been better with a stronger actress here but either way, if you're a fan of Bogart then this is worth checking out. It's also worth noting that there's a scene in the prison where Bogart is pitching a baseball, which is filmed pretty much shot for shot like a scene in The Shawshank Redemption.
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