Quick post here… I finally watched Herman Shumlin’s Confidential Agent, which Warner Archive first released back in 2010. I just got it few weeks back after Lauren Bacall’s death. (I also picked up Bright Leaf, which I thoroughly enjoyed.)
Confidential Agent is famous for more or less derailing Bacall’s career at Warner Bros. briefly, calling into question her acting abilities. Indeed, while Howard Hawks could make the 19-year-old Bacall look and act much older opposite Humphrey Bogart in To Have and Have Not, Shumlin was not able to do that. She just looks far too young and has no chemistry with her co-star, Charles Boyer. I also think Boyer might have been miscast here, since it’s hard to buy him as a Spaniard with his thick French accent and he just doesn’t do well outside of romantic stories. Graham Greene’s story is also over-reliant on his McGuffin (Boyer’s mission to buy coal for the Spanish Republicans) and the romance is too weak to draw our attention away from it.
The film’s not a complete loss though. James Wong Howe’s cinematography is simply beautiful and Peter Lorre has a really fun bit part.
Thankfully, Warner Bros. had enough faith left in Bacall to team her up with Bogart again in The Big Sleep and the rest is… history.