Humphrey Bogart

Many, including Hollywood, have rated Humphrey DeForest Bogart as the most outstanding actor of Classic Hollywood. Bogart was born on December 25, 1899, in New York City.[1] Although he attended many prestigious schools, he showed little to no interest in school or other activities. In fact, in 1918, the most remarkable man in Hollywood was expelled from Phillips Academy. The real reason for this expulsion is unknown. However, one theory suggests that he threw either the headmaster or groundskeeper into a pond.[2] It is more likely that his poor grades, he failed four out of six classes, were his reason for leaving school.

In the spring of 1918, Bogart enlisted in the United States Navy. He would later say, “At eighteen, war was great stuff.”[3] Bogart served most of his time after the Armistice that ended the First World War on November 11, 1918. Even though many young men at the time were successful in lying about their age, if he had wanted to join the war effort earlier, he most likely could not because he was not eighteen until December 1917. Either way, Bogart was recorded as being a model sailor who spent most of his enlisted time ferrying troops back from Europe.[4]

After he returned to civilian life, he took up a job as a shipper and then as a bond salesman.[5] He also joined the Coast Guard Reserve. Soon after, he began working at the new production company, World Films.[6] Bogart wanted to try his hand at screenwriting, directing, and production and was supposedly good at all three. He made his stage debut as a Japanese butler in a 1921 play entitled Drifting.[7] As did many in the roaring twenties, Bogart spent a good amount of time in speakeasies and became a heavy drinker.

Bogart never took an acting class. Instead, he preferred to learn as he went. He appeared in at least seventeen Broadway productions between 1922 and 1935. Many critics have written that his early works were remarkably inadequate.[8]

When the stock market crashed in 1929, many stage actors made their way to Hollywood since most stage productions lost all of their money. His first film debut was in the 1928 production of The Dancing Town. A full copy of this film has never been found.[9]

Bogart’s most successful films would be High Sierra, The Maltese Falcon, and Casablanca. These movies shot him to stardom and made him a lead man in Hollywood. Some of his most breathtaking acting would come after these movies. In 1944 Bogart filmed the movie To Have and Have Not, which was loosely based on the Ernest Hemingway novel. It was on this set that he met his fourth and final wife, Lauren Bacall.[10] He was forty-four and she was nineteen. To this day their pairing is looked to as one of the greatest duos in the history of Hollywood.

In January of 1956, his beloved wife, Lauren Bacall, convinced Bogart to see a doctor about his health. That was when they found out he had developed esophageal cancer. Over the next year the disease worsened. He passed away on January 14, 1957, at fifty-seven years old.[11] To this day, he is still remembered as one of the greatest actors of all time.

[1] Ontario County Times birth announcement, January 10, 1900.
[2] Jeffrey Meyers, Bogart: A Life in Hollywood (London: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997), 18-19.
[3] Jeffrey Meyers, Bogart: A Life in Hollywood, 19.
[4] A.M. Sperber and Eric Lax, Bogart (William Morrow & Co, 1997), 27.
[5] Jeffrey Meyers, Bogart: A Life in Hollywood, 23.
[6] Meyers, 23.
[7] A.M. Sperber and Eric Lax, Bogart, 29–31.
[8] Time Magazine, June 7, 1954.
[9] A.M. Sperber and Eric Lax, Bogart, 39–39.
[10] Lauren Bacall, By Myself and Then Some (New York, New York: Harper Collins, 2005).
[11] A.M. Sperber and Eric Lax, Bogart, p. 510.

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