“Play it again, Sam.” Perhaps the most misquoted film line in history. Bogart's actual lines in that scene, as spoken by the character of Rick in Casablanca were:
“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine. What's that you're playing? Well, stop it. You know what I want to hear. Play it. You played it for her and you can play it for me. If she can stand it I can. Play it.”
Any true fan of Bogart knows this. I was more than just a fan however. I was a Bogart freak. He was the quintessential movie tough guy, sometimes good, sometimes bad, but always hard-boiled and cynical.
Beginning at a very young age I watched every Bogart film shown on television with the kind of rapt attention other kids saved for dinosaurs. I practiced his trademark lip twitch. I practiced his voice. I studied the way he held a cigarette or a gun. I talked his talk and walked his walk.
My impersonation of him was impeccable, even for a little kid. Imagine me brooding about the neighborhood, my rain slicker fashioned into a trench coat, pointing a carrot as if it was a gun at my friends and saying, in perfect Bogart fashion, “I'll fill you so full of hot lead you'll be pickin' it out of your belly for a week, see.” My fanaticism and devotion only grew worse.
I remember the exact time and event that took me from a boy mostly interested in frogs and snakes to a boy who liked girls. Suddenly, girls were not the icky, cootie infested creatures I had suspected, but visions of loveliness. More than a curiosity. It happened in a very simple dream. I dreamt Jan Leeds sat on my lap in the school library. That's all. It made me feel good. It made me feel....funny. I woke up and I was in love with Jan Leeds.
I didn't know what to do about it of course. The next day in the lunchroom I sat next to her and, twitching my lip Bogie style, said, “Hi, Schweetheart. I'll give you half of my baloney if you give me half of your liverwurst.” Jan Leeds scooched away from me in record “scootching” time, thinking I must be the craziest boy walking the planet. So in less than 12 hours I fell in love and was mercilessly rejected, shattering my heart forever and ever like a million pieces of broken glass in the auto accident of life. I could only sit there and mumble, “Here's looking at you, kid.”
"What happened to your lip?"
Humphrey DeForest Bogart was born in N.Y.C. On December 25th, 1899 into a fairly wealthy family. His father was a surgeon and his mother was a famed illustrator. Maud Bogart had studied with Whistler in France, and was earning $50,000 per year, an astronomical sum in those days and far above her husband the surgeon, who earned $20,000. They did not have a lot of time for their children. About his parents, Bogart said, “A kiss, in our family, was an event. Our mother and father didn’t glug over my two sisters and me.”
It is difficult to piece together an accurate biography of Bogart since there are multitude of contrasting stories. Illustrative is the common belief that as a child, his mother immortalized him by using his image on Gerber baby food labels. Other sources (IMDB) correct this, claiming it was an ad campaign for Mellons' Baby Food. Still other sources say that his mother never painted him at all.
As a young man, he attended the preparatory school Phillips Academy, the oldest prep school in America, but was expelled, either for throwing the headmaster or a groundskeeper into a pond, or smoking and drinking, or cursing at the staff, but was probably withdrawn by his father for poor academic performance. Take your pick. He enlisted in the Navy where he was a model sailor, and some stories attribute his trademark lisp and scar to this period as being caused by a piece of shrapnel. Or maybe it's the story about how he was transporting a prisoner who, having asked Bogie for a cigarette, punched him in the mouth as he searched for matches. The truth may never be known, but Bogart told actor David Niven it was incurred during a fight with his father when he was 12 and the following effort by a surgeon who, according to Bogie, “instead of stitching it up, he screwed it up."
Bogart drifted into acting in N.Y.C., playing smaller roles on Broadway. He is widely believed to be the first actor to say the line, “tennis anyone?” Again there is no evidence to support this claim. During this early period, Bogart kept $100 dollars in his dresser drawer at all times, calling it his “F” you money, so instead of taking a part he didn't want, he could say “F” you. His big Broadway break-through came when he was cast as Duke Mantee opposite Leslie Howard in The Petrified Forest.He became something of a matinée idol as thrilled young ladies filled the first rows to see Bogie's two-day growth of beard. Fittingly, it was this role that would make him a player in Hollywood as well.
Years later when the film version of The Petrified Forest was being cast, Bogart wasn't even considered. Leslie Howard told the studio that if Bogie wasn't in it, he wouldn't be in the film either. This kind of loyalty is rare in Hollywood, and quite possibly made Bogart's career. It made Bogart a player but it wasn't until High Sierra that Bogart became a certified star and box office attraction. George Raft had turned down the part, and it was George Raft's continued rejection of roles claimed by Bogart that made Bogie a superstar and nearly sent Raft into oblivion.
Immediately following High Sierra, Raft turned down The Maltese Falcon. Bogart took the role. The film is often sighted as the Best Detective movie of all time, and it is certainly at the top of film noir. In addition, it started a life-long friendship with John Huston. Raft next rejected All Through the Night. Bogart didn't and the film is now a favorite among fans. Raft wanted nothing to do with The Big Shot, but Bogart took the role. There is some evidence that Raft was considered forCasablanca, but it is unclear if he was ever offered the part. Raft did not like Humphrey Bogart and earlier, after the High Sierra fiasco, actually had Bogart removed from the film Manpower. Ironically, Raft's last part was in the film The Man With Bogart's Face, in which Raft received only 12th billing.
Bogie and Bacall
It was during the filming of To Have or Have Not that one of the greatest Hollywood love stories began. Bogart met co-star Lauren Bacall, a 19 year old fashion model just signed by Warner Brothers. Bogie was 45, but they didn't let their age difference keep them apart.
Nor would Bogart's current marriage to actress Mayo Methot stop them, which had been on the rocks since before they were married. The press had dubbed them the Battling Bogarts due to their common public fights, but they fought in private too, during which they commonly threw household items at each other.
Howard Hawks, the director of the film had also set his sights on the young model. Out of jealousy, he threatened to send Bacall to the worst studio in Hollywood, Monogram Studios. Bogart confronted Hawks. The dispute was settled by Jack Warner.
Bacall said of Bogart: “He is the handsomest ugly man I ever saw.” Bogart said of Bacall, "She's a real Joe. You'll fall in love with her like everybody else." Their marriage, Bogie's fourth, would endure through Bogart's death.
"Badges? We don't need no stinkin' badges."
I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention some of his more memorable films. In addition to the aforementioned High Sierra, The Maltese Falcon, To Have and Have Not, and Casablanca, there was also The Treasure of Sierra Madre, The Big Sleep, Key Largo, The Caine Mutiny, Sabrina, and of course,The African Queen, for which he won the Academy Award. While many of these films can be considered classics, Casablanca is one of the greatest iconic films of all time and is ranked number 1 in the American Film Institute's list of the top love stories, and Bogart himself is listed as the number 1 film actor of all time.
It is interesting to note that Casablanca was being written as production went along, with that days script delivered on the morning the scenes were to be shot. The actors themselves thought the script was laughable and the dramatic lighting ridiculous. They made fun of it while not on camera, little realizing that one of the worlds greatest films was being born.
Ode to a Tough Guy
My fascination with Bogie served me well at the start of my acting career. One of my first professional roles was as Bogart in Woody Allen's Play It Again, Sam, and I was called on several times to play roles using his voice in radio plays for National Public Radio. At the National Shakespeare Conservatory, our final test for graduation was to write and perform a one-person show. Naturally I chose Bogart, and chronicled his film career as he reminisces--me slipping into the film role and "playing" it out--during his fight with throat cancer, which took Bogart's life on January 14, 1957.
The show, titled Tough Guy, was a success and I was contracted to perform a lengthened version (with co-writer Don Cox) at the Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre during the summer, and then was produced in South Bend, Indiana Civic Center. A few years later, I turned the show into a television production. I haven't seen it in many years, and as with anything we look back on from our past, I would do things differently. But such is life and over all, I am proud of it. It was produced for only $3000 dollars, a major budgetary accomplishment even in those less expensive days.
"Here's looking at you, kid."
Now, evidence of my extreme Bogart obsession is forgotten. I have a picture, the first picture in this article, that was given to me during those early years, and it hangs on my wall to this day, but that is all. The many posters reside in a tube in the basement. Ditto the books, biographies, and scripts, sealed in boxes perhaps never to be opened again.
I still watch his greatest movies though, and whenever I flip the television over to one, my wife looks up and says, “How many times have you seen this one?” “About a hundred,” I say, and then I watch the film, mouthing the words I know by heart.
One Little-Known Bogart Fact
Bogart was an outstanding chess player. At a time when many stores had a professional chess player who could be challenged by anyone, Bogie would challenge and win almost every game. The challenger would pay 50 cents. If he won, he got $1.00. Many stores wanted Bogie to turn pro, but he declined because he was making more money as a non-pro. Eventually he did turn pro and would beat 40 or more people a day. (Source: Paul Harvey, Jr.'s, "The Rest of the Story.").
The trouble with the world is that it's always one drink behind.
Acting is experience with something sweet behind it.
[attributed last words] "I should never have switched from scotch to martinis."
[On the House Un-American Activities Committee] "They'll nail anyone who ever scratched his ass during the National Anthem."
I came out here with one suit and everybody said I looked like a bum. Twenty years later Marlon Brando came out with only a sweatshirt and the town drooled over him. That shows how much Hollywood has progressed.
A hotdog at the ballpark is better than a steak at the Ritz.
When the heavy, full of crime and bitterness, grabs his wounds and talks about death and taxes in a husky voice, the audience is his and his alone.
[about himself] "Democrat in politics, Episcopalian by upbringing, dissenter by disposition."
I can't say I ever loved my mother, I admired her.
I don't approve of the John Waynes and the Gary Coopers saying 'Shucks, I ain't no actor -- I'm just a bridge builder or a gas station attendant.' If they aren't actors, what the hell are they getting paid for? I have respect for my profession. I worked hard at it.
The only good reason to have money is this: so that you can tell any SOB in the world to go to hell.
I hate funerals. They aren't for the guy who's dead. They're for the guys who are left alive and enjoy mourning.
The whole world is three drinks behind. If everybody in the world would take three drinks, we would have no trouble.
Acting is like sex: you either do it and don't talk about it, or you talk about it and don't do it. That's why I'm always suspicious of people who talk too much about either.
The only thing you owe the public is a good performance.
You're not a star until they can spell your name in Karachi.
I made more lousy pictures than any actor in history.
[On the untrained beefcake stars of the early 1950s, many of them picked up for screen tests from sidewalks and gas stations] "Shout 'gas' around the studios today, and half the young male stars will come running."
Do I subscribe to the [Laurence Olivier] school of acting? Ah, nuts. I'm an actor. I just do what comes naturally.
I don't hurt the industry. The industry hurts itself, by making so many lousy movies - as if General Motors deliberately put out a bad car.
[On Ingrid Bergman] "I didn't do anything I've never done before, but when the camera moves in on that Bergman face, and she's saying she loves you, it would make anybody feel romantic."
[On Warner Brothers] This studio has more suspensions than the Golden Gate Bridge.
[On Katherine Hepburn] She talks at you as though you were a microphone. She lectured the hell out of me on temperance and the evils of drink. She doesn't give a damn how she looks. I don't think she tries to be a character. I think she is one.
[On Bette Davis] Even when I was carrying a gun, she scared the be-jesus out of me.
It is at least worth arguing that there is a modicum of the creative novelist in all of us, and that this absorption with how men get out of difficulties, single-handedly and alone if possible, is the stuff of which we weave the warp and woof of our own better dramatic imaginings.