Humphrey DeForest Bogart (December 25 1899 – January 14 1957) was an American actor and cultural icon. In 1997, Entertainment Weekly magazine named him the number one movie legend of all time. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked "Bogie" the greatest male star.
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 also turned to film. His first great success was as Duke Mantee in The Petrified Forest. He had been acclaimed for his performance in the play, and his friend Leslie Howard saw to it that he reprised his role in the 1936 film version. Despite rave reviews, Bogart was typecast as a gangster in B-movies. His breakthrough came in 1941, with High Sierra (though he still played a criminal) and The Maltese Falcon. The next year, his performance in Casablanca finally 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 triumphs followed, including The Big Sleep (1946); Key Largo (1948), opposite his wife Lauren Bacall; The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948); The African Queen (1951), for which he won his only Academy Award (for Best Actor); and The Caine Mutiny (1954). Altogether, he appeared in 75 feature motion pictures.
Bogart's birthday has been a subject of controversy. It was long believed that his birthday on Christmas Day 1899, was a Warner Bros. fiction created to romanticize his background, and that he was really born on January 23 1899, a date that appears in many references. However, this story is now considered baseless: although no birth certificate has ever been found, his birth notice did appear in a Boston newspaper in early January 1900, which supports the December 1899 date, as do other sources.
Humphrey was the oldest of three children, his two younger sisters were 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 life-long love of sailing, and an attraction to strong-willed women.
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 intemperate comments 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.
Nevertheless, 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." In fact, Niven says that when he asked Bogart about his scar he said it was caused by a childhood accident; Niven claims the stories that Bogie 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, Bogie 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”.
After his naval service, Bogart worked as a shipper and then bond salesman. He joined the Naval Reserve. More importantly, he resumed his friendship with boyhood mate 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 screen writing, 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 spent a lot of his free time in speakeasies and became a heavy drinker. A bar room brawl during this time might have been the actual cause of Bogart's lip damage, as this coincides better with the Louise Brooks account. As he stated, “I was born to be indolent and this was the softest of rackets”.
Bogart never took acting lessons, and had no formal training, but he 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 Helen Menken. They were married on May 20, 1926 at the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York City, divorced on November 18, 1927, and remained friends. Later on April 3, 1928, he married Mary Philips at her mother's apartment in Hartford, Connecticut. She, like Menken, had a fiery temper. He met Mary when they appeared in the play Nerves that 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-reeler The Dancing Town, of which a complete copy has never been found. He also appeared with Joan Blondell in a Vitaphone short in 1930 which 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 were living separately and Belmont died in 1934 in debt, which Bogart eventually paid off. (Bogart inherited his father's gold ring which he always wore, even in his films. At his father's deathbed, Bogart finally told Belmont how much he loved him.) Bogart's 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.
The play had 197 performances at the Broadhurst Theatre in New York in 1935. Bogart played opposite Leslie Howard as escaped killer Duke Mantee. A critic for the New York Times 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 movie, “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 gritty, urban, low-budget action pictures so the script seemed a perfect vehicle, especially when the public was presently entranced by real life criminals like John Dillinger and Dutch Schultz. Bette Davis and Leslie Howard were signed up, and 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 greater 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. Leslie Howard 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, after Howard, who had died in World War II. Robert E. Sherwood remained a close friend of Bogart's.
Bogart's roles were not only repetitive but physically demanding and draining (studios were not yet air-conditioned), and his regimented, tight-scheduled job at Warners was not exactly the “peachy” actor's life he hoped for. However, he was always professional and generally respected 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 in its heyday, largely 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 didn't like 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 shot scene-by-scene and rarely in order of the entire script. Amenities at Warners were few compared to those for their fellow actors at MGM. Bogart thought that Warner wardrobe department was cheap, and often wore his own suits in his movies. In High Sierra, Bogart used his own pet dog called Zero to play his character's dog "Pard."
The leading men ahead of Bogart at Warner Bros. included not just 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 Samuel Goldwyn's Dead End (1937), where he portrayed a gangster modeled after Baby Face Nelson. He did play a variety of interesting supporting roles, such as Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) (in which he got shot by James Cagney). Bogart was gunned down on film repeatedly, by Cagney and Edward G. Robinson, among others. In Black Legion (1937), for a change, he plays a good man caught up and destroyed by a racist organization, a movie Graham Greene called “intelligent and exciting, if rather earnest”.
Bogart was raised to believe acting was beneath a gentleman but he enjoyed stage acting.
In 1938, Warner Bros. put him 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 sizzling stage hit A Touch of Brimstone (1935), refused to give up her Broadway career to come to Hollywood with Bogart. After the play closed, however, she went to Hollywood but insisted on continuing her career (she was still a bigger star than he was) and they decided to divorce in 1937. On August 21, 1938, Bogart entered into a disastrous third marriage, with actress Mayo Methot, a lively, friendly woman when sober, but a 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 became a highly destructive relationship.
In California in the 1930s, Bogart bought a 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."
He 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 churning out, 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 didn't attend the premieres. He didn't play the Hollywood gossip game or cozy up to the newspaper columnists. He didn’t engage in phony politeness and admiration of his peers nor in behind the scenes back-stabbing. He even protected his privacy with phony press releases about his private life to satisfy the curiosity of the press 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."
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 reported being 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 male 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). Complementing Bogart were co-stars Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Elisha Cook, Jr., and Mary Astor as the treacherous female foil.
Bogart's sharp timing as private detective Sam Spade was praised by the cast and director as vital to the quick action and rapid-fire dialog. 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 got his first real romantic lead in 1943's Casablanca, playing Rick Blaine, the hard-pressed ex-pat nightclub owner, hiding from the past and walking the fine line between Nazis, the French underground, the Vichy prefect, and his ex-girlfriend. The film was directed by Michael Curtiz, produced by Hal Wallis, and featured a strong cast, including Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains, Sidney Greenstreet, Paul Henreid, Conrad Veidt, Peter Lorre, and Dooley Wilson.
In real life, Bogart played tournament chess, one level below master level and often played with crew members and cast off the set. It was reportedly his idea that Rick Blaine be portrayed as a chess player, which also served as a metaphor for the sparring relationship of the characters played by Bogart and Rains in the movie. 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 she had a reputation for affairs with her leading men. Because Bergman was taller than her leading man, Bogart had blocks attached to his shoes in certain scenes. She reportedly said later, "I kissed him but I never knew him. Years later, after Bergman had taken up with Italian director Roberto Rossellini, and bore him a child, Bogart confronted her. "You used to be a great star", he said, "What are you now?" "A happy woman", she replied.
Casablanca won the 1943 Academy Award for Best Picture. Bogart was nominated for the Best Actor in a Leading Role, but lost out to Paul Lukas for his performance in Watch on the Rhine. Still, for Bogart, it was a huge triumph. The film vaulted him from fourth place to first in the studio's roster, finally exceeding James Cagney, and more than doubling his salary to over $460,000 per year by 1946, making him the highest paid actor in the world.
Bogart met Lauren Bacall while filming To Have and Have Not (1944), a very 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 nineteen and Bogart was forty-five. He nicknamed her "Baby." She had been a model since she was sixteen 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. 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. Out of jealousy, 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.
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. Once again, the dialogue 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 very successful, though some critics point out that the plot is confusing and overly complicated.
Bogart and Bacall moved into a $160,000 white brick mansion in an exclusive neighborhood in Holmby Hills. Bogart and Bacall had two Jaguar cars, and three full-blooded Boxer dogs. 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 was thrifty and liked a simply decorated house. She a free-spender and extravagant shopper, who loved fancy furniture. He loved the sea; it made her sick. Bacall allowed Bogart lots of weekend time on his boat as she got seasick. Bogart's drinking sometimes inflamed tensions. Her conflicting roles of wife and actress caused problems but she managed to balance both. As she matured, she became more assertive, dominant, and controlling but on the whole, Bogart gained from her energy and her expansive personality. She was usually flexible about his ways but when she was insistent, he often gave in to achieve peace.
Lauren Bacall gave birth to Stephen Humphrey Bogart on January 6, 1949. Stephen was named after Bogart's character's nickname in To Have and Have Not, making Bogart a father at 49. They had their second child, Leslie Howard Bogart on August 23, 1952, a girl named after British actor Leslie Howard, who had been killed in World War II.
Two young women saw the stuffed animals, and one of the women picked one up. She quickly ended up on the floor. The other woman tried to do the same and wound up in the same position.
The next morning Bogart was awakened by a city official who served him an assault summons. Knowing a media frenzy was imminent, he met the media unshaven and in pajamas. He told the press he remembered grabbing the panda and "this screaming, squawking young lady. Nobody got hurt, I didn't sock anybody; if girls were falling on the floor, I guess it was because they couldn't stand up. At the same time Time reported the alleged victim had three marks from the alleged assault and "she explained that they were swelling and contusions." Club spokesperson Leonard MacBain stated, "No blows were exchanged, it was just one of those things."
That following Friday, Bogart went to face the charges in court. After the woman admitted to touching the panda, "Magistrate John R. Starkey ruled that Bogart had been defending his property, said he suspected the actor had been mousetrapped in the cause of club publicity, and dismissed the case."
Romanoff's in Beverly Hills was where the Rat Pack became "official". "Sinatra was named Pack Leader. Betty [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."
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".
Under Bogart's Santana Productions, which released through Columbia Pictures, Bogart starred in:
While the majority of his films lost money at the box office (the main reason for Santana's end), at least two of them are still remembered today; In a Lonely Place is 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 (Gloria Grahame). In the end, though his lover temporarily stabilizes him and he is cleared of the crime (in the novel Steele turns out to be a serial killer), Steele loses his lover because he can’t overcome his demons. Many Bogart biographers and actress/writer Louise Brooks agree that the role of violent screenwriter Dixon Steele is the closest to Bogart's real self, and is considered among Bogart's 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, his 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 movie 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 booze. 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.
The African Queen was the first Technicolor film in which Bogart appeared. Remarkably, he appeared in relatively few color films during the rest of his career, which continued for another five years. (His other color films included The Caine Mutiny, The Barefoot Contessa, We're No Angels, and The Left Hand of God.)
The role of Charlie Alnutt 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 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.
Bogart gave a bravura performance as Captain Queeg, an unstable naval officer, in many ways an extension of the character he 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 that made those characters so appealing. 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 in 1954 and filmed in Rome, Italy, gave Bogart one of his subtlest roles. 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 a bullfighter. 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, she credited him 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 who 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 also 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, which she did. 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, he 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.
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. That sent a fuming Jack Warner to his lawyers. 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 re-named Top Secret Affair and made with Kirk Douglas and Susan Hayward.
Bogart, a heavy smoker, contracted 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 was too late to halt the disease, even with chemotherapy.
Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy came to see him. Frank Sinatra was also a frequent visitor. Bogart was too weak to walk up and down stairs. He valiantly fought the pain and tried to joke about his immobility: "Put me in the dumbwaiter and I'll ride down to the first floor in style." His last words are believed to have been: "I should never have switched from Scotch to martinis. Hepburn, in an interview, 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 2:25 a.m. at his home at 232 Mapleton Drive in Holmby Hills, California. His simple funeral was held at All Saints Episcopal Church with musical selections played from Bogart's favorite composers, Johann Sebastian Bach and Claude Debussy. It was attended by some of Hollywood's biggest stars including: Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, David Niven, Ronald Reagan, James Mason, Danny Kaye, Joan Fontaine, Marlene Dietrich, Errol Flynn, Gregory Peck, and Gary Cooper, as well as Billy Wilder and Jack Warner. Bacall had asked Spencer Tracy to give the eulogy, but Tracy was too upset, so John Huston gave the eulogy 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.
Katharine Hepburn said:
He was one of the biggest guys I ever met. He walked straight down the center of the road. No maybes. Yes or no. He liked to drink. He drank. He liked to sail a boat. He sailed a boat. He was an actor. He was happy and proud to be an actor. He'd say to me, "Are you comfortable? Everything okay?" He was looking out for me.
His cremated remains are interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Glendale, California. Buried with him is a small gold whistle, which he had given to his future wife, Lauren Bacall, before they married. In reference to their first movie together, it was inscribed: "If you want anything, just whistle.
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'".
In 1997, the United States Postal Service featured Bogart in its "Legends of Hollywood" series.
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