One of Hollywood’s most classic movie pairings is Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. The couple shared the silver screen on several occasions and met one another while working on a film together. Unfortunately, their union was short-lived. Bacall was only in her early 30s when her husband passed away.
Bogart and Bacall’s love story is legendary. The couple had a magnetic attraction that her children, who were very young when their father died, easily recognized. While the two acting giants are no longer on earth, their son has some strong memories about their life together that he’s now shared with the public.
Humphrey And Bacall Fell In Love On Set And Knew They Wanted A Family
Bogart and Lauren Bacall worked together for the first time in 1944. The pair starred in the film To Have and Have Not, and sparks flew. Just one year later, the couple tied the knot at Malabar Farm in Lucas, Ohio. The home was owned by Bogart’s close friend, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Louis Bromfield.
The couple continued to work together after they got married. They starred in The Big Sleep (pictured above) as well as Dark Passage and Key Largo. Their son Stephen was born on January 6, 1949, while Bogart was filming Tokyo Joe.
Bogart And Bacall Had A 25-Year Age Difference Which Made It Riské
Bogart was born on Christmas Day 1899 in New York City. His future wife, Lauren Bacall, was born in 1924, in The Bronx, New York City. She became known in Hollywood for her sultry looks and distinctive voice.
Their age difference was definitely a talking point in social circles at the time. With Bacall being so much younger she was worried about having a family that would last the test of time. Not to mention Bogart being married to someone so you definitely turned heads! Despite the age difference, they knew children were in their future.
Their Son And Daughter Grew Up With Some Pretty Famous Neighbors
Stephen was Bogart and Bacall’s first child. He was named after a character in the film To Have and Have Not, the movie that brought the two famous icons together. In his early years, Stephen lived next door to Liza Minnelli and Judy Garland. Later in life, he became a documentary filmmaker, writer, and news producer.
Stephen and his wife have three adult children and currently live in Naples, Florida. His sister Leslie Howard Bogart was born in 1952. She was named after one of Bogart’s friends who starred alongside him in The Petrified Forest.
Bogart Was Very Proud Of His Son
Stephen was just a little boy when his father passed away, and Bogart spent a lot of time working. But there are some memories that are still fresh for Stephen, particularly when it comes to Bogart’s boat, the “Santana.”
“He would take me down to the ‘Santana,'” Stephen explained. “Eventually, finally, when I learned how to swim, we would go out on the boat. I remember going to Catalina Island and swimming back… to the ‘Santana.’ I made it and he was very proud of me at that time because he knew that I knew how to swim. That kind of pride sticks with you.”
Stephen Was Shocked By The Number Of People At His Father’s Funeral
Stephen Bogart realized that his father was an important figure when he attended the funeral. Stephen was just eight years old when his dad passed away. “When my father died there were 3,000 people I didn’t know at the funeral,” Bogart told Fox News in 2019. “I figured there was something different. And there certainly was.”
Bogart was buried with a very special memento. It was a charm bracelet with a tiny gold whistle on it. Bogart had given the jewelry to Bacall before they wed, and it included a very sweet inscription related to the first film they appeared in together, To Have and Have Not.
Bogart’s Lifestyle Shortened His Life
A couple of years after celebrating his 10-year wedding anniversary, Bogart got very ill, largely due to his smoking and drinking habits. Bacall convinced him to seek medical help in 1956, and the actor was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Shortly afterward, doctors removed his entire esophagus, two lymph nodes, and a rib.
Unfortunately, the surgery didn’t improve Bogart’s health, and chemotherapy didn’t work either. He battled cancer for nearly a year, but he was unable to win the fight. In his last hours, he put his hand on his wife’s arm and reportedly told her, “Goodbye, kid,” before dying.
Numerous Hollywood Icons Visited Bogart The Day Before He Died And Attended His Funeral
In January 1957, famous pals Frank Sinatra, Katharine Hepburn, and Spencer Tracy visited him to say their last goodbyes to their ailing friend. Bogart died the next day.
The actor was just 57 years old when he passed away. His body had wasted away to a mere 80 pounds. His family organize a simple funeral, and some of the biggest stars in Hollywood attended, including Hepburn, Tracy, Judy Garland, future President Ronald Reagan, Bette Davis, Danny Kaye, Joan Fontaine, Marlene Dietrich, James Cagney, Errol Flynn, Gregory Peck, Gary Cooper, Billy Wilder, and Jack Warner.
Life Changed A Lot For Stephen After His Father’s Death
After his father passed away, Bacall decided to leave California to grieve in England. “I had a house with a pool in California. Life was pretty good. And then all of a sudden, there was a big change for all of us,” Stephen explained.
He added that his mother eventually started putting herself first and doing things she always wanted to do, such as moving to be near her mother in New York and working in theater productions.
Bacall Made Sure Her Son Was Honest, Just Like His Dad
In 1961, four years after Bogart died, Bacall married her second husband, actor Jason Robards. The marriage ended in 1969 due to Robards’ alcoholism. Throughout it all, Bogart was always in Bacall’s thoughts.
“She would talk about him all the time,” Stephen said. “It was almost like, ‘What would your father think?’ or “Your father believed in treating people correctly.’ And that’s what she wanted me to do too. … She wanted me to remember that he didn’t like to lie. He wasn’t a liar. She always used to pound that into me. Don’t lie. Tell the truth. That was a big deal.”
Stephen Would Never Act Because He Couldn’t Compare To His Parents
It’s not uncommon for children of actors to get into the family business. But for Stephen, he’s never been interested in following Bogart or Bacall’s footsteps. He tried acting when he was younger, but it didn’t stick.
“How do you compete with that?” Stephen said. “The comparisons would have been obvious. No, never. Plus, I was lousy at it. I was in a couple of plays in high school. I wasn’t very good. I couldn’t do it. I just wasn’t very good at all. It’s not an easy thing to do, to be someone else.”
Stephen Carries On His Father’s Legacy And Tries To Keep Classic Hollywood Alive
Stephen currently co-manages the Humphrey Bogart Estate, which helps puts on a Bogart Film Festival every year. “We try to do things that not only keeps him alive but classic Hollywood alive,” Stephen said. “There’s a lot of great movies now… but I think there’s still room for classic Hollywood.”
The estate also partnered with ROK Drinks to distribute Bogart’s Spirits. The actor loved many types of spirits, but his favorites were gin and whiskey. “Some of his favorite cocktails were martinis, which were made with gin in those days, gin and tonics, Manhattans and Old Fashioneds,” Stephen said.
Stephen Bogart Never Wanted To Draw Attention To Himself
In an interview with the Palm Beach Post, Stephen Bogart admitted that his parents’ fame could be too much for him. “I wanted people to like or dislike me for who I was,” he said. He also mentioned that his mother, Lauren Bacall, didn’t like all the attention either.
“All my friends are real people,” he clarified. “Not that movie people aren’t real, but you know what I mean. Did my mother like it? No.” Stephen also mentioned that he rarely revealed his last name unless he had to.
Bogart Was ‘Sentimental And Romantic,’ According To His Daughter
Bogart frequently gave his wife sentimental pieces of jewelry, a memory his daughter Leslie cherishes. In fact, the actor put a lot of thought behind the gifts he gave Bacall. Leslie told Harper’s Bazaar in 2015 that her dad loved engraving sweet messages on her mother’s accessories.
“My mother always described my father, Humphrey Bogart, as very sentimental and romantic,” Leslie revealed. “He often gave her beautiful jewelry, and almost every piece was engraved with a sweet sentence or thought and his initials or name. Romantic indeed!”
Leslie Bogart Grew Up To Instruct Yoga
Like Stephen, Leslie never desired to follow in her parents’ acting careers. She grew up to become both a nurse and a yoga teacher. She also married a master of the discipline, Erich Schiffmann, who wrote the bestseller Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness and filmed the acclaimed video, Yoga Mind and Body.
Leslie recalled that her mother also remained humble and romantic despite enjoying her success and riches. Bacall always recognized the artists who helped her get where she was. It seems that Leslie inherited her mother’s steadfastness.
Bacall Was A Model And Starred Alongside Marilyn Monroe
Before meeting Bogart, Lauren Bacall was a model. Once her acting career got going, she appeared in several romantic comedies, such as 1953’s How to Marry a Millionaire with Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable and 1957’s Designing Woman with Gregory Peck.
Bacall also starred alongside John Wayne in his final film, The Shootist in 1976. In the ’70s, she appeared in several Broadway shows and won Tony Awards for 1970’s Applause and 1981’s Woman of the Year. In 1996, she was nominated for an Oscar for The Mirror Has Two Faces.
The Couple’s Charm Bracelet Showed How Much They Loved One Other
In the film, Bacall famously tells Bogart, “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.” Even by today’s standards, that line is quite risque. The inscription on the bracelet read: “If you want anything, just whistle.” The jewelry was obviously very special to the family, and Bacall wanted her husband to have it by his side even in death.
Bogart was cremated, and his remains were interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, in Glendale, California. Following his death, fans created a “Bogie Cult” to celebrate the star. Members of the cult lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as well as in Greenwich Village, New York, and France.
Bogart & Bacall Were Very Much In Love And Were ‘Good Together,’ According To Stephen
When Bogart wasn’t making films, his favorite thing to do was spend time at home with Bacall, the love of his life. And Stephen could tell how much the cared for one another.
“When he’d come home from work, he would want to have dinner with her,” Bogart recalled. “It was the age in the ’50s when kids were seen, not heard. Parents had dinners, at least my mother and father did, with the adults. But they were in love. And they were good together. They were man and wife.”
Bogart Starred In Casablanca And Won An Oscar For The African Queen
Bogart is probably best known for his role in 1942 iconic film Casablanca. He previously appeared in High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon. Bogart’s star power continued to rise after he married Bacall. In 1951, he received the Best Actor Academy Award for his role in The African Queen, opposite Katharine Hepburn.
He continued to choose good roles, and in 1954 received another Oscar nomination for his part in The Caine Mutiny. Bogart acted in many movies over the years. He starred alongside Ava Gardner in The Barefoot Contessa and Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina.
Bogart Was Drawn To Bacall’s Youth, Beauty, And Strength
When Bogart first met Bacall, he was mesmerized by the actress. “She was pretty good looking,” Stephen explained.“She was 19 and he was 44. But I think it was her strength. She was a strong woman. She didn’t take crap from anybody. He thought she was very talented as well, but she could also keep up with him.”
Despite the huge age difference, the couple connected in a visceral way. When Bogart got ill, Bacall didn’t leave his bedside. Stephen recalled how his mother broke down “but snapped out of it” when his father died.
Bacall Had Another Child During Her Second Marriage
During Bacall’s eight-year-marriage to Robards, the couple had a son named Sam. He was born the same year the couple tied the knot. Sam Robards is an actor and is most known for his role as Henry Swinton in the 2001 film A.I. Artificial Intelligence, which was directed by Steven Spielberg.
In 2002, he was nominated for a Tony Award for his role in Arthur Miller classic The Man Who Had All the Luck. Sam later recalled that he was devastated by his parent’s divorce. He has a total of seven half-siblings: five through his father and two from his mother (Stephen and Leslie).
Bacall’s Final Years Were Difficult
Bacall lived in the famous Dakota building in New York from 1958 until her death in 2014. She continued to act throughout the ’70s, but her last years weren’t easy. She was very sick and preferred to stay home rather than go out.
“I don’t know how you feel when you get to that point, but… it wasn’t great for her,” Stephen remembers. “She was used to getting up and doing things, going out. She had assistants there for her all the time if she needed them. But I think it was a very tough time for her, those last few years.”
Bacall Left Her Fortune To Her Children And Her Dog
After Lauren Bacall passed away on August 12th, 2014, she left the bulk of her fortune to her three kids. The family split her $26.6 million fortune, and she instructed them to keep her personal papers private.
Around $10,000 of her money went to her dog, a Papillon named Sophie. Neighbors often saw her walking Sophie around her Central Park West apartment. And finally, Bacall allotted the remaining $250,000 to her grandsons, Calvin and Sebastian Robards, to use for their college tuition.
Stephen Still Misses The Talks He Had With His Mom
Bacall was 89 years old when she passed away in 2014. Stephen was very close to his mother throughout his life, and their close bond made it difficult for him to let her go.
“Just the fact that she’s not here anymore, you know?” Bogart revealed when asked what he missed the most about his mom. “Being able to talk to her. I left home to go to boarding school when I was 13. I didn’t really live with her after that, but she was always there to talk to and just to hear her voice. I think hearing her voice is a big thing.”
Bacall And Bogart Married In A Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author’s House
On May 21st, 1945, Bacall and Bogart married in the Big House in Malabar Farm, Lucas, Ohio. The house belonged to the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Louis Bromfield, who wrote works such as The Rains Came and Up Ferguson Way, many of which ended up on the big screen.
Bromfield was a good friend of Bogart and allowed the couple to use his Pleasant Valley farmhouse with Greek Revival accents. The house is still available to tour in Malabar Farm State Park. For Bogart and Bacall, though, the site offered a break from World War II, which was nearing its completion.
Bacall Continued To Excel In Acting After Bogart’s Death
Bacall launched her acting career with the movie that sparked her marriage, To Have and Have Not. After her husband died in 1957, Bacall continued to act and made significant strides on the big screen.
In the 1970s, she won Tony Awards for her roles on Broadway, Applause and Woman of the Year. In 1996, she won a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination for The Mirror Has Two Faces. The American Film Institute gave her an Academy Honorary Award in 2009, labeling her the 20th greatest female star in classic Hollywood films.
Bacall And Bogart Had Different Religious Views
Lauren Bacall grew up in a Jewish family and changed her name to adapt to Hollywood culture. According to her autobiography By Myself, she never regretted it since she “felt totally Jewish and always would.” Bogart was a Christian, and as such, the couple Christened their Stephen and Leslie.
Bacall explained Bogart’s reasoning “with discrimination still rampant in the world, it would give them one less hurdle to jump in life’s Olympics.” Although Bacall felt uneasy about this choice, she agreed that it would help her children grow up in a post-World War II environment.
Humphrey Bogart Was A Distant Father
“My father was older, and he was set in his ways,” Stephen Bogart said in his interview with Palm Beach Post. He mentioned that Humphrey Bogart would go to his boat on weekends and hardly ever see him.
“Babies were just not his thing,” his son said. “I believe we would have gotten closer as he grew older.” Despite Bogart making a great match for his wife, he seemed to not bond as easily with his young children.
Leslie Wanted To Be A Model When She Was Younger
At age 15, Leslie Bogart aspired to follow in her mother’s footsteps and embark on a modeling career. She appeared on a four-page spread in a 1968 issue of Vogue magazine. Of course, Leslie never took this career further and instead cared for people as a Registered Nurse.
Growing up, Leslie’s best friend was Lorna Luft, the daughter of Judy Garland. Lorna later said that Lauren and Humphrey Bogart were great inspirations to her growing up. She now works as an actress.
Sam Robards Wasn’t Too Keen On His Mother’s New Marriage
In a 1983 interview with People magazine, Sam Robards offered his perspective on Lauren Bacall’s new marriage. As one would expect from a young child, he felt dismayed over his parents’ divorce. But as he grew older, he said that his parents taught him about the movie career through this process.
“They made me realize what the dedication of a professional was,” he said. With two households full of famous actors, Sam grew up understanding the strength and motivation needed to succeed in Hollywood.
The Movies Never Directly Impacted Bacall And Bogart’s Children
During an interview with the magazine Stay Thirsty, author Mark Yost asked Stephen Bogart what it was like to be Humphrey Bogart’s son. Stephen replied, “It’s not really that different than being anyone else’s son. Your father just happens to be in the movies. As a kid, you don’t focus on that.”
Despite Humphrey Bogart’s general absence on Stephen’s life, the actor seems to have made a great impact on his son. After he died, Stephen said, “I think about him almost every day.”
Humphrey Bogart Taught His Son To Be Playful And Cynical
Although Stephen didn’t spend a lot of time with his father Humphrey Bogart, he still realizes that he’s “like him in certain ways,” according to Stay Thirsty. “He was a needler and a kidder. I can be like that,” Stephen explained. “I think he was pretty cynical; I’m pretty cynical.”
But the most important trait inherited from his father, according to Stephen, was his belief in “treating people correctly.” His mother, Lauren Bacall, also taught him that mindset.
Bacall’s Kids Had A Friendly Relationship With Her Previous Husband
Although Lauren Bacall’s previous husband, Jason Robards, had an alcoholism problem, he remained friendly with Bacall’s new children. Stephen Bogart said that they would “play ball,” and he grew up close to Robards’ son, Jason Jr.
“But I never though of Jason Robards as my dad,” Stephen clarified. “I liked him as a person, and he was married to my mother, but that’s it.” It seems that through all these years, Humphrey Bogart made a greater impression on his children.
Lauren Bacall Never Told Her Children What To Do
According to Stephen Bogart, Bacall “did not suffer fools gladly” and was a stern, confident mother. “She never told me what to do,” he said. Lauren Bacall allowed her son to get away from Hollywood, as he wanted to do. “I wanted to find out who I was,” said Stephen, “over and above being the son of Humphrey Bogart.”
Although Bacall let her children live their own lives, she had no problem incorporating them into hers. “She brought us up to be certain types of people and live a certain life,” Stephen revealed.
Humphrey Bogart Died Just As He Began Enjoying Time With His Children
Humphrey Bogart’s death hit his family hard. Not only was it unexpected, but according to Stephen Bogart, his father was spending more time getting to know his kids the year he died.
“I was getting to the age where he could do things with me,” Stephen told The Chicago Tribune. “I could be a little adult. He could take me to dinner. We could go out on a boat, and he didn’t have to worry about me drowning. We could enjoy each other. We had just gotten to that point. Then he got sick, and it all went downhill.”
Stephen Bogart Learned About His Father Through His Projects
After building a family of his own and a life away from Hollywood, Stephen Bogart spent two years writing “Bogart: In Search of My Father.” In that time, he realized how little he truly know about Humphrey Bogart.
“My mother would ask me to describe him,” Stephen said in an interview. “I would, and she’d say, ‘That’s him from the movies.'” His research and dedication projects helped him “paint a human portrait” of his father. He discovered that he was similar to Humphrey Bogart in being “kind of a loner.”
Humphrey Bogart Never Realized That He “Had Something Special”
Cinema Fanatic asked Stephen Bogart a fascinating question: did Humphrey Bogart ever realize he had a special something? “No,” Stephen responded. “That’s why he had the special something. If he had been aware of it, it wouldn’t have worked.”
Stephen asserts that Humphrey Bogart excelled in Hollywood because he was unabashedly himself. “He liked the ocean and he liked his boat and he liked his wife,” Stephen said. He also noted that Humphrey Bogart always thanked the screenwriters first for any award that he received.
Bacall And Bogart’s Children Weren’t Aware That They Were Living With Hollywood Royalty
Until Humphrey Bogart’s funeral, which hosted over 3,000 people, Stephen Bogart never understood the impact of his parents’ legacy. Their famous neighbors–Judy Garland, Sammy Cahn, Art Linkletter–were just “friends and parents.” Only when the children moved did they understand their comfortable life.
Stephen detailed that his family was simply his family. “Your mother and you father and you still get time out and they still argue with you and, ‘no mom!’ and you fight.” Bacall and Bogart raised their children as normally as possible, without spoiling them.
Lauren Bacall Never Advertised Herself
Despite being one of the greatest Hollywood actors of all time, Lauren Bacall never advertised her likeness or marketed her name. Stephen Bogart says that she appreciated her wealth and life, but never bragged about it.
In terms of the AFI’s list of greatest Hollywood stars, Stephen said, “Well, if you know my mother at all, she’d be like ‘oh the living legends! I hate every bit of it!’ but really, she really appreciates it deep down.”
Humphrey Bogart “Wasn’t A Movie Star Guy”
In his interview with Cinema Fanatic, Stephen Bogart revealed that Humphrey Bogart liked to hang around non-actors. He spent much of his time with people like Frank Sinatra and Spencer Tracy, and loved to talk to the writers. He enjoyed hanging out with non-actors and having a blast.
Stephen calls this the “self-effacing way about him” that makes Humphrey Bogart so special and memorable. Although he understood the impact of his works such as Casablanca, he never let the fame get to his head.
The Surprising Connection Between Humphrey Bogart And Alec Baldwin
Humphrey Bogart’s mother’s side of the family was descended from one of the passengers of the Mayflower, John Howland. Howland made the journey as an indentured servant, but he almost didn’t survive the trip overseas, as he fell overboard. Fortunately, he was rescued before being swept away.
Howland was the servant of John Carver, who was Plymouth Colony’s first elected governor. Upon Carver’s death, Howland became a free man and married another Mayflower passenger named Elizabeth Tilley. Actor Alec Baldwin is also a descendant of John Howland!
Lauren Bacall Watched Other Movies All The Time
While she wasn’t working on her own sets, Lauren Bacall would go out to the theater and watch new movies. Her son said that before awards, she would watch every nominated movie in a row, and then cast her vote.
Surprisingly, Stephen Bogart also expressed that Bacall “knew a lot of the theater people as opposed to the movie people.” Having always wanted to act on Broadway, she took the time to know and befriend several Broadway actors such as Richard Burton, Betty Comden, and Roddy McDowall.
He Was A Christmas Baby
Humphrey DeForest Bogart was the eldest child of Belmont DeForest Bogart and his wife, Maud Humphrey. The precise date of the actor’s birth would be questioned for years.
While Warner Bros listed his birthday as Christmas Day 1899, historian Clifford McCarty speculated that this was changed from January 23rd, 1900, “To foster the view that a man born on Christmas Day couldn’t really be as villainous as he appeared to be on screen.” His wife, Lauran Bacall, stated in her biography that Bogart celebrated his birthday on December 25, and the federal census records also confirm a Christmas 1899 birthday.
His Mother Was A Picture-Perfect Suffragette
Humphrey came from good stock. His father was a successful cardiopulmonary surgeon, but it’s his mother who he had to thank for his creative genes.
Maud Bogart was a commercial illustrator, having received art training in both New York and France. She went on to become the art director of the fashion magazine The Delineator, as well as a militant suffragette, supporting the movement for equal rights. At her peak, Maud brought home $50,000, over $30,000 more than her husband. The star later described both of his parents as unsentimental, but straightforward. “A kiss in our family was an event,” he said.
Prestigious Schooling, Sullen Student
Humphrey had the advantages that came with an Upper West Side childhood and well-to-do parents. He went to private school until fifth grade, moving on to attend the prestigious Trinity School in New York, before moving on to Phillips Academy, an elite boarding school.
While his parents hoped for their son to attend Yale, Humphrey wasn’t the least bit interested in academia. He was indifferent, moody, and was eventually expelled, supposedly for throwing either the headmaster or groundskeeper into a campus pond. Other sources state the expulsion was for raucous behavior, like smoking and drinking. With no clear future ahead, there was only one thing Humphrey could think of doing.
He Made A Better Seaman Than A Student
His parents didn’t know what to do with him, and with no career prospects, Bogart decided to head for the seas, enlisting in the United States Navy when he was 18. To him, it wasn’t war. It was a holiday camp that paid.
“At eighteen, the war was great stuff,” said Bogart. According to records, Humphrey made a much better seaman than a student and is described as a “model” sailor. Some believe that his trademark voice and scar were a product of his service, having been hit by shrapnel during a shelling. Others, including Bogart’s long-time friend Nathanial Benchley, maintain that he was injured when taking a prisoner to jail. Either way, it would shape his career.
From Model Sailor To Struggling Stage Star
When Bogart returned home from his duty, his father was sick and most of the family fortune was gone. He worked as a shipper and a bonds salesmen before landing a job at William A. Brady Sr.’s company, World Films.
Humphrey tried his hand at almost every aspect of filmmaking but found a talent for none. That was until he made his debut as a Japanese butler in the 1921 play, Drifting. Although he had been raised to think that acting was beneath his status, Bogart found that the late hours and attention suited him. “I was born to be indolent and this was the softest of rackets,” he later stated. Over the next few years, he would perform in several plays, where he would soon find his first real leading lady.
Short Marriage, Lasting Friendship
While playing double roles in Drifting at the Playhouse Theatre in 1922, Bogart happened to meet the young actress Helen Menken. Menken and Bogart soon struck up a relationship and made it official in May 1926, tying the knot at the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York City.
The marriage lasted less than two years, with Menken telling court officials that her husband valued his career more than her, and she felt neglected. Although the two parted ways, they remained friends for many years. Six months after the divorce was finalized, Bogart married Mary Phillips, an actress much better known than he was at the time. This marriage would last ten years, but would also fall victim to Bogart’s ambition.
From New York to Hollywood and Spencer Tracy
The stock market crash of 1929 meant that a lot of stage productions ground to a halt. Out of work actors were now beyond penniless and many camera-worthy faces headed to Hollywood to seek their fortune. Humphrey did just the same.
The young actor landed on his feet when Fox Film signed him for $750 a week. It was there that he met Spencer Tracy, another serious actor. Humphrey was enamored with him, inspired by his approach to acting. The two soon became fast friends, with Tracy coining the nickname “Bogie.” They would star together in one of the first movies to feature sound, Up the River. While the money was pleasing, Bogart was far from satisfied.
The Petrified Forest
After work dried up in Hollywood, Bogart, now in his mid-thirties, landed a role as escaped murder Duke Mantee in Robert E. Sherwood’s play, The Petrified Forest. The play was a hit, completing 197 performances in New York in 1935.
Bogart’s performance marked his leap from the “smoothies” he used to play to serious, gritty parts. Critics praised his performance, as did his co-star Leslie Howard. When Warner Bros bought the screen rights, Howard was cast and insisted that Humphrey star with him. Warner Bros had other plans and tried to cast Edward G. Robinson, but when Howard said “No Bogart, no deal,” they relented. The movie was a box office smash and made Humphrey Bogart a household name.
A Favor Remembered
Bogart knew that he owed his career to Leslie Howard. If Leslie hadn’t have insisted on him being cast alongside him in The Petrified Forest, then it’s unlikely that he would’ve had the chance of another big break.
In 1942 Howard was traveling from Portugal to Bristol, UK, when the aircraft he was in was shot down by the Germans. He was one among 17 fatalities. Some speculate that the Germans believed Prime Minister Winston Churchill was on the flight and that’s why they targeted it. In fact, Churchill traveled along a similar route the following day. Bogart paid homage to his friend by naming his only daughter Leslie Howard Bogart in 1952.
B Movies And Warner Bros. Woes
Although The Petrified Forest had catapulted Bogart from obscurity, he still struggled. Now tied into a contract with Warner that paid $550 per week, he was typecast as a gangster in a slew of B movie dramas.
This was during a time when studios held all the cards, and actors were told what parts they had. If they refused, they could be suspended without pay. Bogart was grateful for his success but didn’t like his new-found role of the gangster. “Nobody likes me on sight,” he once said. “I suppose that’s why I’m cast as the heavy.” Between 1936 and 1940 he was kept on a tight schedule, churning out a movie every two months.
Madness In His Method
While Bogart was making movies, it wasn’t as he had imagined it. With no freedom, poor pay, and at loggerheads with studio chief Jack Warner, he was drinking more than ever. He wanted his wife Mary to join him in Hollywood, but she refused, still performing in hit plays in NYC. The pair divorced in 1937, and Bogart married for the third time in 1938.
Mayo Methot was a friendly woman when sober, but a notorious drunk. She was paranoid, and as the pair continued to argue her drinking got worse and her behavior more erratic. Methot stabbed Bogart with a knife, set their house on fire and even slashed her wrists on multiple occasions. He was no angel either, often goading her. Julius Epstein described their marriage as “the sequel to the Civil War.”
Here’s Looking At You, Kid
The 1940s marked a great change for Bogart. In 1941 he starred in High Sierra, a movie written by his friend John Huston. Although he still played a gangster, the character had more substance and it paved the way for Bogart to be considered a serious star.
In 1942, he landed his first romantic lead role in the classic movie Casablanca, alongside Ingrid Bergman. One of the most famous lines in the movie, “Here’s looking at you, kid,” wasn’t scripted. Bogart improvised it. The simple line became a pop-culture staple and was ranked the fifth best line in American cinema by the American Film Institute.
Methot’s Nightmare, Lauren Bacall
Over the course of their tumultuous marriage, Mayo Methot had always worried about her husband’s fidelity. It seemed impossible to her that a man in his position wouldn’t take advantage of the plethora of beautiful women around him. Her insecurity was at first unfounded. Then Humphrey met 19-year-old Lauren Bacall.
Bacall was blonde, tall, striking, and the two had instant chemistry. Despite the 25-year age gap, Bogart couldn’t resist her cheekbones and green eyes, while Bacall was infatuated with the handsome older actor. Still new to the industry, Bacall gratefully took the help offered to her by Bogart, who nicknamed her “Baby.” They began a discreet affair, sending each other love letters. The romance almost cost Lauren her career.
All’s Fair in Love and Movies
Not everyone approved of the affair. Director Howard Hawks was very protective of Lauren. He considered her his project, a young actress that he would guide through Hollywood. Of course, he was hopelessly in love with her too.
He told Bacall that she meant nothing to Bogart, even threatening to send her to Monogram, the worst studio in Hollywood, if she didn’t end the affair. Lauren was devastated and Humphrey was enraged. Jack Warner eventually stepped in to settle the dispute, but Hawks would remain bitter about it. He would later say, “Bogie fell in love with the character she played, so she had to keep playing it the rest of her life.” Everything was against the couple, but they couldn’t let each other go. The studio saw an opportunity.
The One That Stuck
Shortly after wrapping To Have And Have Not, the studio capitalized on the chemistry between Bacall and Bogart and billed them together for The Big Sleep. Filming was intense and the script was filled with sexual innuendo – by now the affair was tabloid fodder and Jack Warner wanted to milk it for all it was worth.
Bogart was in love with Bacall but torn between staying loyal to Methot. He had reservations about the age difference between them and was concerned that Lauren would leave him if he married her. “I’m afraid that you’ll become impatient and that I’ll lose you,” he wrote in a love letter to Bacall. “But even if that happened, I wouldn’t stop loving you.” In February 1945 he finally filed for divorce, and in May he married Bacall. “No one has ever written a romance better than we lived,” Bacall wrote in her memoir. Little did the pair know how short their time together would be.
Drinking Was A Problem
Bogie had always liked to drink. In his younger days, he preferred scotch but later switched to a martini. Many of his best friends, including Spencer Tracy, became his close confidants through late-night drinking sessions. Someone once said, “Bogart’s a helluva nice guy until around 11.30pm. Then he thinks he’s Bogart.”
His behavior, much like his ex-wife Methot’s, could become aggressive and abusive, and it began to affect his work. He once showed up in his pajamas and refused to work, instead riding a bicycle around the Warner Bros lot. During the filming of Sahara, he supposedly refused to leave his dressing room until he was given a thermos of martini. When asked if he had ever been on the wagon, Bogart replied, “Just once. It was the most miserable afternoon of my life.”
Santana Productions and Freedom From Warner
By the late 40s, Bogart was one of the biggest names in Hollywood. He now had a contract that gave him rights to refuse a script, albeit in a limited capacity. The success of Casablanca a few years prior had opened doors hitherto closed to him and he was subsequently offered a more diverse selection of roles.
In 1948, he went out on a limb and opened up his own production company Santana Productions, named after his yacht. Jack Warner was furious and worried that other big names would follow suit, diminishing power from his studio. Bogart did his last film for Warner in 1951. The early 50s saw him make a number of films through his own company, although most were flops. He sold his share in Santana to Columbia Pictures for $1 million in 1955.
The Rat Pack
Few people realize that it was Lauren Bacall who coined the term “Rat Pack.” In the spring of 1955, her husband, by now showing the effects of years of alcohol abuse and smoking, was shooting the breeze with Frank Sinatra following a party in Las Vegas. Looking at the wreckage, she declared, “You look like a goddamn rat pack.” It stuck.
Bogart and Sinatra were firm friends, and it’s rumored that Lauren and Frank had a discreet affair. Bogart had his own mistress, having resumed a romance with his long-standing hairdresser. However, the couple remained happy and together, raising their two children. Bogart had great plans for new films, but his health was rapidly deteriorating. After persistent nagging from Bacall, he finally went to the doctor.
Tests discovered that Bogart had cancer and required immediate surgery to remove a large part of his esophagus. His doctors were initially hopeful, telling the star that he would have to take time off to recuperate. Unfortunately, it soon became evident that Humphrey was not getting better.
Friends and family visited him over the course of the next year and left shocked at the frail man they saw. Years of abusing his body had caught up with him, and he died in January 1957, aged 57. He left behind his two young children and a devastated Bacall. In an interview, close friend Katherine Hepburn recalled visiting Bogart with her partner, Spencer Tracy the day before he died. “Spence patted him on the shoulder and said, ‘Goodnight, Bogie.’ Bogie turned his eyes to Spence very quietly and with a sweet smile covered Spence’s hand with his own and said, ‘Goodbye, Spence.’”