Humphrey Bogart was one of the screen's most legendary figures, a pop-culture icon to generations of movie watchers unborn when he enjoyed his initial successes. Bogart was also and extremely unlikely bet for stardom: His slight stature, weatherbeaten features, scarred lip, and withering snarl hardly qualified him in Hollywood's glamour-obsessed Golden Age. Fortunately for this talented tough guy, he was in the right place (Warner Brothers) at the right time (the onset of World War II) to win audience approval in the rugged thrillers and actions films in which that studio specialized.
Born in New York City on January 23, 1899, Bogart was the son of a distinguished surgeon and actually studied medicine himself for a time before enlisting in the Navy during World War I. Caught in a blast aboard ship, he sustained facial wounds that scarred and partially paralysed his upper lip, accouting for one of his distinctive screen trademarks. A talented stage actor during the 1920s, Bogart made his screen debut in a 1930 short subject, Broadway's Like That, and alternated stints in threater and film for the next few years. His career ratcheted upward when he played vicious killer Duke Mantee in The Petrified Forest on Broadway; costar Leslie Howard insisted he recreated the role in the 1936 film adaptation, which won him a Warners contract.
Although Bogart scored in The Petrified Forest (1936) and, on loan to MGM, in Dead End (1937), again playing a killer, his home studio mired him in B pictures and secondary roles in bigger-budgeted fare. He was solid playing gangsters in 1938's Angels with Dirty Faces and 1939's The Roaring Twenties (both opposite Cagney), but was ludicrous as a zombie in 1939's The Return of Dr. X and as a Mexican bandit in the 1940 Errol Flynn Western Virginia City.
Bogart owes his stardom to George Raft, who turned down the two 1941 roles that boosted him to the top: "Mad Dog" Earle in High Sierra and Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon. As his box-office standing improved, Warners designed vehicles that would enable him to retain his tough-guy persona while playing sympathetic characters. Beginning with his "Rick" in 1942's Casablanca (which also featured horror veterans Conrad Veidt and Peter Lorre), the single role for which he is best remembered (and which earned him his first Oscar nomination), Bogart etched memorable portraits as another Rick-type in To Have and Have Not (1944)--during the production of which he met and married Lauren Bacall, his fourth and final wife--as private eye Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep (1946), an ex-GI in Key Largo (1948), the greed-crazed Fred C. Dobbs in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), a Hollywood burnout in In a Lonely Place (1950), the unstable Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny (1954, Oscar-nominated), an escaped killer in The Desperate Hours (1955), and a weary sportswriter in The Harder They Fall (1956), his last film.
While never noted as a comedian, Bogart was supremely funny in All Through the Night (1942), Sabrina (1954), and We're No Angels (1955), as well as The African Queen (1951), opposite Katharine Hepburn in his Oscar-winning performance as boozy riverboat skipper Charlie Allnut. A lifelong smoker, he succumbed to throat cancer on January 14, 1957. Though well respected in his lifetime, Bogart didn't attain cult status until his films were rediscovered by younger viewers in the late 1960s: His blunt, no-nonsense, cynical and world-weary manner translated into a pop-culture existentialism that spoke volumes to the alienated youth of that turbulent era, and though the antiestablishment fervor has cooled, he remains arguably the most popular male star of Hollywood's Golden Age.
--LEONARD MALTIN, from
Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia.
A selection of Humphrey Bogart films.
Find Humphrey Bogart on eBay.com
A selection Humphrey Bogart related books.
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