Humphrey Bogart (Humphrey DeForest Bogart)

Humphrey Bogart

Humphrey Bogart

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 Episcopal faith, but was non-practicing for most of his adult life.  Bogart’s birthday has been a matter of dispute; 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 art director of the fashion magazine The Delineator. She was a militant woman suffragist. 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 55-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 a model sailor who spent most of his months in the Navy after the armistice was signed ferrying troops back from Europe.  It was during his naval stint that Bogart may have received 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 that in the process of uncuffing an inmate, Bogart was struck in the mouth when the inmate wielded one open, uncuffed bracelet while the other 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 glamor. 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 scar-tissue on his upper lip, which Brooks said that Bogart may have partially repaired before entering 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.”

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!”[20] Bogart is recorded as a model sailor who spent most of his months in the Navy after the armistice was signed ferrying troops back from Europe.  It was during his naval stint that Bogart may have received 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 that in the process of uncuffing an inmate, Bogart was struck in the mouth when the inmate wielded one open, uncuffed bracelet while the other 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 glamor. 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 scar-tissue on his upper lip, which Brooks said that Bogart may have partially repaired before entering 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.”

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 Warners 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 code 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 Warners were few compared to those for their fellow actors at MGM. Bogart thought that the Warners 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.Dark Victory (1939) was one of the last films in which he played a supporting role.

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,” “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.

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 crew members 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.

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.

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 overfat 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.

 

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Born

  • December, 25, 1899
  • New York, New York

Died

  • January, 14, 1957
  • Glendale, California

Cause of Death

  • Cancer

Cemetery

  • Forest Lawn Memorial Park
  • Glendale, California

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