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Humphrey Bogart

Humphrey Bogart

“The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind.” – Humphrey Bogart

Humphrey DeForest Bogart was born on Christmas Day 1899 in New York City, USA. His actual birth date is somewhat disputed but Bogart always celebrated it on Christmas Day, joking that he had always considered that he had been cheated out of a present every year.

His father was Belmont DeForest Bogart, a cardiopulmonary surgeon, who was descended from the first European child born in New Netherland, a 17th-century colony of the Dutch Republic, which was located approximately where New Jersey is now in the Northeast United States. His mother, Maud Humphrey, who was a commercial illustrator was descended from one of the Mayflower’s passengers, John Howland. She became the art director of a fashion magazine and was heavily and directly involved in the militant side of the suffragette movement. Between them, Bogart’s parents earned over $70,000 per year, which allowed for a comfortable lifestyle for him and his two younger sisters, Frances and Catherine, who were known as Pat and Kay growing up.

However, although comfortable, Bogart didn’t have what could be described as a loving upbringing. He reflected that his parent fought a lot, worked a lot and showed little if any affection towards him and his sisters. During his childhood, he developed interests in fishing and boating but was teased at school for the curls in his hair.

Humphrey Bogart attended a private school called the Delancey School, which he attended until fifth grade before going to Trinity School, which is a very prestigious Ivy League prep school in New York. As it turns out Bogart wasn’t too interested in academic qualifications and his parents would ultimately be disappointed at the results of their efforts to afford him the best education as following Trinity Humphrey attended Phillips Academy rather than Yale, which his parents would have preferred, but ultimately dropped out in 1918.

With not many other options open to him, Humphrey Bogart joined the United States Navy in 1918 as the First World War was ending and spent most of his time ferrying soldiers home from Europe. He enjoyed his time in the Navy, commenting that he appreciated the sexy French women.

Although there are several stories about how Humphrey Bogart received his trademark scar during the war, the reality is more likely to be the story he recalled to David Niven who said that Bogart received the scar during his childhood and he blamed a doctor for the formation of it, saying, “Goddamn doctor, instead of stitching it up, he screwed it up.”

After the war, Humphrey Bogart returned home to find that his father was in ill health and a series of bad investments had seen most of the family’s fortune squandered, so he joined the Coast Guard Reserve and also took jobs as a bond salesman and a shipper. He also took an office job at William A. Brady’s World Films Company through a friendship he had with Bill Brady Jr.

He wanted to be a screenwriter, director and producer but couldn’t do any of those things, settling instead for becoming stage manager for a play called A Ruined Lady. He made his stage acting debut in 1921 as a Japanese butler in a play called Drifting. He enjoyed acting, but never took lessons, preferring instead to learn his newly found trade as he went. He went on to appear in at least 17 Broadway plays over the next decade and a half.

In 1922 whilst appearing in Drifting at the Playhouse Theatre, Humphrey Bogart met Helen Menken and the pair were married on 20 May 1926 although they divorced just over a year later. On 3 April 1928, he married again, this time to Mary Philips whom he had met during a play called Nerves which had a brief run at the Comedy Theatre a few years before.

After the Wall Street Crash in 1929, no-one was going out to watch plays anymore so parts dried up. Lots of out of work actors headed for Hollywood and Humphrey Bogart was no exception.

He signed a contract with Fox for $750 per week where he met Spencer Tracy and the two became friends, with Tracy being the first to refer to him as Bogie. He made his debut for Fox in the movie Up the River in 1930 but remained in supporting roles, sometimes as a gangster, for the next decade or so, often being overlooked in favour of other actors at the time.

As Humphrey Bogart was starting to become typecast as the gangster or the heavy, he decided to not take such parts anymore and his last appearance as a gangster, ironically, would also be one of his breakthrough parts when he played the part of Roy Earle in 1941s High Sierra. His other breakthrough role was that of Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon which was released in the same year.

Humphrey Bogart’s first and most significant romantic role was opposite Ingrid Bergman in 1942s Casablanca for which Bogart received an Academy Award Best Actor nomination. Although Bergman had a reputation of having affairs with her leading men, her on-screen performance with Humphrey Bogart was as far as it went and the two hardly spoke off-set. Incidentally, it was reportedly Bogart’s idea for his character of Rick Blaine to be a chess player as Bogart himself played the game to tournament level. In part, this performance was responsible for Bogart overtaking James Cagney as the studio’s first choice actor and by 1946 he was earning a reported $460,000 per year, which at the time made him the world’s highest-paid actor.

Whilst filming 1944s To Have and Have Not, Humphrey Bogart met the 19-year-old Lauren Bacall and there was an instant attraction between them and so, when they starred together in a second film, The Big Sleep, the deal was done. Bogart divorced his third wife Mayo Jane Methot who he had married in 1938 and married Bacall on 21 May 1945. Bacall then went on to play Bogart’s love interest in 1947s Dark Passage and in Key Largo which was released in 1948. The pair remained together until his death.

On 6 January 1949, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall had their first child together when Stephen Humphrey Bogart was born. Stephen’s sister, Leslie Howard Bogart came along on 23 August 1952. Her first and middle names are in honour of her father’s friend, the actor Leslie Howard with whom he co-starred in The Petrified Forest in 1936.

An Academy Award for Best Actor came Humphrey Bogart’s way following the release of 1951’s The African Queen. In the movie, Bogart plays the role of steamboat captain Charlie Allnutt who helps Katharine Hepburn’s snobbish Rose Sayer escape German Eastern Africa and strike a blow against the Germans after the death of her brother following the 1914 declaration of war.

Later appearances saw him star opposite Ava Gardner in The Barefoot Contessa and William Holden and Audrey Hepburn in 1954s Sabrina. 1954 also saw him nominated for Best Actor again for his part as Lt. Cmdr. Philp Francis Queeg in The Caine Mutiny. Humphrey Bogart had always been a heavy drinker and smoker and was diagnosed with oesophagal cancer. He had surgery and chemotherapy, but both were unsuccessful. He died 20 days after his 57th birthday on 14 January 1957.

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