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Turner Classic Movies
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Bogart, Humphrey
Written by James Colt Harrison   

humbogart_copy.jpgDate of Birth: December 25, 1899

Place of Birth: New York, New York

Date of Death: January 14, 1957

Place of Death: Los Angeles, California

Cause of Death: throat cancer

Humphrey Bogart, born into a privileged New York family, went from being expelled from his medical studies at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, to enlisting in the U.S. Navy to becoming one of Hollywood's most notable actors. His film Casablanca, co-starring Ingrid Bergman, is ranked among the all time favorite classic films.

Born into a privileged New York family in 1899, Humphrey DeForest Bogart was the exact opposite of the often crude and rough characters he portrayed on the screen.

Son of a prominent surgeon and a mother who was famous for her Maude Humphrey Baby illustrations, the youthful Bogart attended the ultra upper class Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts for schooling. Difficult to handle, he was expelled from the school.

Bogart passed on a chance to attend Yale and instead joined the Navy in 1918. He acquired a wound to his lip during a shipboard accident which gave him his distinctive lisp. After discharge from the Navy, he gravitated toward the theater, where he made his debut in 1920. Critic Alexander Woolcott was not impressed with Bogart's acting ability and wrote of him as what is usually and mercifully described as inadequate. This drubbing by a famous critic did not deter Bogart from continuing his acting career.

In 1926 Bogart met, married and divorced actress Helen Menken. Actress Mary Phillips became wife #2 in 1928. Mayo Methot came along in 1938. None of the three marriages netted any children.

After having been on the stage for 10 years, Bogart made his first trip to Hollywood and made some films for Fox Studio's. Up The River (1930) was also Spencer Tracy's first picture. A series of 10 potboilers followed, including Bad Sister (1931) with Bette Davis. Bogart flopped in films for Universal and Columbia before returning to New York to star on the stage as gangster Duke Mantee with Leslie Howard in The Petrified Forest (1935). The play was a huge success and an important break for Bogart.

When Warner Bros. bought the property with intention to star Howard, they didn't want Bogart, and wanted to cast Edward G. Robinson in the gangster part. Howard (Gone With The Wind ) insisted Bogart be cast or he wouldn't do the film. The British star proved right, and Bogart became a sensation when the film was released in 1936.

Warner Bros. signed Bogie to a contract not knowing what to do with him. He suffered through a series of gangster pictures such as Bullets or Ballots (1936) with Edward G. Robinson, San Quentin (1937) with Ann Sheridan, and Racket Busters (1938) with George Brent. Bogart occasionally made a good film like Marked Woman (1937) with Bette Davis, Dead End (1937) with Joel McCrea and Sylvia Sidney and Angels With Dirty Faces (1938) with James Cagney.

Between 1936 and 1940, Bogart made 28 films. Warner Bros. thrust Bogie into a mishmash of pictures, but several emerged as milestones in his career. They Drive By Night (1940) with George Raft, The Wagons Roll By Night (1940) with Sylvia Sidney - the first picture in which he received top billing. High Sierra (1941) with Ida Lupino firmly established the tough-guy character as a major film presence. Bogart then entered the most significant years of his career.

Young screenwriter John Huston directed his first film, The Maltese Falcon in 1941. Bogart played detective Sam Spade in what is considered his best role in one of the best pictures of all time. The sexy but devious Mary Astor, the formidable Sydney Greenstreet, the sniveling Peter Lorre, and the greatest weasel of all-time, Elisha Cook, Jr., all blended their unique talents to turn out a classic film.

After making war-time movies such as All Through The Night and Across The Pacific (1942). Bogart made the enduring classic Casablanca Nominated for an Academy Award, Bogie lost to Paul Lukas for Watch on the Rhine. The film managed to turn Bogart into a romantic leading man opposite the beautiful Swedish star Ingrid Bergman. With an outstanding cast including Claude Rains, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, and Paul Henreid, the film won Oscars as Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Director for Michael Curtiz. More than any of his other films, Casablanca has made Bogart a legendary movie star and a cult favorite with college students for nearly 70 years.

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Paul Henreid, Ingrid Bergman & Humphrey Bogart in "Casablanca" Turner Entertainment/Warner Home Video

 

It wasn't until 1945 that Bogart's life and career took a new turn. He met the luscious 19 year-old Lauren Bacall. She had recently been signed to a contract by director Howard Hawks, who paired them in his next picture. To Have and Have Not brought the famous lovers together and ended Bogart's marriage to Mayo Methot on May 11,1945.

Bogie and Bacall were established as the hottest romantic team in films. They continued with the detective yarn The Big Sleep (1946) and the gangster film Key Largo (1948), all of which were smash hits. Bogart married Bacall on May 21,1945. They enjoyed a fabulous life with their two children Stephen (1949) and Leslie (1952) and their boat, the famous Santana. Bogie loved to sail and spent many weekends aboard the sleek craft.

Bogart's big hit film in 1948 was The Treasure of Sierra Madre, which won Oscars for director John Huston and his father Walter Huston, as Best Supporting Actor.

In 1951 Bogart made the screen classic The African Queen with the indomitable Katharine Hepburn and with Huston as director. Bogart won the Oscar for his role as the skipper of an old river barge. The final film he made with Huston was the bizarre Beat the Devil (1954), shot in Italy and written by author Truman Capote. No one in the cast, including Peter Lorre, George Sanders and Gina Lollobridgida, seemed to know what was happening from scene to scene as new pages of dialogue were written daily.

During the last three years of his life Bogart made some significant films. They were the Billy Wilder romantic comedy Sabrina (1954) with Audrey Hepburn and William Holden, The Barefoot Contessa (1954) with Ava Gardner and Rosanno Brazzi, and The Left Hand of God (1955) with beautiful Gene Tierney. Bogart's final film was The Harder They Fall (1956) in which he played an ex-sports writer.

It was during the making of this final film that Bogart felt exhausted most of the time and was finally diagnosed with throat cancer. Bacall put her own career on hold to nurse Bogie through his painful illness at their Beverly Hills home. The beloved star died on January 12,1957, at age 58.

John Huston said, "His life, though not a long one measured in years, was a rich, deep life. He got what he asked for out of life and more. He is quite irreplaceable."

An excellent companion piece to this brief biography is Lauren Bacall's autobiography, By Myself, And Then Some.

 

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