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HUMPHREY BOGART
By Jessica Hutchison
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1946 Humphrey Bogart Motion Picture Magazine Premium Photo1947-48 Humphrey Bogart Kellogg's PEP CardHumphrey Bogart may be remembered best for his roles in Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon and The African Queen, but the events in his life that helped create the endearing rugged sentimentality of his characters are often just as interesting.  Even in his toughest gangster role, there was a depth to the characters he played that inspired sympathy.  Off-screen, he was a fiercely honest, mischievous man who could quote over 1000 lines from the works of Shakespeare.    

He was born Humphrey DeForest Bogart on December 25, 1899 in Manhattan and lamented that he had been cheated out of his own birthday to celebrate.  His father was a doctor and his mother a famous magazine illustrator and early suffragette.  The Bogart children were raised mainly by servants and referred to their mother by first name.  She sent a sketch of Bogart as an infant to Mullins Baby Food and they used his portrait on their labels and ads.  Bogart grew up never in want of anything material, with a summer home at Canandaigua Lake and attendance at a private school, where he wore a black derby hat to “needle” authority.

After an unsuccessful attempt at college, Bogart decided to enlist in the Navy during the first world war.  He served on a transport that shuttled soldiers from US to Europe and, true to form, was decked by a superior officer on his second day at sea for questioning a direct order.  Shortly before his honorable discharge two years later, his ship was shelled by a U-boat and a splinter of wood from a burst pierced his upper lip.  The ship’s surgeon attended him, but there was nerve damage, leaving his lip partially paralyzed.  His mouth formed a tight-set look that would become a dominant feature of his appearance and cause him to talk with a slight lisp. 

Volpe sketch of Humphrey Bogart in The African QueenBogart started in Broadway, mainly cast in light roles, but was admired for his stage presence and good looks.  The stock market crash and talking movies hit Broadway hard and Bogart found himself playing chess at the “sportlands” on 6th avenue to earn enough to eat.  He was a skilled player, and took on anyone at 50 cents a bet. 

His breakout role was in the play The Petrified Forest in which he played the wicked Duke Mantee.  He wore a three-day growth of beard and patrons often asked for seats close enough to see Duke Mantee’s display of stubble.  Bogart made enough money from this role to pay off his debts and open an F. Y. fund – money that gave him the security to refuse a job he didn’t want.  Bogart moved to Hollywood when Warner’s made the movie and cast him as the wicked Duke.  To spite the Oscar’s and mock the “phonies” he found common in Hollywood, Bogart instituted an annual award to the best animal actor.  The ASPCA later turned this idea into the sincere Patsy Awards.  His first leading role in a major movie was High Sierra.  Others actors refused the role because the censors decreed that because the main character had committed six killings, he must die.

Bogart had a series of strangled marriages.  His first marriage was to Helen Menken, a Broadway actress older and more successful than Bogart at the time.  They argued often over such things as whether it was right to feed the dog caviar when people were starving.  Bogart was against and the marriage gradually slid downhill and fell apart less than two years later.  After another year, Bogart married Mary Philips.  This marriage was interrupted by the start of his film career and even though he fought to keep the marriage together, Mary opted to go back to NY without him to pursue her life on Broadway.  A few days after the divorce was final, Bogart married fellow actress Mayo Methot, a jealous woman with a drinking problem.  They fought severely from the start, even spending their wedding night separated.  Known as the Battling Bogarts, Mayo and Bogart had an up-and-down marriage that often involved physical and emotional abuse.  Even after Mayo stabbed Bogart in the back with a butcher knife, gave him a black eye which delayed shooting of one of his films, set fire to the EPOCA Magazine cover featuring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn as they appeared in The African Queenhouse while drunk, and made childish and often violent scenes in public, it took Lauren Bacall to finally lure Bogart away from almost seven years of marriage.  Their attraction for each other was instant on the set of “To Have and to Have Not” and even though Lauren was 25 years his junior, they tied the knot soon after his divorce.  It was a small three-minute ceremony during which the man who was best known for playing tough guys cried.  At this time, Bogart was 45 years old and had three pastimes: sailing, scotch, and eating lunch at his favorite restaurant, Romanoff’s, the location where the legendary Rat Pack was formed. 

Bogart was king of Hollywood during these years.  While filming The African Queen in the Congo and Uganda, he helped their small encampment battle off an army of soldier ants.  He won an Oscar in 1951 for his role and considered it his greatest film.  Bogart and his wife were also the only ones in camp to escape the grip of dysentery by avoiding the local water.  He even brushed his teeth with scotch. 

In 1956 Bogart was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.  When his doctor removed the malignant tumor, he found the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes, which were also removed.  Bogart endured a number of radiation treatments, but continued to lose weight and strength.  Until the end, he took trips out on his sailboat, Santana, and met with friends.  On January 14, 1957 at 2:10 AM, Bogart drew his last breath from the world he made his mark in, leaving behind 75 films, two children and millions of fans over his 25-year Hollywood career. 
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Sources:
Bogart, S. H. Bogart: In Search of My Father. New York: Dutton, 1995.

Hyams, J. Bogie, the Biography of Humphrey Bogart. New York: The New American Library, 1966.
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Jessica Hutchison is a freelance writer from the state of Iowa.

Other Humphrey Bogart Pages:
A Tribute to Humphrey Bogart Humphrey Bogart would have been 100 years old in either January or December of 1999, when this tribute was first created. Does it matter? He's the best either way.
Tribute to Humphrey Bogart -- A fan's tribute to the late great actor, Humphrey Bogart.  The ultimate place for the Bogie fan or those who are curious.  Around since 1995.