NAME: Humphrey Bogart
OCCUPATION: Film Actor
BIRTH DATE: December 25, 1899
DEATH DATE: January 14, 1957
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Hollywood, California
BEST KNOWN FOR: Actor Humphrey Bogart became a legend with his roles in 1940s-era films like Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, and To Have and Have Not.
Humphrey DeForest Bogart (December 25, 1899 – January 14, 1957) was an American actor. He is widely regarded as a cultural icon. 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).
His 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 thirty years, he appeared in 75 feature films.
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 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 glamor 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 teetotaling 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 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.
- On 70th anniversary of ‘Casablanca,’ son Stephen Bogart recalls great romance of Bogie and Bacall (miamiherald.typepad.com)
- Bogart’s son opens film festival at Smithsonian (abclocal.go.com)
- Stephen Bogart, Humphrey Bogart’s Son, Opens Smithsonian Film Festival (moroccotomorrow.org)
- My A-Z of Humphrey Bogart (notreallyworking.wordpress.com)