HUMPHREY BOGART (personality)


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Humphrey Bogart was born Christmas Day in New York City in 1899. Although he would become perhaps the greatest movie star of all time, his early life in no way predicted this, and he was well into his thirties before he had much success at all! His father, a surgeon, intended for him to become a doctor, but he was kicked out of college. He joined the U.S. Naval Reserve and managed a stage company in his early 20s. He began acting on the stage, but to no real success. In 1930 he got a Hollywood contract at Fox Pictures, but he had little success there, and they released him after two years. He returned to the stage, and in 1936 finally was noticed in the small but vital role in the stage production of The Petrified Forest, where he appeared with Leslie Howard. Howard was signed for the movie version of the play, and he insisted, over studio objections, that Bogart be cast as well (he sent a telegram to Warners that read "No Bogart, no Howard"). Bogart never forgot this great kindness, and he much later named his daughter "Leslie". While Bogart was well received in The Petrified Forest, it did not make him a first rank star (likely he was 36 and he had already failed in Hollywood years earlier), so he spent the next five years at Warner Bros appearing in 28 films, almost always in secondary roles, often as a gangster. Twice he played cowboys (in Virginia City and The Oklahoma Kid)! He played the title role in The Return of Doctor X, a second rate horror movie, and a wrestling promoter in Swing Your Lady. He was in the first two "Dead End" movies, but was overshadowed by the Dead End Kids. Bogart was now 40, and it seemed likely he would finish his career playing more and more minor roles. But in 1941 George Raft turned down the role of Roy "Mad Dog" Earle, an escaped legendary bank robber, and that role, along with the role of Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (which Warners was remaking for the second time in 10 years) FINALLY made Bogart a top star (Warners thought so little of him as these movies were being released that most of the movie paper advertising for The Maltese Falcon showed Bogart with his cropped white hair from High Sierra!). Casablanca (nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award for this film) followed the next year, along with other patriotic World War II movies. In 1944, Bogart, who was 44 and had been married three times, was cast opposite 19 year old newcomer (and Howard Hawks' protege) Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not, and Bogart left his wife and married Bacall the following year. They would make three more movies together (The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, and Key Largo) and have two children. Bogart had some of his very finest roles near the end of his career. In 1948 he starred as Fred C. Dobbs in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, in 1951 he was Charlie Allnut in The African Queen (winner of the Best Actor Academy Award for this film), and in 1954 he was Lt. Cmdr. Queeg in The Caine Mutiny (nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award for this film; remember how he used "geometric logic" to prove there was a duplicate key?). I can't see anyone not agreeing that these are among the three finest acting performances ever! Bogart died from throat cancer in 1957 at the age of 57. He made many other memorable movies others than the ones noted above, and I urge you to seek them out! But be aware that he also appeared in a goodly number of MUCH lesser movies as well (especially in the first ten years of his career, so be sure to read reviews before starting one of his movies!)
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