Humphrey DeForest Bogart (December 25, 1899 – January 14, 1957) was an American actor and is widely regarded as an American cultural icon. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Bogart as the greatest male star in the history of American cinema.
After trying various jobs, Bogart began acting in 1921 and became a regular in Broadway productions in the 1920s and 1930s. When the stock market crash of 1929 reduced the demand for plays, Bogart turned to film. His first great success was as Duke Mantee in The Petrified Forest (1936), and this led to a period of typecasting as a gangster with films such as Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) and B-movies like The Return of Doctor X (1939).
Bogart’s breakthrough as a leading man came in 1941, with High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon. The next year, his performance in Casablanca raised him to the peak of his profession and, at the same time, cemented his trademark film persona, that of the hard-boiled cynic who ultimately shows his noble side. Other successes followed, including To Have and Have Not (1944); The Big Sleep (1946); Dark Passage (1947) and Key Largo (1948), with his wife Lauren Bacall; The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948); In a Lonely Place (1950); The African Queen (1951), for which he won his only Academy Award; Sabrina (1954); and The Caine Mutiny (1954). His last movie was The Harder They Fall (1956). During a film career of almost 30 years, he appeared in 75 feature films.
Bogart was born on Christmas Day, 1899 in New York City, the eldest child of Dr. Belmont DeForest Bogart (July 1867, Watkins Glen, New York – September 8, 1934, Tudor City apartments, New York City) and Maud Humphrey (1868–1940). Belmont and Maud married in June 1898. The name “Bogart” comes from the Dutch surname “Bogaert”. It is derived from the word “bogaard”, a short name for “boomgaard”, which means “orchard”. Bogart’s father was a Presbyterian of English and Dutch descent; his mother was an Episcopalian of English descent. Bogart was raised in the Episcopalian faith, but did not share in his family’s belief in God.
Bogart’s birthday has been a subject of controversy; according to Warner Bros, he was born on Christmas Day, 1899. Others believe that this was a fiction created by the studio to romanticize their star, and that he was actually born on January 23, 1899. However, this story is now considered baseless: although no birth certificate has ever been found, his birth notice did appear in a New York newspaper in early January 1900, which supports the December 1899 date, as do other sources, such as the 1900 census.
Bogart’s father, Belmont, was a cardiopulmonary surgeon. His mother, Maud Humphrey, was a commercial illustrator, who received her art training in New York and France, including study with James McNeill Whistler, and who later became artistic director of the fashion magazine The Delineator. She was a militant suffragette. She used a drawing of baby Humphrey in a well-known ad campaign for Mellins Baby Food. In her prime, she made over $50,000 a year, then a vast sum, far more than her husband’s $20,000 per year. The Bogarts lived in a fashionable Upper West Side apartment, and had an elegant cottage on a fifty-five acre estate in upstate New York on Canandaigua Lake. As a youngster, Humphrey’s gang of friends at the lake would put on theatricals.
Humphrey was the oldest of three children; he had two younger sisters, Frances and Catherine Elizabeth (Kay). His parents were very formal, busy in their careers, and frequently fought—resulting in little emotion directed at the children, “I was brought up very unsentimentally but very straightforwardly. A kiss, in our family, was an event. Our mother and father didn’t glug over my two sisters and me.” As a boy, Bogart was teased for his curls, his tidiness, the “cute” pictures his mother had him pose for, the Little Lord Fauntleroy clothes she dressed him in—and the name “Humphrey.” From his father, Bogart inherited a tendency for needling people, a fondness for fishing, a lifelong love of boating, and an attraction to strong-willed women.
The Bogarts sent their son to private schools. Bogart attended the Delancey School until fifth grade, when he was enrolled in Trinity School. He was an indifferent, sullen student who showed no interest in after-school activities. Later he went to the prestigious preparatory school Phillips Academy, in Andover, Massachusetts, where he was admitted based on family connections. They hoped he would go on to Yale, but in 1918, Bogart was expelled. The details of his expulsion are disputed: one story claims that he was expelled for throwing the headmaster (alternatively, a groundskeeper) into Rabbit Pond, a man-made lake on campus. Another cites smoking and drinking, combined with poor academic performance and possibly some inappropriate comments made to the staff. It has also been said that he was actually withdrawn from the school by his father for failing to improve his academics, as opposed to expulsion. In any case, his parents were deeply dismayed by the events and their failed plans for his future.
With no viable career options, Bogart followed his passion for the sea and enlisted in the United States Navy in the spring of 1918. He recalled later, “At eighteen, war was great stuff. Paris! Sexy French girls! Hot damn!” Bogart is recorded as having been a model sailor who spent most of his months in the Navy after the Armistice was signed. The ship he was on ferried troops back from Europe.
It was during his naval stint that Bogart may have gotten his trademark scar and developed his characteristic lisp, though the actual circumstances are unclear. In one account, during a shelling of his ship the USS Leviathan, his lip was cut by a piece of shrapnel, although some claim Bogart did not make it to sea until after the Armistice with Germany was signed. 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 Kittery, Maine. 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. The prisoner was eventually taken to Portsmouth. An alternate explanation is in the process of un-cuffing an inmate, Bogart was struck in the mouth when the inmate wielded one open, un-cuffed bracelet while the other side was still on his wrist.
By the time Bogart was treated by a doctor, the scar had already formed. “Goddamn doctor,” Bogart later told David Niven, “instead of stitching it up, he screwed it up.” Niven says that when he asked Bogart about his scar he said it was caused by a childhood accident; Niven claims the stories that Bogart got the scar during wartime were made up by the studios to inject glamour. His post-service physical makes no mention of the lip scar even though it mentions many smaller scars, so the actual cause may have come later. When actress Louise Brooks met Bogart in 1924, he had some scarred tissue on his upper lip, which Belmont Bogart may have partially repaired before Bogart went into films in 1930. She believes his scar had nothing to do with his distinctive speech pattern, his “lip wound gave him no speech impediment, either before or after it was mended. Over the years, Bogart practiced all kinds of lip gymnastics, accompanied by nasal tones, snarls, lisps and slurs. His painful wince, his leer, his fiendish grin were the most accomplished ever seen on film.”
Bogart returned home to find his father was suffering from poor health (perhaps aggravated by morphine addiction), his medical practice was faltering, and he lost much of the family’s money on bad investments in timber. During his naval days, Bogart’s character and values developed independent of family influence, and he began to rebel somewhat against their values. He came to be a liberal who hated pretensions, phonies, and snobs, and at times he defied conventional behavior and authority, traits he displayed in life and in his movies. On the other hand, he retained their traits of good manners, articulateness, punctuality, modesty, and a dislike of being touched. After his naval service, Bogart worked as a shipper and then bond salesman. He joined the Naval Reserve.
Bogart resumed his friendship with boyhood pal Bill Brady, Jr. whose father had show business connections, and eventually Bogart got an office job working for William A. Brady Sr.’s new company World Films. Bogart got to try his hand at screenwriting, directing, and production, but excelled at none. For a while, he was stage manager for Brady’s daughter’s play A Ruined Lady. A few months later, in 1921, Bogart made his stage debut in Drifting as a Japanese butler in another Alice Brady play, nervously speaking one line of dialog. Several more appearances followed in her subsequent plays. Bogart liked the late hours actors kept, and enjoyed the attention an actor got on stage. He stated, “I was born to be indolent and this was the softest of rackets.” He spent a lot of his free time in speakeasies and became a heavy drinker. A barroom brawl during this time might have been the actual cause of Bogart’s lip damage, as this coincides better with the Louise Brooks account.
Bogart had been raised to believe acting was beneath a gentleman, but he enjoyed stage acting. He never took acting lessons, but was persistent and worked steadily at his craft. He appeared in at least seventeen Broadway productions between 1922 and 1935. He played juveniles or romantic second-leads in drawing room comedies. He is said to have been the first actor to ask “Tennis, anyone?” on stage. Critic Alexander Woollcott wrote of Bogart’s early work that he “is what is usually and mercifully described as inadequate.” Some reviews were kinder. Heywood Broun, reviewing Nerves wrote, “Humphrey Bogart gives the most effective performance…both dry and fresh, if that be possible.” Bogart loathed the trivial, effeminate parts he had to play early in his career, calling them “White Pants Willie” roles.
Early in his career, while playing double roles in the play Drifting at the Playhouse Theatre in 1922, Bogart met actress Helen Menken. They were married on May 20, 1926 at the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York City, divorced on November 18, 1927, but remained friends. On April 3, 1928, he married Mary Philips at her mother’s apartment in Hartford, Connecticut. She, like Menken, had a fiery temper and, like every other Bogart spouse, was an actress. He had met Mary when they appeared in the play Nerves, which had a very brief run at the Comedy Theatre in September 1924.
After the stock market crash of 1929, stage production dropped off sharply, and many of the more photogenic actors headed for Hollywood. Bogart’s earliest film role is with Helen Hayes in the 1928 two-reel The Dancing Town, of which a complete copy has never been found. He also appeared with Joan Blondell and Ruth Etting in a Vitaphone short, Broadway’s Like That (1930) that was re-discovered in 1963.
Bogart then signed a contract with Fox Film Corporation for $750 a week. Spencer Tracy was a serious Broadway actor whom Bogart liked and admired, and they became good friends and drinking buddies. It was Tracy, in 1930, who first called him “Bogey”. (Spelled variously in many sources, Bogart himself spelled his nickname “Bogie”.) Tracy and Bogart appeared in their only film together in John Ford’s early sound film Up the River (1930), with both playing inmates. It was Tracy’s film debut. Bogart then performed in The Bad Sister with Bette Davis in 1931, in a minor part.
Bogart shuttled back and forth between Hollywood and the New York stage from 1930 to 1935, suffering long periods without work. His parents had separated, and Belmont died in 1934 in debt, which Bogart eventually paid off. Bogart inherited his father’s gold ring that he always wore, even in many of his films. At his father’s deathbed, Bogart finally told Belmont how much he loved him. His second marriage was on the rocks, and he was less than happy with his acting career to date; he became depressed, irritable, and drank heavily.
Bogart starred in the Broadway play Invitation to a Murder at the Theatre Masque, now the John Golden Theatre, in 1934. The producer Arthur Hopkins heard the play from off-stage and sent for Bogart to play escaped murderer Duke Mantee in Robert E. Sherwood’s new play, The Petrified Forest. Hopkins recalled:
When I saw the actor I was somewhat taken aback, for he was the one I never much admired. He was an antiquated juvenile who spent most of his stage life in white pants swinging a tennis racquet. He seemed as far from a cold-blooded killer as one could get, but the voice (dry and tired) persisted, and the voice was Mantee’s.
The play had 197 performances at the Broadhurst Theatre in New York in 1935. Leslie Howard though, was the star. New York Times critic Brooks Atkinson said of the play, “a peach… a roaring Western melodrama… Humphrey Bogart does the best work of his career as an actor.” Bogart said the play “marked my deliverance from the ranks of the sleek, sybaritic, stiff-shirted, swallow-tailed ‘smoothies’ to which I seemed condemned to life.” However, he was still feeling insecure.
Warner Bros. bought the screen rights to The Petrified Forest. The studio was famous for its socially realistic, urban, low-budget action pictures; the play seemed like the perfect property for it, especially since the public was entranced by real-life criminals like John Dillinger (whom Bogart resembled), and Dutch Schultz. Bette Davis and Leslie Howard were cast. Howard, who held production rights, made it clear he wanted Bogart to star with him. The studio tested several Hollywood veterans for the Duke Mantee role, and chose Edward G. Robinson, who had first-rank star appeal and was due to make a film to fulfill his expensive contract. Bogart cabled news of this to Howard, who was in Scotland. Howard’s cabled reply was, “Att: Jack Warner Insist Bogart Play Mantee No Bogart No Deal L.H.” When Warner Bros. saw that Howard would not budge, they gave in and cast Bogart. Jack Warner, famous for butting heads with his stars, tried to get Bogart to adopt a stage name, but Bogart stubbornly refused. Bogart never forgot Howard’s favor, and in 1952 he named his only daughter “Leslie Howard” after Howard, who had died in World War II under mysterious circumstances. Robert E. Sherwood remained a close friend of Bogart’s.
The film version of The Petrified Forest was released in 1936. His performance was called “brilliant,” “compelling,” and “superb.” Despite his success in an “A movie,” Bogart received a tepid twenty-six week contract at $550 per week and was typecast as a gangster in a series of “B movie” crime dramas. Bogart was proud of his success, but the fact that it came from playing a gangster weighed on him. He once said: “I can’t get in a mild discussion without turning it into an argument. There must be something in my tone of voice, or this arrogant face—something that antagonizes everybody. Nobody likes me on sight. I suppose that’s why I’m cast as the heavy.” Bogart’s roles were not only repetitive, but physically demanding and draining (studios were not yet air-conditioned), and his regimented, tightly scheduled job at Warner’s was not exactly the “peachy” actor’s life he hoped for. However, he was always professional and generally respected by other actors. In those “B movie” years, Bogart started developing his lasting film persona – the wounded, stoical, cynical, charming, vulnerable, self-mocking loner with a core of honor.
The studio system, then at its most entrenched, usually restricted actors to one studio, with occasional loan-outs, and Warner Bros. had no interest in making Bogart a top star. Shooting on a new movie might begin days or only hours after shooting on the previous one was completed. Any actor who refused a role could be suspended without pay. Bogart disliked the roles chosen for him, but he worked steadily: between 1936 and 1940, Bogart averaged a movie every two months, sometimes even working on two simultaneously, as movies were not generally shot sequentially. Amenities at Warner’s were few compared to those for their fellow actors at MGM. Bogart thought that the Warner’s wardrobe department was cheap, and often wore his own suits in his movies. In High Sierra, Bogart used his own pet dog Zero to play his character’s dog, Pard. Bogart’s disputes with Warner Bros. over roles and money were similar to those the studio had with other less-than-obedient stars, such as Bette Davis, James Cagney, Errol Flynn, and Olivia de Havilland.
The leading men ahead of Bogart at Warner Bros. included not only such classic stars as James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson, but also actors far less well-known today, such as Victor McLaglen, George Raft and Paul Muni. Most of the studio’s better movie scripts went to these men, and Bogart had to take what was left. He made films like Racket Busters, San Quentin, and You Can’t Get Away with Murder. The only substantial leading role he got during this period was in Dead End (1937), while loaned to Samuel Goldwyn, where he portrayed a gangster modeled after Baby Face Nelson. He did play a variety of interesting supporting roles, such as in Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) (in which his character got shot by James Cagney’s). Bogart was gunned down on film repeatedly by Cagney and Edward G. Robinson, among others. In Black Legion (1937), for a change, he played a good man caught up and destroyed by a racist organization, a movie Graham Greene called “intelligent and exciting, if rather earnest.”
In 1938, Warner Bros. put Bogart in a “hillbilly musical” called Swing Your Lady as a wrestling promoter; he later apparently considered this his worst film performance. In 1939, Bogart played a mad scientist in The Return of Doctor X. He cracked, “If it’d been Jack Warner’s blood…I wouldn’t have minded so much. The trouble was they were drinking mine and I was making this stinking movie.” Mary Philips, in her own stage hit A Touch of Brimstone (1935), refused to give up her Broadway career to go to Hollywood with Bogart. After the play closed, however, she went to Hollywood, but insisted on continuing her career and they divorced in 1937.
On August 21, 1938, Bogart entered into a disastrous third marriage, with actress Mayo Methot, a lively, friendly woman when sober, but paranoid when drunk. She was convinced that her husband was cheating on her. The more she and Bogart drifted apart, the more she drank, got furious and threw things at him: plants, crockery, anything close at hand. She even set the house on fire, stabbed him with a knife, and slashed her wrists on several occasions. Bogart for his part needled her mercilessly and seemed to enjoy confrontation. Sometimes he turned violent. The press accurately dubbed them “the Battling Bogarts.” “The Bogart-Methot marriage was the sequel to the Civil War,” said their friend Julius Epstein. A wag observed that there was “madness in his Methot.” During this time, Bogart bought a motor launch, which he named Sluggy, after his nickname for his hot-tempered wife. Despite his proclamations that, ‘I like a jealous wife,” and “We get on so well together (because) we don’t have illusions about each other,” and, “I wouldn’t give you two cents for a dame without a temper,” it was a highly destructive relationship.
In California in 1945, Bogart bought a 55-foot (17 m) sailing yacht, the Santana, from actor Dick Powell. The sea was his sanctuary and he loved to sail around Catalina Island. He was a serious sailor, respected by other sailors who had seen too many Hollywood actors and their boats. About 30 weekends a year, he went out on his boat. He once said, “An actor needs something to stabilize his personality, something to nail down what he really is, not what he is currently pretending to be.”
Bogart had a lifelong disgust for the pretentious, fake or phony, as his son Stephen told Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne in 1999. Sensitive yet caustic, and disgusted by the inferior movies he was performing in, Bogart cultivated the persona of a soured idealist, a man exiled from better things in New York, living by his wits, drinking too much, cursed to live out his life among second-rate people and projects.
Bogart rarely saw his own films and avoided premieres. He even protected his privacy with invented press releases about his private life to satisfy the curiosity of the newspapers and the public. When he thought an actor, director, or a movie studio had done something shoddy, he spoke up about it and was willing to be quoted. He advised Robert Mitchum that the only way to stay alive in Hollywood was to be an “againster.” As a result, he was not the most popular of actors, and some in the Hollywood community shunned him privately to avoid trouble with the studios. But the Hollywood press, unaccustomed to candor, was delighted. Bogart once said:
All over Hollywood, they are continually advising me, “Oh, you mustn’t say that. That will get you in a lot of trouble,” when I remark that some picture or writer or director or producer is no good. I don’t get it. If he isn’t any good, why can’t you say so? If more people would mention it, pretty soon it might start having some effect.
High Sierra, a 1941 movie directed by Raoul Walsh, had a screenplay written by Bogart’s friend and drinking partner, John Huston, adapted from the novel by W. R. Burnett (Little Caesar, etc.). Both Paul Muni and George Raft turned down the lead role, giving Bogart the opportunity to play a character of some depth, although legendary director Walsh initially fought the casting of supporting player Bogart as a leading man, much preferring Raft for the part. The film was Bogart’s last major film playing a gangster (his final gangster role was in The Big Shot in 1942). Bogart worked well with Ida Lupino, and her relationship with him was a close one, provoking jealousy from Bogart’s wife Mayo.
The film cemented a strong personal and professional connection between Bogart and Huston. Bogart admired and somewhat envied Huston for his skill as a writer. Though a poor student, Bogart was a lifelong reader. He could quote Plato, Pope, Ralph Waldo Emerson and over a thousand lines of Shakespeare. He subscribed to the Harvard Law Review. He admired writers, and some of his best friends were screenwriters, including Louis Bromfield, Nathaniel Benchley and Nunnally Johnson. Bogart enjoyed intense, provocative conversation and stiff drinks, as did Huston. Both were rebellious and liked to play childish pranks. John Huston was reported to be easily bored during production, and admired Bogart (who also got bored easily off camera) not just for his acting talent, but for his intense concentration on the set.
Raft turned down the lead in John Huston’s directorial debut The Maltese Falcon (1941), due to its being a cleaned up version of the pre-Production Code The Maltese Falcon (1931), his contract stipulating that he did not have to appear in remakes. The original novel, written by Dashiell Hammett, was first published in the pulp magazine Black Mask in 1929. It was also the basis for another movie version, Satan Met a Lady (1936) starring Bette Davis. Complementing Bogart were co-stars Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Elisha Cook, Jr., and Mary Astor as the treacherous female foil. Bogart’s sharp timing and facial expressions as private detective Sam Spade were praised by the cast and director as vital to the quick action and rapid-fire dialogue. The film was a huge hit and for Huston, a triumphant directorial debut. Bogart was unusually happy with it, remarking, “It is practically a masterpiece. I don’t have many things I’m proud of… but that’s one.”
Bogart gained his first real romantic lead in 1942’s Casablanca, playing Rick Blaine, the hard-pressed expatriate nightclub owner, hiding from the past and negotiating a fine line among Nazis, the French underground, the Vichy prefect and unresolved feelings for his ex-girlfriend. The film was directed by Michael Curtiz and produced by Hal Wallis, and featured Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet, Paul Henreid, Conrad Veidt, Peter Lorre and Dooley Wilson. It was reportedly Bogart’s idea that Rick Blaine be portrayed as a chess player, which served as a metaphor for the sparring relationship of the characters played by Bogart and Rains. In real life Bogart played tournament chess, one division below master level, and often played with crewmembers and cast off the set. However, Paul Henreid proved to be the best player.
The on-screen magic of Bogart and Bergman was the result of two actors doing their very best work, not any real-life sparks, though Bogart’s perennially jealous wife assumed otherwise. Off the set, the co-stars hardly spoke during the filming, where normally Bergman had a reputation for affairs with her leading men. She later said of Bogart, “I kissed him but I never knew him.” Because Bergman was taller than her leading man, Bogart had 3-inch (76 mm) blocks attached to his shoes in certain scenes.
Casablanca won the 1943 Academy Award for Best Picture. Bogart was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role, but lost to Paul Lukas for his performance in Watch on the Rhine. The film vaulted Bogart from fourth place to first in the studio’s roster, finally exceeding James Cagney, and by 1946 more than doubling his annual salary to over $460,000, making him the highest paid actor in the world.
Bogart met Lauren Bacall while filming To Have and Have Not (1944), a loose adaptation of the Ernest Hemingway novel. The movie has many similarities with Casablanca – the same enemies, the same kind of hero, even a piano player sidekick (this time Hoagy Carmichael). When they met, Bacall was 19 and Bogart was 44. He nicknamed her “Baby.” She had been a model since she was 16 and had acted in two failed plays. Bogart was drawn to Bacall’s high cheekbones, green eyes, tawny blond hair, and lean body, as well as her poise and earthy, outspoken honesty. Reportedly he said, “I just saw your test. We’ll have a lot of fun together.” Their physical and emotional rapport was very strong from the start, and the age difference and different acting experience also created the additional dimension of a mentor-student relationship. Quite contrary to the Hollywood norm, it was his first affair with a leading lady. Bogart was still miserably married and his early meetings with Bacall were discreet and brief, their separations bridged by ardent love letters. The relationship made it much easier for the newcomer to make her first film, and Bogart did his best to put her at ease by joking with her and quietly coaching her. He let her steal scenes and even encouraged it. Howard Hawks, for his part, also did his best to boost her performance and her role, and found Bogart easy to direct.
Hawks at some point began to disapprove of the pair. Hawks considered himself her protector and mentor, and Bogart was usurping that role. Hawks fell for Bacall as well (normally he avoided his starlets, and he was married). Hawks told her that she meant nothing to Bogart and even threatened to send her to Monogram, the worst studio in Hollywood. Bogart calmed her down and then went after Hawks. Jack Warner settled the dispute and filming resumed. Hawks said of Bacall: “Bogie fell in love with the character she played, so she had to keep playing it the rest of her life.”
Just months after wrapping the film, Bogart and Bacall were reunited for their second movie together, the film noir The Big Sleep, based on the novel by Raymond Chandler, again with script help from William Faulkner. Chandler thoroughly admired Bogart’s performance: “Bogart can be tough without a gun. Also, he has a sense of humor that contains that grating undertone of contempt.” The film holds a rare niche in Hollywood history as having been completed and slated for release in 1945, then withdrawn and substantially re-edited with new, juiced up scenes added to better exploit the box office chemistry that shined between Bogie and Bacall in To Have and Have Not and the notoriety of their personal relationship. “After the public’s response to Bacall’s debut performance in To Have and Have Not at the urging of director Howard Hawks production partner Charles K. Feldman, scenes were re-written to heighten the ‘insolent’ quality that had intrigued critics and audiences in that film.” By chance, a 35 mm nitrate composite master positive (fine grain) of the 1945 version survived. The UCLA Film Archive, in association with Turner Entertainment and with funding provided by Hugh Hefner, restored and released it in 1996.
Bogart was still torn between his new love and his sense of duty to his marriage. The mood on the set was tense, the actors both emotionally exhausted as Bogart tried to find a way out of his dilemma. The dialogue, especially in the newly shot scenes, was full of sexual innuendo supplied by Hawks, and Bogart is convincing and enduring as private detective Philip Marlowe. In the end, the film was successful, though some critics found the plot confusing and overly complicated. Reportedly Chandler himself could not answer the question who killed the limousine driver in the story when the baffled screenwriters called him up for final reference.
Dark Passage (1947) was Bogart and Bacall’s next collaboration. The first third of the film is shot from the protagonist’s point of view, with the camera seeing what he sees. After the character’s plastic surgery, the rest of the movie is shot normally with Bogart as the lead character. The picture is a suspense thriller with Bogart intent on finding the real killer in a murder he was blamed for and sentenced to prison.
Key Largo was directed by John Huston and, in addition to the presence of Bogart and Bacall, features Edward G. Robinson as “Johnny Rocco,” a seething older synthesis of many of his past vicious gangster roles. The cast is trapped during a spectacular hurricane in a hotel owned by Bacall’s character’s father in law, played by Lionel Barrymore. Claire Trevor won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Rocco’s physically abused, alcoholic, girlfriend. Robinson had always had top billing over Bogart in their previous films together but for this movie, Robinson’s name appears to the right of Bogart’s, but placed a little higher on the posters, and also in the film’s opening credits, to indicate Robinson’s near-equal status. Robinson’s image was also markedly larger and centered on the original poster, with Bogart relegated to the background. In the film’s trailer, Bogart is repeatedly mentioned first but Robinson’s name is listed above Bogart’s in a cast list at the trailer’s very end. Robinson’s role remains similar in circumstance to Duke Mantee in The Petrified Forest (1936), Bogart’s initial breakthrough that the studio had originally earmarked for Robinson.
Bogart filed for divorce from Methot in February 1945. He and Bacall married in a small ceremony at the country home of Bogart’s close friend, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Louis Bromfield, at Malabar Farm near Lucas, Ohio on May 21, 1945.
Bogart and Bacall moved into a $160,000 (equal to $2,040,370 today) white brick mansion in an exclusive neighborhood in Holmby Hills. The marriage proved to be a happy one, though there were the normal tensions due to their differences. He was a homebody and she liked nightlife; he loved the sea, which made her seasick. Bogart’s drinking sometimes inflamed tensions.
Bogart became a father at age 49 when Bacall gave birth to Stephen (Steve) Humphrey Bogart on January 6, 1949, during the filming of Tokyo Joe. Bogart told Tokyo Joe’s screenwriter, Steve Fisher, “Don’t get any stupid ideas. It just happens to fit.” Stephen was actually named after Bogart’s character’s nickname in To Have and Have Not. Stephen would go on to become an author and biographer, later hosting a television special about his father on Turner Classic Movies. Their daughter, Leslie Howard Bogart, was born on August 23, 1952 and named after British actor Leslie Howard, his co-star in The Petrified Forest.
The enormous success of Casablanca redefined Bogart’s career. For the first time, Bogart could be cast successfully as a tough, strong man and, at the same time, as a vulnerable love interest. Despite Bogart’s elevated standing, he did not yet have a contractual right of script refusal, so when he got weak scripts, he dug in his heels, and locked horns again with the front office, as he did on the film Conflict (1945). Though he submitted to Jack Warner on that picture, he successfully turned down God is My Co-Pilot (1945). During part of 1943 and 1944, Bogart went on USO and War Bond tours accompanied by Mayo, enduring arduous travels to Italy and North Africa, including Casablanca.
Riding high in 1947 with a new contract that provided some script refusal rights and the right to form his own separate production company, Bogart reunited with John Huston for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, a stark tale of greed involving three gold prospectors played out in the dusty back country of Mexico. Absent any love story or a happy ending, it was deemed a risky project. Bogart later said of co-star (and John Huston’s father) Walter Huston, “He’s probably the only performer in Hollywood to whom I’d gladly lost a scene.”
The film was grueling to make, and was done in summer for greater realism and atmosphere. James Agee wrote, “Bogart does a wonderful job with this character…miles ahead of the very good work he has done before.” John Huston won the Academy Award for direction and screenplay and his father won Best Supporting Actor, but the film had mediocre box office results. Bogart complained, “An intelligent script, beautifully directed—something different—and the public turned a cold shoulder on it.”
Bogart, a liberal Democrat, organized a delegation to Washington, D.C., called the Committee for the First Amendment, against the House Un-American Activities Committee’s harassment of Hollywood screenwriters and actors. He subsequently wrote an article “I’m No Communist” in the March 1948 edition of Photoplay magazine in which he distanced himself from The Hollywood Ten to counter the negative publicity that resulted from his appearance. Bogart wrote: “The ten men cited for contempt by the House Un-American Activities Committee were not defended by us.”
In addition to being offered better, more diverse roles, in 1948 he started his own production company, Santana Productions, named after his private sailing yacht. (Santana was also the name of the cabin cruiser featured in the 1948 film Key Largo). Bogart’s contract gave him the right to have his own production company, but Jack Warner was reportedly furious at this, fearing that other stars would do the same and major studios would lose their power. The studios, however, were already under a lot of pressure, not just from free-lancing actors like Bogart, James Stewart, Henry Fonda and others (who also saved taxes as independents), but also from the eroding impact of television and from anti-trust laws that were breaking up theater chains. Bogart performed in his final films for Warner’s, Chain Lightning, released early in 1950, and The Enforcer, released early in 1951.
Under Bogart’s Santana Productions, which released its films through Columbia Pictures, Bogart starred in Knock on Any Door (1949), Tokyo Joe (1949), In a Lonely Place (1950), Sirocco (1951) and Beat the Devil (1954). Santana made two other films without him: And Baby Makes Three (1949) and The Family Secret (1951).
While the majority of his films lost money at the box office (the main reason for Santana’s end), at least two are still remembered today; In a Lonely Place is now recognized as a masterpiece of film noir. Bogart plays embittered writer Dixon Steele, who has a history of violence and becomes a suspect in a murder case at the same time that he falls in love with a failed actress, played by Gloria Grahame. Many Bogart biographers and actress/writer Louise Brooks agree that the role is the closest to Bogart’s real self and is considered among his best performances. She wrote that the film “gave him a role that he could play with complexity, because the film character’s pride in his art, his selfishness, drunkenness, lack of energy stabbed with lightning strokes of violence were shared by the real Bogart.” The character even mimics some of Bogart’s personal habits, including twice ordering Bogart’s favorite meal of ham and eggs.
Beat the Devil, Bogart’s last film with his close friend and favorite director John Huston, also enjoys a cult following. Co-written by Truman Capote, the movie is a parody of The Maltese Falcon, and is a tale of an amoral group of rogues chasing an unattainable treasure, in this instance uranium.
Bogart sold his interest in Santana to Columbia for over $1 million in 1955.
Bogart starred with Katharine Hepburn in the film The African Queen in 1951, again directed by his friend John Huston. The novel was overlooked and left undeveloped for fifteen years until producer Sam Spiegel and Huston bought the rights. Spiegel sent Katharine Hepburn the book and she suggested Bogart for the male lead, firmly believing that “he was the only man who could have played that part.” Huston’s love of adventure, a chance to work with Hepburn, and Bogart’s earlier successes with Huston convinced Bogart to leave the comfortable confines of Hollywood for a difficult shoot on location in the Belgian Congo in Africa. Bogart was to get 30 percent of the profits and Hepburn 10 percent, plus a relatively small salary for both. The stars met up in London and announced the happy prospect of working together.
Bacall came for the duration (over four months), leaving their young child behind, but the Bogarts started the trip with a junket through Europe, including a visit with Pope Pius XII. Later, the glamour would be gone and she would make herself useful as a cook, nurse and clothes washer, for which Bogart praised her, “I don’t know what we’d have done without her. She Luxed my undies in darkest Africa.” Just about everyone in the cast came down with dysentery except Bogart and John Huston, who subsisted on canned food and alcohol. Bogart explained: “All I ate was baked beans, canned asparagus and Scotch whisky. Whenever a fly bit Huston or me, it dropped dead.” The tee totaling Hepburn, in and out of character, fared worse in the difficult conditions, losing weight, and at one time, getting very ill. Bogart resisted Huston’s insistence on using real leeches in a key scene where Bogart has to drag the boat through a shallow marsh, until reasonable fakes were employed. In the end, the crew overcame illness, soldier ant invasions, leaking boats, poor food, attacking hippos, bad water filters, fierce heat, isolation, and a boat fire to complete a memorable film. Despite the discomfort of jumping from the boat into swamps, rivers and marshes the film apparently rekindled in Bogart his early love of boats and on his return to California from the Congo he bought a classic mahogany Hacker-Craft runabout which he kept until his death.
The African Queen was the first Technicolor film in which Bogart appeared. He appeared in relatively few color films during the rest of his career, which continued for another five years. The role of Charlie Allnutt won Bogart his only Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role in 1951. Bogart considered his performance to be the best of his film career. He had vowed to friends that if he won, his speech would break the convention of thanking everyone in sight. He advised Claire Trevor, when she had been nominated for Key Largo, to “just say you did it all yourself and don’t thank anyone.” But when Bogart won the Academy Award, which he truly coveted despite his well-advertised disdain for Hollywood, he said “It’s a long way from the Belgian Congo to the stage of this theatre. It’s nicer to be here. Thank you very much…No one does it alone. As in tennis, you need a good opponent or partner to bring out the best in you. John and Katie helped me to be where I am now.” Despite the thrilling win and the recognition, Bogart later commented, “The way to survive an Oscar is never to try to win another one…too many stars…win it and then figure they have to top themselves…they become afraid to take chances. The result: A lot of dull performances in dull pictures.”
Bogart dropped his asking price to get the role of Captain Queeg in Edward Dmytryk’s The Caine Mutiny, then griped with some of his old bitterness about it. For all his success, he was still his melancholy old self, grumbling and feuding with the studio, while his health was beginning to deteriorate. The character of Captain Queeg mirrored those Bogart had played in The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca and The Big Sleep—the wary loner who trusts no one—but with none of the warmth or humor of those roles. Like his portrayal of Fred C. Dobbs in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Bogart played a paranoid, self-pitying character whose small-mindedness eventually destroyed him. Three months before the film’s release, Bogart as Queeg appeared on the cover of TIME magazine, while on Broadway Henry Fonda was starring in the stage version (in a different role), both of which generated strong publicity for the film.
In Sabrina, Billy Wilder, unable to secure Cary Grant, chose Bogart for the role of the older, conservative brother who competes with his younger playboy sibling (William Holden) for the affection of the Cinderella-like Sabrina (Audrey Hepburn). Bogart was lukewarm about the part, but agreed to it on a handshake with Wilder, without a finished script, and with the director’s assurances to take good care of Bogart during the filming. But Bogart got on poorly with his director and co-stars. He also complained about the script, which was written on a last minute, daily basis, and that Wilder favored Hepburn and Holden on and off the set. The main problem was that Wilder was the opposite of his ideal director, John Huston, in both style and personality. Bogart told the press that Wilder was “overbearing” and “is the kind of Prussian German with a riding crop. He is the type of director I don’t like to work with… the picture is a crock of crap. I got sick and tired of who gets Sabrina.” Wilder said, “We parted as enemies but finally made up.” Despite the acrimony, the film was successful. The New York Times said of Bogart, “he is incredibly adroit… the skill with which this old rock-ribbed actor blend the gags and such duplicities with a manly manner of melting is one of the incalculable joys of the show.”
The Barefoot Contessa, directed by Joseph Mankiewicz, was filmed in Rome, and released in 1954. In this Hollywood back-story movie, Bogart again is the broken-down man, this time the cynical director-narrator who saves his career by making a star of a flamenco dancer, Ava Gardner, modeled on the real life of Rita Hayworth. Bogart was uneasy with Gardner because she had just split from “Rat Pack” buddy Frank Sinatra and was carrying on with bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguín. Bogart told her, “Half the world’s female population would throw themselves at Frank’s feet and here you are flouncing around with guys who wear capes and little ballerina slippers.” He was also annoyed by her inexperienced performance. Later, Gardner credited Bogart with helping her. Bogart’s performance was generally praised as the strongest part of the film. During the filming, while Bacall was home, Bogart resumed his discreet affair with Verita Peterson, his long-time studio assistant, whom he took sailing and enjoyed drinking with. But when Bacall suddenly arrived on the scene discovering them together, Bacall took it quite well. She extracted an expensive shopping spree from him and the three traveled together after the shooting.
Bogart could be generous with actors, particularly those who were blacklisted, down on their luck, or having personal problems. During the filming of The Left Hand of God (1955), he noticed his co-star Gene Tierney having a hard time remembering her lines and behaving oddly. He coached Tierney, feeding her lines. He was familiar with mental illness (his sister had bouts of depression), and Bogart encouraged Tierney to seek treatment. He also stood behind Joan Bennett and insisted on her as his co-star in We’re No Angels when a scandal made her persona non grata with Jack Warner.
In 1955, Bogart made three films: We’re No Angels (dir. Michael Curtiz), The Left Hand of God (dir. Edward Dmytryk) and The Desperate Hours (dir. William Wyler). Mark Robson’s The Harder They Fall (1956) was his last film.
Bogart rarely appeared on television. However, he and Bacall appeared on Edward R. Murrow’s Person to Person in which they disagreed in answering every question. Bogart was also featured on The Jack Benny Show. The surviving kinescope of the live Benny telecast features Bogart in his only TV sketch comedy outing. Bogart and Bacall also worked together on an early color telecast, in 1955, an NBC adaptation of The Petrified Forest for Producers’ Showcase; only a black and white kinescope of the live telecast has survived.
Bogart performed radio adaptations of some of his best-known films, such as Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon. He also recorded a radio series called Bold Venture with Lauren Bacall.
Bogart was a founding member and the original leader, until his death, of the Rat Pack. In the spring of 1955, after a long party in Las Vegas with Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, her husband Sid Luft, Mike Romanoff and wife Gloria, David Niven, Angie Dickinson and others, Lauren Bacall surveyed the wreckage of the party and declared, “You look like a goddamn rat pack.”
Romanoff’s in Beverly Hills was where the Rat Pack became official. Sinatra was named Pack Leader, Bacall was named Den Mother, Bogie was Director of Public Relations, and Sid Luft was Acting Cage Manager. When asked by columnist Earl Wilson what the purpose of the group was, Bacall responded, “to drink a lot of bourbon and stay up late.”
By the mid-1950s, Bogart’s health was failing. Once, after signing a long-term deal with Warner Bros., Bogart predicted with glee that his teeth and hair would fall out before the contract ended. Bogart had formed a new production company and had plans for a new film Melville Goodwin, U.S.A., in which he would play a general and Bacall a press magnate. His persistent cough and difficulty eating became too serious to ignore and he dropped the project. The film was renamed Top Secret Affair and made with Kirk Douglas and Susan Hayward.
Bogart, a heavy smoker and drinker, developed cancer of the esophagus. He almost never spoke of his failing health and refused to see a doctor until January 1956. A diagnosis was made several weeks later and by then removal of his esophagus, two lymph nodes, and a rib on March 1, 1956, was too late to halt the disease, even with chemotherapy. He underwent corrective surgery in November 1956 after the cancer had spread. Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy visited him at this time. Frank Sinatra was also a frequent visitor. With time, Bogart grew too weak to walk up and down stairs. He valiantly fought the pain and joked about his immobility: “Put me in the dumbwaiter and I’ll ride down to the first floor in style.” The dumbwaiter was then altered to accommodate his wheelchair. In an interview, Hepburn described the last time she and Spencer Tracy saw Bogart (the night before he died):
Spence patted him on the shoulder and said, “Goodnight, Bogie.” Bogie turned his eyes to Spence very quietly and with a sweet smile covered Spence’s hand with his own and said, “Goodbye, Spence.” Spence’s heart stood still. He understood.
Bogart had just turned 57 and weighed 80 pounds (36 kg) when he died on January 14, 1957, after falling into a coma. He died at his home at 232 South Mapleton Drive in Holmby Hills, California. His simple funeral was held at All Saints Episcopal Church with musical selections from Bogart’s favorite composers, Johann Sebastian Bach and Claude Debussy. The ceremony was attended by some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, including Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Judy Garland, David Niven, Ronald Reagan, James Mason, Bette Davis, Danny Kaye, Joan Fontaine, Marlene Dietrich, James Cagney, Errol Flynn, Gregory Peck and Gary Cooper, as well as Billy Wilder and Jack Warner. Bacall had asked Tracy to give the eulogy, but Tracy was too upset, so John Huston spoke instead and reminded the gathered mourners that while Bogart’s life had ended far too soon, it had been a rich one.
Himself, he never took too seriously—his work most seriously. He regarded the somewhat gaudy figure of Bogart, the star, with an amused cynicism; Bogart, the actor, he held in deep respect…In each of the fountains at Versailles there is a pike which keeps all the carp active; otherwise they would grow over fat and die. Bogie took rare delight in performing a similar duty in the fountains of Hollywood. Yet his victims seldom bore him any malice, and when they did, not for long. His shafts were fashioned only to stick into the outer layer of complacency, and not to penetrate through to the regions of the spirit where real injuries are done…”He is quite irreplaceable. There will never be another like him.”
Bogart’s cremated remains were interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Glendale, California. He was buried with a small, gold whistle once part of a charm bracelet he had given to Lauren Bacall before they married. It was inscribed with a quote from their first movie together: “If you want anything, just whistle.”
The probate value of Bogart’s estate was $910,146 gross; $737,668 was the final estate value.
After his death, a “Bogie Cult” formed at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as well as Greenwich Village, New York and in France, which contributed to his spike in popularity in the late 1950s and 1960s. In 1997, Entertainment Weekly magazine named him the number one movie legend of all time. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked him the Greatest Male Star of All Time.
Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless (1960) was the first film to pay tribute to Bogart. Later, in Woody Allen’s comic tribute to Bogart Play It Again, Sam (1972), Bogart’s ghost comes to the aid of Allen’s bumbling character, a movie critic with woman troubles and whose “sex life has turned into the ‘Petrified Forest’.”
On August 21, 1946, Humphrey Bogart was honored in a ceremony at Grauman”s Chinese Theater to record his hand and footprints in cement. On February 8, 1960 he was posthumously given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6322 Hollywood Boulevard. During his career he was nominated for several awards including the BAFTA award for best foreign actor in 1952 for The African Queen and three Academy Awards for Casablanca, The African Queen, and The Caine Mutiny.
In 1997, the United States Postal Service honored Bogart with a stamp bearing his image in its “Legends of Hollywood” series as the third figure to be recognized. At a formal ceremony attended by Lauren Bacall, and the Bogart children, Stephen and Leslie, Tirso del Junco, the chairman of the governing board of the USPS, provided an eloquent tribute:
“Today, we mark another chapter in the Bogart legacy. With an image that is small and yet as powerful as the ones he left in celluloid, we will begin today to bring his artistry, his power, his unique star quality, to the messages that travel the world.”
On June 24, 2006, a section of 103rd Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue in New York City was renamed “Humphrey Bogart Place.” Lauren Bacall and her son Stephen Bogart were present at the commemorative event. “Bogie would never have believed it,” Lauren Bacall expressed to the assembled group of city officials and onlookers in attendance.
Two Bugs Bunny cartoons featured Humphrey Bogart:
In Slick Hare (1947), Bogart orders fried rabbit in a Hollywood restaurant. Told that they do not have any, he becomes insistent, leading waiter Elmer Fudd to try (unsuccessfully as usual) to serve Bugs as the meal. Bogart finally gives up, saying: “Baby will just have to have a ham sandwich instead.” – “Baby” being Bacall’s nickname. Bugs, upon hearing the name, immediately presents himself and goes completely ga-ga over Bacall, who looks on with amusement.
In 8 Ball Bunny (1950) Bugs decides to take a baby penguin back to the South Pole. At intervals, “Fred C. Dobbs” (Bogart’s character in Treasure of the Sierra Madre) appears and asks Bugs to “help out a fellow American who’s down on his luck” – a line Bogart says a number of times in the film to John Huston, playing an American gringo.
Bogart is featured in one of Woody Allen’s comic movies, Play It Again, Sam (1972), which relates the story of a young man obsessed by his persona.
Issue No.70 of the US The Phantom (1977) comic book is known as the “Bogart” issue, as the story stars Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and Claude Rains and is a mixture of Casablanca, The African Queen, The Maltese Falcon and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
The Man with Bogart’s Face (1981) was an homage to Bogart and starred Bogart lookalike Robert Sacchi.
The slang term “Bogarting’ refers to taking an unfairly long time with a joint that is supposed to be shared. It derives from Bogart’s style of cigarette smoking, with which he left his cigarette dangling from his mouth rather than withdrawing it between puffs. The term also inspired a 1968 song Don’t Bogart Me (also known as Don’t Bogart That Joint) by US band Fraternity of Man, which became popular in counterculture through its inclusion in the soundtrack of the 1969 film Easy Rider, and the song, Don’t Bogart My Heart by Australian singer/songwriter Darren Hanlon. “Bogart” can also refer to coercion or bullying in African-American slang
2HB is a song written by Bryan Ferry and first recorded by Roxy Music for their 1972 debut album, Roxy Music. Ferry also recorded a version for his 1976 solo album, Let’s Stick Together. The title is a pun, not about the European nomenclature of pencil leads, but a dedication to Bogart (“2HB” = “to Humphrey Bogart”). In particular, the song references “Casablanca.”
Bogart is credited with five of the American Film Institute’s top 100 quotations in American cinema, the most by any actor:
5th: “Here’s looking at you, kid” – Casablanca
14th: “The stuff that dreams are made of.” – The Maltese Falcon
20th: “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” – Casablanca
43rd: “We’ll always have Paris.” – Casablanca
67th: “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.’ – Casablanca
Bogart is also credited with one of the top movie misquotations. In Casablanca, neither he nor anyone else ever said, “Play it again, Sam,” although that “quote” is widely credited to him, and is the title of the Woody Allen tribute movie. When Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), his former love, first enters the Café Americain, she spots Sam, the piano player (Dooley Wilson) and asks him to “Play it once, Sam, for old times’ sake.” When he feigns ignorance, she responds, “Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By.’” Later that night, alone with Sam, Rick says, “You played it for her and you can play it for me,” and “If she can stand it, I can! Play it!”