Friday, August 10, 2012

Legends: Humphrey Bogart

“Here’s looking at you, kid.” Perhaps the most famous line ever from a movie. Humphrey Bogart set the standard where acting was concerned. Well, that’s my opinion anyway. One of my all time favorite films, “Casablanca”, gets watched at least once a year for the past several years. It’s just one of those movies I can’t get enough of. The first time I ever saw it was about 2002.


Born December 25, 1899 and passing away on January 14, 1957. He was an American actor. He is widely regarded as a cultural icon. The American Film Institute ranked Bogart as the greatest male star in the history of American cinema.

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 turned to film. His first great success was as Duke Mantee in “The Petrified Forest” (1936), and this led to a period of type-casting as a gangster with films such as “Angels With Dirty Faces” (1938) and B-movies like “The Return of Doctor X” (1939).

Bogart's breakthrough as a leading man came in 1941, with “High Sierra” and “The Maltese Falcon”. The next year, his performance in “Casablanca” 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 successes followed, including “Key Largo” (With his wife, Lauren Bacall), “The African Queen” and “The Harder They Fall”, just to name a few. During a film career of almost thirty years, he appeared in 75 feature films.



Bogart was born on Christmas Day, 1899 in New York City, the eldest child of Dr. Belmont DeForest Bogart (July 1867 - September 8, 1934) and Maud Humphrey (1868–1940). Belmont and Maud married in June 1898. The name “Bogart” comes from the Dutch surname “Bogaert”. It is derived from the word “bogaard”, a short name for “boomgaard”, which means “orchard”. Bogart's father was a Presbyterian of English and Dutch descent; his mother was an Episcopalian of English descent. Bogart was raised in the Episcopalian faith, but gave up his belief in God and was an atheist since the age of eight.

Bogart's birthday has been a subject of controversy; according to Warner Bros, he was born on Christmas Day, 1899. Others believe that this was a fiction created by the studio to romanticize their star, and that he was actually born on January 23, 1899. However, this story is now considered baseless: although no birth certificate has ever been found, his birth notice did appear in a New York newspaper in early January 1900, which supports the December 1899 date, as do other sources, such as the 1900 census.


Bogart's father, Belmont, was a cardiopulmonary surgeon. His mother, Maud Humphrey, was a commercial illustrator, who received her art training in New York and France, including study with James McNeil Whistler, and who later became artistic director of the fashion magazine ’The Delineator’. She was a militant suffragette. She used a drawing of baby Humphrey in a well-known ad campaign for Mellins Baby Food. In her prime, she made over $50,000 a year, then a vast sum, far more than her husband's $20,000 per year. The Bogarts lived in a fashionable Upper West Side apartment, and had an elegant cottage on a fifty-five acre estate in upstate New York on Canadaigua Lake. As a youngster, Humphrey's gang of friends at the lake would put on theatricals.

Humphrey was the oldest of three children; he had two younger sisters, 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 lifelong love of boating, and an attraction to strong-willed women.


The Bogarts sent their son to private schools. Bogart attended the Delancey School until fifth grade, when he was enrolled in Trinity School. He was an indifferent, sullen student who showed no interest in after-school activities. Later he went to the prestigious prepatory school, in Andover, Massachusetts, where he was admitted based on family connections. They hoped he would go on to Yale, but in 1918, Bogart was expelled. 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 inappropriate comments made 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.


With no viable career options, Bogart followed his love for the sea and enlisted in the United States Navy in the spring of 1918. He recalled later, “At eighteen, war was great stuff. Paris! French girls! Hot damn!” Bogart is recorded as a model sailor who spent most of his months in the Navy after the Armistice was signed, ferrying troops back from Europe. It was during his naval stint that Bogart may have gotten his trademark scar and developed his characteristic lisp, though the actual circumstances are unclear. In one account, during a shelling of his ship the USS Leviathan, his lip was cut by a piece of shrapnel, although some claim Bogart did not make it to sea until after the Armistice with Germany was signed. Another version, which Bogart's long time friend, author Nathaniel Benchley, claims is the truth, is that Bogart was injured while on assignment to take a naval prisoner to Portsmouth Naval Prison in Kittery, Maine. Supposedly, while changing trains in Boston, the handcuffed prisoner asked Bogart for a cigarette and while Bogart looked for a match, the prisoner raised his hands, smashed Bogart across the mouth with his cuffs, cutting Bogart's lip, and fled. The prisoner was eventually taken to Portsmouth. An alternate explanation is in the process of un-cuffing an inmate, Bogart was struck in the mouth when the inmate wielded one open, un-cuffed bracelet while the other side was still on his wrist. By the time Bogart was treated by a doctor, the scar had already formed.


Bogart returned home to find his father was suffering from poor health (perhaps aggravated by morphine addiction), his medical practice was faltering, and he lost much of the family's money on bad investments in timber. During his naval days, Bogart's character and values developed independent of family influence, and he began to rebel somewhat against their values. He came to be a liberal who hated pretensions, phonies, and snobs, and at times he defied conventional behavior and authority, traits he displayed in life and in his movies. On the other hand, he retained their traits of good manners, articulateness, punctuality, modesty, and a dislike of being touched. After his naval service, Bogart worked as a shipper and then bond salesman. He joined the Naval Reserve.

Bogart resumed his friendship with boyhood pal 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 screenwriting, 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 stated, “I was born to be indolent and this was the softest of rackets“. He spent a lot of his free time in speakeasies and became a heavy drinker. A barroom brawl during this time might have been the actual cause of Bogart's lip damage, as this coincides better with the Louise Brooks account.


Bogart had been raised to believe acting was beneath a gentleman, but he enjoyed stage acting. He never took acting lessons, but 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.

Early in his career, while playing double roles in the play “Drifting” at the Playhouse Theatre in 1922, Bogart met actress Helen Menken. They were married on May 20, 1926 at the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York City, divorced on November 18, 1927, but remained friends. On April 3, 1928, he married Mary Phillips at her mother's apartment in Hartford, Connecticut. She, like Menken, had a fiery temper and, like every other Bogart spouse, was an actress. He had met Mary when they appeared in the play “Nerves“, which 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 and Ruth Etting in a Vitaphone short, “Broadway’s Like That. (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 had separated, 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 many of his films. At his father's deathbed, Bogart finally told Belmont how much he loved him. His 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.


On August 21, 1938, Bogart entered into a disastrous third marriage, with actress Mayo Methot, a lively, friendly woman when sober, but 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,” and “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 was a highly destructive relationship.


Bogart rarely saw his own films and avoided premieres. He even protected his privacy with invented press releases about his private life to satisfy the curiosity of the newspapers 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.


After divorce proceedings were initiated in February 1945, from his third wife, Bogart and Bacall then married in a small ceremony at the country home of Bogart's close friend, Pulitzer Prize winning author, Louis Bromfield at Malabar Farm near Lucas, Ohio on May 21, 1945.

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. Bogart was a founding member of the Rat Pack. In the spring of 1955, after a long party in Las Vegas with Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, her husband Sid Luft, Mike Romanoff and his wife, Gloria, Angie Dickinson and others, Lauren Bacall surveyed the wreckage of the party and declared, “You look like a goddamn rat pack.”


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 am at his home at 232 South Mapleton Drive in Holmby Hills, California. His simple funeral was held at All Saints Episcopal Church with musical selections from Bogart's favorite composers, Johann Sebastian Bach and Claude Debussy. The ceremony was attended by some of Hollywood's biggest stars at the time, including Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Gregory Peck, James Cagney, and Errol Flynn, as well as Gary Cooper. Bacall had asked Tracy to give the eulogy, but Tracy was too upset, so John Huston spoke instead and reminded the gathered mourners that while Bogart's life had ended far too soon, it had been a rich one.

 

Source: Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humphry_Bogart

This work is released under CC 3.0 BY-SA - http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

4 comments:

  1. Nice job, kid.
    Love the pics.

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  2. Thanks, Linda. I just love Casablanca.

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  3. Such a great actor, who died far too young. There will never be anyone who can compare to Bogart's persona and ability.

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    Replies
    1. They don't make them like that anymore, that's for sure.

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