December 25, 1899
Died On: January 14, 1957
Born In: New York City
Career: Academy Award-winning American actor
Think Casablanca and automatically your focus shifts to the handsome actor who played the romantic lead in this timeless classic. Humphrey Bogart was one of the finest actors of Hollywood who is noted for his films like The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Key Largo and The African Queen, among others. He started as a Broadway performer and slowly made his way to the top. In fact, he has been given the title of ‘Greatest Male Star of All Times’ by the American Film Institute. Check out the childhood and profile of Humphrey Bogart in this short biography.
Childhood and Early Years
Bogart was born on December 25, 1899 in a wealthy family and his father was a successful surgeon named Belmont, while his mother was a successful commercial illustrator named Maud Humphrey. Bogart grew up in wealthy surroundings and had a palatial cottage on a fifty-five acre estate in New York on the Canandaigua Lake. Bogart was the eldest of the three children in the households and had two younger sisters. Though his parents were well off, they didn’t really shower him with love and affection and frequently fought. From his father, he acquired the passion for fishing, sailing and an attraction to women who are strong-willed.
As a young boy, he was sent to a private school by his upscale parents. Till the fifth grade, he was in Delancy School and then moved on to the Trinity School. He showed no interest in school life and activities and remained withdrawn. He was then sent to the renowned Philips Academy at Massachusetts but was expelled from there due to various reasons. In the year 1918, he followed his love of sailing and enlisted himself in the navy. It was during his stint in the navy that he got a cut on his lip, which went on to become one of the most noticed features of Bogart. Several explanations are cited as to how the scar came like being hit by shrapnel during shelling or being smashed on the face by a hand-cuffed inmate.
Career in Theater
After Bogart returned home, he found to his horror that his family fortunes were almost extinguished and his father was suffering from poor health, possibly from narcotics addiction. He resumed his friendship with his childhood friend Bill Brady, Jr whose father had contacts in the show business. Bogart got an office job working for William A. Brady Sr.’s new company World Films. He tried dabbling with screen writing, directing, and production but didn’t excel in any of them.
In 1921, he made his stage debut in ‘Drifting’ as a Japanese butler, and just had one line of dialogue. Here he met Helen Menken and they both married on May 20, 1926. He then got hooked on to acting and appeared in several Broadway plays dabbling in many different roles. He married Mary Philips in May 1928. In early 1930, Bogart faced a lot of troubles in life with his second marriage also on the rocks and he lost his father. He became severely depressed and took to drinking heavily.
In the year 1934, he starred in the Broadway play ‘Invitation to a Murder’. The producer liked Bogart’s performance and sent him to play the role of an escaped killer opposite Leslie Howard in the play named ‘The Petrified Forest’. He was very convincing in the role and garnered a fan following. In the next year, this play had 197 performances at Broadhurst Theatre in New York. The screen rights of the play were bought by Warner Bros. Bogart was cast in the film of the same name along with Leslie after much request. The film was released in the year 1936 and garnered excellent reviews. He gained an on-screen persona of the wounded, stoical, cynical, charming, vulnerable, self-mocking loner with a core of honor. Critics and fans applauded him for his performance.
In the year 1941, he starred in the movie High Sierra, whose screenplay was written by a friend of Bogart, named John Huston. This film was a major hit and was a step ahead for Bogart. This was also his last movie in which he played a gangster. Then came the Maltese Falcon in the year 1941, which was directed by John Huston. Bogart played the role of a private detective with utmost complexity and a sharp sense of timing. He was appreciated by one and all for his meticulous performance. But the movie that made him a legend of sorts was Casablanca, released in the year 1943. He played his first romantic lead as Rick Blaine opposite Ingrid Bergman.
The movie catapulted him to success and won the 1943 Academy Award for Best Picture. Along with this, Bogart was nominated for the Best Actor in a Leading Role but didn’t win it. It was huge success for Bogart who became the highest paid actor in the world. He also starred opposite Katherine Hepburn in the African Queen which was another great success. During the 1950’s, Bogart’s health deteriorated due to heavy drinking and smoking and he contracted cancer. He went into coma on January 14, 1957 and died a few hours later. That was the end of a great legend, who still lives through his memorable performances.