Home Movies by Decade Movies - 1950s Beat The Devil (1953)

Beat The Devil (1953)

Easily one of the most irreverent, tongue-in-cheek movies made under Hollywood auspices, Beat The Devil stands out for many reasons.

First, the amount and level of talent involved here is truly extraordinary. John Huston directs from a witty, bitter script on which he collaborated with none other than Truman Capote.

Cinematographer Oswald Morris was assisted by future cinematographic giant Freddie Francis, and even a young Stephen Sondheim made his way onto the set as the clapper boy!

Then there’s the cast. Humphrey Bogart served as one of the producers, and it was his clout that enabled the film to be made in the first place. Onscreen he’s joined by Gina Lollobrigida and Jennifer Jones, along with two of the all-time great character actors, Peter Lorre and Robert Morley.

This is a production where you can sense the actors had a tremendous amount of fun on the set.

The story has something to do with uranium rights in British East Africa, but it’s not really that important. The movie was essentially made up on the spot. Huston tore up the original screenplay on the first day of filming, flew the young Truman Capote to Italy to crank out new scenes against a daily deadline and allowed his supporting stars, especially Morley and Lorre, to create dialogue for their own characters.

Traditional rules of cause and effect are loosened here, thanks partly to the fact that the film was an independent, international coproduction. This led to increased creative freedom and financial autonomy, and the talents behind Beat The Devil plainly took advantage here.

A one-of-a-kind movie that slipped through the cracks.

Truman Capote spoke daily by telephone with his pet raven, and one day when the raven refused to answer he flew to Rome to console it, further delaying the production.

Billy Dannreuther
Humphrey Bogart
Mrs Gwendolen Chelm
Jennifer Jones
Maria Dannreuther
Gina Lollobrigida
Robert Morley
Julius O’Hara
Peter Lorre
Harry Chelm
Edward Underdown
Maor Jack Ross
Ivor Barnard
Marco Tulli
Inspector Jack Clayton
Bernard Lee
Mario Perrone
Giulio Donnini
Captain of SS Nyanga
Saro Urzì
Aldo Silvani
Hispano-Suiza Driver
Juan de Landa

John Huston