Brother Orchid


1h 30m 1940
Brother Orchid

Brief Synopsis

After a failed hit, a mob chief recuperates in a monastery.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Crime
Release Date
Jun 8, 1940
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "Brother Orchid" by Richard Edward Connell in Collier's (21 May 1938).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Synopsis

Gang leader Little John Sarto quits his protection association to see the world as a gentleman, leaving his girlfriend Flo Addams behind. After five years of chasing "class," Sarto returns broke to resume his leadership, only to find that Jack Buck has taken over and that Flo has prospered in her own business with cowpoke Clarence Fletcher. Sarto organizes a new gang and is rapidly muscling in on his old territory when Flo inadvertently sets him up as a target for Buck's boys. Badly wounded, Sarto manages to crawl to a monastery where, rechristened Brother Orchid, he is nursed back to health and influenced by the kindness of the good brothers, he begins to change his outlook on life. When he learns that Flo is to marry Clarence and that the monastery is suffering financial hardship because Buck refuses to allow the brothers to market their flowers, however, Sarto leaves his sanctuary, stops the wedding and, with Clarence's help, breaks up the protective association. His task accomplished, Sarto decides that he has found true class within the walls of the monastery, and so leaves Flo to Clarence and returns to his life as "Brother Orchid" in the Order of the Flowers.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Crime
Release Date
Jun 8, 1940
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "Brother Orchid" by Richard Edward Connell in Collier's (21 May 1938).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Articles

Brother Orchid


Both Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart grumbled when they were assigned to Brother Orchid (1940) by Warner Brothers production executives. Robinson, who had reached stardom in a number of gangster roles since his breakthrough performance in Little Caesar (1930), was tired of playing bulldog-like criminals and mobsters. A classically trained actor from the New York stage, he began to expand his range on screen in such roles as The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938) and the bio-pic Dr. Erhlich's Magic Bullet (1940), about the man who discovered the cure for syphilis. With Brother Orchid he saw only a return to the crime-picture grind. In a cordial letter to studio production chief Hal Wallis in late 1938, Robinson insisted his reluctance to take the role had nothing to do with dislike for the genre or "conceit or actor's temperament, but in order to do justice to my capabilities, as a whole." In the same letter, Robinson asked to be cast in Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939), a movie he wanted to make "for my people" (Robinson was Jewish). He was cast in that role but agreed to do Brother Orchid only after the studio promised him the lead in its upcoming production of The Sea Wolf (1941), based on Jack London's story. On the other hand, Humphrey Bogart, who hadn't yet made his breakthrough pictures High Sierra (1941) and The Maltese Falcon (1941), didn't have the power to wrangle a better deal and felt himself stuck playing another version of the thick, brutal lug he had been doing for years at the studio.

The end result, however, must have given them at least a little satisfaction, because Brother Orchid is a delightfully offbeat spoof that skillfully treads the line between gangster drama and comedy. Robinson is Johnny Sarto, a gangland boss who takes a sabbatical to Europe in search of some "class," leaving his rackets in the hands of underling Jack Buck (Bogart). But when Sarto returns home, he finds the ruthlessly ambitious Buck ensconced permanently in his place, unwilling to give it up. Organizing a new gang, Sarto attempts to muscle in on Buck's territory, but his none-too-bright girlfriend Flo inadvertently sets him up to be murdered. Taken for a ride by Buck's henchmen, Sarto is wounded but manages to escape through the woods to a secluded monastery. Nursed back to health by the kindly monks, Sarto decides the place is the perfect hideout while he plans his next move. At first trying to manipulate the situation to his best criminal advantage, he soon learns the value of the brothers' way of life and joins them in their commercial gardening pursuits, becoming a specialist in raising orchids. But when he learns the monastery is being prevented from selling flowers in the city by a protection racket headed by Buck, he swings into action, aided by his new companion Flo, a neighboring ranch owner.

As Flo, Ann Sothern brings a daffy charm and a voice like a mynah bird to her dim-witted moll role. The part almost wasn't hers. Wallis wanted studio contractee Lee Patrick (later Sam Spade's loyal secretary in The Maltese Falcon). Producer Mark Hellinger went over Wallis's head to Jack Warner and secured the part for Sothern. The picture was directed by Warners stalwart Lloyd Bacon, who was known for his speed and efficiency in production. "He did things so quickly that I once accused him of taking bribes," James Cagney once cracked. The director of 73 films at the studio, Bacon stunned everyone by surpassing even his own speed record by shooting 47 takes in one day on the biographical film Knute Rockne - All American (1940).

This was Bogart and Robinson's fourth co-starring venture. After this they didn't work together again for eight years, until their pairing in John Huston's dark thriller Key Largo (1948).

Director: Lloyd Bacon
Producer: Mark Hellinger, Hal B. Wallis
Screenplay: Earl Baldwin, from a story by Richard Connell
Cinematography: Tony Gaudio
Editing: William Holmes
Art Direction: Max Parker
Original Music: Heinz Roemheld
Cast: Edward G. Robinson (Johnny Sarto), Ann Sothern (Flo Addams), Humphrey Bogart (Jack Buck), Donald Crisp (Brother Superior), Ralph Bellamy (Clarence Fletcher), Allen Jenkins (Willie 'The Knife' Corson), Cecil Kellaway (Brother Goodwin).
BW-88m. Closed captioning.

by Rob Nixon
Brother Orchid

Brother Orchid

Both Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart grumbled when they were assigned to Brother Orchid (1940) by Warner Brothers production executives. Robinson, who had reached stardom in a number of gangster roles since his breakthrough performance in Little Caesar (1930), was tired of playing bulldog-like criminals and mobsters. A classically trained actor from the New York stage, he began to expand his range on screen in such roles as The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938) and the bio-pic Dr. Erhlich's Magic Bullet (1940), about the man who discovered the cure for syphilis. With Brother Orchid he saw only a return to the crime-picture grind. In a cordial letter to studio production chief Hal Wallis in late 1938, Robinson insisted his reluctance to take the role had nothing to do with dislike for the genre or "conceit or actor's temperament, but in order to do justice to my capabilities, as a whole." In the same letter, Robinson asked to be cast in Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939), a movie he wanted to make "for my people" (Robinson was Jewish). He was cast in that role but agreed to do Brother Orchid only after the studio promised him the lead in its upcoming production of The Sea Wolf (1941), based on Jack London's story. On the other hand, Humphrey Bogart, who hadn't yet made his breakthrough pictures High Sierra (1941) and The Maltese Falcon (1941), didn't have the power to wrangle a better deal and felt himself stuck playing another version of the thick, brutal lug he had been doing for years at the studio. The end result, however, must have given them at least a little satisfaction, because Brother Orchid is a delightfully offbeat spoof that skillfully treads the line between gangster drama and comedy. Robinson is Johnny Sarto, a gangland boss who takes a sabbatical to Europe in search of some "class," leaving his rackets in the hands of underling Jack Buck (Bogart). But when Sarto returns home, he finds the ruthlessly ambitious Buck ensconced permanently in his place, unwilling to give it up. Organizing a new gang, Sarto attempts to muscle in on Buck's territory, but his none-too-bright girlfriend Flo inadvertently sets him up to be murdered. Taken for a ride by Buck's henchmen, Sarto is wounded but manages to escape through the woods to a secluded monastery. Nursed back to health by the kindly monks, Sarto decides the place is the perfect hideout while he plans his next move. At first trying to manipulate the situation to his best criminal advantage, he soon learns the value of the brothers' way of life and joins them in their commercial gardening pursuits, becoming a specialist in raising orchids. But when he learns the monastery is being prevented from selling flowers in the city by a protection racket headed by Buck, he swings into action, aided by his new companion Flo, a neighboring ranch owner. As Flo, Ann Sothern brings a daffy charm and a voice like a mynah bird to her dim-witted moll role. The part almost wasn't hers. Wallis wanted studio contractee Lee Patrick (later Sam Spade's loyal secretary in The Maltese Falcon). Producer Mark Hellinger went over Wallis's head to Jack Warner and secured the part for Sothern. The picture was directed by Warners stalwart Lloyd Bacon, who was known for his speed and efficiency in production. "He did things so quickly that I once accused him of taking bribes," James Cagney once cracked. The director of 73 films at the studio, Bacon stunned everyone by surpassing even his own speed record by shooting 47 takes in one day on the biographical film Knute Rockne - All American (1940). This was Bogart and Robinson's fourth co-starring venture. After this they didn't work together again for eight years, until their pairing in John Huston's dark thriller Key Largo (1948). Director: Lloyd Bacon Producer: Mark Hellinger, Hal B. Wallis Screenplay: Earl Baldwin, from a story by Richard Connell Cinematography: Tony Gaudio Editing: William Holmes Art Direction: Max Parker Original Music: Heinz Roemheld Cast: Edward G. Robinson (Johnny Sarto), Ann Sothern (Flo Addams), Humphrey Bogart (Jack Buck), Donald Crisp (Brother Superior), Ralph Bellamy (Clarence Fletcher), Allen Jenkins (Willie 'The Knife' Corson), Cecil Kellaway (Brother Goodwin). BW-88m. Closed captioning. by Rob Nixon

Quotes

Johnny, Wait a minute. I want you to carry this with you.
- Flo Addams
What is it?
- Little Johnny Sarto
It's a rabbit's foot. A lucky charm. My uncle wore it for 32 years.
- Flo Addams
A lucky charm, eh? Where'd you get it?
- Little Johnny Sarto
From my mother. With her own hand she took it off of my uncle after they hung him.
- Flo Addams

Trivia

Notes

A Hollywood Reporter production chart credits Jerry Wald and Richard Macauley with screenplay, but their participation in the final film has not been confirmed. A news item in Los Angeles Times notes that James Cagney was originally to have played the lead in this film.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1940

Released in United States 1940