“Bogie.” That one simple word means so much to film fans around the world.
It conjures up images of a hard-boiled private eye, a menacing gangster, a desperate criminal on the run, a burned-out ex GI, an insane Navy captain, a greedy drifter, and perhaps most of all, a cynical but romantic saloon owner in World War II North Africa.
The face we see in those images is one that exudes toughness, a hint of menace, but also a tinge of sadness, world-weariness, and a good heart. The man behind that face became one of the silver screen’s most enduring legends and half of one of Hollywood’s most famous couples.
The one, the only – Humphrey Bogart.
Born in New York City in 1899, Bogart came from a fairly upper-class family. His father was a surgeon and his mother worked as a magazine illustrator.
He was originally going to follow in his father’s footsteps, but while studying for a career in medicine, Bogart was kicked out of a college preparatory school and joined the Navy during World War I.
It was during the war that he acquired his now-famous snarl and lisp. He reportedly suffered wounds suffered during a naval battle, which resulted in partial paralysis of his facial muscles.
Following his discharge from the Navy, Bogart worked as a theatrical stage manager before moving into acting. He soon became a regular presence on Broadway.
After several years on the New York stage, Bogart moved to Hollywood in 1930, making his film debut in the short “Broadway’s like That.”
He continued to work on stage and in minor film roles until 1935. That year he scored a stage success in the Broadway production of “The Petrified Forest.” His co-star Leslie Howard (“Gone with the Wind” ) convinced Warner Bros. to let Bogart reprise his role in the following year’s film version of the play.
Bogart’s acclaimed, terrifying performance earned him a long-term contract with the studio. He appeared in 28 films over the next five years, usually cast as a mobster or criminal. There were rare exceptions, like “Marked Woman” (1937) and “Dark Victory” (1939) both co-starring Bette Davis.
Then in 1941, Bogart replaced George Raft in the role of private eye Sam Spade in “The Maltese Falcon.” His definitive performance as the hard-boiled gumshoe helped him finally achieve leading-man status.
Two year’s later, Bogart earned his first Best Actor Academy Award® nomination for “Casablanca” (1942) and established himself as one of the top box-office draws of the 1940s. He also received Best Actor Oscar® nominations for “The Caine Mutiny” (1954) and “The African Queen” (1951) winning for the last named.
In 1945, he was first paired with Lauren Bacall in “To Have and Have Not,” directed by Howard Hawks (“The Big Sleep” ). Although Bogart and Bacall only made four films together, they remain one of the screen’s legendary couples. Their real-life marriage produced two children, including a daughter named after Leslie Howard, Bogart’s “Petrified Forest” (1936) co-star who gave him his big break and remained a lifelong friend.
Bogart continued to reign as one of the screen’s biggest stars until his death from throat cancer in 1957. In 1999, the American Film Institute voted him the top male star of the 20th century.