Humphrey Bogart

Humphrey Bogart, Actor, NYC

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Humphrey DeForest Bogart (December 25, 1899 - January 14, 1957) was an American actor. In 1999, the American Film Institute named Bogart the Greatest Male Star of All Time. Playing primarily smart, playful and reckless characters anchored by an inner moral code while surrounded by a corrupt world, Bogart's most notable films include The Petrified Forest (1936), Kid Galahad (1937), Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), The Roaring Twenties (1939), High Sierra (1941), The Maltese Falcon (1941), Casablanca (1942), To Have and Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), Key Largo (1948), In a Lonely Place (1950), The African Queen (1951) (for which he won an Academy Award for Best Actor), The Caine Mutiny (1954), Sabrina (1954), We're No Angels (1955) and The Left Hand of God. (1955) Altogether, he appeared in 75 feature motion pictures.

Though he started his career as Broadway stage player and B-movie actor during the 1920s and 1930s, Bogart's later accomplishments have made him a worldwide icon. French actors, such as Jean-Paul Belmondo, were deeply influenced by his work and image, as well, India's great national movie star, Ashok Kumar, listed Bogart as a major influence on his "natural" acting style. In the United States, Bogart is remembered in one of Woody Allen's comic movies, Play It Again, Sam, which relates the story of a young man obsessed by his persona. In 1997, the United States Postal Service featured Bogart in its "Legends of Hollywood" series, and Entertainment Weekly magazine has named Bogart the number one movie legend of all time.


Bogart took odd jobs, joined the Naval Reserve, and eventually drifted into acting. He liked the late hours that actors kept, and enjoyed the attention that an actor got on stage. Most of all, he enjoyed the challenge of putting on a difficult scene, making the audience believe it. He dug deeply into the characters he portrayed, and found them a welcome escape from his own self. Bogart began his acting career on the Brooklyn stage in 1921, playing a Japanese butler. He never took acting lessons, and had no formal training. An early reviewer wrote of Bogart's work: "To be as kind as possible, we will only say that this actor was inadequate." Bogart loathed the trivial parts he had to play early in his career, calling them "White Pants Willie" roles.

Bogart appeared in 21 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.

Early in his career, Bogart met Helen Menken. They married in 1926, divorced in 1927, and remained friends. In 1928, he married Mary Philips. Philips, like Menken, had a fiery temper, and once bit the finger off a police officer who tried to arrest her for drunkenness.

Spencer Tracy was a serious Broadway actor whom Bogart liked and admired, and they became good friends. It was Tracy, in 1930, who first called him "Bogie". (Spelled variously in many sources, Bogart himself spelled his nickname "Bogie.") Robert E. Sherwood remained a close friend of Bogart's. In 1936, the film version of The Petrified Forest came out. Bogart got excellent reviews, but he was then typecast as a gangster in a series of crime dramas for Warner Bros. All told, Bogart went to the electric chair 12 times, and was sentenced to over 800 years of hard labor. Jack Warner saw nothing wrong with that; as long as the movies made money, and the actors got paid, he saw no reason for anyone to complain.

Mary Philips refused to give up her Broadway career to come to Hollywood with Bogart, and soon they were divorced.

On August 21, 1938, Bogart entered into a disastrous third marriage, with 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. Bogart sometimes returned fire, and the press 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 sailboat, which he named "Sluggy" after his hot-tempered wife.

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."

The studio system, then in its heyday, largely restricted actors to one studio, and Warner Bros. had no interest in making Bogart a 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. He thought that Warner Bros.' wardrobe department was cheap, and often wore his own suits in his movies. In High Sierra, Bogart used his own mutt to play his character's dog "Pard."

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. From 1943 to 1955, Bogart starred in many other films that reflected his diverse talent as an actor. In addition to being offered better, more diverse roles, he started his own production company in 1949 called Santana Productions, named after his private sailing yacht.

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