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Humphrey Bogart, Hollywood Tough Guy

Updated on January 12, 2015

Tough guy with a soft center

Humphrey Bogart, for many people throughout the world, will always be the ultimate screen actor whose position as the greatest Hollywood movie tough guy of them all is secure.

His film characters such as Sam Spade, Rick Blaine, Duke Mantee and Fred C. Dobbs, to name a few, have become woven into the fabric of Western culture.  He became famous for portrayals of tender-hearted heroes with tough and cynical exteriors.

In 1952 he won an Academy Award for The African Queen.

Early Years

Humphrey Bogart was born Humphrey DeForest Bogart in New York City on December 25, 1899. Some sources list Bogart's birth date as 23 January 1899, believing that studio executives moved the date to Christmas Day for publicity purposes.

His mother was Maud Humphrey, a noted illustrator and artist, and his father DeForest Bogart, a prosperous Manhattan surgeon.

He was educated at Trinity School, NYC, and sent to Phillips Academy in Andover in preparation for medical studies at Yale. But failing grades and a supposed incidence of irreverence to a faculty member led to his expulsion and in the spring of 1918 he joined the U.S. Navy. It was during his naval stint that he got his trademark scar and developed his characteristic lisp although there are conflicting accounts of how this happened.

Early Career

From 1920 to 1922, he managed a stage company owned by family friend William S. Brady, performing a variety of tasks at Brady's film studio in New York. After this, he began regular stage performances. Alexander Woollcott described his acting in a 1922 play as "inadequate".

Bogart got plenty of stage work throughout the '20s in a number of antiquated drawing room comedies and dramas playing mainly callow juveniles and romantic second leads.

During this time, Helen Menken, a renowned stage actress of the day, became smitten with Bogart. More out of advancement for his career than out of love, Bogart decided to marry Menken in 1926, but not surprisingly, the union lasted less than a year.

Bogart the Romantic Lead
With Patricia Calvert in 1924

Bogart's second wife, Mary Philips, was also stage actress. Bogart and Mary first met through mutual friends in 1923, and during their relationship they worked together in several theater productions, including Nerves and The Skyrocket. They married in April 1928.

Discouraged by his lack of progress on Broadway, Bogart headed west in 1930 hoping his luck would change in films. Since talkies were still in their infancy, the studios were eagerly importing stage actors with crisp voices, a situation which helped Bogart land a contract with Fox Film Corp. His first feature film was a forgotten failure called "The Devil With Women." After two more dismal pictures, Fox released Bogart from his contract and he began making the rounds at Columbia, Universal and Warner Brothers, where he landed roles in several more forgettable films. Mary meanwhile was still in New York, where her stage success was their chief means of support.

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After starring in a number of stage productions, as well as several minor screen roles, Bogart's breakthrough part was just around the corner. In 1934, producer-director Arthur Hopkins contacted him about a part in Robert Sherwood's The Petrified Forest. Hopkins had Bogart try out for the part of Duke Mantee, an escaped killer who holds a handful of customers captive in a gas station. Duke Mantee's persona was much different than the pretty-boy roles Bogart was used to playing, and but it was in this new realm that Bogart's talent shone through

Bogey in characteristic pose, with the inevitable cigarette, hangdog expression, perennial five-o'clock shadow, signifying the world-weary cynic, the staid, self-reliant individualist who was at heart a moral, even sentimental human being.

Rise to Stardom

Mary Philips refused to give up her Broadway career to come to Hollywood with Bogart, and soon they were divorced.

On August 21, 1938, Bogart entered into a disastrous third marriage, with Mayo Methot, a lively, friendly woman when sober, but a paranoid when drunk. She was convinced that her husband was cheating on her. The more she and Bogart drifted apart, the more she drank, got furious and threw things at him: plants, crockery, anything close at hand. Bogart sometimes returned fire, and the press dubbed them "the Battling Bogarts."

The studio system, then in its heyday, largely restricted actors to one studio, and Warner Bros. had no interest in making Bogart a star. Shooting on a new movie might begin days or only hours after shooting on the previous one was completed. Any actor who refused a role could be suspended without pay. Bogart didn't like the roles chosen for him, but he worked steadily: between 1936 and 1940, Bogart averaged a movie every two months.

Bogart was looking for variety and the chance to prove his versatility. In 1940, he readily accepted the leading role in the screenplay adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's novel The Maltese Falcon.

It was a perfect fit. Bogart's flawless delivery of private eye Sam Spade, portrayed with an exciting mix of cunning, sexuality and honor, made Hollywood and the world of movies stand up and take notice.

Casablanca and Superstardom

Bogart had once again defined his career as an actor, and he now got his first real romantic lead playing Rick Blaine, the nightclub owner in the romantic war drama, Casablanca. Directors engaged talented beauty Ingrid Bergman as Bogart's co-star, and watched (amid a flurry of writers and revisions) as the story naturally metamorphosed through the last day of shooting. The result was a movie that still vies for the best picture ever made. Released on January 23, 1943, it captivated audiences everywhere. Casablanca won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Screenplay and Best Director, and received nominations in five other categories, including Bogart for Best Actor.


                                 Classic Poster for a Classic Film

The enormous success of Casablanca redefined Bogart's career. For the first time, Bogart could be cast successfully as a tough, strong man and, at the same time, as a vulnerable love interest. From 1943 to 1955, Bogart starred in many other films that reflected his diverse talent as an actor. In addition to being offered better, more diverse roles, he started his own production company in 1949 called Santana Productions, named after his private sailing yacht.

We'll always have Paris

Only Bogart's fourth marriage, to Lauren Bacall ("Baby"), was a happy one. They met while filming To Have and Have Not. Betty's self confidence and dedicated work ethic matched Bogart's, and her warm, nurturing manner complimented his softer side nicely. Bogart's connection with Betty gave him the final push he needed to end the ailing marriage with Mayo. Their divorce was final on May 10, 1945, and Bogart and Betty were married less than two weeks later on May 21 in Lucas, Ohio.

On January 6, 1949, Lauren Bacall gave birth to a son, Stephen Humphrey Bogart, making Bogart a father at 49. Three years later, daughter Leslie Howard was born to complete the family.

In 1952, Bogart once again redefined acting parameters when he starred in The African Queen with Katharine Hepburn. He won an Academy Award for Best Actor, beating out Marlon Brando's nomination for A Streetcar Named Desire.

Following the success of The African Queen, Bogart starred in several other notable movies, including Sabrina, Beat the Devil and The Caine Mutiny. Unfortunately, in 1957, his amazing career was cut short.

Bogart, a heavy smoker and drinker, contracted cancer of the esophagus. He almost never spoke of it and refused to see a doctor until January of 1956, and by then removal of his esophagus, two lymph nodes and a rib was too little, too late.

Bogart had just turned 57 and weighed only 80 pounds (36 kg) when he died on January 14, 1957 after falling into a coma. He died in Hollywood.


John Huston gave the eulogy at the funeral. He reminded the gathered mourners that while Bogart's life had ended far too soon, it had been a rich one.

Bogart's accomplishments have made him a worldwide icon. Many actors, such as Jean-Paul Belmondo, were deeply influenced by his work and image, while India's great national movie star, Ashok Kumar, listed Bogart as a major influence on his "natural" acting style.

We owe him a great debt. As John Huston said at the funeral, "He is quite irreplaceable. There will never be another like him."

He was, throughout his life, steadfast in his pursuit of excellence. Appearing in over 75 films, spanning 26 years, Bogart left an indelible mark on American cinema and on all our lives. Whether portraying ex-con, war hero, detective or more offbeat characters, Bogart presented a romantic appeal of immense proportions, an appeal that has remained powerful with subsequent generations of moviegoers while other box office star images of the golden age have faded.

"I should never have switched from scotch to martinis." Is said to be Bogart's last words. A legend, indeed.

Bogie Basics

Birth Name: Humphrey DeForest Bogart

Nicknames: Bogie, Bogey

Birth Date: December 25, 1899

Birth Place: New York, New York

Death Date: January 14,1957

Death Place: At his home in Holmby Hills, California

Burial Location: Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California; ashes kept at the Garden of Memory

Height: 5'8"

Eye Color: Brown

Hair Color: Brown

Hobbies: golf, sailing, chess

Hollywood Walk of Fame: Star is located at 6322 Hollywood Blvd

Parents: Maude Humphrey and Belmont DeForest Bogart

Siblings: Two younger sisters, Frances and Kay

Married: Helen Menken (m. 1926 - d.1927), Mary Philips (m.1928 - d. 1937), Mayo Methot (m. 1938 - d. 1945), Betty Joan Perske a.k.a. Lauren Bacall (m.1945 - w.1957 )

Children: (Bacall) Stephen Humphrey and Leslie Howard

Reader Feedback

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    • aaxiaa lm profile image

      aaxiaa lm 

      4 years ago

      Well, who hasn't seen Casablanca... Great lens!

    • Montecristodog profile image


      5 years ago

      Bogart was truly one of a kind. I liked him with the Dead End Kids in Dead End. On Angels with Dirty faces, he and James Cagney were great. Plenty of action and good drama!

    • profile image

      Auntie-M LM 

      6 years ago

      Bogie was such a softie. I don't think he could play a really bad guy. Just loved him.

    • Mistalina profile image


      6 years ago

      Fantastic tribute!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Terrific lens. I'm now so in the mood for a Humphrey Bogart movie. Here's a quote I read in The Bathroom Reader from the guy who owned a bar that Bogart frequented: "Bogart's allright until about eleven o'clock each night. After that, he think's he's Bogart." All the best.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Awesome tribute to Bogart!

    • JeanJohnson LM profile image

      JeanJohnson LM 

      7 years ago

      just stopped by you website, i never knew he was married to lauren bacall, pretty amazing stuff.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      His Salary

      Sabrina (1954) $300,000

      Deadline - U.S.A. (1952) $17,500/week

      The African Queen (1951) $125,000 + 30% of gross

      Sirocco (1951) $133,000 + % of gross

      Two Guys from Milwaukee (1946) $5,000

      To Have and Have Not (1944) $2,750/week

      Casablanca (1942) $2,200/week

      Men Are Such Fools (1938) $1,100/week

      Swing Your Lady (1938) $1,000/week

      The Petrified Forest (1936) $750/week

      Three on a Match (1932) $750/week

      Up the River (1930) $400/week

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Great stuff! I'm a big fan of old school tough guys as you can see at my How to Be a Tough Guy lens. 5 stars!

    • Classic LM profile image

      Classic LM 

      11 years ago

      Hello Yet another superlativus lens! Thanks for submitting it to Hollywood Stars and Starlets. 5*s rating, of course! If you have time, please visit my lenses. Thanks and enjoy your day!


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