On December 25, 1899, legendary American actor Humphrey Bogart was born in New York City. He is best known for his roles in such classic films as The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, and The African Queen.
Bogart was born to a wealthy Dutch family. His father was a heart surgeon and his mother was a talented painter and art director for a popular fashion magazine of the time. Bogart’s parents were rarely affectionate with his sisters or him, which may have contributed to his stern personality. He developed an interest in chess and sailing as a child, two loves he would have for the rest of his life. Bogart attended several prestigious schools, but was mostly disinterested in his school work or following rules. His rebellious nature led him to being expelled from the last boarding school he attended.
In the midst of World War I, after he was ejected from school, Bogart enlisted in the Navy. The famous scar on Bogart’s lip, and subsequent lisp it caused, is something he is rumored to have gotten while he served in the Navy. Though several stories abound among friends of Bogart’s, the most widely-known story involves Bogart escorting a prisoner off a boat. When the prisoner distracted Bogart by asking for a cigarette, he struck Bogart in the mouth with one of his cuffed hands.
After being discharged from the Navy, Bogart ventured into the world of acting. For his first role, he spoke one line as a Japanese waiter in the play Drifting. Upon seeing his son perform, Bogart’s father nudged his neighbor saying, “The boy’s good, isn’t he?” This first taste of the stage fueled him to pursue acting as his career. Unsuccessful at first, Bogart spent more than a decade portraying minor characters before his breakthrough performance as a villainous escaped killer in the play The Petrified Forest. Two years later he revived his character in the movie version of the play, and Hollywood grasped onto him as a typecast criminal.
After portraying similar characters in a string of crime and gangster movies, Bogart finally broke free from his usual bad guy role to play the sharp and honorable private detective Sam Spade in one of the first film noir movies, The Maltese Falcon. Bogart showed his range in acting just in time to be cast as Rick Blaine in Casablanca, a 1942 war romance. The film has been highly regarded ever since, winning three Academy Awards and often ranked at the top of many all-time best films lists. Bogart is also credited with saying some of the movie’s most memorable quotes like, “Here’s looking at you, kid,” and “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” which are listed on the American Film Institute’s Top 100 quotations in American cinema.
His popularity swelled tremendously after his performance in Casablanca, and “Bogey,” as his friend’s started to call him, went on to act in over 75 feature films in his career. He received his first and only Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in 1951′s The African Queen, which he starred in alongside actress Katherine Hepburn.
Bogey was married several times, all of which ended in divorce except his last one to model and actress Lauren Bacall. His marriage to Mayo Methot was his most volatile, and the papers pegged them as the “Battling Bogarts” due to their public disputes. Lauren Bacall starred in her first movie ever, To Have or Have Not, alongside Bogart, and the two were instantly drawn to one another. Just a few months after his divorce from Methot, Bogey and Bacall were married, and remained together until his death. They were some of the founding members of the infamous “Rat Pack,” starred in three more movies together, and had two children together.
Due to a lifetime of heavy drinking and smoking, Bogart was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 1956 while still in the prime of his career. Even after surgery and treatment, Bogart died in his sleep at his home on January 14, 1957 at the age of 57. After his death, Bogart’s rankings in Hollywood history rose even more, with several articles published about him, praising his notorious anti-Hollywood persona and his films gaining a cult following. Bogart remains a film icon named “the number one movie legend of all time” by Entertainment Weekly in 1997 and the American Film Institute’s greatest male movie star of all time in 1999.