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Humphrey DeForest Bogart
December 25, 1899
Bogart's father, Belmont, was a cardiopulmonary surgeon. His mother, Maud, was a commercial illustrator who received her art training in New York and France, including study with James McNeill Whistler. Later she became art director of the fashion magazine The Delineator and a militant suffragette.
Humphrey had two younger sisters, Frances ("Pat") and Catherine Elizabeth ("Kay"). His parents were busy in their careers and frequently fought. Very formal, they showed little emotion towards their children. Maud told her offspring to call her "Maud" not "Mother", and showed little if any physical affection for them. When pleased she "[c]lapped you on the shoulder, almost the way a man does", Bogart recalled. "I was brought up very unsentimentally but very straightforwardly. A kiss, in our family, was an event. Our mother and father didn't glug over my two sisters and me."
Bogart attended the private Delancey School until fifth grade, then the prestigious Trinity School. He was an indifferent, sullen student who showed no interest in after-school activities. Later he went to the equally elite boarding school Phillips Academy, where he was admitted based on family connections. His parents hoped he would go on to Yale, but in 1918 Bogart was expelled.
Young, restless and unsure what to make of his life, Bogart enlisted in the United States Navy, only weeks after his dismissal from school, to fight in World War I. He recalled his thinking at the time: "War was great stuff. Paris! French girls! Hot damn! ... The war was a big joke. Death? What does death mean to a kid of 17?" Perhaps the most notable occurrence of Humphrey's naval service was a scar he acquired above the right corner of his upper lip that would later become the defining feature of his tough guy appearance.
Bogart was honorably discharged from the navy in 1919 and faced the question of what to make of his life. A year later, he met a stage actress named Alice Brady who landed him a job as the company manger of a touring production of The Ruined Lady. A year later, in 1921, he made his stage debut as a Japanese waiter in a production of a play called Drifting. Bogart's one line, uttered in his best attempt at a Japanese accent, was "Drinks for my lady and for her most honored guests." Despite his son's miniscule role, upon seeing the show for the first time Bogart's father leaned over and whispered to the person next to him, "The boy's good, isn't he?"
For more than a decade he struggled to get his acting career off the ground, landing only minor roles in shows, then, in 1934, Bogart finally delivered his breakthrough performance in Robert Sherwood's The Petrified Forest. He portrayed Duke Mantee, an escaped killer, and so fully embodied the role of the villain—stooped posture, dangling hands, dead stare—that the audience reportedly let out a gasp of horror the first time he walked on stage. After delivering an equally riveting performance in the film adaptation of The Petrified Forest two years later, Bogart carved out a niche as one of Hollywood's go-to actors to play criminals. His early gangster and crime films included The Great O'Malley (1937), Dead End (1937), Crime School (1938) and King of the Underworld (1939).
Bogart felt limited playing such similar roles in film after film. He managed to break free from typecasting with his portrayal of the smooth, cunning and honorable private eye Sam Spade in the 1941 film noir masterpiece The Maltese Falcon. The film allowed Bogart to prove his versatility as an actor just in time to be cast in the leading role in the 1942 war romance Casablanca.
One of Hollywood's most popular actors in the wake of Casablanca, Bogart continued on to a long and distinguished Hollywood career that included over 80 films. His most celebrated performance after Casablanca came in the 1951 film The African Queen, in which he won his first and only Academy Award for Best Actor. Bogart said after receiving the award, "The best way to survive an Oscar is to never try to win another one. You've seen what happens to some Oscar winners. They spend the rest of their lives turning down scripts while searching for the great role to win another one. Hell, I hope I'm never even nominated again. It's meat-and-potato roles for me from now on."
In 1956, while still in the prime of his career, Bogart was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Surgery failed to remove the cancerous growth, and Bogart passed away on January 14, 1957. He was 57 years old.
The Petrified Forest
The Great O'Malley
Angels With Dirty Faces
King of the Underworld
The Oklahoma Kid
The Roaring Twenties
The Maltese Falcon
Passage to Marseille
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
In a Lonely Place
The African Queen
The Caine Mutiny