b. December 25 1899, New York City, U.S.
d. January 14 1957, Los Angeles, California, U.S.

Humphrey DeForest Bogart, arguably the first true anti-hero of the cinema, was born on Christmas Day in 1899 in New York City. Bogart’s father, Belmont DeForest Bogart, was a surgeon, while his mother, Maud Humphrey, was a commercial artist who was quite successful in her career. When Bogart was just an infant, his mother put him in baby food advertisements, and he was teased about the illustrations that his mother used of him, which were designed to make him look like the world’s most adorable child. 

Although his mother and father were rather cold and undemonstrative in their upbringing of Humphrey and his two younger sisters, Frances and Katherine Elizabeth, the family income was quite high for the era at roughly $70,000 per year, which would translate into more than $2.3 million annually in 2023 purchasing power. This salary allowed the Bogarts to live in luxury. However, his mother’s work as an artist received more remuneration than his father’s surgical practice, leading to friction at home. 

Bogart was sent to a succession of prestigious schools, including Trinity School and the Phillips Academy. He did poorly in his early academic career and left the Phillips Academy after just one semester, after failing four of his six courses. His parents hoped that Bogart would go on to Yale University, but with his poor grades, that was now out of the question. With no clear direction, Bogart signed on to the United States Navy in 1918, serving in Europe with distinction, and left the service in June 1919. 

When he returned home, he discovered that the family’s fortunes had seriously declined. His father was now ill, and much of the family’s money had been lost in bad investments. Bogart worked as a shipping clerk and other odd jobs until he drifted into the theatre and began working as a stage manager and bit player. He found that he liked the work, claiming that it was a “soft racket” that allowed him to spend much of his time in speakeasies between shows. Refusing to take acting lessons, Bogart learned by acting in as many shows as he could, taking whatever role was available. 

He often turned up as a young juvenile, whether a minor love interest or an “anyone for tennis?” second lead, and began to receive favourable notice for his work, although he later maintained that he despised his early roles. During this period, he also found time to get married twice: first to actor Helen Menken (1926–1927) and then to actor Mary Philips (1928–1937). The marriage to Menken was over before it started, but Philips and Bogart remained friends even after their divorce, which was caused by Bogart’s move to Hollywood while Philips wanted to remain in New York and do stage work.

When Broadway dried up after the 1929 crash, Bogart began to seriously move into the film industry, which at the time was located in both Long Island and Hollywood. With their immaculate diction, Broadway actors were in demand in the early talking picture era. Bogart made his first New York film, Edmund Lawrence’s The Dancing Town, in 1928. This two-reel short shot in Long Island starred Helen Hayes, with Bogart being billed as “man in doorway at [the] dance.” This was followed by a more substantial role in Murray Roth’s one-reel film Broadway’s Like That (1929), a Vitaphone short shot in New York with Ruth Etting and Joan Blondell. 

As it was clear that the film industry was moving west, Bogart dutifully took a train to Hollywood, still uncertain as to what he would do once he arrived in the film capital. His Broadway credentials opened some doors, and he soon signed with Fox Films for a respectable $750 per week salary. He made his theatrical feature debut with Irving Cummings’ The Devil with Women (1930), a turgid melodrama featuring Bogart as a soldier of fortune stranded in South America and co-starring Victor McLaglen. But matters improved considerably with Bogart’s next assignment: John Ford’s prison drama Up the River (1930), also for Fox Films, starring Spencer Tracy and with Bogart getting a sizable role and fourth billing in the credits. 

Tracy and Bogart hit it off, but while Tracy rapidly moved on to better roles, Bogart faced a long slog to the top, with such films as Alfred Santell’s World War I drama Body and Soul (1931) and a bit part in Hobart Henley’s Bad Sister (1931) for Universal, opposite a very young Bette Davis. Many more films followed, all with Bogart in minor roles, such as Raoul Walsh’s Women of All Nations (1931), Irving Cummings’ revenge western A Holy Terror (1931), both for Fox; Thornton Freeland’s Love Affair (1932), for Columbia; and Mervyn LeRoy’s interesting Manhattan drama Big City Blues (1932) and LeRoy’s bizarre Three on a Match (1932), both for Warner Bros. In the last film, Bogart plays a hard-core gangster willing to order the murder of a young kidnapped child to avoid arrest (the child escapes when his mother, played by Ann Dvorak, intentionally plunges to her death from a nearby window, thereby alerting the police below). For me, Three on a Match affords the viewer the first real taste of Bogart as an unregenerate hoodlum; although his part is small, he makes every screen moment count.

In addition to his Hollywood work, Bogart often returned to the East Coast to appear on Broadway whenever parts dried up in Los Angeles. In 1935, he got the part he had been waiting for: Duke Mantee, a gangster on the run, in Robert E. Sherwood’s play The Petrified Forest. British actor Leslie Howard was the star of the play, but Bogart’s menacing portrayal of Mantee electrified audiences and changed the course of Bogart’s life forever. As Bogart later put it, the role of Duke Mantee “marked my deliverance from the ranks of the sleek, sybaritic, stiff-shirted, swallow-tailed ‘smoothies’ to which I seemed condemned to life.”1

Petrified Forest

Warner Bros. promptly bought the film rights to Sherwood’s play, casting Bette Davis, Leslie Howard, and Edward G. Robinson, who desperately wanted the part of Duke Mantee. Yet Howard had final cast approval and was deeply impressed with Bogart’s portrayal of Duke Mantee, so he sent Jack Warner, the head of production at Warner Bros., a terse telegram that changed Bogart’s life forever: “ATT. JACK WARNER INSIST BOGART PLAY MANTEE NO BOGART NO DEAL L.H.”2 The die was thus cast, and Bogart began his long and often fractious association with Warner Bros. and Warner, who would become one of Bogart’s bitterest enemies as the years rolled on. Archie Mayo’s film The Petrified Forest (1936) opened to universal acclaim, and Bogart’s career was truly launched.

Still, Bogart endured a tough road to the top, as Warner Bros. was in no hurry to promote Bogart to “A” status, despite his hit with The Petrified Forest. Bogart signed a 26-week contract for $550 per week3 — less than he had made as a freelancer on Forest — and was immediately cast as a second lead in a seemingly endless series of “B” films. Warner Bros. had a well-deserved reputation as the toughest major studio in Hollywood, and contract players often worked on two or three films simultaneously. There was a tremendous need for product in the 1930s and 1940s, and Warner Bros. had limited star power at its disposal, unlike the “more stars than there are in Heaven” that MGM, for example, could claim. In the “tough guy” category, Warner Bros. had James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, and George Raft already under contract, so Bogart wound up as a second or third stringer to the stars in such films as William Keighley’s Bullets or Ballots (1936), William McGann’s newspaper drama Two Against The World (1936), Ray Enright’s China Clipper (1936), and Frank McDonald’s Island of Fury (1936). 

He finally got a break as the star of Archie Mayo’s brutal anti-KKK drama Black Legion (1937), which became one of the high points of Bogart’s early career. That such a film was even made at this point in cinema history is more than a little surprising. Although the film does not name the Klan directly, the similarity between the Black Legion in the film and the Klan is obvious. Bogart plays Frank Taylor, a decent sort of fellow who works in a factory but finds his path to promotion blocked when a Polish factory worker, Joe Dombrowski (Henry Brandon), gets the job Frank had coveted.

Black Legion

Furious, Frank joins the robed and hooded Black Legion and is soon going on midnight raids with the Legion, terrorizing foreign-born citizens. Frank’s wife Ruth (Erin O’Brien Moore) becomes suspicious, but when she confronts him, Frank hits her, and she leaves with their son. When his best friend, Ed Jackson (Dick Foran), finds out about Frank’s clandestine activities, Frank panics and tells the Legion officers, who abduct Ed and take him into the forest to flog him. Ed tries to escape, but Frank shoots and kills him. Eventually Frank is caught and goes on trial. Only when his “superiors” in the Legion threaten to drag his wife into the trial does Frank confess to his crimes; as a result, Frank and rest of the Legion members are sentenced to life in prison. 

After Black Legion, it was back to the bread-and-butter pictures for Bogart, including William Dieterle’s The Great O’Malley (1937), Lloyd Bacon’s Marked Woman (1937), Michael Curtiz’s Kid Galahad (1937), and Bacon’s San Quentin (1937). He then had another breakthrough with William Wyler’s Dead End (1937), a loan-out to Samuel Goldwyn and not a Warner Bros. film. Like The Petrified Forest, the film had a stage pedigree, being based on Sidney Kingsley’s 1935 hit Broadway play of the same name, although Bogart was not part of the play’s original cast. Filmed on one gigantic set, juxtaposing the very rich of New York City with the very poor (the rich live in an imposing skyscraper, guarded by a hard-as-nails doorman [Ward Bond], while the poor live in squalor in nearby tenements), the film is a brutal and despairing study of social inequality. 

As Baby Face Martin, another gangster on the run, Bogart wants to return to his roots on the East Side of Manhattan with his pal Hunk (Allen Jenkins) for sentimental reasons, but discovers that his former girlfriend Francie (Claire Trevor) has become a sex worker, and his ailing mother (Marjorie Main) no longer wants anything to do with him. Furious at this turn of events, Martin decides to kidnap a local rich boy for the ransom, which ends in tragedy for all concerned. A uniquely downbeat film for an “A” project, Dead End was nevertheless a solid hit, and Bogart once again attracted favourable notices in a prestige project.

Meanwhile, the other films Bogart was making showed no sign of improvement. Tay Garnett’s Stand-In (1937), a comedy about the Hollywood dream factory, reunited Bogart with Leslie Howard (Howard the star of the film; Bogart in support), yet the film failed to live up its potential. Ray Enright’s Swing Your Lady (1938) is — believe it or not — a hillbilly wrestling comedy starring Bogart as a promoter who tries to bring pugilism to the Ozarks in the person of Joe Skopapoulos (Nat Pendleton), a dim-witted wrestler who wants to take on a local blacksmith in the ring. 

Lewis Seiler’s Crime School (1938) features Bogart as a crusading prison official seeking to overturn the brutal administration of Morgan (Cy Kendall) in a boy’s reformatory. Busby Berkeley’s Men Are Such Fools (1938) is a trifling romance with Priscilla Lane. Anatole Litvak’s The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938) is a mildly amusing crime comedy with Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, and Claire Trevor. Lloyd Bacon’s Racket Busters (1938) is another routine crime film, with Bogart cast as Pete Martin, the supposed kingpin of crime in New York City. Michael Curtiz’s Angels With Dirty Faces (1938), one of Bogart’s better programmers during this period, features Bogart, Cagney, and Pat O’Brien in yet another story of crime on the lower East Side of Manhattan. In 1938, Bogart also married for the third time to contract player Mayo Methot, whom he first met on the set of Marked Woman. This marriage would cost him dearly in the years to come, as Methot’s alcoholism spiralled out of control, leading to a seemingly non-stop series of violent battles, infidelities, accusations, and recriminations. 

Bogart’s “B” assignments continued unabated during this time. Lewis Seiler’s King of the Underworld (1939) was a gangster quickie that Warner Bros. made to end the contract of their former star Kay Francis, whose position at the studio had been eclipsed by the rise of Bette Davis. All too predictably, Bogart plays a gangster on the run. To add insult to injury, Warner Bros. then cast Bogart in Lloyd Bacon’s western The Oklahoma Kid (1939), which is what one would expect from a “B” western, although Warner Bros. then threw Bogart a bone with the production of Edmund Goulding’s Dark Victory (1939). The film was a showcase for Bette Davis as Judith Traherne, a wealthy young socialite going blind from a brain tumour, with Bogart cast as stable hand Michael O’Leary, who offers guidance to Judith and is secretly in love with her. The film is an excellent piece of work, but Bogart’s role is strictly peripheral and offered no career advancement. 

Lewis Seiler’s You Can’t Get Away with Murder (1939) is yet another routine gangster film, and even Raoul Walsh’s The Roaring Twenties (1939), with higher production values and a better script than many of Bogart’s 1930s films, offered the actor little respite from gangster roles, as he supports Cagney, who — in the final reel of the film — shoots Bogart’s character to death. “This is one rap you won’t beat!” Cagney yells as he pumps bullets into a cringing Bogart, once again consigned to a violent end. 

Matters deteriorated even further when Bogart was cast in the only horror film of his career, Vincent Sherman’s The Return of Dr. X (1939), as a vampire who works as a lab assistant. In the film, Bogart is often seen petting a rabbit when not draining the local populace of blood. Astonishingly, Bogart isn’t even given top billing here, playing support to second string lead Wayne Morris and veteran character actor John Litel. Lloyd Bacon’s Invisible Stripes (1939) paired Bogart with George Raft as two ex-cons trying to go straight, with (not surprisingly) little success. Michael Curtiz’s Virginia City (1940) is an Errol Flynn western in which Bogart, clad from head to toe in black, plays the requisite “heavy” role.

The Return of Dr. X 

Lewis Seiler’s It All Came True (1940) is yet another forgettable crime drama, as is Lloyd Bacon’s Brother Orchid (1940), with Edward G. Robinson and Bogart essentially going through the motions in a predictable script. Matters improved slightly with Raoul Walsh’s suitably hardboiled drama They Drive by Night (1940), with Bogart and George Raft playing brothers who run a small trucking company and get tangled up in a romance with Ann Sheridan, but still, it was nothing new for the actor, who was really chafing at the bit at this point. 

Then something happened that changed everything overnight. Paul Muni had been a mainstay at Warner Bros. for decades and originated one of the great gangster roles in Howard Hawks’ Scarface (1932), produced by Howard Hughes. Although he’d delivered many hits for the studio in the past, Muni was now trying to throw his weight around, yet Jack Warner felt that Muni’s career was on the downswing. Muni impulsively tore up his contract and left the studio, which gave Bogart — at last — an opening to the top tier of the studio’s talent roster. Cagney was his own person; he was well liked and respected in the business and was not to be pushed around. Edward G. Robinson was seen has having peaked in his career, so he was not someone to be promoted as a new face. This left only George Raft, who was constantly turning down one role after another with the flat explanation that “I refuse to play a heavy.” Never much of an actor, Raft was better known for his ties to organized crime, particularly to “Bugsy” Siegel, a notorious gangster who was trying to muscle in on Hollywood at the time. 

When Raoul Walsh was given the script of High Sierra (1941) to shoot, Raft campaigned for the role, but Bogart talked him out of it, telling him it was just another “heavy” role in which the character, Roy Earle, wound up being shot to death by the authorities. That was enough for Raft, who flatly refused to play the part. Bogart was thrilled, as was Walsh. Now they could make a good film. Moreover, with Muni out of the picture, the word came down that finally — finally — the studio would begin to promote Bogart as a top-ranked star.4 However, some studio brass still resisted the build-up campaign, as Bogart would find out. 

High Sierra was an intelligent film for a change, with a narrative depth not usually found in crime films. Although Bogart does play the criminal Roy “Mad Dog” Earle planning a robbery of a resort hotel with a band of rank amateurs (indeed, the enterprise seems doomed from the start), there are several emotional detours along the way. Roy falls in love with a young woman, Velma (Joan Leslie), who has a clubfoot. Roy pays for her surgery, but then finds that Velma has fallen in love with another man and has no interest in him. At the same time, Roy must contend with Marie (Ida Lupino), the girlfriend of one of Roy’s henchmen, who gradually insinuates herself into the group. When the robbery goes wrong and two of his men are killed in the process, Roy, who has now fallen for Marie, puts her on a bus out of town. Apprehended by the police, Marie is forced to join the dragnet for Roy, who has fled into the mountains. When Roy’s dog Pard (Bogart’s own pet dog, named Zero) locates him and accidentally reveals his hiding place to the police, Roy impulsively runs out to call for Marie, but is instantly cut down by gunfire, and his body falls down the steep incline. 

High Sierra

Directed with intensity by Walsh and taking advantage of a good deal of location shooting for added realism, High Sierra was another step in the right direction in Bogart’s still struggling career. However, there was one problem: astoundingly, Bogart didn’t receive top billing. Instead, Ida Lupino got the nod, and Bogart wasn’t happy about it. This was the work of Hal Wallis, then Jack Warner’s second in command, who sent Warner this damning query:

Don’t you think we ought to reverse the billing on High Sierra, and instead of billing Bogart first, bill Lupino first? [. . .] Bogart has been playing leads in a lot of “B” pictures, and that might mitigate against the success of High Sierra. The billing has just gone through with Bogart’s name first, and I think we ought to reverse it.5 

When word of the change reached Bogart on the set towards the end of filming, he was none too pleased. Bogart knew that Lupino had nothing to do with the memo, but he still took it out on her, becoming verbally abusive on the set. But there was little either could do. They were, after all, like all Hollywood contract stars at time: essentially indentured servants. In the end, the film was a massive hit, and Bogart’s performance attracted a great deal of public attention. 

After this success, it was back to the “B” films for Bogart with Ray Enright’s circus drama The Wagons Roll at Night (1941), in which Bogart was cast as Nick Coster, the proprietor of a traveling circus. Yet when the film came out, audiences felt cheated. After High Sierra, they expected more than a big top melodrama. Bogart was then assigned to shoot Raoul Walsh’s Manpower (1941), but George Raft refused to work with him, and the role went to Edward G. Robinson, who got into a real-life fistfight with Raft on the set of the film that was duly documented by a visiting Life Magazine photographer. Then came yet another chance at solid “A” status, with The Maltese Falcon (1941), John Huston’s first film as a director. Once again, Raft was offered the role first; once again, he turned it down, which thrilled Huston, who later said, “I rejoiced.”6

The Maltese Falcon

Much has been written about The Maltese Falcon, a modest film with a $318,000 budget and a tight shooting schedule. With Bogart as Sam Spade, Dashiell Hammett’s famed fictional private eye, and a solid ensemble cast, including Sydney Greenstreet in his first film role, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, and professional movie “fall guy” Elisha Cook Jr. in a small but pivotal role, the film was a tightly wound mystery, with one double cross after another. The film climaxes in a final sequence in Spade’s apartment with all the principals that ran 35 solid pages of nothing but dialogue. Huston requested — and got — one full day of rehearsal before shooting the sequence, which paid off. The film was finished in 34 days, two days ahead of schedule, and under budget.7 There were some retakes, of course, but the film opened to rave reviews — so much so that Jack Warner briefly thought of contacting Dashiell Hammett to see if he could write a sequel. Thankfully, those plans were dropped.8 

One would think that, after the excellent reviews for The Maltese Falcon, Bogart would finally get a break, but no. Even as he was shooting retakes for Falcon, he was given his next assignment, Vincent Sherman’s All Through the Night (1942), a bizarre comedy/espionage/crime film in which a group of New York City gangsters confound the espionage plans of the Third Reich. The film ends with an extended “double talk” sequence between Bogart and character actor William Demarest, as two gangsters disrupting a meeting of the German American Bund, and almost comes off as vaudeville, shot on deeply unconvincing interior “exterior” sets. After that, Bogart was pushed into Lewis Seiler’s The Big Shot (1942), yet another prison crime film, and then into John Huston’s Across the Pacific (1942), a sort of Maltese Falcon “reunion film” that reunited Sydney Greenstreet, Mary Astor, and Bogart in a tale of wartime espionage.

The Maltese Falcon

Huston directed the bulk of Across the Pacific shortly before he joined the Army Service Forces Signal Corps, and left the film unfinished (the final scenes of the film were directed by studio veteran Vincent Sherman). The end result, though highly improbable, clicked with audiences as a solid wartime action film. More importantly, it finally impressed Jack Warner, who had seemingly been blind to Bogart’s box office appeal. After watching an audience preview of Across the Pacific in Washington, D.C., Warner cabled the publicity department that, henceforth, Bogart was to be treated like the star he was. Warner’s telegram read, in part, 


This was supposedly the studio’s frame of mind when Bogart was given the film that would become one of his most iconic projects: Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca (1943). Although George Raft was again initially considered for the role of Rick Blaine, café owner and professional loner, for which he campaigned, Hal Wallis and Michael Curtiz were against the idea. Wallis told Jack Warner, 

I have thought over very carefully the matter of George Raft in Casablanca, and I have discussed this with Mike [Curtiz], and we both feel he should not be in the picture. Bogart is ideal for it, and it is being written to him, and I think we should forget Raft for this property. Incidentally, [Raft] hasn’t done a picture here since I was a little boy, and I don’t think he should be able to put his fingers on just what he wants to do when he wants to do it.10

Originally titled Everybody Comes to Rick’s, Casablanca was sort of a dark horse for Warner Bros. Although it moved swiftly through production under Curtiz’s assured hand, having Bogart, Greenstreet, Lorre, Claude Rains, Paul Henreid, and Dooley Wilson as well as the luminous Ingrid Bergman in the cast (on loan from David O. Selznick) made it a complex project from beginning to end. When the Allies invaded Africa, the film became unexpectedly topical, and Warner Bros. rushed it into release. A perfect blend of fantasy and patriotism, the film won the Academy Award for Best Picture at the 1944 Oscars as well as Best Director for Curtiz and Best Adapted Screenplay for Hollywood veterans Julius J. and Philip G. Epstein. And it was an important film for Bogart, as well; it marked his first nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actor. 

For once, Bogart’s follow-up to this film was worthy of his talents: Lloyd Bacon’s Action in the North Atlantic (1943, with uncredited assists from Raoul Walsh and Byron Haskin) is one of the great films to come out of World War II. The story focuses on the Merchant Marine service during the war, which shipped desperately needed supplies of men and armaments overseas in treacherous shipping lanes routinely patrolled by Nazi submarines. Bogart is cast as seaman Joe Rossi, a typical working-class guy under the command of Captain Steve Jarvis, played with typical authority by Raymond Massey. The highlight of the film is a lengthy submarine chase between the Sea Witch, the Liberty ship commanded by Captain Jarvis, and a Nazi U-Boat, captained by an unnamed officer played by Wilhelm von Bricken, who in real life was a German spy during World War I. The German submarine crew speaks only in German throughout the film, with no subtitles or “German English” dialogue. The result is a relentless, pulse-pounding game of cat and mouse that stands as one of the best war films of the early 1940s.

Action in the North Atlantic

After playing a bit part as himself in David Butler’s wartime musical cavalcade Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943), a desert fighter in Zoltan Korda’s Sahara (1943) on loan out to Columbia, and a French freedom fighter in Michael Curtiz’s Passage to Marseille (1944), Bogart and his wife Mayo both appeared in a Red Cross campaign short, after arriving in North Africa on December 11, 1943, to start a three-month tour entertaining American troops.11 The short film was distributed to theatres by the National Screen Service, with Bogart directly asking the audience members to donate to the Red Cross. But Bogart’s marriage to Mayo had been unravelling for a long time, and her volcanic rages, coupled by her chronic alcoholism, left Bogart unsure of what to do next. That problem was solved with the production of Howard Hawks’ To Have and Have Not (1944), based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway, which cast him opposite Hawks’ latest discovery, Lauren Bacall, who was just 19 years old at the time. Bogart was still married to Mayo Methot, who always kept a close eye on Bogart’s leading ladies, even coming to the set on occasion to watch love scenes lest they become too “hot.” But with Bacall, Mayo could only watch as Bogart and Bacall fell madly in love, which was evident to everyone on the set.

To Have and Have Not

Hawks, for his part, was furious. Bacall was his discovery, his protégé, and falling in love with Bogart was not part of his plan for her career. Taking her aside, Hawks threatened to drop her from the film and send her back to the bottom of the studio system (in this case, “B” film factory Monogram Pictures) unless she swore off the budding romance with her co-star. Instead, Bacall went to Bogart, who calmed her down and then reamed out Hawks the next day on the set — something the dictatorial director was not accustomed to. Yet despite the personal antagonisms, the film was soon finished, making an instant star out of Bacall (the notorious and influential gossip columnist Walter Winchell devoted an entire column to her entitled “Bacall of the Wild”). The situation also offered Bogart a way out of his marriage with Mayo, which by now had become intolerable.

Bogart’s next film, Curtis Bernhardt’s Conflict (1945), was another project Bogart tried unsuccessfully to back out of as early as May 6, 1943, when he received a lengthy telephone call from Jack Warner himself, alternately threatening him with suspension (which was nothing new to Bogart, who had gone on suspension a number of times to avoid appearing in second-rate material) and trying to flatter him into accepting the role.12 Near the end of the call, Bogart told Warner “to burn up this script and forget it,” but Warner was adamant, and eventually Bogart made the film. In Conflict, he plays a supposedly happily married man who murders his wife (Rose Hobart) so he can woo her younger sister (Alexis Smith), but is tripped up by his own sense of guilt and is finally brought to justice. As Behlmer dryly notes of the result, “it is not generally recognized as one of his better films.”13  

After two cameos as himself in William Russell’s short film Hollywood Victory Caravan (1945) and David Butler’s feature length Two Guys from Milwaukee (1946), Bogart was assigned to one of the signature films of his career: Howard Hawks’ The Big Sleep (1945/46), based on the novel by Raymond Chandler. Bogart played Philip Marlowe, Chandler’s famous detective caught in a web of murder and intrigue as he tries to untangle a blackmail scheme aimed at the wealthy Sternwood family. Once again, his leading lady was Lauren Bacall.

The Big Sleep

By now, Bogart’s situation at home had become impossible. Drinking more heavily than usual, Bogart began missing workdays as his romance with Bacall blossomed, while his nonstop fights with Mayo blossomed into a full-scale nightmare. Hawks, who was none too fond of Bogart at this point and still outraged by the Bacall/Bogart romance, was forced to spend several days on the set trying to tell Bogart that, unless he shaped up, the film might not be finished. This time, it wasn’t an idle threat. 

The film had a lengthy shoot, and Bogart’s absences were becoming a real problem. The unit put in a full workday on December 23, 1944, but on Tuesday December 26, when the cast reassembled for work, Bogart was nowhere to be found. It was Christmas, of course, and his birthday. He was now 45 years old and stuck in a marriage that was clearly circling the drain, yet Mayo would not divorce him. Bogart had long since moved out of their home and was living in a room at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, desperate and alone. Left without companionship, he went on an epic drinking binge. When the studio sent a group of staffers out looking for him, they discovered that Bogart had left the hotel to confront Mayo at their home. The studio seriously considered sending Bogart to a psychiatrist, leaving Hawks nothing to shoot. As usual, Jack Warner was unimpressed by the drama, sending Bogart a telegram that read “THANKS FOR NOT SHOWING UP TODAY.”14 Warner then began harassing Hawks for not keeping the situation under control, which further annoyed the director. 

When Bogart finally got back to the set, Hawks pushed through the script with fury, literally ripping pages out of the script to keep moving. On December 29, 1944, the film was a full 30 days behind schedule, with no end in sight, but Hawks kept pounding away at the script, shooting whatever he could. Finally, on January 13, 1945, the film “wrapped” (at least for the moment), after 76 shooting days — 34 days more the expected 42-day schedule. Despite all the problems on set, the film was still only $50,000 over budget,15 yet retakes were being considered to make some sense out of the film, whose already convoluted narrative had become impossibly labyrinthine due to Hawks’ revisions and Chandler’s admittedly complex narrative. 

In the meantime, another problem had arisen in Bogart and Bacall’s nascent relationship. Right after her work in The Big Sleep, Bacall had been rushed into Herman Shumlin’s Confidential Agent (1945), an espionage thriller set during the Spanish Civil War, playing opposite Charles Boyer. Bacall read the script, hated it, and begged not to do it, but was overruled. Shumlin had extensive credits as a theatre director, but never had a sense of what to do with the camera; as a result, the film is static and uninvolving. Indeed, Confidential Agent was a complete disaster, and Bacall came in for most of the criticism, a complete turnabout from the raves for To Have and Have Not. Until the end of her career, she felt that Confidential Agent permanently damaged her reputation. Everyone other than Shumlin could tell that the film was a failure while they were making it. Even co-star Charles Boyer recognized it. Assistant director Art Leuker shot additional scenes of Bacall and Boyer passionately kissing on the sly; although used in the trailer, these scenes are nowhere in the finished film. But the damage was done. The reviews were savage. “Bacall” said Variety, the show business newspaper, “fails to measure up,” while the Hollywood Reporter added “confidentially, it stinks.”16

Behind the Scenes of The Big Sleep

Facing the debacle of Confidential Agent, which he had championed, and the obvious damage it had caused to Lauren Bacall, Jack Warner was surprised when he received a carefully worded letter from agent Charles Feldman with specific suggestions for retakes on The Big Sleep. Feldman told Warner directly that 

if the girl [Bacall] receives the same type of general reviews and criticism on The Big Sleep [as the poor ones on Confidential Agent] which she definitely will receive unless changes are made, you might lose one of your most important assets [. . .] I am writing this note to you as a friend and trust that you will not think that I presume to tell you how to run your business.17 

Surprisingly, Warner listened to Feldman’s advice — something he almost never did when someone made a suggestion — and responded to Feldman with uncharacteristic (and probably feigned) warmth in a brief telegram:


The reshoots, amounting to two or three additional scenes, in addition to cutting about 10 minutes of exposition from the film (making it even more confusing, some would argue) were done almost immediately. Warner telegrammed the New York office on February 9, 1945, stating that: 


Warner was right. The film was an immense commercial and critical success, and Bogart’s and Bacall’s careers were back on track. Oddly enough, in this case, contemporary viewers can judge the difference between the two versions for themselves as the 1945 original version of The Big Sleep was preserved and is now widely available on DVD and Blu-ray, along with the final August 1946 version. Yet reviewers still remembered the Confidential Agent debacle, and the Hollywood Reporter sniped that “Miss Bacall is okay in the same type of role she originally scored in [. . .] her film career is still to be decided.”19 

The one real bright spot in all this turmoil is that Mayo finally agreed to a divorce, and Bogart and Bacall were married in a simple ceremony on May 21, 1945. They remained married until Bogart’s death on January 14, 1957. Yet the entire series of events had caused significant collateral damage. Bacall never trusted Jack Warner again, even after the “rescue” job on The Big Sleep, and Bogart agreed with her, setting the stage for Bogart’s eventual departure from the studio that had made him a household name. At the same time, Howard Hawks washed his hands of both Bogart and Bacall and held that grudge for a very, very long time. When Bogart died, Hawks’ wife Dee suggested that they go visit “Betty” Bacall for a condolence call, but Hawks summarily refused, saying “they never had me when he was alive. Why should I go now?”20 The break was real and permanent.

Bogart & Lauren Bacall on their wedding day

Bogart didn’t make a new film until 1947, this time for Columbia as a loan out. He starred in John Cromwell’s Dead Reckoning, opposite Lizabeth Scott. Despite an interesting war-themed premise (Bogart plays World War II paratrooper Rip Murdock, whose friend Johnny Drake [William Prince] goes missing, sending Rip on a journey to find out what happened), the film fails to catch fire and becomes a rather plodding, predictable mystery. Back at Warner Bros., Bogart was pressed into service in John Cromwell’s The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947), co-starring with Barbara Stanwyck. He plays a murderous artist who slowly poisons his models after he’s finished painting their portraits as “The Angel of Death.” It was another film Bogart didn’t want to do, but did. He was getting tired of arguing with Jack Warner. 

Bogart was more easily persuaded to film Delmer Daves’ Dark Passage (1947), partly because Daves was directing it, and Bogart liked and trusted him, but also because Bacall would once again be his co-star. A complex tale of crime, murder, betrayal, and plastic surgery, the film was shot for much of the opening in the first-person format, with Bogart’s unseen character directly addressing the camera in the manner of Robert Montgomery’s famously unsuccessful Lady in the Lake (1947) for MGM. 

After a brief cameo in Frederick De Cordova’s odd “romantic” comedy Always Together (1948), Bogart landed one of the finest roles of his career in John Huston’s The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) as a down-and-out American drifter named Fred C. Dobbs who teams with two men, the younger Bob Curtin (Tim Holt) and the older Howard (Walter Huston, John Huston’s father and a distinguished actor in his own right) to search for gold in the mountains of Mexico. When the team finally makes a strike, jealousy tears the group apart, resulting in betrayal and violent death. The film was based on a 1927 novel by the mysterious author B. Traven, whose identity remains in doubt to this day. John Huston read the novel in 1935 and, after the success of The Maltese Falcon, wanted it to be his next film, but World War II intervened, and the project was temporarily shelved.

Treasure of the Sierra Madre

After the war, Huston returned to Warner Bros. and immediately tapped Bogart for the film. It was harder to convince Walter Huston to accept his role as a supporting player; for his entire career, he’d been a leading man, and it seemed to him that this was a demotion. He eventually was convinced to take on the role, and the company departed for Durango and Tampico, Mexico, where much of the filming was done. The balance of the shoot was done on the Warner Bros. lot. Shooting took five and a half months and, as the budget climbed, Jack Warner became apoplectic. The final cost was $2.5 million, but the film grossed more than $4 million on initial release, and soon became one of the year’s big hits. It also won John Huston two Academy Awards: one for directing the film, and the other for the adapted screenplay. Walter Huston received an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. There was more than a little controversy about the fact that Bogart hadn’t been nominated for Best Actor. 

Right after his success with Sierra Madre, Huston plunged into directing another classic, Key Largo, one of the last of the great gangster films. Shot for the most part on one gigantic set, the lobby of a huge, old-fashioned hotel supposedly in Key Largo, Florida, the film stars Bogart as Frank McCloud, an ex-Army officer who comes to stay at the hotel, which is run by James Temple (Lionel Barrymore, in fine form) and his daughter Nora (Lauren Bacall). But the hotel is taken over by Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson), his alcoholic girlfriend Gaye Dawn (Claire Trevor), and his henchmen, who are using the hotel as a meeting place to sell some counterfeit money to a rival gangster, Ziggy (Marc Lawrence).

Bogart, John Huston & Bacall on the set of Key Largo

During all this activity, a huge storm hits the island, causing everyone to take shelter. As Rocco, Robinson has several memorable scenes in the film, including one in which he makes a pass at Nora, whispering obscenities into her ear that the audience can’t hear; they’re just vague whispers. Nora reacts by spitting in Rocco’s face, which both surprises and infuriates him. Gaye Dawn, desperate for a drink, sings “Moanin’ Low” to mollify Johnny and his henchmen, only to be turned down because her rendition of the song is so pathetic. Frank pours her a drink anyway, which pushes Rocco over the edge, and he viciously slaps Frank for his insolence. But Frank doesn’t respond in kind; he just takes it, and goes back to his chair. Throughout the film, Bogart’s character tries to keep the peace, but in the end decides that only violence will help when violence rules. The film has a suitably brutal climax as he metes out justice to Rocco and his stooges.

Bogart, Bacall, Edward G. Robinson & Claire Trevor on the set of Key Largo

In 1947, Bogart made another important move, one that many other actors would come to imitate in the years that followed. Tired of fighting with Jack Warner and his minions, Bogart formed his own production company, Santana Productions (named after his yacht, the Santana, which Bogart loved to captain whenever he could get away from the studio), and began producing films on his own. He would still be doing films for Warner Bros., but now he had his own production unit. As one of the first actors to set up his own production company in the final days of the Hollywood studio system, Bogart’s ambitions were laudable. 

The results, however, were mixed. The first Santana film, released through Columbia Pictures, was Nicholas Ray’s Knock on Any Door (1949). Bogart starred as Andrew Morton, a sharp lawyer who takes on the case of Nick Romano (John Derek), who is accused of murder. Morton believes that Romano is innocent, until he comes apart on the witness stand and admits his guilt. Even with this setback, Morton continues to argue for Romano, telling the court that, as a product of a broken home and slum life, Romano has never had a decent chance to amount to anything. Nevertheless, Romano is found guilty of murder and winds up walking to the electric chair as Morton watches. Despite the promising material, the film never catches fire and instead emerges as a talky, unconvincing courtroom drama.

Matters didn’t improve with Stuart Heisler’s by-the-numbers drama Tokyo Joe (1949), also released by Columbia, featuring Bogart as a former Air Force pilot in World War II who returns to Tokyo after the war to look up his estranged wife, Trina (Florence Marly), only to become involved in a predictable web of backlot intrigue. Returning to Warner Bros., Bogart reluctantly appeared opposite Eleanor Parker in Stuart Heisler’s Chain Lightning (1950), as a test pilot in a tepid aviation drama that deservedly excited little attention. It was yet another project Bogart didn’t want to do, but he needed to support his new family, and he owed Warners a film. 

After three mediocre films, Bogart and Santana hit the jackpot with Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place (1950) for Columbia, a deeply cynical Hollywood drama in which Bogart, as screenwriter Dixon “Dix” Steele, tries to hang on to his integrity in a town that is only interested in the bottom line and falls in love with Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame, in one of her best performances). As always, there are complications. Steele has a notoriously bad temper, flies off the handle at the slightest provocation, and is quite ready to punch out anyone whom he finds even mildly annoying. He’s on a downslide after writing several mediocre scripts, but needs to work, so he agrees to adapt a trashy novel into a screenplay to pay the rent. Unable to bear the thought of reading the book himself, he asks Mildred Atkinson (Martha Stewart), a hatcheck girl at Paul’s, the nightclub Dix often frequents, to tell him the plot in her own words to save time. Mildred complies, Dix sends her home in a cab, and all seems well.

In a Lonely Place

The next morning, Mildred’s body turns up, and Dix is a prime suspect. Laurel believes in his innocence, provides an alibi for the night of the murder, and helps Dix write a screenplay that will clearly put him back on top, but Dix’s paranoia and ungovernable temper pushes Laurel away. The film ends with Dix proven innocent (Mildred’s boyfriend, a seemingly amiable young man, is revealed as the killer), but more alone than ever as Laurel watches him walk out of her life forever. Easily the finest film Santana Productions ever made, In a Lonely Place is also regarded as one of Ray’s best films as a director. The script was all too true to life, incorporating the text of actual arguments between Ray and Gloria Grahame, who was then his wife, although their marriage was hanging by a thread and was soon to dissolve. In addition, numerous friends of Bogart felt that the film came the closest to portraying the real Humphrey Bogart: impetuous, suspicious of phonies, quick to anger, and talented but troubled. It’s an intense, deeply satisfying film. 

Bogart’s last film for Warner Bros., although he didn’t know it at the time, was Bretaigne Windust’s The Enforcer (1951), a Murder Inc. crime drama starring Bogart as District Attorney (DA) Martin Ferguson, who will stop at nothing to put the head of the murder crew, Albert Mendoza (Everett Sloane), behind bars. Yet everyone who comes forward winds up dead, until there’s only one person who can still provide evidence to convict Mendoza — if Ferguson can keep her alive until the trial. Although Windust is credited as the director, he fell ill early on during shooting, and Raoul Walsh was brought in to finish the project, refusing any credit. Bogart is thoroughly convincing as the crusading DA, backed up by the gifted character actor Roy Roberts as Captain Frank Nelson, Ferguson’s sidekick. The film is also notable for an early performance by Zero Mostel as a hit man as well as Bob Steele’s ice-cold role as the taciturn Herman, another of Mendoza’s hired guns.

The Enforcer

The same cannot be said for Curtis Bernhardt’s Sirocco (1951), Santana’s final production, a lacklustre soldier-of-fortune drama in which Bogart seems tired and disinterested. Richard Brooks’ Deadline – U.S.A (1950), released through 20th Century Fox, is an equally unconvincing film. The newspaper drama starred Bogart as Ed Hutchinson, crusading editor of the failing newspaper The Day who battles organized crime in the figure of racketeer Tomas Rienzi (Martin Gable). It was during production of this film that Bogart first began to look tired on the screen, and spent his evenings drinking with his friends rather than learning his dialogue. The next day on the set, he would sometimes stumble through six or seven takes of a scene simply to learn the lines. It was wasteful, it was unprofessional, and it was not who Humphrey Bogart was. But time was taking its toll on him, and he grew wary, weary, and irritable in a way he hadn’t been before. 

But 1951 would also bring Bogart one of the defining films of his late career: John Huston’s The African Queen, co-starring Katharine Hepburn. Bogart stars as Charlie Allnut, the cantankerous owner of a small steamboat in East Africa in 1914, when that territory was under German control. Charlie regularly provides provisions and supplies for missionaries Samuel and Rose Sayer (Robert Morley and Hepburn, respectively), who regard the rough-mannered Charlie with disdain. When World War I breaks out, German soldiers burn down the village where Samuel and Rose have been staying and press the native inhabitants into the war effort. Samuel dies of a fever after being struck by one of the German officers, and Rose is left alone. After burying Samuel, Charlie takes Rose aboard the African Queen to escape. But Rose has plans of her own — namely, to sink a German gunboat using the African Queen, a risky venture that Charlie agrees to with great reluctance.

The African Queen

Shot for the most part on location in Uganda and the Congo, the film relies on the banter between Hepburn and Bogart for most of its humour, and Jack Cardiff’s superb three-strip Technicolor cinematography adds to the realism of the film. Made for a mere $1 million, The African Queen was a major hit, grossing more than $10 million in initial release, amid rave reviews from critics and audiences. On his second nomination, Bogart won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his work on the film. Despite his initial reluctance to attend the ceremony, when his name was called, Bogart jumped out of his seat, briskly walked to the podium, and thanked Hepburn and Huston, along with the members of the Academy, for the honour. For many observers, the award was really for Bogart’s body of work — recognition that was long overdue. 

After shooting a brief public service announcement for U.S. Savings Bonds in 1952, which was distributed to theatres as part of the weekly newsreel package from MGM on July 25–26 of that year, Bogart starred in Richard Brooks’ war film Battle Circus (1953) for MGM. Now a freelancer, Bogart could go wherever he wanted and do the pictures that appealed to him. The film was not one of Bogart’s more memorable efforts, but in 1953 he was reunited with John Huston for the decidedly peculiar caper comedy Beat The Devil, with a script written more or less on a day-by-day basis by Huston and author Truman Capote. Beat The Devil has only the flimsiest of plots and is carried by the combined talents of Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollobrigida, Robert Morley, Peter Lorre, and Edward Underdown. The film’s poster gives no indication that what we’re seeing is essentially a spoof of The Maltese Falcon, which is what Huston intended, promising that the film is “the bold adventure that beats them all!” instead of the “shaggy dog” comedy that the film is. Bogart put some of his own money into the film and lost it all; the film did disappointing business at the box office and, despite its cult reputation, has fallen into the public domain.

Beat the Devil

In 1954, Bogart took on the challenging role of Captain Philip Francis Queeg in Edward Dmytryk’s The Caine Mutiny, based on the novel by Herman Wouk. Queeg is an ineffective martinet who rules the Caine with capricious whimsy, alternately giving orders and then rescinding them while reflexively blaming the officers around him for his own incompetence. Communications officer Lieutenant Thomas Keefer (Fred MacMurray) talks Lieutenant Steve Maryk (Van Johnson) into keeping a log of all of Queeg’s infractions, which eventually leads to a mutiny during a storm, as Queeg, paralysed by fear, is unable to command the ship. Brought to court, Queeg breaks down on the witness stand in a stunning five-minute close-up, revealing the depth of his paranoia, resulting in an acquittal for the members of the crew. It’s one of Bogart’s finest performances and won him a third Oscar nomination for Best Actor, but he lost to Marlon Brando in Elia Kazan’s On The Waterfront.

The Caine Mutiny

In Bogart’s last years, he made the delightful comedy Sabrina (1954), directed by Billy Wilder, in which he had a rare chance to play the surprise romantic lead opposite Audrey Hepburn; Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s downbeat show business drama The Barefoot Contessa opposite Ava Gardner; Michael Curtiz’s lacklustre comedy crime film We’re No Angels (1955); Edward Dmytryk’s sprawling religious epic The Left Hand of God (1955); William Wyler’s home invasion film The Desperate Hours (1955), with Bogart as escaped convict Glenn Griffin holding homeowner Dan Hilliard (Fredric March) and his family hostage until Griffin is cut down by the police in the film’s final reel; and his very last film, Mark Robson’s acerbic boxing drama The Harder They Fall (1956). 

Behind the Scenes of Sabrina

In many ways, this final film is one of Bogart’s best — a no-holds-barred indictment of the boxing racket, starring Bogart as down-on-his-luck sportswriter Eddie Willis, who reluctantly helps corrupt promoter Nick Benko (Rod Steiger) build up Argentinian boxer Toro Moreno (Mike Lane), a barely competent fighter with “a powder-puff punch and a glass jaw,” into a national phenomenon, even though all of Toro’s fights are fixed. However, Toro is completely in the dark about the phony build-up and believes he’s a lethal killer in the ring. Toro eventually comes up against a fighter who won’t take the fall as the syndicate demands and is beaten to a pulp by Buddy Brannen (played by real-life boxer Max Baer).

The Harder They Fall

Now desperate to return home to his family, Toro turns to Eddie to collect his winnings from Nick Benko, who tells Eddie that — after all the deductions have been taken out of Toro’s winnings — his net profit on the match (which had a gross gate receipt of more than a million dollars) is just $49.07. “It’ll hold up in any court,” Benko’s bookkeeper Leo (Nehemiah Persoff) tells Eddie. Outraged, Eddie gives Toro his own $26,000 salary and puts him on a plane to Argentina. Benko is furious, as he’s sold Toro’s contract to a rival, the even more unscrupulous promoter Jim Weyerhause (Edward Andrews), and he forces his way into Eddie’s small apartment, demanding to know Toro’s whereabouts. Eddie tells Benko frankly that Toro has gone home to South America and that he’s given Toro his own $26,000 payment, which Benko finds hard to believe. When Benko threatens Eddie, he replies that he’s going to write a series of columns exposing the fight racket, “if it takes an act of Congress to do it.” The film is one of Robson’s best; it is tight, compact, and utterly ruthless in its depiction of the dark side of the “sweet science.”

But at this point in his life, Bogart was a dying man. He had been smoking and drinking to excess for decades. From the early 1950s onward, his cough had become a consistent problem on set, as he would erupt in spasms between and sometimes during shots, forcing the other actors in his final films to give their all on each take. If Bogart managed to get through a scene without doubling over in a gut-wrenching cough, that was the scene the director would be forced to use. None of this came across on the screen, of course, as Bogart was too much of a professional. Still, his illness was very much a fact, and he was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in 1956 — something that he might have staved off had he sought medical treatment earlier. By the time he was finally diagnosed, the cancer had spread, and there was nothing to do but wait. Rod Steiger, who played the corrupt promoter Nick Benko in The Harder They Fall, was stunned by Bogart’s unyielding courage in the face of certain death. As Steiger later noted,

Bogey and I got on very well. Unlike some other stars, when they had close-ups, you might have been relegated to a two-shot, or cut out altogether. Bogey didn’t play those games. He was a professional and had tremendous authority. He’d come in exactly at 9 am and leave at precisely 6 pm. I remember once walking to lunch in between takes and seeing Bogey on the lot. I shouldn’t have because his work was finished for the day. I asked him why he was still on the lot, and he said, “They want to shoot some retakes of my close-ups because my eyes are too watery.” A little while later, after the film, somebody came up to me with word of Bogey’s death. Then it struck me. His eyes were watery because he was in pain with the cancer.21

Bogart was not a method actor, though in his last years he worked with a few actors who were. But he was ready to work with any actor on their own terms, asking only that they bring their very best to the project. Bogart followed the Spencer Tracy school of acting: show up on time, know your lines, hit your marks, look the other person in the eye and tell the truth. He could be easy to get along with on some films — especially John Huston’s films, for Huston was the one person Bogart really felt in awe of — or he could be difficult working for a director like Billy Wilder, who had a much more autocratic presence on the set, as opposed to Huston’s quiet confidence. 

But even when he was forced to do a film that he knew was wrong for him, or just plain wrong, Bogart always gave an honest performance. He never took acting lessons, but he didn’t need to; rather, he looked within himself and found his true screen persona, and then pursued it in film after film, molding himself into a unique personage in cinema history.  There had never been an actor quite like Humphrey Bogart before he came into his own in the late 1930s and early 40s, and the public recognized it. Tough, insolent, smart, sharp, confident, rough around the edges; this was the Bogart the public knew and loved. He invented himself. And in his art, his life and his craft merged. 

Today, Humphrey Bogart is one of the most recognizable stars in Hollywood history. The line “here’s looking at you, kid” from Casablanca has become an enduring catchphrase, and Bogart’s films regularly play on streaming websites, in revival theatres, and anywhere films are shown. Some 66 years after his death — a figure that seems impossible, in view of Bogart’s continuing cultural impact on today’s society — his best work remains as fresh as ever. Why? Because even in his least interesting films, Bogart always approached each line with conviction and a sense of realism, even as he disparaged the craft of acting to his co-workers with a wry grin. 

But that was just a smoke screen. Bogart was always deadly serious about his work, always fighting for better parts, generous to his fellow actors, and seeking out the best directors and writers to work with. Intensely personal, he was one of the few to speak up against the Hollywood Blacklist in the 1950s, as part of the Committee for the First Amendment, even though he withdrew his support when it became clear that the Blacklist, and the fear it engendered, had taken firm hold in Hollywood. All his life, Bogart fought — for himself, for those he loved, for those he respected, and for the rights of others. At his funeral, Lauren Bacall asked Spencer Tracy to deliver the eulogy, but Tracy was so overcome that he asked John Huston to do the honours, and his words are a fitting testament to one who gave his life for his art:

Himself, he never took too seriously — his work most seriously. He regarded the somewhat gaudy figure of Bogart, the star, with an amused cynicism: Bogart, the actor, he held in deep respect [. . .] In each of the fountains at Versailles there is a pike which keeps all the carp active; otherwise, they would grow over-fat and die. Bogie took rare delight in performing a similar duty in the fountains of Hollywood. Yet his victims seldom bore him any malice, and when they did, not for long. His shafts were fashioned only to stick into the outer layer of complacency, and not to penetrate through to the regions of the spirit where real injuries are done [. . .] He is quite irreplaceable. There will never be another like him.22

Works Cited and Consulted

  • Bacall, Lauren. By Myself. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1979. 
  • Behlmer, Rudy. Inside Warner Bros. 1935–1951. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1985.
  • Bogart, Stephen Humphrey. Bogart: In Search of My Father. New York: Dutton, 1995.
  • Fantle, David and Tom Johnson. Reel to Real: 25 Years of Celebrity Interviews from Vaudeville to Movies to TV. Oregon, Wisconsin: Badger Books, 2009. 
  • Harmetz, Aljean. Round Up the Usual Suspects: The Making of Casablanca — Bogart, Bergman, and World War II. New York: Hyperion, 1993.
  • Hepburn, Katharine. The Making of the African Queen. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1987. 
  • Hill, Jonathan and Jonah Ruddy. Bogart: The Man and the Legend. London: Mayflower-Dell, 1966.
  • Hyams, Joe. Bogie: The Biography of Humphrey Bogart. New York: New American Library, 1966. 
  • Kanfer, Stefan. Tough Without a Gun: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of Humphrey Bogart. New York: Knopf, 2011. 
  • McCarty, Clifford. Bogey: The Films of Humphrey Bogart. New York: Citadel, 1965.
  • Meyers, Jeffrey. Bogart: A Life in Hollywood. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.  
  • Michael, Paul. Humphrey Bogart: The Man and his Films. New York: Bonanza Books, 1965.
  • Polan, Dana. In a Lonely Place. London: BFI Film Classics, 1994. 
  • Sperber, A. M. and Eric Lax. Bogart. New York: William Morrow & Co., 1997.


  1. Meyers, 51.
  2. Sperber and Lax, 53.
  3. Sperber and Lax, 61.
  4. Sperber and Lax, 123.
  5. Sperber and Lax, 129.
  6. Sperber and Lax, 150.
  7. Behlmer, 153–154.
  8. Behlmer, 157–158.
  9. Sperber and Lax, 193.
  10. Behlmer, 201.
  11. McCarty, 117.
  12. See Behlmer, 228–233, for a complete transcript of their half-hour conversation.
  13. Behlmer, 233.
  14. Sperber and Lax, 287.
  15. Behlmer, 246.
  16. Sperber and Lax, 320.
  17. Behlmer, 249.
  18. Behlmer, 249.
  19. Sperber and Lax, 323.
  20. Sperber and Lax, 520.
  21. Fantle and Johnson, 140.
  22. Sperber and Lax, 518.

About The Author

Wheeler Winston Dixon is the James Ryan Professor Emeritus of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and, with Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, editor of the book series Quick Takes: Movies and Popular Culture for Rutgers University Press, which has to date published more than twenty volumes on various cultural topics. He is the author of more than thirty books on film history, theory, and criticism, as well as more than 100 articles in various academic journals. He is also an active experimental filmmaker, whose works are in the permanent collection of The Museum of Modern Art. His recent video work is collected in the UCLA Film and Television Archive. He has also taught at The New School, Rutgers University, and the University of Amsterdam. His recent books include Synthetic Cinema: The 21st Century Movie Machine (2019), The Films of Terence Fisher: Hammer Horror and Beyond (2017), Black & White Cinema: A Short History (2015); Streaming: Movies, Media, and Instant Access (2013); Death of the Moguls: The End of Classical Hollywood (2012); 21st Century Hollywood: Movies in the Era of Transformation (2011, co-authored with Gwendolyn Audrey Foster); and Film Noir and the Cinema of Paranoia (2009). Dixon’s second, expanded edition of his classic book A History of Horror (2010) was published in 2023. Dixon's book A Short History of Film (2008, co-authored with Gwendolyn Audrey Foster) was reprinted six times through 2012. A second, revised edition was published in 2013; a third, revised edition was published in 2018; and a fourth revised edition with a great deal of new material will be published in early 2025. The book is a required text in universities throughout the world. As an experimental filmmaker, his works have been screened at The Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, Anthology Film Archives, Filmhuis Cavia (Amsterdam), Studio 44 (Stockholm), La lumière collective (Montréal), The BWA Katowice Museum (Poland), The Microscope Gallery, The National Film Theatre (UK), The Jewish Museum, The Millennium Film Workshop, The San Francisco Cinématheque, LA Filmforum (Los Angeles), The New Arts Lab, The Exploding Cinema (London), The Collective for Living Cinema, The Kitchen, The Filmmakers Cinématheque, Film Forum, The Amos Eno Gallery, Sla 307 Art Space, The Gallery of Modern Art, The Rice Museum, The Oberhausen Film Festival, Undercurrent, Experimental Response Cinema and other venues. In addition, Dixon’s films have been screened at numerous film festivals throughout the world, including presentations in London, New York, Toronto, Paris, Berlin, Monterrey (Mexico), Urbino (Italy), Tehran (Iran), Naples (Italy), Athens (Greece), Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rybinski (Russia), Palermo (Italy), Madrid (Spain), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Australia, Qatar, Amsterdam, Vienna, Moscow, Milan, Switzerland, Croatia, Stockholm (Sweden), Havana (Cuba) and elsewhere.

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