Humphrey Bogart

The greatest male star of Old Hollywood

Hi, I'm Kat!
What I am most passionate about is to inspire you to see that your life is your own and biggest masterpiece.

According to the American Film Institute, Humphrey Bogart is the greatest male star of Old Hollywood or classic American cinema as they say. But, apart from that, you will see that he has a lot more to offer than that. Honestly, I did not know anything about him – apart from being the husband of Lauren Bacall who I simply adore for multiple reasons. 



Humphrey DeForest Bogart was born on December 25, 1899 in New York City. His birth date was later changed for publicity reasons to January – because the studios thought that such a complex character and villain, as Bogart often played, simply cannot been born on Christmas. But, that is actually his birth date.

His family was quite particular and wealthy. HIs mother Maud Humphrey was a commercial illustrator who had won prizes and learned with Whistler. She earned roughly $750k/year when adjusted for inflation and was also a suffragette, fighting for women’s rights. Her ancestor was John Howland, who came over to America on the Mayflower and were actually descendants from king Edward I of England. And by that connection, Humphrey Bogart is also related to Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland. 

Bogart’s father Belmont DeForest Bogart was a cardiopulmonary surgeon, serving at three different hospitals in Manhattan by the age of only 30. He was also of wealthy and old heritage – his father belonged to a family of Dutch farmers that had settled in New York in the 1600s and married wealthy heiress Julia Augusta Stiles DeForest. Together they opened a hotel and, at the same time, Belmont made a fortune manufacturing lithographed tin advertising signs. 

So, they were really well-off and had a great and historically meaningful lineage – and thus does Humphrey Bogart. He grew up in an Upper West Side apartment and on the 55-acre estate on Canandaigua Lake in upstate New York. 

Bogart was not an only child but had two younger sisters: Frances and Catherine Elizabeth. All three kids were brought up „unsentimentally“ as Bogart phrased it. There was hardly any physical affection and little emotion between parents and children. The first time, Bogart told his father he loved him was on the latter’s deathbed. Bogart wore his father’s gold ring in many of his films. 

Humphrey Bogart attended the best schools in the private Delancey School in New York and Phillips Academy, a boarding school in Massachusetts. He was taken on by the latter only by family connections, not because of his academic brilliance – and left after only one semester. Some reasons given were drinking and poor academic performance, angering the headmaster by throwing him in a pond or being taken out of the school by his parents because of his poor grades. We will never know. 

Next up for Bogart was the Navy – with no academic future in sight, he enlisted in 1918, during WWI. And, apparently, he liked it as he is quotes later to have said: „At eighteen, war was great stuff. Paris! Sexy French girls! Hot damn!“ He left the Navy one year later in 1919. 

Wild Lifestyle during the Jazz Age

When he returned home to New York, aged 19, things had changed: The family had lost most of their wealth in bad investments, Bogart’s father sick and hardly working anymore. So, Bogart started to craft a life of his own in the middle of the Jazz Age – a lifestyle that he fully embraced. 

He actually did not start out as an actor or performer like most of his colleagues of that time – but as a chess player. He played tournament-level chess (one division below master) and played at New York parks and at Coney Island. His start in acting came through his friendship with Bill Barry Jr. whose father William A Brady had connections to the show-business and set up the new company „World Films“. Bogart started there as stage manager for a play of Alice Brady, the sister of his friend and daughter of his employer. A short while later he appeared on stage in one of her plays and did so in  subsequent productions. 

What he liked best about acting? The late hours, the attention and that it was easy. His free time was spent in speakeasies and drinking heavily. According to some accounts, his famous lip scar is the result of a bar fight – other accounts blame it on a childhood accident, others on shrapnels or accidents during wartime. But this one in the bar is the most probable as there are several accounts backing this. 

Stage Work

So, Humphrey Bogart liked the stage and stayed with acting for about 13 years between 1922 and 1935, appearing in at least 18 different productions. He never took acting lessons and just learned by doing. Most of the plays were comedies and his stereotypical role was that of juvenile or supporting roles. Humphrey Bogart is actually credited to have been the first on stage to say the line: „Tennis, anyone?“ His performances on stage were met with little appreciation, one describing him as „inadequate“. 

When stage work dried up because of the Wall Street Crash, Bogart moved to Hollywood as did many actors during this time and made his screen debut in ‚The Dancing Town‘ with Helen Hayes.

Start in Hollywood

Humphrey Bogart got a contract with the Fox Film Corporation for $750/week and started appearing in several movies. The best thing about Fox: Bogart met Spencer Tracy, who became both a friend and a drinking companion. Spencer Tracy is credited with coming up with the name ‚Bogie‘ as Humphrey Bogart is known throughout the world. 

Nevertheless, Humphrey Bogart did not have great successes, did not get great roles and was generally dissatisfied with his career and life. Additionally to his movies, he worked on Broadway. 

One of the plays he starred in was ‚The Petrified Forst‘ in 1934 together with Leslie Howard and Bette Davis. Bogart was credited of doing his best work to date – and it was the long-awaited departure from the sleek characters that he had played on Broadway so far. Warner Bros. was set to bring the story to the screen with Leslie Howard holding the production rights. He and Bette Davis were already cast and Howard demanded Bogart to play heavy Mantee – one telegram by Howard read „ No Bogart No Deal“ So, Bogart was cast and Frank S. Nugent, critic for ‚The New York Times‘ wrote about Bogart „can be a psychopathic gangster more like Dillinger than the outlaw himself.“ This movie and this role made Bogart the start that he is known to be. 

Bogart never forgot that Leslie Howard was the one that made his fame and fortune possible and later even named his daughter „Leslie Howard Bogart“ in his friend’s favor. 

The Villain Years

Nevertheless, despite the huge success of ‚The Petrified Forest‘, Humphrey Bogart was not treated and cast as an A-Lister. Quite the opposite – Warner Bros. did not do anything to raise his profile or model him into a star. Instead, he was repeatedly cast in gangster B movies. Even though he hated the roles, he worked steadily and reliably. Roughly every two months a Bogart movie came out. He used these years to craft his film persona – a loner with a code of honor – vulnerable, charming, cynical, stoical. 1941’s movie ‚High Sierra‘ based on a screenplay John Huston was Bogart’s last gangster movie and the first he collaborated on with John Huston, who would become a close friend as well as a drinking companion and professional buddy to Bogart. 


John Huston’s ‚The Maltese Falcon‘, a classic film noir, was originally planed by the producers for George Raft to star in – but Raft declined and Huston happily accepted Bogart instead. The movie was a critical and commercial success and also one of the few movies that Bogart was really pleased with.

1942’s ‚Casablanca‘ is probably Bogart’s best known movie, which also stars Ingrid Bergman. It was actually Bogart’s idea to make Rick Blaine a chess player as he played it so well himself. The movie won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Bogart himself was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, but did not win. This film made Bogart the world’s highest-paid actor with an annual salary of $460k (roughly $7.2m today). 

The following movies ‚To Have and Have Not‘, ‚The Big Sleep‘, ‚Dark Passage‘ and ‚Key Largo‘ are probably amongst the best-known of Humphrey Bogart’s career – because he starred opposite Lauren Bacall, his later wife They actually met and fell in love on the set of „To Have and Have Not“ and started an affair. ‚The Big Sleep‘ was edited and re-edited several times to make the most out of their on-screen and off-screen romance. 

Bogart and Huston worked together several times after ‚The Maltese Falcon‘ – on „The Treasure of the Sierra Madre“ as well as on „The African Queen“. Their final film was „Beat the Devil“ that was co-written with Truman Capote. 

Bogart also had founded Santana Productions in 1948 and played in several movies that were quite unsuccessful at the box office. One of them though stands out: „In a Lonely Place“. Apparently, this character is the one that resembles the real-life Bogart the most – as Louise Brooks puts it: the film „give him a role that he could play with complexity, because the film character’s pride in his art, his selfishness, drunkenness, lack of energy stabbed with lightning stroke of violence were shared by the real Bogart.“ 

Academy Award for ‚African Queen’

The John Huston movie ‚The African Queen‘ would be the one that Humphrey Bogart would finally win an Academy Award for. It was actually Katherine Hepburn that suggested Bogart for the part, believing that he was the only one able to pull this role off. 

The movie was filmed in the Belgian Congo – and was an ordeal for almost everybody. Except for Huston and Bogart all crew members developed dysentery. As Bogart but it: „All I ate was baked beans, canned asparagus and Scotch whisky. Whenever a fly bit Huston or me, it dropped dead.“ 

‚African Queen‘ was Bogart’s first movie in Technicolor. 

Two other very notable films of Bogart were ‚Sabrina‘ co-starring Audrey Hepburn and William Holden and ‚The Barefoot Contessa‘ co-starring Ava Gardner. 

TV and radio

Humphrey Bogart also performed on TV and on radio. Wife Lauren Bacall, Henry Fonda and himself worked on a telecast based on „The Petrified Forest“. And he adapted his best-known movies like ‚Casablanca* and ‚The Maltese Falcon‘ for the radio and recorded a radio series together with Lauren Bacall called ‚Bold Venture‘. 

Allure & Lifestyle of Humphrey Bogart

As Jeffrey Meyers puts it in „Bogart: A Life in Hollywood“. Bogart did not like pretension, phonies and snobs. Sometimes he was defying conventional behavior and authority. 

When he thought someone had not performed well or was simply not good – he would say so. He was outspoken. His candor was liked by many – especially the press – and disliked by even more, especially those in the Hollywood community. 

He was also well-mannered, articulate, punctual, self-effacing and standoffish.

He was extremely well-read and was able to quote Alexander Pope, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Plato and Shakespeare. Some of his closest friends were writers and screenwriters and he enjoyed conversations and arguments with them. 

But, Humphrey Bogart was also a heavy smoker and a heavy drinker – which ended in him developing esophageal cancer. It got detected in 1956. Subsequently, Bogart underwent surgery and chemotherapy. One year later he collapsed into a coma and died, weighing only 80 pounds. 

His funeral was attended by Hollywood’s biggest stars – Ingrid Bergman, Joan Blondell, James Cagney, Cyd Charisse, Harry Cohn, Joan Crawford, Bing Crosby, Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Marlene Dietrich, José Ferrer, Errol Flynn, Henry Fonda, Joan Fontaine, Judy Garland, Greer Garson, Audrey Hepburn, Katherine Hepburn, Bob Hope, John Huston, Ida Lupino, Veronica Lake, Gene Kelly, David O. Selznick, Ronald Reagan, Barbara Stanwyck, James Stewart, Gene Tierney, Spencer Tracy, Billy Wilder, Jane Wyman and many more were all  on site to say their final goodbyes. 

Love Life

Humphrey Bogart met his first wife, Helen Menken, also an actress in 1922 and they married in 1926, divorced one year later and stayed friends afterwards. The reason for the divorce? His career was more important to Bogart than his marriage. Nevertheless, Bogart married again in 1928 – this time to fellow actress Mary Philips that he had worked with in an earlier production. 

Mary had quite a stage hit with ‚A Touch of Brimstone‘ and initially did not follow Bogart to Hollywood. When the play closed, she followed him but still wanted to continue her career. They divorced in 1937, after 9 years of marriage. 

A year later, Bogart married actress Mayo Methot. The marriage was so tumultuous that the tabloid press called them the „Battling Bogarts“. Both were heavy drinkers and under the influence, Mayo would throw things, set their house on fire, stab Bogart and attempt suicide several times. She was eventually diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, divorced from Humphrey Bogart in 1945 and died at age 47 of complications from alcoholism. Interesting about Mayo: She is a direct descendant of Zachary Taylor, the 12th President of the United States. 

In 1944, Bogart met Lauren Bacall on the set of ‚To Have and Have Not‘, fell in love and started an affair with her. When he divorced Mayo Methot in 1945, he married Lauren Bacall a mere two months later. The pair had two kids – Stephen Humphrey Bogart, born in 1949, and Leslie Howard Bogart in 1952. 

Although these two loved each other, they both had affairs during their marriage – Bogart reportedly with Verita Bouvaire-Thompson. 


The most notable friendships of Bogart include Spencer Tracy, John Huston and the Rat Pack. 

Bogart met Spencer Tracy during his early days in Hollywood and they remained friends for decades and was the last one visiting him one day before his death. Bacall actually asked Tracy to  give the eulogy, but Tracy was too upset to do so, so John Huston did the honor. 

John Huston was since their first professional meeting one of Bogart’s closest friends and they admired each other greatly for their individual gifts. 

Humphrey Bogart was actually a founding member of the original Hollywood Rat Pack. After a long night out drinking in Las Vegas with friends, Lauren Bacall exclaimed „You look like a goddamn rat pack!“ The other founding members were: Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Sid Luft, Swifty Lazar, Nathaniel Benchley, David Niven, Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, George Cukor, Cary Grant, REs Harrison and Jimmy Van Heusen. The Holmby Hills home they shared served as a regular hangout for friends during the 1940s and 1950s – visitors included Errol Flynn, Robert Mitchum, Jerry Lewis, Nat King Cole  and Tony Curtis. Later on, especially after the passing of Bogart, the Rat Pack transformed massively and was used for a close circle of friends that helped each other with their individual star power. The iconic movie Ocean 11 was the result of these friendships. 

To close this episode on Humphrey Bogart, I would like to quote John Huston’s word from his eulogy for Bogart: 

Himself, he never took his work too seriously. He regarded the somewhat gaudy figure of Bogart, the star, with an amused cynicism; Bogart, the actor, he held in deep respect … In each of the fountains at Versailles there is a pike which keeps all the carp active; otherwise they would grow over-fat and die. Bogie took rare delight in performing a similar duty in the fountains of Hollywood. Yet his victims seldom bore him any malice, and when they did, not for long. His shafts were fashioned only to stick into the outer layer of complacency, and not to penetrate through to the regions of the spirit where real injuries are done … He is quite irreplaceable. There will never be another like him.

And that is the lesson we should all learn from Bogart: Be yourself. Be irreplaceable. Don’t let others inform your choices and personality. You will only ever be valued for being the original you.

With all my love!




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