Bogey Down

Worlds collapse in many ways, from personal to global levels -- a prospect that seems to be on everyone's minds as we approach the year 2000. But though many films have been made about the global End Times, none of them will be featured at the Cleveland Museum of Art's annual Free Holiday Film Series, which kicks off Sunday afternoon.

"We're not going to do something that stresses doom and gloom," says John Ewing, the museum's film program coordinator. At least not apocalyptic doom and gloom, anyway, but maybe a touch of melancholy romance or drama. This year's festival, A Beautiful Friendship: Bogey at 100, will feature five films starring Humphrey Bogart, who would have turned 100 on Christmas Day.

"We normally focus on directors," Ewing admits. "But I will make exceptions for people whose personality is as strong as Bogart's. He wasn't a prima donna, he was a professional."

Bogart's characters defined the tough guy with a heart of gold who dutifully overcomes obstacles with the promise of a better day dangling like a carrot before his nose. Now more than ever, with the building millennial fervor, that image of a hero seems to fit best.

"He just has that world-weary demeanor," Ewing points out, admitting that running Casablanca -- with its calmly optimistic view of the future, no matter the current heartache -- on New Year's Eve is no accident. "It just felt right, especially with the last line. It's a nice sendoff. And the song in it, "As Time Goes By,' seems very appropriate."

Picking which five films best showcase Bogart's unique talents wasn't very difficult. Ewing didn't even have to crack a film book to remember the impact of The African Queen, The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Caine Mutiny, and -- of course -- Casablanca. A tougher job, he says, would be sitting in the museum a hundred years from now trying to pick the top five movies from the turn of the millennium.

"It's entirely possible the movies we dismiss now will be held in the greatest esteem. Adam Sandler might be Charlie Chaplin in a hundred years," Ewing considers, taking into account the wax and wane of cultural mores. A list of possible directors comes to mind -- Lynch, Scorsese, Tarantino, the Coen Brothers -- and then he's back to Bogart: "Maybe you need something that's not only good, but also audience-friendly. Like Casablanca."

Looks like Bogey just bought himself at least another century of fame -- now that is the stuff dreams are made of. -- Powers