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.
Bogart was born on Christmas Day, 1899, in New York City, the eldest child of Belmont DeForest Bogart (1867 – 1934) and Maud Humphrey (1868 – 1940). Belmont was the only child of the unhappy marriage of Adam Watkins Bogart, a Canandaigua, New York innkeeper, and his wife, Julia, a wealthy heiress. The name "Bogart" derived from the Dutch surname "Bogaert". Belmont and Maud married in June 1898; he was a Presbyterian, of English and Dutch descent, and she was an Episcopalian of English heritage, and a descendant of Mayflower Passenger John Howland. Young Humphrey was raised in the Episcopal faith, but was non-practicing for most of his adult life.
Lauren Bacall confirmed in her autobiography that his birthday was always celebrated on Christmas Day, adding that he joked that he was cheated out of a present every year because of it. Sperber and Lax also noted that a birth announcement, printed in the Ontario County Times on January 10, 1900, effectively rules out the possibility of a January 23 birthdate; and state and federal census records from 1900 report a Christmas 1899 birthdate as well.
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 sea time after the Armistice ferrying troops back from Europe.
Bogart resumed his friendship with boyhood pal Bill Brady, Jr., whose father had show Business connections. Eventually Bogart got an office job working for william A. Brady Sr.'s new company, World Films. Bogart was able to try his hand at screenwriting, directing, and production, but excelled at none. For a while he was stage manager for Brady's daughter Alice's play A Ruined Lady. A few months later he made his stage debut as a Japanese butler in Alice's 1921 play Drifting, nervously speaking one line of dialog. Several appearances followed in her subsequent plays.
Preferring to learn as he went, Bogart never took acting lessons. He was persistent and worked steadily at his craft, appearing in at least seventeen Broadway productions between 1922 and 1935. He played juveniles or romantic second-leads in drawing room comedies, and 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". He played Juvenile lead, reporter Gregory Brown, in the comedy Meet the Wife, written by Lynn Starling, which had a successful run of 232 performances at the Klaw Theatre from November 1923 through July 1924. Bogart loathed these trivial, effeminate parts he had to play early in his career, calling them "White Pants Willie" roles.
His post-service physical makes no mention of the lip scar, even though it mentions many smaller scars. When Actress Louise Brooks met Bogart in 1924, he had some scar-tissue on his upper lip, which Brooks said that Bogart may have had partially repaired before entering films in 1930. She believed his scar had nothing to do with his distinctive speech pattern, and said 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."
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, they remained friends. In the divorce filing, Menken avers that Bogart valued his career more than marital happiness, also citing neglect and abuse. On April 3, 1928, he married Mary Philips, whom he'd met when they appeared in the play Nerves during its very brief run at the Comedy Theatre in September 1924, at her mother's apartment in Hartford, Connecticut.
After the stock market crash of 1929, stage production dropped off sharply, and many of the more photogenic actors headed for Hollywood. Bogart's film debut was with Helen Hayes in the 1928 two-reeler 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) which was re-discovered in 1963.
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, his father dying in 1934 in debt, which Bogart eventually paid off. Bogart inherited his father's gold ring which he always wore, even in many of his films. At his father's deathbed, Bogart finally told him how much he loved him. His second marriage was on the rocks, and he was less than happy with his acting career. He became depressed, irritable, and drank heavily.
Bogart then had a minor supporting role in Bad Sister with Bette Davis in 1931. Decades later, Tracy and Bogart planned to make The Desperate Hours together, but both sought top billing, so Tracy dropped out and was replaced by Fredric March.
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:
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.
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 end. Robinson's role is evocative of Duke Mantee in The Petrified Forest (1936), a Bogart leading man breakthrough the studio had originally earmarked for Robinson.
The leading men ahead of Bogart at Warner Bros. included not only such marquee names as James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson, but also journeymen leads such as Victor McLaglen, George Raft, and Paul Muni. Most of the studio's better movie scripts went to them, leaving Bogart with 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.
On August 21, 1938, Bogart entered into a disastrous third marriage, with Actress Mayo Methot, a lively, friendly woman when sober but paranoid and physical when drunk. She became convinced Bogart was cheating on her. The more the two drifted apart, the more she drank, in her fury throwing plants, crockery, anything close at hand, at him. She set their 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".
Bogart played violent roles so often that in Nevil Shute's 1939 novel What Happened to the Corbetts the protagonist, when asked whether he knows how to operate an automatic weapon, jokes "I've seen Humphrey Bogart with one often enough ...". 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 described as "intelligent and exciting, if rather earnest".
Now regarded as a classic film noir, The Maltese Falcon (1941) was John Huston's directorial debut. Originally a novel written by Dashiell Hammett, it was first published in the pulp magazine Black Mask in 1929, and had also served as the basis of two other movie versions including Satan Met a Lady (1936) starring Bette Davis. Producer Hal Wallis initially offered the leading man role to George Raft, a more established box office name than Bogart, whose contract stipulated he did not have to appear in remakes. Fearing it would be no more than a cleaned-up version of the pre-Production Code The Maltese Falcon (1931), Raft turned it down in order to make Manpower with Director Raoul Walsh and cast members Edward G. Robinson and Marlene Dietrich. Eagerly, Huston accepted Bogart as his Sam Spade.
Bogart gained his first real romantic lead in 1942's Casablanca, playing Rick Blaine, a hard-pressed expatriate nightclub owner hiding from a shady past while 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. An avid chess player, Bogart reportedly had the idea that Rick Blaine be portrayed as one, a metaphor for the sparring relationship he maintained with friends, enemies, and tenuous allies. In real life Bogart played tournament level chess one division below master, often enjoying games with crew members and cast, but finding his better in the superior Paul Henreid.
During part of 1943 and 1944, Bogart went on USO and War Bond tours accompanied by Methot, enduring arduous travels to Italy and North Africa, including Casablanca.
Bogart's cremated remains were interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Glendale, California, in the Garden of Memory, Columbarium of Eternal Light. He was buried with a small, gold whistle once part of a charm bracelet he had given to Lauren Bacall before they married. On it was inscribed an allusion to a line from their first movie together, in 1944, To Have and Have Not, where Bacall had said to him shortly after their first meeting: "You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow". The inscription read: "If you want anything, just whistle."
The enormous success of Casablanca redefined Bogart's career. For the first time, Bogart could be cast successfully as both a tough, strong man and vulnerable love interest. Despite his elevated standing, he did not yet have a contractual right of script refusal. When he got weak scripts he simply 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 it, he successfully turned down God is My Co-Pilot (1945).
On August 21, 1946, 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 inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame with a motion pictures star located at 6322 Hollywood Boulevard. During his career, Bogart was nominated for several awards including the BAFTA award for Best Foreign Actor in 1952 for The African Queen and three Academy Awards.
Riding high in 1947 with a new contract which provided limited script refusal and the right to form his own production company, Bogart reunited with John Huston for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, a stark tale of greed played out by three gold prospectors in Mexico. Without either a love interest or 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 lose a scene".
In addition to being offered better, more diverse roles, Bogart started his own production company in 1948, Santana Productions, named after his sailing yacht (which also lent her name to the cabin cruiser featured in the climax of that year's smash, Key Largo). Earning the right to create his own production company had left Warner Bros. head Jack Warner furious, and afraid other stars would do the same and further erode the major studios' power. In addition to the pressure they were bearing from freelancing actors like Bogart, James Stewart, Henry Fonda and others, they were beginning to buckle from the eroding impact of television and enforcement of anti-trust laws breaking up theater chains. Bogart performed in his final films for Warners, Chain Lightning, released early in 1950, and The Enforcer, early in 1951.
Bogart's Santana Productions released its films through Columbia Pictures. Without letting up, Bogart starred in Knock on Any Door (1949), Tokyo Joe (1949), In a Lonely Place (1950), Sirocco (1951) and Beat the Devil (1953). Santana made two other films without him: And Baby Makes Three (1949) and The Family Secret (1951).
After his death, a "Bogie Cult" formed at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as well as Greenwich Village, Manhattan, New York, and in France, which contributed to his spike in popularity in the late 1950s and 1960s. In 1997, Entertainment Weekly magazine named Bogart the number one movie legend of all time. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked him the Greatest Male Star of Classic Hollywood.
The role of cantankerous Skipper Charlie Allnutt won Bogart his only Academy Award in three nominations, 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".
The film was highly successful, earning $500,000 at the box office, and making Bogart a star. He never forgot Howard's favor, and in 1952 named his only daughter "Leslie Howard Bogart" after Howard, who had died in World War II under mysterious circumstances. Robert E. Sherwood remained a close friend of Bogart's.
The Barefoot Contessa, directed by Joseph Mankiewicz, was filmed in Rome, and released in 1954. In this Hollywood back-story Bogart is again a broken-down man, the cynical director-narrator who saves his career by making a star of a flamenco Dancer modeled on real life movie sex goddess Rita Hayworth. Bogart was uneasy with Ava Gardner in the female lead, as she had just split from close "Rat Pack" buddy Frank Sinatra and was carrying on an affair 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 both on and offscreen. 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 Bouvaire-Thompson, his long-time studio assistant, whom he took sailing and enjoyed drinking with. When his wife suddenly arrived on the scene discovering them together, she took it quite well, extracting an expensive shopping spree from her husband, the three traveling together after the shooting.
Once, after signing a long-term deal with Warner Bros., Bogart had predicted with glee that his teeth and hair would fall out before the contract ended. By 1955, though he was well established as an independent Producer, the sometime actor's health was failing. In the wake of Santana Productions he had formed a new company and had anxious plans for a film, Melville Goodwin, U.S.A., in which he would play a General and Bacall a press magnate. However, his persistent cough and difficulty eating became too serious to ignore and he dropped the project.
Bogart, a heavy smoker and drinker, had developed cancer of the esophagus. He almost never spoke of his failing health and refused to see a Doctor until January 1956 after much persistence from Bacall. A diagnosis of cancer was made several weeks later. He underwent a surgical operation on March 1, 1956, where his entire esophagus, two lymph nodes, and a rib were removed but, by then, it was too late to halt the disease, even with chemotherapy. He underwent corrective surgery in November 1956 after the cancer had spread. With time, he grew too weak to walk up and down stairs, fighting the pain yet still able to joke: "Put me in the dumbwaiter and I'll ride down to the first floor in style." It was then altered to accommodate his wheelchair. Frank Sinatra was a frequent visitor, as were Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. In an interview, Hepburn described the last time she and Tracy saw their dear friend, on the evening of January 13, 1957, the day before Bogart's death:
Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless (1960) was the first film to pay tribute to Bogart. Later, in Woody Allen's comic paean to Bogart, Play It Again, Sam (1972), Bogart's ghost comes to the aid of Allen's bumbling character, a movie critic with women troubles whose "sex life has turned into the 'Petrified Forest'".
In 1995 newly developed digital Technology allowed Bogart's image to be inserted in the Tales from the Crypt television episode "You, Murderer" as one of its many Casablanca references. The "Ingrid Bergman" character was played by her daughter Isabella Rossellini.
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:
During a film career of almost 30 years, Bogart appeared in more than 75 feature films. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Bogart as the greatest male star of Classic American cinema. Over his career, he received three Academy Award nominations for Best Actor, winning one (for The African Queen).
On June 24, 2006, a section of 103rd Street, between Broadway and West End 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.
When Blaine's former love, Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), first enters his 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 persists, "Play it, Sam. Play 'As Time Goes By.'" Later that night, alone with Sam, Rick demands, "You played it for her — you can play it for me." Sam once again resists, prompting Blaine to shout: "If she can stand it, I can! Play it!"
The probate value of Bogart's estate was $910,146 gross and $737,668 net ($7.9 million and $6.4 million in 2017, respectively).