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(1899-1957)

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bogart

bogart

h u m p h r e y   b o g a r t  :   b o g i e  ]


"I've been around a long time. Maybe the people like me."
- Humphrey Bogart


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bogart



    bogey

      The name perhaps means more things to more people than that of any other Hollywood hero. Bogart's ugly-handsome face, perpetual cigarette and rasping voice bespoke a man who was nobody's fool, a loner but never an outcast.

  • Bogie Wall of Posters - It's Bogie, It's Awesome, It's Here ...

    Humphrey Bogart was born in New York on December 25, 1899. His father, Dr Belmont Deforest Bogart, was one of the city's most eminent surgeons. His mother Maud, was a magazine illustrator. After completing his studies at Trinity school, Bogart entered Philips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. Expelled for bad behaviour, he joined the U.S Marines in 1918 and served several months. On his return to civilian life, he was hired by theatrical producer William A.Brady, who made him his road manager and encouraged him to try his hand at acting. His first appearances were somewhat unconvincing but Bogart perevered and gradually learned to master the craft.

    In 1929 he was spotted by a talent scout in Its a Wise Child and put under a year's contract by 20th Century Fox. At this period he was just a young stage actor with no particular following; the studio uncertain about how best to use him, tried him out in an assortment of genres. The results were uneven and unpromising and Bogart, after being loaned out to Universal for a brief appearance in Bad Sister (1931) - as a man about town who leaves his young wife in the lurch - returned to Broadway, convinced that he was through with cinema for good.

    bogart
    angels with dirty faces
    (1938)


    In December 1931 however, he signed a short term contract with Columbia and left the stage to star in Love Affair (1932),a comedy directed by Thornton Freeland. He then moved to Warner Brothers where he made, for director Mervyn LeRoy, Big City Blues and Three On A Match (both 1932), the second of which provided him with his first gangster role. He then returned to the theatre.

    The decisive turning point in his hitherto erratic career came in 1935 with Robert E. Sherwood's play The Petrified Forest, in which, for more than seven months he played the gangster Duke Mantee opposite Leslie Howard. When asked to repeat his role on the screen the following year, Howard insisted on Bogart as his co-star. And so it was, at the age of 37, Bogart finally gave up the theatre and began a profitable career as a supporting actor under the aegis of Warners, for which he would make almost all of his film's until 1948.


    plug ugly

    He made an average of one film per two months for the studio, which filed him from the start under 'bad guys'. In four years he had completed an impressive number of gangster roles, supporting such established actors as Edward G.Robinson, James Cagney and George Raft. The parts he played - frequently double crossers condemned to die an ignomious death - were most often used to set the main star off to advantage. These characters' backgrounds remained obscure and their psychology was extremely primitive. Several years had passed since Little Caesar (1930) and The Public Enemy (1931); the gangster was no longer seen as a romantic figure, he was just the flotsam of a sick society. Bogart above-all played the kind of small time loser who could always be outwitted by a strong adversary.

    A few films, however, allowed him to escape from typecasting: Isle Of Fury in which he was a reformed fugitive; China Clipper (1936) for which he donned the uniform of an ace pilot; and Two Against The World (1936), in which he played the manager of a radio station at odds with his unscrupulous employer. In Marked Woman (1937) he was a tough but kind district attorney who succeeded in breaking up a gang of racketeers with the help of a nightclub hostess (Bette Davis); and in Crime School (1938), he was the liberal head of a prison, who established more humane relations between his staff and the troublesome young inmates.

    bogart
    the big sleep
    (1946)


    These dissimilar roles, however, were not sufficient enough to modify the actor's predominate image and it was not until Raoul Walsh's They Drive By Night (1940) that he was able to break out of the stereotype which had been imposed on him. Although his role was secondary to George Raft's, his playing of a truck driver contending with the everyday problems of travel fatigue and lack of money was concrete and recognizable. It reflected a realistic and documented context,and it embodied, however modestly, certain new attitudes to screen characterization.

    In 1941, Bogart's luck suddenly changed for the better. He was given the lead in Walsh's High Sierra in place of George Raft (who had turned the part down). Although Ida Lupino had top billing and gave one of her finest performance, it was Bogart, in the role of Roy Earle an ageing and dillusioned gangster, who was the discovery of the film. For the first time he revealed a human dimension and depth which went beyond the requirements of the plot. Caught between loyalty to his old boss (who engineers his escape from prison for one last job) and the desire to start afresh with the young woman (Joan Leslie) whom he naively believes is in love with him, Roy is neither a hero nor a villain. He has a history, a past which weighs heavily on his present existence and offers him freedom only at the price of his own death.


    the lone wolf

    The forties saw a radical change of direction in Bogart's career. As a result of the general anxiety caused by the war, the cinema gained in maturity, acquiring a new kind of gravity and urgency. Film Noir, an eminently sceptical and ambiguous genre came to the forefront and sought out heroes who would measure up to this increasingly troubled context. It was no longer an age for defying authority and not yet one for collective commitment. Neither gangster nor cop (but a little bit of both), the private eye asserted himself as one of the dominant heroes of the decade.

    bogart
    the maltese falcon
    (1941)


    In 1941 this epitome of virile scepticism took on the features of Sam Spade. The character created in 1929 by the novelist Dashiell Hammett had already been twice adapted for the screen without success; however the third version of The Maltese Falcon, which was more faithful than the others to Hammett's novel, hit the jackpot. Surrounded by a brilliant cast, perfectly illustrated the ethics of the private eye. Intransigent, totally independent, indifferent to the police yet wholly unself-serving, his Spade had absolute authenticity. The Bogartian character had suddenly found its true physiognomy. He was and would remain a man who concealed his own needs behind a hard bitten exterior, who rejected all higher principles and distrusted all abstract causes. He was a loner who did not ask for help from anyone.

    bogart
    casablanca
    (1942)


    Casablanca (1942) and To Have and Have Not (1944) both cast him in the midst of a cosmopolitan and divided world. In these films, fascists, Gaullists and refugees of every kind attempt to obtain his support but Bogart remains very much his own man. He acts solely according to his own inclinations: out of loyalty to a woman he has not forgotten (Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca) or to keep the love of the girl who has succeeded in winning his heart (Lauren Bacall in To Have and To Have Not).


    cherchez la femme

    Walsh had endowed Bogart with humanity in High Sierra; Huston gave him morality and the means to defend himself in The Maltese Falcon; Curtiz in Casablanca, added to these a romantic dimension and a reason for living. At the beginning of the film, Rick, the hero, is shown to have taken refuge behind a mask of cynicism, in keeping with the unscrupulous political climate of wartime Casablanca. The unexpected arrival of the woman he has loved painfully reawakens his emotions, forcing him to renounce his pose of disinterested spectator. The film concludes with the need for commitment, one which concerned not only the hero but the whole of America.

    bogart
    sabrina
    (1954)


    This moral framework reappears in To Have and To Have Not in which the hero, Harry Morgan, is caught between the temptation of detachment and the need to struggle against fascism. But the motives for which Harry finally resolves upon action remain strictly personal. The director Howard Hawks, as was his custom, reduced plot and action to the minimum and emphasized the romantic banter of Bogart and Lauren Bacall. As their on-screen romance became genuine love, Hawks reworked entire sequences day after day to eplore their remarkable chemistry. The narrative thus gives a marvellous impression of authenticity and intimacy, and the film remains one of the highlights of Bogart's career.

    In 1945 Bogart, whose previous wives had been actresses, Helen Menken, Mary Philips and Mayo Methot, married Lauren Bacall, who was then 21 and would be his greatest partner. Since 1943 and the box-office triumph of Casablanca, Bogart had becoe one of the top ten Hollywood stars. The end of the war saw him return to Film Noir. In 1945 he twice played the role of a murderer: opposite Alexis Smith in Conflict and Barbara Stanwyck in The Two Mrs Carrolls. These off-beat performances had only a limited impact in comparison with The Big Sleep (1946), in which Bogart, once more working with Hawks and Bacall, played another mythical detective: Philip Marlowe.


    trouble is his business

    Created by Raymond Chandler in the Thirties, Marlowe was a more romantic character than Spade. More directly implicated in the action, more conscious of the values of which he represented, he was engaged in a quest for 'hidden truth'. Without being a paragon of virtue he had a rigorous conception of honour. No other actor would catch as precisely as Bogart this character's blend of strength and derision, or his equivocal pleasure in venturing down the 'mean streets' and daily facing death.

    bogart
    dead reckoning
    (1947)


    As Bogart himself became a mythical figure he would meet up with replicas of his former self. In Key Largo (1948) Bogart played, opposite Lauren Bacall a role analogous to Leslies Howards's in The Petrified Forest, while Edward G.Robinson played a mean gangster reminiscent of Duke Mantee. There was the same kind of allusive interplay in The Treasure of The Sierra Madre (1948), in which John Huston offered Bogart one of the most unusual roles of his career, as an adventurer on the skids, who sets off in search of gold and meets a squalid death, a victim of his own greed. The casting of Bogart against type,disconcerted audiences when the film was released but, little by little, the actor managed to make himself accepted in character roles.

    The last seven years of his career saw him gradually abandon heroic roles. With the exception of Beat The Devil (1953), in which Huston attempted a parodic approach to Bogart's screen persona, the majority of his films were well received, proving that the actor had established a lasting and authentic relationship with his fans.

    As the producer of his own company, Santana Pictures, Bogart made Knock on any door (1949), a socially conscious film which took a stand against capital punishment. Then, after two conventional action films, Tokyo Joe (1949) and Chain Lightning (1950),he played the part of a disenchanted Hollywood screenwriter who is subject to attacks of murderous violence in Nicholas Ray's In a Lonely Place (1950). In The Enforcer (1951) he was a district attorney up against Murder Inc. Shot in the semi-documentary style typical of Warners, it became a Film Noir classic, particularly remarkable for the complexity of its editing and its powerful scenes of violence.(Twenty years later it was discovered that the film's direction, credited to Bretaigne Windust, was the work of Raoul Walsh.)

    bogart
    african queen
    (1951)


    After the fourth, last and most disappointing film forSantana, Sirocco (1951), Bogart worked with Huston on African Queen (1951).Half comedy of character, half adventure movie, totally and unashamedly implausible, the whole film was constructed on the confrontation of two personalities. Bogart gave one of his most colourful performances as a grouchy alcoholic transformed into a hero by a frigid, devout spinster (Katherine Hepburn) in the throes of her first amorous stirrings. That year the actor received an Oscar, a reward honouring twenty years of a richly successful career. Modestly Bogart declared:

      'I've been around a long time. Maybe the people like me.'

    With Deadline USA (1952), a vibrant plea for freedom of the press, Bogart , with the director Richard Brooks, returned to the democratic inspiration of Key Largo and Knock on any Door. The following year, Brooks cast him in Battle Circus as a sceptical and gruff military doctor, overfond of women and alcohol. In The Caine Mutiny (1954), an ambitious Stanley Kramer production directed by Edward Dmytryk, Bogart took on the part of Captain Queeg, a neuurotic, dictatorial officer forcibly removed from command by his subordinates. The film was an ambiguous reflection on power and responsibility in which the actor created an unusual character role.

    In Billy Wilder's Sabrina (1954) he was the sarcastic heir of a rich family in love with his chauffeur's daughter (Audrey Hepburn). Made in the same year, Joseph L.Mankiewicz's The Barefoot Contessa, one of the most fascinating evocations of the world of Hollywood, definitively made Bogart an outsider,a witness. He plays a film director, Harry Dawes, who watches the dazzling rise to stardom of a Spanish dancer (Ava Gardner) and her tragic involvement with an impotent aristocrat. The narrator and spectator of the action in which he cannot intervene, Dawes is the voice of Mankiewicz himself,the director's disillusioned double who embodies the magic of a vanished Hollywood. The actor's creased serene face and understated performance brought both an exceptional resonance and a poignant sense of authenticity to the subject.

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biography | african queen | casablanca
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humphrey bogart
lauren bacall | michael curtiz | howard hawks
conrad veidt | audrey hepburn | frank capra

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