Cast & Crew
Lee J. Cobb
In 1925, in Damascus, the Emir Hassan meets with two Western reporters to publicize the Syrian nation's determination to continue resisting French occupation. After several French soldiers are killed in yet another Syrian ambush, General LaSalle summons Colonel Louis Feroud, the head of military intelligence, and insists on harsh retaliatory measures against the Arabs. Louis resists the demand and, indicating that he has a lead on who might be selling illegal arms to the Syrians, persuades LaSalle to refrain from implementing drastic action. Later, Louis meets with local food merchants, including American Harry Smith and Balukjian, and accuses the men of profiteering. Louis has compiled a dossier on Harry, a former journalist and army volunteer who went AWOL to run a local gambling house and now runs a substantial black market trade. That night, Harry dines at the Moulin Rouge club and notices a beautiful woman, Violette, who is soon joined by Louis. Dining is abruptly and violently disrupted when a Syrian national sets off a grenade. Louis pursues the culprit while Harry aids Violette. Louis returns and escorts Violette to her apartment, where she complains bitterly about the rough and dangerous life in Damascus. When Louis declares his love for her, however, Violette rejects him coldly. Meanwhile, Harry descends into the city's ancient catacombs to rendezvous with the Emir's representative and discuss a delayed gun shipment. Unknown to Harry, his latest shipment has been intercepted by Louis. The shipment, loaded onto a simple handcart, is covered by a canvas sheet sprinkled with fresh apricots. Unperturbed by his missing shipment, Harry purchases a silver bracelet from a street vendor that he sends to Violette via his associate, Nasir Aboud. Balukjian, meanwhile, visits Louis, who accuses him of being the gunrunner, and in a panic, Balukjian offers to unearth proof of the identity of the real violator. While Harry pays a flirtatious call on Violette, Balukjian discovers from Nasir that Harry has an overstock of apricots. That evening, Louis and Violette quarrel over Harry's attentions and Louis pleads with her, then warns her to remain in the city, which is now quarantined due to continuing street violence. The next day after Balukjian reports to Louis, Balukjian visits Harry and makes a half-hearted attempt to warn him Louis knows about his activities. him. Later that night, Violette comes to Harry's apartment and begs him to take her to Cairo. They are interrupted when Nasir bursts in to reveal that Balukjian has betrayed Harry. While Harry hurriedly packs, Violette implores him to take her, and he grudgingly agrees. Harry pays a large sum to secure illegally seats on the last bus leaving the city, but when the bus develops engine problems, the delay gives French soldiers time to intercept it. Harry slips away, while Violette is caught. Harry seeks refuge in the catacombs, but is turned away as too dangerous by the Emir's representative. As the bus passengers are interrogated, Louis pulls Violette aside, but she refuses to discuss Harry. LaSalle then summons Louis and berates him for his misguided, non-violent methods and informs him that he is requesting armed reinforcements to shore up the city. Exposed by an informant, Harry is arrested and brought to Louis, who sentences him to execution unless he can get him an audience with the Emir. With the promise of an exit out of Damascus, Harry agrees. When Louis disappears into the Emir's headquarters, Harry apprises Violette, who remains indifferent. Later, LaSalle questions Harry, who ffers to carry money to the Emir in exchange for Louis. Deep within the catacombs, Harry finds Louis pleading with the Emir to consider a peaceful solution with the French. The Emir refuses, but releases Louis before accusing Harry of being a turncoat. Harry protests that his concerns are purely mercenary, and the Emir allows his departure but has him killed as he leaves the catacombs. As Louis walks back across the streets of Damascus, he realizes the steady gunfire has ceased, a sign that there may be hope for peace.
Lee J. Cobb
Bob St. Angelo
A. I. Bezzerides
Henry S. Kesler
In Sirocco, Bogart plays a black marketeer in 1925 Syria who sells guns to a rebel force battling the French occupiers of Damascus and the surrounding area. Nabbed by Col. Feroud, head of the French Intelligence Corps, Bogart is released after reluctantly agreeing to sell his weapons exclusively to the French. In the meantime, possibly motivated by revenge, he romances Feroud's girlfriend Violette and tries to help her escape to Cairo. Feroud bribes Bogart with a pass to leave the city if he will act as a go-between in Feroud's efforts to make peace with the Syrian rebels. But a kink in the plan and a change of heart leads Bogart to go beyond his deal with the French and take a more active part in rescuing those involved - at a great personal price.
Sirocco was produced by Bogart's company Santana (which was also the name of his yacht) and something of a disappointment for the actor. Bogart had left Warner Brothers and formed the new company to make better films and have more control over his career. Although at least one of the handful of movies produced by Santana is now highly regarded - In a Lonely Place (1950), directed by Nicholas Ray - none of the others were very successful either critically or commercially at the time of their release. Sirocco must have carried its own bitter edge for Bogart with so many reviewers comparing it unfavorably to Casablanca, one of his biggest hits for Warner Brothers.
Others involved in the production had their own reasons to remember it less than fondly. Scripter A.I. Bezzerides, whose greatest success came later with the Mickey Spillane thriller Kiss Me Deadly (1955), had contributed to the scripts for two previous Bogart films, They Drive By Night (1940) and Action in the North Atlantic (1943), so the star trusted his work. But Bezzerides had to step in on Curtis Bernhardt's behalf when Bogart's partner, producer Robert Lord, threatened to fire the German-born director for undisclosed reasons. Perhaps it was because Bernhardt, who made his name at Warners with hit melodramas for such stars as Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and Ann Sheridan, was not primarily an action director. Or maybe it was because he grumbled openly about not being allowed to film on location in Damascus.
Yet, despite Bernhardt's aggravations, Sirocco managed to deliver on its premise as a spy thriller with a twisting plot and as a period thriller with a dark, apparently amoral hero at its center. There are some characteristic Bogart moments, as when he responds to criticism about his lack of political convictions: "I've had them - they're left behind in America with my first wife." And there's an observation from Marta Toren as the love interest that defines Bogart's physical image and offbeat appeal: "You're so ugly. How can a man so ugly be so handsome?" The movie also features an early performance by Zero Mostel, who must have thought his ship had come in that year. Offered a seven-year contract with 20th Century Fox, the relative newcomer (Sirocco was his third film) appeared in five movies released in 1951. It was a short-lived success, however. Mostel became a victim of the Hollywood Blacklist and did not appear in another movie until A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966).
Director: Curtis Bernhardt
Producer: Robert Lord
Screenplay: A.I. Bezzerides, Hans Jacoby, based on the novel Coup de Grace by Joseph Kessel
Cinematography: Burnett Guffey
Editing: Viola Lawrence
Art Direction: Robert Peterson
Original Music: George Antheil
Cast: Humphrey Bogart (Harry Smith), Marta Toren (Violette), Lee J. Cobb (Col. Feroud), Everett Sloane (Gen. LaSalle), Zero Mostel (Balukjian), Onslow Stevens (Emir Hassan)
by Rob Nixon
Hollywood Reporter news items indicate that producer Robert Lord initially intended to shoot Sirocco on location in Europe, but the film was ultimately shot on the Columbia lot in Hollywood.
Released in United States Summer July 1951
Released in United States Summer July 1951