Humphrey Bogart (1899-1957)

Humphrey Bogart (1899-1957)

In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Bogart as the greatest male star in the history of American film. The very definition of the term "film icon," he attained his iconic status as the epitome of hard-bitten, laconic, and world-weary masculinity. It derived principally from his definitive portrayals of the noir private eye: Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep (1946), cigarette dangling from his mouth under the widebrimmed fedora, the figure hunched in a crumpled, belted trench coat. Bogart’s nondescript physique and lived-in face expressed the nonheroic world of film noir as did his minimalist acting style, a stiff, tightlipped wariness, in which the eyes, knowing and sad, gave depth to his tough guys. His rasping voice, with the famous slight lisp, was better at conveying scornful cynicism and bemused irony than overt sentiment.

In his performances, Bogart popularized the "natural" style while creating a film persona of the world-weary tough guy with a heart of gold. Bogart's characters were aware of the corruption in the world and in the human heart, but despite repeated denials, had not given up on his ideals. His cynical exterior was rather a cover to keep his ideals intact. Offscreen he gave the carefully crafted appearance of being a cynical loner, granting only minimal concessions to Hollywood conventions.

While a major celebrity during his own lifetime, Bogart's appeal has grown almost exponentially in the years following his death, and his inimitable onscreen persona - hard-bitten, cynical, and enigmatic - continues to cast a monumental shadow over the motion picture landscape. Sensitive yet masculine, cavalier yet heroic, his ambiguities and contradictions combined to create a larger-than-life image which remains the archetype of the contemporary antihero.

Early Life

Bogart, age 2

"Humphrey DeForest Bogart was born in New York City, the son of Belmont DeForest Bogart, a Manhattan surgeon, and his wife Maud Humphrey, a prominent illustrator and artist. The exact date of Bogart’s birth, however, is in question. Many sources claim that he was born on January 23, 1899, but his birth certificate and an announcement in a local newspaper list the date as December 25, 1899, and his studio biography from Warner Brothers claims that he entered the world on December 25, 1900. The future star was educated at the Trinity School in New York City and later at the Phillips Academy in Andover in Massachusetts, where his father had enjoyed a celebrated baseball career. Young Humphrey’s experience at the school was not as prestigious, however - he was expelled for engaging in a mischievous prank.

Navy years

Because he "loved boats and water," Bogart joined the Navy after his expulsion from Phillips, where he served as a seaman on the destroyer Santa Olivia, and as a helmsman on the troopship Leviathan. It is believed that during his service on the latter ship, the actor sustained a lip wound that resulted in his trademark lisp. The circumstances that led to the injury remain in question, however. According to one version, Bogart was wounded by a piece of shrapnel (or wood) during the shelling of the Leviathan. Another account maintains that the actor was assigned to escort another sailor to the Port Smith Prison in Massachusetts (or the Portsmouth Prison in New Hampshire), and while changing trains, the sailor struck Bogart in the mouth with his handcuffs. Bogart, the story claims, still managed to safely deliver the prisoner, but his resulting surgery was botched, resulting in the permanent lisp.

Young Humphrey Bogart

Bogart was honorably discharged from the Navy after the end of World War I, and found employment as a tug and lighter inspector for a Pennsylvania company, as an office boy for the brokerage firm of S.W. Strauss & Co., and doing clerical work for producer William A. Brady, a neighbor of the Bogart family. Later, Brady promoted Bogart to stage manager of his film studio, World Pictures, in New Jersey. However, as with Bogart’s correct birthdate and the manner in which he earned his lisp, the story of how he got his start in acting is a hazy one. Some sources claim that Brady asked Bogart to direct an unfinished film, but the future actor did such a poor job that Brady was forced to finish the task himself. At the urging his daughter, actress Alice Brady, the producer gave Bogart a job as road manager and understudy to the actors, which led to his being cast in minor parts. Others maintain that Bogart became interested in acting when he began frequenting local theaters after the war and asked Brady to give him a part in a play, Experience, when a bit actor was fired. Because he was already receiving a salary as the play’s road manager, Bogart offered to play the part at no extra cost to the producer, and Brady agreed. Another account holds that Alice Brady thought Bogart had acting potential and gave him a small role in Drifting, a play in which she was the star. And still another version states that Bogart, while working as road manager on the play The Ruined Lady, was dared by actor Neil Hamilton to go on stage one night in his place. Bogart did and, although the experiment was a disaster, William Brady suggested that he try for a career on the stage because 'actors earn good money.'" [2]


With Bette Davis in 'The Bad Sister'

"The circumstances surrounding his entry into acting notwithstanding, it is agreed that Bogart spent the next 13 years appearing in a variety of plays, including Swifty (1922), for which he was panned as "inadequate," Meet the Wife (1923), Nerves (1924), Candle Snatchers (1925), Baby Mine (1927), Saturday’s Children (1928), It’s a Wise Child (1929), After All (1931), I Loved You Wednesday (1932), Our Wife (1933), Invitation to Murder (1934), and The Petrified Forest (1935). The latter production was a smash hit, and the play’s star, Leslie Howard, promised that if it were ever made into a film, he would ensure that Bogart reprised his role. Meanwhile, during this period, Bogart was also gaining experience on the silver screen. In 1930, he debuted in A Devil with Women, starring Victor McLaglen, and was later seen in such forgettable fare as Up the River (1930), which was notable as Spencer Tracy’s first film and which began a lifelong friendship between the two men; The Bad Sister (1931), Bette Davis’ movie debut; A Holy Terror (1931), Bogart’s first western; Love Affair (1932), in which the actor portrayed his first leading role; and Three on a Match (1932) where, in a small role as a racketeer boss, Bogart demonstrated a hint of the menacing persona that would come to serve him well in future films.

Humphrey Bogart and his first wife, Helen Menken

In 1936, when Warner Brothers acquired the rights to The Petrified Forest, studio executives planned to cast contract player Edward G. Robinson as Duke Mantee, the vicious gangster that Bogart had played to such acclaim on Broadway. True to his word, Leslie Howard insisted that the part be given to Bogart, and even went so far as to refuse to star in the film unless Bogart was cast as Mantee. Bogart was given the role and it proved to be the break for which he had been waiting. The film was a critical and financial success and Bogart was signed to a studio contract with Warner Brothers. After more than a decade, Humphrey Bogart had finally arrived.

While his acting career was taking off, Bogart had been busy behind the scenes as well. In May 1926, the actor married stage star Helen Menken, whom he had met two years earlier while stage managing a road production of Drifting. The marriage was doomed from the start, however. Bogart reportedly married the actress to further his career, and the union was characterized by frequent arguments and physical altercations. The couple split after less than a year. Then in May 1928, Bogart gave marriage another try - this time he was wed to stage actress Mary Phillips, with whom he had appeared in Nerves. The two began a long-distance relationship when Bogart began appearing in films and his wife refused to abandon her screen career. This marriage, too, would ultimately end in divorce, in 1937.

Bogart and Davis in 'Dark Victory', one of the 7 films where they were casted together

Despite his success in The Petrified Forest, Bogart found himself once again languishing in a series of "B" movies, including Isle of Fury (1936), which the actor later claimed he never remembered making; Swing Your Lady (1938), a silly musical comedy; The Oklahoma Kid (1939), a second-rate western costarring James Cagney and The Return of Dr. X (1939). The actor continued to be disillusioned about his screen roles, but later explained his reasons for never turning one down: "I’m known as the guy who always squawks about roles, but never refuses to play one," he said. "I’ve never forgotten a piece of advice [silent actor] Holbrook Blinn gave me when I was a young squirt and asked him how I could get a reputation as an actor. He said, ‘Just keep working.’ The idea is that if you’re always busy, sometime somebody is going to get the idea that you must be good." And indeed, there were a number of memorable films made by Bogart during this period, including Dead End (1937), which saw the actor in a small but showy role as a callous gangster; Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), a James Cagney starrer with Bogart portraying a corrupt attorney; Dark Victory (1939), where the actor played a horse trainer for doomed star Bette Davis; and They Drive By Night (1941), starring Bogart as George Raft’s truck driver brother." [2]

Rise to Stardom

Raoul Walsh (centre) with Ida Lupino and Humphrey Bogart during the filming of 'High Sierra'

"After the release of the latter film, Bogart’s career received a monumental boost when he was cast in a starring role in his first film noir, High Sierra (1941). Bogart was billed beneath Ida Lupino in this outstanding, seminal gangster noir, but his performance was so exceptional that he received top billing in every film afterward. He was the fourth choice for the role of "Mad Dog" Roy Earle, after James Cagney, George Raft and Paul Muni, who all turned it down. This stellar film marked the turning point in Bogart’s career and was praised by such critics as the New York Times’ Bosley Crowther, who said that the actor "plays the leading role with a perfection of hard-boiled vitality."

Bogart was firmly established as a star later in 1941 with the release of his second film noir entry, The Maltese Falcon, which marked the directorial debut of John Huston. The Maltese Falcon was a hit with audiences and critics alike, with one reviewer calling it "no ordinary tale of crime and detection" and claiming that Bogart 'was never given a part more suitable to his talents'." [2]

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Today, many film scholars refer to The Maltese Falcon as the first official film noir. To Huston's credit, he did not change one line of dialogue, and he only dropped one short scene when he realized he could substitute a phone call instead. Bogart's role in this film elevated him to cult status, and Ingrid Bergman studied him as Sam Spade to judge how to interact with him in Casablanca one year later.

During production on The Maltese Falcon, the cast and crew had the feeling they were shooting something exciting and tried to deter any unwanted visitors from coming to the set. The publicity people once brought a group of priests to the set. Before shooting began, Astor looked down at her legs and said, "Hold it a minute, I've got a g**damn run in my stocking" while the publicity man quickly ushered the priests off the set. Despite the numerous practical jokes his cast and crew played, however, Huston proved himself to be the consummate professional and was so efficient at his job that the crew often finished shooting for the day early, well ahead of schedule. On one of these days, Huston had set aside an entire day to shoot one elaborate moving camera sequence. The sequence lasted about seven minutes, and they nailed it perfectly in one take; the rest of the day was spent at the golf club. It was because of days like this that production finished two days ahead of schedule and $54,000 under budget.

Humphrey Bogart, John Huston, Mary Astor and Walter Huston on the set of The Maltese Falcon, 1941

The cast couldn't have been better. Mary Astor was an inspired Brigid O'Shaughnessy and Peter Lorre turned in an excellent performance, as usual, as Joel Cairo. Sydney Greenstreet earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his first ever film role, as Kasper Gutman. The other Academy Award nominations included Best Picture (losing to How Green Was My Valley) and Best Screenplay. To this day, it is considered one of the quintessential detective thrillers and has attracted a loyal cult following.

Ironically, Sydney Greenstreet was a nervous wreck when it came time for his very first scene. Despite his years of stage experience in front of a live audience, Greenstreet implored Mary Astor before a scene, "Mary dear, hold my hand, tell me I won't make an ass of meself!" As Greenstreet performed his first scene flawlessly, John Huston held his breath, a nervous tic that stayed with him throughout his career as a director.

For Humphrey Bogart, the experience of The Maltese Falcon was the tops. He later said, "It was practically a masterpiece. I don't have many things I'm proud of but that's one." Bogart so respected Huston and the Sam Spade character that he searched until the end of his life for a script that recaptured the excitement he found in The Maltese Falcon. A few years before his death, Bogart revealed that he had purchased a book to be adapted into a film for he and his wife, Lauren Bacall. "We might do it," he told a radio interviewer, "in association with John Huston...It's a little on the order of The Maltese Falcon."

The Batling Bogarts: Bogie and Mayo Methot

"While Bogart was riding high on his "overnight success," his off-screen life was becoming as dramatic as any of his films. In 1937, on the set of the Bette Davis vehicle Marked Woman, Bogart met actress Mayo Methot, who portrayed one of the film’s nightclub "hostesses" (a 1930s euphemism for prostitute). Notorious for her hard drinking and violent temper, Methot married Bogart in August 1938, but the relationship was a volatile one from the start - during their honeymoon stay at New York’s Algonquin Hotel, the couple got into a huge fight, causing $400 in damage to their room. The duo became known as the "Battling Bogarts," and more than lived up to their name. They were frequently embroiled in both public and private brawls, including one occasion when Methot stabbed Bogart in the back, and another when she fired a gun at him. The couple’s raucous battles became almost commonplace among their friends as well as the press - in the New York Times , columnist Earl Wilson recounted a phone conversation he’d had with the actor, during which a crashing sound could be heard in the background. "My wife just missed me with an ashtray," Wilson quoted Bogart. "I don’t know what’s wrong with her aim lately."

Play it again, Sam! Dooley Wilson, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca directed by Michael Curtiz, 1942

On screen, Bogart was continuing to rack up screen hits, including All Through the Night (1942), an entertaining spy spoof, and Across the Pacific (1942), a wartime espionage adventure described by one critic as "a delightfully fear-jerking picture." But the actor far exceeded these pictures with his next screen role - café proprietor Rick Blaine in Casablanca (1942). An outstanding drama that combines romance, intrigue, and heroism, with a touch of humor thrown in for good measure, Casablanca is perhaps Bogart’s best-known and best-loved film. For his outstanding performance, Bogart received his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, but lost to Paul Lukas for Watch on the Rhine. The film itself also garnered a number of awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

During the filming of Casablanca, Mayo Methot became increasingly jealous of her husband’s beautiful co-star, Ingrid Bergman, frequently visiting the set and complaining that the love scenes between Bogart and Bergman were far too convincing. After the film’s release, Methot reportedly attempted suicide, and a stay in an institution was prescribed, but Bogart instead took her with him on a U.S.O. tour of troops stationed in the Pacific. It was only a temporary solution to a problem that was spiraling out of control.

Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart on the set of To Have and Have Not directed by Howard Hawks, 1944

Bogart followed Casablanca with a series of wartime pictures - Action in the North Atlantic (1943), Sahara (1943), and Passage to Marseille (1944) - before returning to film noir in Conflict (1945). Bogart next starred in To Have and Have Not (1945), a wartime drama where he played a cabin cruiser proprietor who makes his living by taking wealthy tourists on fishing trips off the island of Martinique. The film’s topnotch cast, plot, and direction aside, To Have and Have Not is better known for its intrigue behind the scenes. It was on this film that Bogart met Lauren Bacall, an 18-year-old New York model making her screen debut. Reportedly, when Bogart first met the young beauty, he told her, "We’ll have a lot of fun together." Before long, the two were embroiled in a passionate affair, Bogart divorced Mayo Methot later that year, and 11 days after his divorce was finalized, he married Bacall. They would go on to have two children - Stephen Humphrey in 1949, and in 1952, Leslie Howard, named after the actor whose intervention had given Bogart his big break in Hollywood. The couple’s marriage would last until Bogart’s death in 1957. (“I was never happy until I met this one,” the actor once said.)" [2]

Howard Hawks, Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart and Louis Jean Heydt on the set of The Big Sleep, 1946

On-screen, Bogart next starred with Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep (1946), not an easy film to follow. The plot has plenty of twists and turns and there is quite a large cast of characters involved. This film was criticized for being confusing and difficult for the audience to follow but, over the years, it has become regarded as one of the best film noirs out there. "For all its shortcomings in terms of plot, this film really is a classic of the film noir genre. It has a tough detective, women who have mysterious and dangerous motives - and who are certainly gorgeous - and plenty of organized crime and murder to go around.

This film contains just about every film noir cliché not because it was a part of a trend, but because many of the films that come after imitate The Big Sleep. As for hard-boiled detective types, you can’t really beat Bogart. He’s the guy that most of the others, again, are imitating. Bacall is one of the best leading women of this era and she and Bogart had chemistry on-screen that was an extension of their chemistry in real life.

Humphrey Bogart, Lizabeth Scott, Dick Powell on Movie Set 'Dead Reckoning'

This was not a good time for Humphrey Bogart. He drinks hard on the screen, and off-screen, he did as well. He sometimes didn’t show up for scheduled shoots, he was so far into the bottle. He was going through a divorce, but watching Bogart and Bacall together it’s obvious that there is a real chemistry there that isn’t acted at all." [3]

"In 1947, a more unequivocally noir part for Bogart was his leading role in Dead Reckoning as Rip Murdock, a film about friendship and codes of loyalty and revenge. The same year, he also had a quite unusual role in Dark Passage, where for plot reasons, his face is unseen until 40 minutes into the story, and he has had plastic surgery that renders him into the familiar visage of Humphrey Bogart. The first two films Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall made together, To Have and Have Not (1944) and The Big Sleep (1946), were immensely popular as audiences welcomed their wisecracking dialogue and sensual sparring. Dark Passage, however, was less commercially successful. It was decidedly darker in tone and imbued with a strong melancholic streak." [1]

HUAC and the Blacklist

HUAC hearing

With Bogart’s popularity at an all-time high, the actor joined The Committee for the First Amendment, an action group formed in September 1947 by actors in support of the Hollywood Ten during the hearings of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). It was founded by screenwriter Philip Dunne, actress Myrna Loy, and film directors John Huston and William Wyler. Other members included Lucille Ball, Lauren Bacall, Jules Buck, Dorothy Dandridge, Bette Davis, Melvyn Douglas, Henry Fonda, John Garfield, Judy Garland, Ira Gershwin, June Havoc, Sterling Hayden, Paul Henreid, Katharine Hepburn, Lena Horne, Marsha Hunt, Danny Kaye, Gene Kelly, Evelyn Keyes, Burt Lancaster, Groucho Marx, Burgess Meredith, Vincente Minnelli, Edward G. Robinson, Robert Ryan, Frank Sinatra, Kay Thompson, Billy Wilder, and Jane Wyatt.

In 1947, when the United States House Un-American Activities Committee began its investigation of Communism in the motion picture industry, Bogart traveled to Washington, D.C., with his wife and such luminaries as Gene Kelly, Danny Kaye, Ira Gershwin, and John Huston, to protest the treatment of the writers, directors, and actors who were appearing before the committee. In a radio address, Bogart stated that he "sat in the committee room and heard it happen."

"We saw American citizens denied the right to speak by elected representatives of the people,” Bogart said. “We saw police take citizens from the stand like criminals. We saw the gavel of the committee chairman cutting off the words of free Americans."

Danny Kaye, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall lead a posse of Hollywood actors and film-makers to protest at HUAC's disregard of the Hollywood Ten's constitutional rights.

The group, which was generally composed of non-communist New Deal liberal Democrats, was hurt when it was subsequently revealed that Sterling Hayden had been a Communist Party member. Humphrey Bogart, who assured that the Committee membership had been vetted and they were no communists among its membership, was incensed by the revelation that Hayden was a communist. There was a great deal of naïveté among Committee members such as Bogart, who did not know that Hollywood 10 members such as Alvah Bessie, John Howard Lawson and Dalton Trumbo were known to be Communist Party members. Lauren Bacall later said that she, Bogart, and other Committee members had been duped by the Communists. "We didn't realize until much later that we were being used to some degree by the Unfriendly 10," she said.

Reportedly, Bogart’s stance had a swift effect on his career. Box receipts for Dark Passage plummeted and studio head Jack Warner insisted that the actor offer a retraction. Bogart, John Garfield, and E.G. Robinson later wrote articles stating that they were "duped" into supporting the Hollywood Ten. The March 1948 issue of Photoplay included an article by Bogart, entitled "I'm No Communist". In this article, he claimed that he and other members of the Committee did not realize that some of the Hollywood Ten actually were communists. Although many of Bogart’s fellow actors understood his public reversal, he was attacked by many liberals and fellow travelers for selling out to save his career, including his friend and director John Huston: "I was surprised … to read that Bogie had recanted," Huston said in a 1994 documentary. "I talked to him about it when he came back out - he said that we’d made a mistake in this. I regard it as a mistake that Bogie did this. He should’ve stuck to his guns"”

Garfield under examination before the House Commitee on Un-American Activities, April 23, 1951

Humphrey Bogart continued to be a major star, having put the debacle of the Committee (and further political commitment) behind him. Bogart's biographers have come to the conclusion that the straight-talking star was genuinely disgusted by being manipulated by the Communist Party. John Garfield was subpoenaed by HUAC in 1951, refused to name names, and was black listed, dying of a heart attack in 1952. It is generally believed he was never a party member and that his blacklisting contributed to the heart attack that killed him at the age of 39. Edward G. Robinson, a well-known long-time New Deal liberal who had been friends with Franklin D. Roosevelt, was "gray listed" (never officially blacklisted but not hired by film producers) and made his living as a stage actor during the period of McCarthyism until director Cecil B. DeMille, a noted and vociferous anti-communist, hired him for his 1956 remake of The Ten Commandments.

Later Career

Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall on the set of Key largo directed by John Huston, 1948. Photo by Mac Julian

"Career-wise, Bogart’s biggest successes lay just ahead. In 1948, he starred with Walter Huston and Tim Holt in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre , portraying Fred C. Dobbs, a good-natured prospector whose greed for gold drives him to murder. He followed this first-rate offering with a starring role in his seventh film noir, Key Largo (1948). Yet another hit for the actor, this moody and intense drama racked up universal accolades from critics, including one who praised Bogart for his "usual strong performance…. It is an excellent portrayal that gains stature because of the absence of overdone heroics."

Bogart’s next noir, Knock on Any Door (1949), was the first film produced by Santana Pictures Corporation, the production company the actor had established two years earlier and had named for his beloved boat, Santana. Although it was based on the best-selling Willard Motley novel, Knock on Any Door was a disappointment on the big screen; Frank Eng of the Los Angeles Daily News thought the feature was "a forthright and engrossing study," but most critics disagreed, with the Los Angeles Times’ Philip K. Scheuer judging it "sporadically exciting, but uneven," and Lloyd L. Sloan of the Hollywood Citizen-News finding that Bogart "does not register as convincingly as he has in many past roles." And the New York Times’ Bosley Crowther was apparently so offended by the film that he felt compelled to write two separate reviews; in one, he blasted the feature’s "inconsistencies and flip flops," and in the second, written four days later, he dismissed it as "hokum from the start."

Bogie on the bord of his beloved Santana

Off-screen, Bogart was making a name for himself as a hard-drinking, fun-loving character - a reputation that grew after a 1949 incident involving two models and a stuffed panda bear. Reportedly, during the early morning hours of September 25, 1949, Bogart was at the El Morocco nightclub, where he purchased the large bear from a cigarette girl with plans to present it to his young son, Stephen. Two models approached the actor, and when one of the women tried to take the panda, Bogart pushed her to the floor. The parties involved were taken into custody, but the case was later thrown out of court. Asked whether he had been drunk at the time of the incident, however, Bogart jovially replied, "Isn’t everybody at three o’clock in the morning?"

Meanwhile, Bogart followed Knock on Any Door with a starring role as an ex-flyer in Tokyo Joe (1949), the second feature produced under the Santana Pictures banner, and played another former pilot in his next feature, Chain Lightning (1950). He was then seen in back-to-back, top-notch films noirs, In a Lonely Place (1950), his third film for Santana, and The Enforcer (1950)." [2] "In the part of Dixon Steele in Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place, he played his most complex role and perhaps the one that was most like him in real life. Bogart’s character here has none of the romantic air he displays in Casablanca or The Big Sleep. Instead, Dix is a borderline psychotic screenwriter, an alcoholic with a bad temper. Surrounded by phonies and bullies and a suspect in a homicide, he is shown to certainly have the potential to murder. He is self-destructive, volatile, and vulnerable." [1]

Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place presents Hollywood as a place where insiders become outsiders without warning. Faded star Robert Warwick can hold court because alienated screenwriter Humphrey Bogart is buying his drinks. Agent Art Smith and actress Gloria Grahame innocently enjoy the scene.

The Enforcer was shot in a mere five weeks with several Los Angeles locations being substituted for Brooklyn, New York. In addition to Bogart's iconic presence, the movie is also notable for a vivid cast of supporting players, particularly Zero Mostel in an early film role playing a highly nervous small-time crook.

Though director Bretaigne Windust's name graces the credits, it was an uncredited Raoul Walsh who was really responsible for the film's most suspenseful sequences. Walsh directed five days' worth of retakes and additional scenes, including the thrilling finale, and he was also probably responsible for the semi-documentary feel of the film - a popular stylistic approach which guided several other pictures of the time, including Walsh's own White Heat (1949).

Several days after the additional filming was done, Bogart was overheard at the 21 Club in New York dismissing the movie. As a frantic telegram to Jack Warner from his New York office stated, Bogart had announced "in a loud voice to everyone within earshot what a lousy picture Enforcer is. Ridiculous to try and arrange press interviews. He is only looking for trouble." This incident exacerbated the already heightened tension between the star and the studio. Their relationship deteriorated steadily for three more years, with Bogart rejecting bad scripts and enduring shabby treatment at the hands of Warner, until finally, on Sept. 21, 1953, Bogart was released from his contract.

"Both In a Lonely Place and The Enforcer were hits at the box office and racked up good reviews; for his performance in the former, Bogart was labeled "excellent" in Variety, and The Enforcer was described by one critic as "tense, taut, big-time melodramatic entertainment." After his final Santana picture, Sirocco (1951), a Middle East drama co-starring Lee J. Cobb and Everett Sloane, Bogart starred in what may have been the greatest triumph of his career, The African Queen (1951)." [2]

Humphrey Bogart accepts his Oscar at the 1951 Academy Awards presentation at the RKO Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, Ca., March 20, 1952: 'I’ve been around a long time. Maybe the people like me'.

Shot on location in the Belgian Congo in deepest Africa, The African Queen (1951) was a true original and had everything one could want in a movie: romance, adventure, humor, drama, spectacular locations and two Hollywood icons in the leads (Bogart and Katharine Hepburn). To shoot a film on location in such a remote area was extremely rare for 1951. Movies with exotic locations were usually shot in the studios with painted backdrops and director John Huston's achievement was a pioneering step in motion picture making.

The African Queen was a big box office and critical success, honored with four Academy Award nominations for Best Actor, Actress, Director and Screenplay. It also provided a major career boost for the director and his two stars. In fact, Humphrey Bogart scored his biggest triumph with his role as Charlie Allnut, and he won his only Academy Award as Best Actor for it. In his acceptance speech for the long-deserved award, Bogart humbly stated, "I’ve been around a long time. Maybe the people like me."

The Rat Pack

The original Rat Pack, 1956

"As his career continued at its successful pace, Bogart always managed to find time for recreation. He was known for his frequent gatherings with friends at the popular restaurant Romanoff’s, which led to the creation of the Rat Pack - the precursor to the group later made famous by Frank Sinatra and his cronies. Reportedly, the group of friends, which included Sinatra, Judy Garland and her then-husband Sid Luft, David Niven, director John Huston, humorist Nathaniel Benchley, and songwriter Jimmy Van Heusen, would gather at Romanoff’s daily around 12:30 P.M. According to legend, on one occasion, Lauren Bacall took a look at the mischievous crew and cracked, "I see the rat pack is all here." And, thus, the original Rat Pack was born. Soon after, columnist Joe Hyams reported the event in the New York Herald Tribune, naming the "elected officers" as Frank Sinatra, pack master; Judy Garland, first vice-president; Lauren Bacall, den mother; Sid Luft, cage master; and Humphrey Bogart, rat in charge of public relations. Bogart even created a "coat of arms" for the group - a rat gnawing on a human hand—and a motto, "Never rat on a rat."

"The Holmby Hills Rat Pack held its first annual meeting last night at Romanoff’s restaurant in Beverly Hills," Hyams wrote in his column. Membership is open to free-minded, successful individuals who don’t care what anyone thinks about them…. A motion concerning the admittance of Claudette Colbert was tabled at the insistence of Miss Bacall, who said that Miss Colbert ‘is a nice person, but not a rat.’" [2]

Final Roles

The Harder They Fall (1956)

"While he wasn’t carousing with his Rat Pack crew, Bogart continued to star in a series of first-rate films, including Deadline U.S.A. (1952), portraying an embattled newspaper editor; Beat the Devil (1954), a comedy-drama directed by John Huston; Sabrina (1954), a popular Billy Wilder comedy costarring William Holden and Audrey Hepburn; The Barefoot Contessa (1954), featuring Bogart as a world-weary film director; and The Caine Mutiny (1954), which earned the actor a third Academy Award nomination for his outstanding portrayal of an unstable ship’s captain (he lost to Marlon Brando for On the Waterfront)." [2]

After playing a vicious escaped convict in The Desperate Hours (1955), Bogart was seen in the final film noir of his career, The Harder They Fall (1956). Humphrey Bogart plays Eddie, who's tired of living from paycheck to paycheck and wants to earn some real dough so he and his wife, Beth (Jan Sterling), will have more secure lives. Movies about boxers have a long history, from silent pictures like D.W. Griffith's Broken Blossoms (1919) and Alfred Hitchcock's The Ring (1927) to modern contenders like Body and Soul (1947), Fat City (1972), Rocky (1976), and Raging Bull (1980). None has a more fiercely critical view of the sport than The Harder They Fall, which pulls no punches about it. Hailed by one critic as "a lively and stinging film," The Harder They Fall was a hit at the boxoffice.

There’ll never be another Bogart

Bogart and Bacall with their children, Stephen and Leslie

"Sadly, this first-rate film would be Bogart’s last. During the filming of The Harder They Fall, the actor had complained of fatigue and frequently suffered from a sore throat and chronic cough. Diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus, the actor underwent an eight-hour surgery, during which his esophagus was removed. The actor continued his daily habits of smoking and drinking, however, and despite chemotherapy, the cancer spread. His weakening condition notwithstanding, Bogart held court at his home every day, during which he would receive visits from his longtime pals. One friend, actress Doris Johnson, recalled one of her visits to the house during Bogart’s last days. "That day we went to see him, he had lost so much weight. He seemed so frail," Johnson said in a 2001 documentary on the actor’s life. "He loved his friends coming in to visit him. He liked keeping in touch. He didn’t want to retire to the death bed. But he knew his time was very limited."

There’ll never be another Bogart

Bogart succumbed to his illness on January 14, 1957, bringing to a close one of the most successful and admired careers in the annals of Hollywood. Although his death came nearly a half-century ago, however, the actor has continued to be remembered and honored in the decades since. In 1993, Bogart’s character from Casablanca was inserted via computer into a popular soft drink commercial; in 1997 a United States postage stamp was issued bearing his likeness; and in 1999, he was named the greatest male screen legend by the American Film Institute.

In a screen career that spanned six decades and consisted of nearly 100 films, Humphrey Bogart is truly deserving of the status he still maintains as a film icon. Off-screen, the actor was, by all accounts, beloved by family and friends, and this melding of his personal relationships and his professional impact was fittingly immortalized by director John Huston at Bogart’s memorial service.

'When you live and work with a man, you get to know him pretty well. The better I got to know Humphrey Bogart, the more I admired him,' Huston said. 'He was a very sincere, a deeply humble man, a very faithful man. Faithful to his work, his friends and, finally, his family. He was a devoted father and he loved his wife most dearly. It’s a loss to the world, of course—that great talent—but the world can refer to it in the pictures that remain behind. The loss to his family and to his friends is, therefore, all the greater. There’ll never be another Bogart'." [2]


  • The Harder They Fall (1956)
  • The Desperate Hours (1955)
  • The Left Hand of God (1955)
  • We're No Angels (1955)
  • The Barefoot Contessa (1954)
  • Sabrina (1954)
  • The Caine Mutiny (1954)
  • Beat the Devil (1953)
  • Battle Circus (1953)
  • Deadline - U.S.A. (1952)
  • The African Queen (1951)
  • Sirocco (1951)
  • The Enforcer (1951)
  • In a Lonely Place (1950)
  • Tokyo Joe (1949)
  • Knock on Any Door (1949)
  • Key Largo (1948)
  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) )
  • Dark Passage (1947)
  • The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947)
  • Dead Reckoning (1947)
  • Conflict (1945)
  • To Have and Have Not (1944)
  • Passage to Marseille (1944)
  • Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
  • Sahara (1943)
  • Action in the North Atlantic (1943)
  • Casablanca (1942)
  • Across the Pacific (1942)
  • The Big Shot (1942)
  • All Through the Night (1941)
  • The Maltese Falcon (1941)
  • The Wagons Roll at Night (1941)
  • High Sierra (1941)
  • They Drive by Night (1940)
  • Brother Orchid (1940)
  • It All Came True (1940)
  • Virginia City (1940)
  • Invisible Stripes (1939)
  • The Return of Doctor X (1939)
  • The Roaring Twenties (1939)
  • Dark Victory (1939)
  • You Can't Get Away with Murder (1939)
  • The Oklahoma Kid (1939)
  • King of the Underworld (1939)
  • Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)
  • The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938)
  • Racket Busters (1938)
  • Men Are Such Fools (1938)
  • Crime School (1938)
  • Swing Your Lady (1938)
  • Stand-In (1937)
  • Dead End (1937)
  • Kid Galahad (1937)
  • San Quentin (1937)
  • Marked Woman (1937)
  • The Great O'Malley (1937)
  • Black Legion (1937)
  • Isle of Fury (1936)
  • China Clipper (1936)
  • Two Against the World (1936)
  • The Petrified Forest (1936)
  • Midnight (1934)
  • Three on a Match (1932)
  • Love Affair (1932)
  • A Holy Terror (1931)
  • The Bad Sister (1931)
  • Body and Soul (1931)
  • A Devil with Women (1930)
  • Up the River (1930)
  • Broadway's Like That (1930))
  • The Dancing Town (1928)