Humphrey Bogart has probably been imitated more than any other actor. His
film characters such as Sam Spade, Rick Blaine, Duke Mantee and Fred C. Dobbs,
to name a few, have become woven into the fabric of American culture. His
on-screen fights against the likes of Cagney, Robinson, and Raft were nothing
compared to his offscreen antics which included several stormy marriages,
ongoing battles with Hollywood mogul Jack Warner for better parts, and a
dependency on alcohol. For many, though, he will always be the ultimate screen
actor whose position as the greatest movie tough guy of them all is secure.
Bogart's screen persona--the tight-lipped, streetwise thug--is a testament
to his gifts as an actor, especially when contrasted against his upper crust
upbringing. Humphrey DeForest Bogart was born in New York City on December 25,
1899 to Maud Humphrey, a noted illustrator and artist, and DeForest Bogart, a
prosperous Manhattan surgeon. Hoping that their son would eventually be bound
for Yale rather than Broadway or Hollywood, the Bogarts sent their son to such
posh halls of academia as Trinity School and Phillips Academy at Andover,
Mass., where he was prepping for medical school. But failing grades and a
supposed incidence of irreverence to a faculty member led to his expulsion from
Bogart traded in his chance at a graduation cap for a sailor's cap by enlisting
in the U.S. Navy in the spring of 1918. It was during his naval stint that he
got his trademark scar and developed his characteristic lisp, though the actual
circumstances are hazy at best. One account is that his lip was cut be a piece
of shrapnel during a shelling of his ship, the Leviathan. Another version,
which Bogart's long time friend, author Nathaniel Benchley, claims is the
truth, is that Bogart was injured while on assignment to take a naval prisoner
to Portsmouth Naval Prison in New Hampshire. Supposedly, while changing trains
in Boston, the handcuffed prisoner asked Bogart for a cigarette and while
Bogart looked for a match, the prisoner raised his hands, smashed Bogart across
the mouth with his cuffs, cutting Bogart's lip, and fled. Bogart used his .45
gun to drop the prisoner who was eventually taken to Portsmouth. By the time
Bogart was treated by a doctor, the scar had already formed.
Телеграмма Хэмфри Богарта Леонарду Бернштейну:
"IF MY HAT HAD NOT BEEN BLOWN OFF YEARS AGO, I WOULD TAKE IT OFF. BETTY,
WHO STILL HAS A HAT, THROWS HERS IN THE AIR. JUST WONDERFUL. BOGIE."
After his discharge, Bogart looked up a family friend, theatrical producer
William A. Brady, who hired him as an office boy. Bogart eventually landed a
job as a stage manager and also did some chores at Brady's New York film
studio, World Film Corp. Brady's daughter, actress Alice Brady, thought Bogart
had some acting potential and gave him a small role in 'Drifting' (1922), a play
in which she was starring. Later that year, Bogart was given his first
substantial stage role in 'Swifty,' but his notices were hardly the stuff that
dreams are made of. Critic Alexander Woollcott called Bogart's performance
'what is usually and mercifully described as inadequate.' Still, Bogart got
plenty of stage work throughout the '20s in a number of antiquated drawing room
comedies and dramas playing, of all things, callow juveniles and romantic
During this time, Helen Menken, a renowned stage actress of the day, became
smitten with Bogart. More out of advancement for his career than out of love,
Bogart decided to marry Menken in 1926, but not surprisingly, the union lasted
less than a year.
Then in 1928, he married for a second time, to actress Mary Philips whom he'd
known for several years. The two began a long-distance marriage shortly
thereafter. Discouraged by his lack of progress on Broadway, Bogart headed west
in 1930 hoping his luck would change in films. Since talkies were still in
their infancy, the studios were eagerly importing stage actors with crisp
voices, a situation which helped Bogart land a contract with Fox Film Corp. His
first feature film was a forgotten failure called 'The Devil With Women'. After
two more dismal pictures, Fox released Bogart from his contract and he began
making the rounds at Columbia, Universal and Warner Brothers, where he landed roles
in several more forgettable films. Mary meanwhile was still in New York, where
her stage success was their chief means of support.
Following the film 'Midnight' in 1934, Bogart returned to New York, once again
hoping to jumpstart his stage career. Time had caught up with him and he was
well past the age to keep playing juveniles. He had heard that playwright
Robert E. Sherwood was seeking someone to play a vicious killer named Duke
Mantee in his new play, 'The Petrified Forest', which already had Leslie Howard
as its star. Bogart approached Sherwood hoping that his weathered appearance
would show that physically at least he was right for the role. Sherwood
referred Bogart to the play's director who told Bogart to return in three days
for a reading. He came back sporting a three-day stubble and wearing his
shabbiest clothes. The combination of a tramp-like appearance and stellar
reading helped Bogart land his first plum role. Both the play and Bogart were
immediate hits with both audiences and critics.
"Deadline USA", 1952
When Warner Brothers acquired the film rights to 'The Petrified Forest,'
Howard was again asked to play the lead, but the studio thought contract player
Edward G. Robinson would be a better choice to play Mantee. Howard refused to
star in the film unless Bogart was also cast as Mantee. Warners gave in and
signed Bogart to a studio contract.
'The Petrified Forest' (1936), which also co-starred Bette Davis, turned out to
be just as big a smash on screen, but Jack Warner had no plans to build Bogart
into a major star. Instead, Bogart languished in a string of Bs including 'The
Return of Dr. X' (1939), which its star called 'this stinking movie,' and 'The
Oklahoma Kid' (1939), with Bogart and James Cagney looking saddle sore as
cowboys. Occasionally there was a good role in an A picture, like 'Dead End'
(1937) on loanout for Samuel Goldwyn. In that film, Bogart gave a chilling
performance as Baby Face Martin, a gangster idolized by a street gang played by
the Dead End Kids. Unfortunately, back at Warners, his welcome home present was
the lead in 'Swing Your Lady' (1938), a piece of hillbilly hokum universally
regarded as the worst movie of Bogart's career.
His professional difficulties were minor compared to his personal life at this
time. His marriage to Mary fell apart shortly after they moved west, primarily
because she had no intention of giving up her stage career and settling in
Hollywood as Bogart had hoped. Not too long after their breakup, Bogart met a
fiery actress named Mayo Methot while working on 'Marked Woman' (1937). Methot
was noted for having a penchant for alcohol, an explosive temper and a right
hook Joe Louis would have envied. Through her persistence, she wangled a
proposal from a reluctant Bogart and they were married in August, 1938.
In no time at all, they became known as the Battling Bogarts, thanks to their
frequent outbursts at nightclubs, hotels, and restaurants, which turned into
boxing rings as the two hurled crockery, plants, and any other handy items at
each other. Most often, these fights stemmed from Mayo's delusions that Bogart
was chasing other women. Bogart, who had always enjoyed a stiff drink, began
drinking especially heavily during his marriage to Mayo.
At the studio, Bogart was still stuck in his gangster mold, basically handling
the leftovers rejected by Cagney or Robinson. Bogart frequently argued with
Warner for better roles, but since he refused to take a suspension, he still
found himself supporting 'names' like George Raft in two films in 1940, 'They
Drive By Night' and 'Invisible Stripes.' Ironically, it would be Raft who unwittingly
would give Bogart his first crack at stardom the following year. Raft turned
down the role of Roy Earle, an ex-con out to pull his last big job before
retiring, in Raoul Walsh's classic, 'High Sierra'. Raft's reason for saying no:
He didn't want to die in the end. (Paul Muni also turned the role down.) Warner
reluctantly gave the part to Bogart, and it was a perfect fit. Thanks to John
Huston's intelligent script, Walsh's crisp direction, and the performances of
Bogart and co-star Ida Lupino, 'High Sierra' was a smash.
During his rise in 1940, Bogart found himself recieivng attention of another
kind. In 1940 the 'Dies Committee' began its look into Un-American activity in
Hollywood, and John L. Leech, an reported high ranking member of the local Communist
Party, named both Bogart and James Cagney, of being Communists.The local
district attorney, Buron Fitts, convened a grand jury, where Leech wou;d
describe clandestine meetings at the home of B. P. Schulberg, a Paramount
Pictures production head, where Bogart and others would read "the
doctrines of Karl Marx." The only problem with this so called testimony is
that the FBI had already investigated Leech, and concluded he was a
Bogart was grilled by Dies about his membership in the Communist Party, saying
the only thing radical about him was his membership in the Screen Actors Guild,
and as for his knowledge of who in the industry might be suspect, he advised
Dies he has suspicions but no way to prove anything so he answered no. Despite
holding himself in check during questioning, when allowed to add anything to
the record his anger spilled out, "I've been born an American. I've always
been a loyal citizen. I have great love for my country. Anytime I would be
called upon I would sever that country. I resent the intrusion and insinuation
that I am anything else --- I think it's completely un-American (for) a ma
(Leech) who has been, as far as I can read in the papers, called a liar to be
allowed to testify befroe a grand jury without the people accused being
permitted to have an opportunity to answer those charges."
The newspapers had a field day tearing apart Leech, and at the same time
questioning the credibility of Dies and his Committee. The end result of this
round amounted to nothing, when Dies was forced to admit that there was
"no evidence" connecting anyone Leech named to the Communist Party.
Later that year, Bogart and Huston were reteamed for an even bigger film, the
third, and without a doubt the best version of 'The Maltese Falcon', which was
also Huston's directorial debut. As detective Sam Spade, Bogart created the
first film-noir detective, a character that everyone from Alan Ladd to George
Raft tried unsuccessfully to copy during the '40s. It was also the first time
Bogart was given a strong romantic relationship onscreen. While men had
appreciated his tough guy demeanor, for the first time women began to respond
to his sexuality. After 'The Maltese Falcon,' Bogart was firmly established
with Davis, Cagney, Robinson, and Errol Flynn in the upper echelon of Warner's
Bogart, Astor, Greenstreet and Huston teamed up again the following year for
'Across the Pacific,' a wartime adventure which The New York Times called 'a
delightfully fear-jerking picture.' Bogart's next film, also in 1942, might
have started off as just another wartime epic, but it would ultimately become
the film most identified with Bogart--'Casablanca'. Based on an unproduced play
called 'Everybody Goes to Rick's,' 'Casablanca' has rightfully earned a
reputation as the greatest love story ever put on film. The tale of Rick
Blaine, a nightclub owner in Casablanca, who becomes torn between love and
honor when his former love Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) shows up in Casablanca
with her husband, Victor Laszlo, a Resistance fighter fleeing the Nazis, is
timeless. Bogart's pain as hears Sam play 'As Time Goes By'; Bogart and Bergman
bidding a tearful farewell at the airport; Bogart and Claude Rains pledging
eternal friendship; and countless other scenes have become a part of film lore.
The film's status is also due in no small part to the superb supporting cast
including Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Dooley
Wilson, as well as Michael Curtiz's masterful direction and a taut script by
Philip and Julius J. Epstein and Howard Koch. Bogart, in his first romantic
role, was honored with his first Academy Award nomination (he inexplicably lost
to Paul Lukas in another Warner Brothers flagwaver, 'Watch on the Rhine').
The fact that 'Casablanca' was chosen as Best Picture of 1943 and has since
made just about everyone's list of the 10 greatest movies ever made is
especially remarkable when one considers the script was only half finished when
shooting began. The actors were given new pages of dialogue on a day-to- day
basis, and were unaware of how the picture would end until the last scene was
shot. The final decision was to write two endings--one in which Henreid gets
Bergman, and another in which she stays with Bogart--shoot both and then show
both to preview audiences to see which works better. As it turned out, the
former was shot first and played so well that plans for a second version were
During the filming of 'Casablanca,' Mayo was a frequent (and none too welcome)
visitor to the set. She was extremely jealous of Bergman and became convinced
that her love scenes with Bogart were a little too convincing. Supposedly, once
when Bogart received a compliment on his performance in 'Casablanca,' the star
quipped, 'I wasn't allowed to see it.'
While Mayo's concerns about Bergman may have been unjustified, she had every
reason to worry when Bogart was assigned to star in 'To Have and Have Not' in
1944. His co-star in this loose adaptation of the Ernest Hemingway novel was a
sleek 20-year-old fashion model named Lauren Bacall, who had just been signed
by Warner Brothers. When Bogart met Bacall for the first time after seeing her
screen test, he said, 'We'll have a lot of fun together.' If the finished film
is any indication, they obviously had a great time both in front of and away
from the camera. Once audiences saw the classic scene in 'To Have and Have Not'
when Bacall taught Bogart to whistle, everyone knew he had met his match.
Fun turned to romance and the two were soon talking marriage. Unfortunately,
Mayo was still trying to hold onto her husband, but even she knew it was
hopeless. She and Bogart were divorced on May 10, 1945; Bogart and Bacall were
married 11 days later.
Bogart's wedding present from Warner Brothers was a new contract which
guaranteed him an annual salary of $1 million for the next 15 years, an
unprecedented agreement at the time. Certainly the box-office strength of 'To
Have and Have Not' and his new marriage to his leading lady were a factor. The
studio wasted no time in reteaming them for three more films: 'The Big Sleep'
(1946), 'Dark Passage' (1947) and 'Key Largo' (1948). While all were
entertaining, none had the same spark as their first film, although 'The Big
Sleep' came closest. Sandwiched in the middle of the Bacall trio were the film
noir 'Dead Reckoning' (1947) with Lizabeth Scott, a poor man's Bacall, for
Columbia, and 'The Two Mrs. Carrolls' (1947) which cast Bogart as an artist
with shades of Bluebeard menacing (unconvincingly) spouse Barbara Stanwyck.
Now at the height of his fame Bogart almost brought his own career to end,
taking on the 1947 HUAC hearings, which had seven years previously targeted
him. His friend and director John Huston was a founding member of the Committee
for the First Amendment (CFA), and Bogart along with his wife Lauren Bacall
threw their support behind it. Along with many others they produced a radio
broadcast opposing the hearings, and flew to Washington to show their
opposition to hearings they felt were trampling all over the Constitution.
The hearings turned into a circus with the CFA caught in the middle, and a now
unfriendly press, began to question why Bogart and Bacall were taking to task a
Committee striving to stop the "hater of our people. the foe of our way of
life, the poisoner of the minds of our children." Bogart would be targeted
by the media, and he freely gave various interviews, to the leftists he was a
reactionary to the Republicans he was a Communist.
The final blow came in November of 1947, as 'Dark Passage' starring Bogart and
Bacall was released. Bogart in New York to promote the film continued to voice
his displeasure with HUAC, and a frantic Jack Warner cabled his New York people
to get Bogart to "make a retraction" At the same time a letter writing
campaign was targeting Fox theatres that were showing his films, box office
receipts for 'Dark Passage', which usually amounted to $1,000 a day per theatre
showing a Bogart film, barely took in one fifth of that, and Warner's pulled
the film. The FBI was now composing a file on Bogart, despite the attempts of
Ed Sullivan, who did not like what Bogart was saying, but nonetheless called
FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and said Bogart was as much a Commie the Director.
Bogarts' own production company, Santanna, was having trouble securing money
for new productions, the public was beinging to openly question him and the
CFA, studio executives were pressuring their contract players to retract
statements against HUAC
By December the pressure had won out and defeated the CFA, Bogart in particular
was the first to capitulate, and headed back to Hollywood by train. Warner
Brothers had a statement drafted for him, and on a rain soaked platform in
Chicago, Bogart addressed the assembled press, "I went to Washington because
I thought fellow Americans were being deprived of their Constitutional rights,
and for that reason alone. That the trip was ill-advised, even foolish, I am
very ready to admit. At the time it seemed the right thing to do. --- I am an
American --- sometimes a foolish and impetuous American." He went on to
add that Communists had used the CFA for their own agenda.
Several papers, and one congressman, Chet Holifield wrote that the CFA and
Bogart had no need to apologize or retract statements, noting that even the
toughest of actors can be forgiven for faltering under intense pressure, said
one columnist "All right, Humphrey. You can get up off your knees."
Fellow CFA members were in shock at their star attraction pulling hte rug out
from under them, though many understood the intense pressure put upon him. Many
noted that he had a tortured look about him. John Huston would later say of his
friends actions "I felt Bogie was out of line. But he was only the first
of quite a number."
Despite this apparent falling out, Bogart reteamed with his favorite director
John Huston for another career milestone, 'The Treasure of the Sierra Madre'.
Bogart shed his private eye image for a chance at his first solid character
role. As a grubby gold prsopector named Fred C. Dobbs, Bogart delivered what
may be his finest performance, showing heretofore untapped range as a man
totally consumed by greed. Equally memorable was his co-star Walter Huston, who
deservedly won a Supporting Actor Oscar. Although critics loved the film and
praised Bogart, it died at the box office.
Despite his past problems with politcal issues Bogart supported several
Democratic political causes and even campaigned for Adlai Stevenson during his
unsuccessful presidential bid in 1952.
On the homefront, the Bogarts welcomed a new member to the family in 1949 when
their son, Stephen Humphrey, was born. (Their daughter, Leslie Howard, was born
in 1952 and named after his friend and fellow actor who lost his life in WW
Meanwhile, a different type of Bogart production had been set up in 1947.
Bogart formed Santana Pictures Corp., named after his other great love besides
Bacall, his boat Santana. At the time, Bogart was the first actor to form his
own production company. Between 1949 and 1951, Bogart starred in four Santana
productions for Columbia: the urban drama 'Knock On Any Door,' the forgettable
adventure flicks 'Tokyo Joe' and 'Sirocco,' and the cult classic 'In a Lonely
Place.' Jack Warner was furious when Bogart formed his production unit, fearing
it would start a trend in which actors would gain new power. Regardless, Bogart
still worked for Warner in two minor films in the early '50s that finished his
Warner Brothers contract: 'Chain Lightning' and 'The Enforcer.'
Freed from Warner's shackles, Bogart was clearly ready to stretch his acting
muscles. The perfect showcase came again from Huston: 'The African Queen'. The
offbeat teaming of Bogart as a drunken boatman and Katharine Hepburn as a
strait-laced missionary proved compelling. Bogart was happy to shed his image
as a tough, romantic lead to play an unkempt, vulnerable sot and comic sparring
partner for Hepburn. The film proved to be a huge hit and Bogart's performance
was universally applauded. At the Academy Awards ceremony in the spring of 1952,
Bogart at long last won a Best Actor Oscar, beating out such solid competition
as Marlon Brando in 'A Streetcar Named Desire' and Fredric March in 'Death of a
The film also kicked off the final phase of Bogart's film career as a
dependable character actor. His later films included such diverse
characterizations as the unbalanced Captain Queeg in 'The Caine Mutiny' (a
third Best Actor Oscar nomination), a disreputable adventurer in Huston's
satiric 'Beat the Devil,' a film director in 'The Barefoot Contessa,' a stodgy
businessman wooing chauffeur's daughter Audrey Hepburn in 'Sabrina,' and a
hoodlum holding a family hostage in 'The Desperate Hours.' Bogart made his
final film in 1956, the gritty boxing drama, 'The Harder They Fall'. Shortly after
its release in February 1956, Bogart underwent surgery to remove a cancerous
growth from his esophagus. He recovered and gained back some of the weight he
had lost. Unfortunately, he was readmitted to Good Samaritan Hospital in
November of that year for treatment of nerve pressure caused by the growth of
scar tissue on his throat. He was sent home sometime after the operation, but
never recovered. Bogart died on January 14, 1957 in the bedroom of his home in
Hollywood's Holmby Hills. At his funeral, long-time friend Huston spoke for
every Bogart fan: 'He is quite unreplaceable. There will never be anybody like
Nathaniel Benchley, Humphrey Bogart (Little Brown & Co., Boston, 1975).
Ephraim Katz, The Film Encyclopedia (Putnam, New York, 1979).
Ted Sennet, Warner Brothers Presents (Castle, Secaucus, N.J., 1971).
David Shipman, The Great Movie Stars: The Golden Years (Bonanza, New York,
Hollywood Album: Lives and Deaths of Hollywood Stars from the Pages of The New
York Times (Arno, New York, 1979).
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