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Humphrey Bogart was not just the most popular American actor of the twentieth century but also a larger-than-life icon, whose reputation and influence have, if anything, only grown since his death. Bogart dominated the golden years of Hollywood with his stoic tough-guy image. But behind Bogey the hard-boiled cult hero was a consummate actor, a courageous artist who stood up to tyrannical studio bosses and defied the...
Humphrey Bogart was not just the most popular American actor of the twentieth century but also a larger-than-life icon, whose reputation and influence have, if anything, only grown since his death. Bogart dominated the golden years of Hollywood with his stoic tough-guy image. But behind Bogey the hard-boiled cult hero was a consummate actor, a courageous artist who stood up to tyrannical studio bosses and defied the heavy hand of McCarthyism. The scion of a socially prominent New York family, Bogart played dozens of roles in Broadway plays until he broke through to film stardom after he teamed up with John Huston in The Maltese Falcon and then took his place in the Hollywood firmament with the legendary acting ensemble of Casablanca. He lived a tempestuous private life off the screen, but carefully guarded his privacy from the prying eyes of the press.
Witty, cynical, and caustic, Bogart embodied the Hemingwayesque tough hero who insists on authenticity and on a strict code of honor. Bogart's reputation is even higher today than during his lifetime. Now, for the first time, he has been addressed by a master biographer. 50 photos. 384 pp. 25,000 print.
and the Navy
< I >
Humphrey Bogart, whose surname means "orchard," came from a long line of solid Dutch burghers and was a direct descendant of the original Dutch settlers in New York. In later life the reckless tough guy rarely mentioned his upper-class background, but he belonged to the Holland Society and proudly displayed the family coat of arms on his wall. His paternal grandfather had invented a commercially successful process that used tin for offset lithography and the family—who invested its money in Michigan timberland—was very well off. Though not listed in the Social Register, the Bogarts appeared in Who's Who in New York and in Dau's New York Blue Book from 1907 until 1933.
Humphrey's genial, easy-going father achieved considerable success in medicine. He provided a striking contrast to Humphrey's manically driven mother, a well-known commercial artist. Both were socially ambitious and had great hopes for their oldest child and only son. Belmont DeForest Bogart was born in upstate New York in 1868. He graduated in 1888 from Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, where he played on the baseball and football teams. Handsome, sturdily built and nearly six feet tall, he was a natural athlete, a keen sailor and a superb wing shot. He loved to track deer in Canada and owned a rustic hunting lodge. In a photograph taken in the late 1890s, the Victorian paterfamilias wears a three-piece suit with a high collar and tiepin, parts his dark hair in the middle and has a full moustache. Though helooks severe, he was a witty, charming and convivial man. A heavy drinker, he liked the company of bartenders, mechanics and truck drivers, and preferred outdoor sports to medicine. Each summer he took several months off to indulge his passion for hunting and sailing.
Belmont's three years at Andover qualified him to study medicine. He earned his degree at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1896 and was licensed to practice the following year. While he was working as an intern a horse-drawn ambulance turned over, fell on him, and broke his ribs and leg. Improperly set, his leg had to be broken again, and after this accident he never fully recovered his health.
Dr. Bogart nevertheless built up a prominent practice as a surgeon and heart and lung specialist. He was associated with Presbyterian Hospital, Bellevue and the Sloane Hospital for Women, and had many wealthy and influential patients. After his marriage in 1898, he set up his thickly-carpeted, mahogany-paneled office on the first floor of the family town house at 245 West 103rd Street (then a fashionable part of the city), between Broadway and West End Avenue, where Humphrey would see the patients lined up in the waiting room.
The three-story brownstone town house had bay windows, carved bas reliefs and a pigeon coop on the roof. In keeping with Dr. Bogart's social position, the grand interior boasted high ceilings, wide stairways, crystal chandeliers, heavy tapestries, classical statues, parquet floors and Oriental rugs. Two Irish maids, supplemented by a laundress and cook, maintained the house and served the family. Together they cost only seventeen dollars a week. At a time when taxes were low, Dr. Bogart earned, in addition to the income from his inheritance, $20,000 a year. "When I was born," Bogart later said, "the family was worth a tremendous amount of money. We had a country place and a house in New York. My father had an excellent practice. When I was fifteen, my father made bad investments and lost a good deal of money.... But we were never in any financial straits."
Bogart's mother, Maud Humphrey, was descended from a judge and from a wealthy manufacturer. Her father, John Perkins Humphrey, had a prosperous shoe store on Main Street in Rochester, New York, where she was born (three years before Belmont) on March 30, 1865. As a child, she could see mules pulling the barges through the Erie Canal. Talented and precocious, she studied at the Art Students League in New York from 1886 to 1894, and for some years in Paris at the Academie Julian and with the American painter James McNeill Whistler. The Academie had been founded in 1860 by Rodolphe Julian, a former prizefighter and model, who knew nothing about painting. It was segregated, and had a section for men, with nude models, in the Latin Quarter; and another for women, without nude models, just off the Champs-Elysees. William Rothenstein described the Academie as a "congeries of studios crowded with students, the walls thick with palette scrapings, hot, airless and extremely noisy."
Maud, an attractive and impressive woman, had red frizzy hair, a strong nose and firm jaw. In a turn-of-the-century photograph, she holds her baby son and is elaborately attired in a large beribboned hat, high silk scarf, velvety dress and wide belt around her narrow waist. The stately, fastidious woman—with caustic wit and imperious manner—was known as "Lady Maud." A militant suffragette, she would also stand on street corners and sell balloons with the printed slogan "Votes for Women."
Trained in the bohemian art world, Maud also developed a shrewd sense of business. Her long career as an illustrator of calendars, greeting cards, fashion magazines and more than twenty story books (two with her sister Mabel), and as a portrait painter of socialite children, flourished from the 1890s through the 1920s. In 1894, for example, Frederick Stokes published her Treasury of Stories, Jingles and Rhymes: With 140 Vignette Illustrations in Half Tone. She worked in the sentimental Victorian tradition, painting stylized cherubic children with round faces, chipmunk cheeks, curly blond ringlets, large eyes, button noses, rosy lips, frilly collars and long white dresses. Her work promoted Prudential Insurance and Ivory soap, appeared on the covers of Harper's and Century magazines, and was exhibited in New York and Boston.
In 1910, when Humphrey was ten years old, Maud became artistic director of the Delineator, a women's fashion magazine, and kept the job for twenty years. Theodore Dreiser had been the editor from 1907 to 1910, publishing essays and stories by H. L. Mencken, Edgar Wallace and A. A. Milne, and articles on topical issues like divorce and women's suffrage. During the war it was violently anti-German, and later carried pieces on postwar morality and radical politics. After 1926 it became less serious, emphasized fashions and built up a circulation of two million.
Maud was in charge of all layouts, covers, drawings and illustrations. The magazine, published by Butterick, was chiefly a means of selling the immensely profitable patterns manufactured by the company. Dreiser's biographer wrote that "you read the magazine, you saw the dress, you bought the pattern.... In the July, 1907, Delineator, 148 pages long, the first seven features ... were devoted to fashions and contained 150 careful drawings of dresses, nightgowns, underwear, bathing suits and other garments for which Butterick would supply the patterns. Thirty-six more pages were devoted to such allied subjects as cookery, homemaking, society and children, leaving only 21 pages for fiction and eight for articles." In the Butterick Building two thousand poorly paid workers turned out the patterns, and its underground floors contained one of the biggest printing plants in the world.
Maud loved her job and was obsessed by her work. She had a studio on the third floor of the brownstone, tended to ignore her family and gave up almost everything else in life. But she earned a great deal more than Belmont and received the enormous salary of $50,000 a year. Bogart portrayed her as a narrow, joyless creature and said: "I doubt that she read very much. I know that she never played any games. She went to no parties, gave none. And I can't remember that she even had any friends." When the pressure became too intense, she suffered agonizing migraine headaches and had to retire to her darkened room.
< II >
When Belmont was still a medical student and Maud was living at the Hotel San Remo in New York, they met at a party in an artist's studio, and married in 1898. Their first child, Humphrey DeForest Bogart, was born in Sloane's Hospital in New York, weighing eight pounds seven ounces, on December 25, 1899. Bogart—who called himself a "nineteenth-century man" and believed in traditional values—came into a world of gaslights and hansom cabs. McKinley was president, Victoria was queen and the Boer War was raging in South Africa. Charles Laughton, Noel Coward, Alfred Hitchcock and James Cagney were all born that year. Thorsten Veblen described the kind of luxurious life enjoyed by the Bogarts in The Theory of the Leisure Class and inventors made the first magnetic recording of sound, a crucial step in the evolution of talking pictures.
Dr. Bogart carefully tested the newborn child's grip and proudly announced that he had just produced a surgeon. Maud made drawings of her chubby-cheeked, sparsely-thatched infant, who became famous when he appeared in a national advertising campaign for Mellin's baby food. A celebrity soon after his birth as "the original Maud Humphrey baby," Bogart said, "there was a period in American history when you couldn't pick up a goddamned magazine without seeing my kisser in it." But he had to pay a penalty for fame: "When I was a kid, it gave me a kind of complex. I was always getting the razz from friends."
Humphrey's sister Frances (called Pat) was delivered by Dr. Bogart in 1901 and Katherine (called Kay) appeared in 1903. Soon after Pat's birth, Humphrey became seriously ill with pneumonia. The overprotective Maud observed: "He is a manly lad, but too delicate in health." In a photograph taken the following year, however, he appears as a robust, chubby-cheeked two-year-old, with neatly combed hair, a billowing shirt and side-buttoned overalls with rolled-up cuffs. Maud preferred to dress her son in Little Lord Fauntleroy suits that she had made herself, and used him as an in-house model for her drawings. When Belmont tried to discipline the boy by hitting him, Maud defended her son and screamed: "If you ever touch him again, I'll kill you."
Burdened by his famous portrait and a name that seemed both effeminate and absurd, Humphrey was mocked by his schoolmates and got into many fights. His sissy image was intensified during his early teens when, dressed in white kid gloves and patent-leather pumps, he danced with young ladies (including Ira Gershwin's future wife) at formal cotillions. Attempting to be more manly, he shot out the red lanterns placed around building sites with his new air rifle. He also liked to swagger into Broadway matinees with his close friend and neighbor Bill Brady. Encouraged to follow his father's profession, he performed an operation at the age of eight. Exaggerating the incident, Bogart recalled: "I had put together a first aid kit filled with iodine, bandages, scalpels, scissors, pocket knives, butcher knives, needles and cotton. Kay had a boil on her arm and I opened it. She nearly bled to death."
Humphrey called Dr. Bogart "Father," but addressed his regal and reserved mother as "Maud." Both parents were politically conservative: Belmont was Presbyterian and Republican, Maud Episcopalian and High Tory. A snob and anti-Semite, Maud had a sharp tongue and savage wit that terrified the servants. Her intense jealousy of other women made it difficult for her handsome younger husband to keep a nurse for very long. Belmont, constantly nagged by his wife, expressed his frustration and anger by needling the servants, who were always complaining to Maud and giving notice. When the parents fought, as they frequently did, Humphrey and his sisters would pull the bedclothes over their heads to muffle the bitter words. The marriage was maintained more for the sake of propriety than for the children.
Obsessed by her work, suffering from migraines and quarreling with her husband, Maud found it impossible to express affection and love for her son, and left him to be brought up by the maids. After Bogart achieved great fame, he offered a remarkably frank and perceptive analysis of the sharp contrast between his mother's saccharine portraits and her hardboiled character: "I was brought up very unsentimentally but very straightforwardly. A kiss, in our family, was an event. Our mother and father didn't glug over my two sisters and me. They had too many things to do, and so did we. Anyway, we were mainly the responsibility of the servants. I can't say that I loved my mother, but I respected her. Ours was not the kind of affection that spills over or makes pretty pictures. If, when I was grown up, I [had] sent my mother one of those Mother's Day telegrams or said it with flowers, she would have returned the wire and flowers to me, collect."
The happiest time of Humphrey's childhood was undoubtedly the long summers he spent at the family's house at Seneca Point on Lake Canandaigua, near Rochester, in the Finger Lakes. Maud had bought the ten-year-old lakefront property from the widow of a wealthy brewer when she was pregnant with Humphrey in June 1899. Willow Brook—which had a high turret, mansard roof, large front porch and two-hundred-foot shoreline—"more closely resembled an estate. The fifty-five acres included a working farm, ice house, stretches of manicured lawns, and a dock with a sailboat." Maud brought her servants from New York, and did portraits of the local girls. Since there was no church nearby, Belmont took his turn holding divine service in his home. Peaceful Seneca Point, which had no electricity or cars, resembled the lake in Minnesota described by Bogart's contemporary Zelda Fitzgerald: "When summer came, all the people who liked the summertime moved out to the huge, clear lake not far from town, and lived there in long, flat cottages surrounded with ... pine trees, and covered by screened verandas."
Frank Hamlin, the son of a local banker, who spent many summers with Humphrey, recalled that he was in his element at the lake. A hero and leader, he was always thinking up things for the boys to do and showed for the first time a serious interest in the theater:
The leader of our Seneca Point gang was Hump Bogart, who was destined to distinguish himself as an actor. He lived on the other side of the Adams and became something of a local hero when he rescued my three-year-old brother, Arthur, who had fallen off the end of the dock. Being a little older than the rest of us, Hump was able to run things much his own way—and did. He was the leader when we played follow-the-leader. He decided when to slide down the first falls of Seneca Glen and whether to watch the butchering of a steer up in Bert Johnson's barn—a gory business. On rainy days we would roll up our living room rug and under General Bogart's direction, refight the Crimean War with our correctly uniformed lead soldiers from F. A. O. Schwarz. Hump wrote the script, selected the casts and directed the plays we produced for our nickel-a-seat audiences. The plots were usually suggested by the splendid, if somewhat worn and smelly costumes sent up from New York by Mr. [William] Brady, a leading Broadway theatrical producer and friend of the Bogarts. Especially wonderful were the real chaps from The Girl of the Golden West. Hump's sister Caddy [Kay] was allowed to play the girl but was not a regular member of our gang. That was before boys played with girls at Seneca Point.
Humphrey—glad to escape from school and the city—loved boats and water, and would row out on the lake, towing a little raft with a pet mouse on it. When he was ten years old, he said, "my father gave me a one-cylinder motorboat and I used to putt-putt around the lake all day, exploring every watery inch of it. I determined then that I'd have a `real' boat. I believe my ideas went way beyond the yacht class. I had something in mind like a private ocean liner." Later on, he had his own sloop on the lake and became an expert sailor. In 1916, after Belmont had lost a lot of money, Maud sold the house at Seneca Point. The family then spent two months on Fire Island, New York, where they were quarantined during an outbreak of infantile paralysis.
< III >
Humphrey attended the private De Lancey School, on the upper West Side, from the 1st through 4th grades. In September 1909 he entered the elite and socially impeccable Trinity School. It was founded in 1709 by William Huddleston, a lawyer and schoolmaster, who deplored the "want of a publick school in the city of New York where ... poor children ... might be taught gratis" and wished to educate the poor in the new English colony in order to combat the "abundance of irreligion."
By Humphrey's day Trinity provided education for the rich rather than the poor. In 1895 the school had moved to a large, gray stone building at 139 West 91st Street, between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues, about half a mile from the Bogarts' town house. In 1913 the annual school fees were $213; three years later they went up to $256. The twenty-five boys in each grade were formally dressed in blue Eton suits and vests, white shirts with brass-buttoned detachable collars and, in cold weather, a velvet-collared Chesterfield overcoat. From 1903 to 1937 the Rector of the High Episcopal School—which still exists at the same address—was the Reverend Dr. Lawrence "Bunny" Cole.
Trinity's motto was Fides Labore et Virtute (faith through work and virtue). According to the Yearbook of 1917-18, the "School naturally lays emphasis on the moral and religious as well as on the intellectual and physical development of its pupils.... Each day's session is begun with prayers in the chapel." The boys knelt for the litany on Fridays and celebrated Communion on Holy Days. The "curriculum was determined by the admission requirements of Columbia College," which included Greek, Latin, mathematics and modern languages. The school had football, baseball, tennis and track teams, but Humphrey did not play on any of them. He did, however, use the rifle range in the basement of the school
Humphrey's eight years at Trinity were marked by poor grades and many absences. He would be (along with Truman Capote, who later completed the screenplay of Beat the Devil) the most famous graduate of the school. But he left a very faint trail and showed no interest in Trinity after leaving it. One fellow student remembered him as "a timid, mousy little guy who never opened his trap.... Bogart never came out for anything. He wasn't a very good student.... He added up to nothing in our class.
From the 5th through 8th grades (1909-13) Humphrey took English, Spelling, Arithmetic, Geography and History, and had a 67.5 percent average. From the 9th through 11th grades (1913-16) he followed the scientific course, took Religion (in which he got the highest marks), English, Algebra and Geometry, English and American History, French and German, Drawing and (in his last year) Physics, and had an even worse 64.3 percent average. A prolonged attack of scarlet fever forced Humphrey to repeat his third year of high school, which he found humiliating and boring. When he repeated courses, his grades went up only one percent. Despite the strict discipline, he later remembered his German teacher, unpopular during the war, glaring furiously as the boys hurled erasers and books at him.
Humphrey, whose unusual name continued to plague him (though he did not change it when he became an actor), was scorned for never taking part in after-school activities. Instead, he was picked up by a nursemaid in a starched uniform and obediently went home to model for his mother. Learning to pose for an indulgent yet hard-to-please artist was his first experience as an "actor." Like Jack Warner later on, Maud put him into a stereotyped role and forced him to play it. This duty reinforced his sissy image, curtailed his freedom and emphasized Maud's power over him. He resented and disliked his mother, who exploited but ignored him and gave him no affection. Her obsession with work cut him off from normal social life both in school and in the family. His classmates also thought he was strange and sullen, and gave "the impression that he was a very spoiled boy. When things didn't go his way, he didn't like it a bit." Though he was an extremely poor student, his parents sent him to the intensely competitive Andover to complete his final year of high school.
< IV >
Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts—twenty miles north of Boston—is the oldest and one of the finest prep schools in America. Founded by Calvinists in April 1778, during the American Revolution, it was dedicated "to enlarging the minds and forming the morals of the youths committed to its care," and to guarding boys "against the first dawnings of depraved nature." But it seemed to encourage Humphrey's ability to evade school work and have a good time. Like the equally high-minded Trinity School, Andover taught Life as well as Knowledge and instructed "Youth, not only in English and Latin grammar, Writing, Arithmetic, and those Sciences, wherein they are commonly taught, but more especially to learn them the Great End and Real Business of Living."
Many distinguished figures had been associated with the Academy. "John Hancock signed the articles of incorporation, Paul Revere designed its seal in silver"; George Washington addressed the school in 1798, John Adams was the fourth principal and Charles Bulfinch built its three handsome buildings in the Georgian style. Its alumni included the inventor Samuel Morse, the judge Oliver Wendell Holmes, the statesman Henry Stimson, the writer Edgar Rice Burroughs and, later on, the photographer Walker Evans, the painter Frank Stella—and George Bush. A great many boys went from Andover to Yale, and Dr. Bogart expected his son to go there as well. In preparation for college, Humphrey read Owen Johnson's popular rah-rah novel Stover at Yale (1911), which ignored the realities of academic study and painted a rosy picture of college life.
On January 30, 1917, during Humphrey's last year at Trinity, Dr. Bogart wrote Alfred Stearns, the headmaster at Andover, reminding him that they had been baseball and football teammates in the class of 1888 and explaining that he planned to send his son there. Humphrey was obviously admitted more for family connections than for scholastic merit. In early February he followed his father's overture with his own rather stilted letter, probably dictated by his parents. Mindful of his family's recent financial losses, he expressed concern about the cost yet wanted to maintain his comfort. He reminded Dr. Stearns that they had been introduced by Dr. Bogart during the Christmas vacation and then got down to business: "My object in writing this letter is to reserve a room in `commons.' I should like a suitable roommate selected by you. I should also like a personal estimate of my expenses at Andover to show my father, including Tuition, Board and other necessary expenses. I wish to reduce my expenses as much as possible and still be comfortable. I would like to know the date at which I am expected to report to the Academy. Thanking you in advance for this courtesy, Yours respectfully."
On August 18 an Andover official sternly noted that Humphrey had not secured college credit at Columbia because of low grades in English, French and German, though he had studied these subjects for three years and had repeated them once. A month later, in a letter to Stearns of September 13, Dr. Bogart responded to this criticism, announced Humphrey's arrival, and tried to allay the Headmaster's doubts by praising his son's character and desire to succeed:
My son Humphrey will take his examination in English at Columbia on the 21st and arrive at Andover on the 23rd.... May I ask if Humphrey is to have a roommate and, with your approval, that he be placed with a boy in his Class, i.e., Senior Scientific.—We expect Humphrey to graduate this year and to 2o to college.—I have the assurance of Dr. Cole of Trinity School that he can do this.—Humphrey is a splendid fellow and very popular with every one—he will do good work if placed with a boy who will not take his attention from the regular study periods.—He has expressed a desire to go to Andover alone and meet you again personally.—As Mrs. Bogart is quite ill it will be impossible for me to go with him.—May I ask that you take a personal interest in the boy so that he will get started on the right path which will I am sure lead to a successful year.
Despite two reminders about the need for proper guidance and a suitable roommate, Humphrey—immature and away from home, an outsider in a high-powered school and close-knit group of boys—was given a small, spartan, single room. Number 5, Taylor Hall, had a fireplace, a steel cot, an oak desk and chair, a chest of drawers and a closet. The bathroom, shared with six other boys on the floor, was next to his room. Frederick Boyce, the physics teacher and housemaster, lived on the first floor with his wife and children.
A photograph of Humphrey at Andover shows him lounging on the floor of the dormitory during a party with seven friends. Another portrays him in front of a classy open car. Dressed in white, with high canvas shoes and a bow tie, hair slicked down and parted in the middle, he holds a pipe and fuzzy dog, and has a somewhat surly expression on his handsome face. By the time he reached Andover, he was pretty tired of trying to live up to his parents' expectations. He was noted for his shooting and his wrestling ability, went out with girls, took part in student pranks and had a good time.
As at Trinity, he neglected his studies, was "entirely uninterested in his work and ... by Christmas time had failed three out of five courses." The defiant Humphrey later criticized the teaching methods and blamed his incompetent teachers for failing to arouse his interest in the Bible, English, French, Chemistry and Geometry: "The problem was the way I was taught. They made you learn dates and that was all. They'd say, 'A war was fought in 1812.' So what? They never told you why people decided to kill each other at just that moment. And I hated the smugness of people in authority. I can't show reverence when I don't feel it. I was always testing my instructors to see if they were as bright or godlike as they seemed to be." He finally decided that they didn't have much to offer and that he could learn much more outside of school.
There was no place in Andover for the conspicuously idle student and the school, threatening rather than helping the boy, soon took the appropriate disciplinary action. The white-thatched, eagle-beaked Dr. Stearns, who ruled from 1903 until 1933, had closely scrutinized Humphrey's academic progress (or lack thereof), and during the second half of his senior year issued a carefully calibrated series of warnings that were meant to focus his mind on his studies. When he recklessly ignored them, the Headmaster lost patience and (in contrast to the more tolerant Trinity) promptly expelled him.
On December 22, 1917, after Humphrey's poor performance during the first term, Stearns told Dr. Bogart that Humphrey had the ability to do the work but had not tried very hard. He then withdrew some of his privileges in order to spur him on to greater seriousness: "I am enclosing herewith Humphrey's report for the term just closed. The record is not so good as it ought to be and the deficiencies recorded must be attributed largely to indifference and lack of effort. Humphrey's instructors seem to be unanimous upon this point, and in consequence we have felt it necessary to withdraw ... the privilege of out-of-town and evening excuses. I trust that this may be all that is necessary to induce him to put forth more earnest efforts in the future."
Two months later, on February 19, 1918, with no improvement in sight, Stearns wrote Dr. Bogart that he had put the delinquent on probation and demoted him to a lower-level English class. He spoke of an impending catastrophe if there was no radical change in attitude and warned of the danger of expulsion:
Last week your boy's case came up for consideration in connection with the recent scholarship rating; and because of the poor record which he has made this term the faculty voted to place him on probation.... I have taken pains to make inquiries since, and find that all his teachers agree that he has good ability but that he has not exerted himself at all seriously during the current term; and that his low standing ... is largely due to that fact. It was also decided that his work in English should be readjusted, as he seems wholly unable at this time to meet the requirements....
Under the circumstances we shall, of course, watch Humphrey's record for the balance of the term with the greatest care; for unless there is an all-round improvement during that time, we shall, of course, be compelled to require his withdrawal. I earnestly hope that such a catastrophe as this may be avoided; and I am sure that it can be if the boy will only do his part. I shall have a talk with him at the earliest opportunity, and shall do my best to impress upon him the seriousness of the situation.
By return post, on February 23, Dr. Bogart, while agreeing with the Headmaster about Humphrey's indolent habits, revealed that he did not fully understand Humphrey's problems and loyally defended his son. He portrayed Humphrey as an essentially good boy who loved Andover (perhaps for the wrong reasons), but had been led astray by girls and sports. He also offered the traditional alternative for the hedonistic schoolboy—the threat of a job:
Both his mother and myself will do everything in our power to have the boy "find himself."—I am much pleased that you are to have a personal interview, which I feel will have the desired effect.—Humphrey is a good boy, with no bad habits, who simply has lost his head temporarily.—He is very fond of Andover and loved to talk of you while home for the Christmas holidays. The whole problem to my mind seems to be that the boy has given up his mind to sports and a continuous correspondence with his girl friends.—I had before your letter came written Humphrey a sharp letter, stating that if he did not adhere closely to the requirements that you demand, I would immediately request his dismissal from Andover and put him to work. May I request Dr. Stearns that every effort be used to impress upon my son the necessity of a complete change in his habits and his outlook on life.
Six weeks later, on April 2, Stearns reported that Humphrey's slight improvement (stirred by dire threats from school and home) justified "extending the period of his probation in the hope and belief that the gains already noted will become even more pronounced as the new term gets under way."
Finally, as Humphrey failed to sustain his illusory improvement, Stearns announced his doom. Writing to Dr. Bogart on May 18, only a month before graduation, citing the view of his teachers, and wanting to avoid an embarrassing last-minute failure, Stearns dealt with the matter by expelling the boy. He admitted that the school bore some responsibility for the situation, and tried to make the best of it by stating that Humphrey, who had not even appeared to make an effort, would ultimately benefit from this disaster:
To my great regret I am forced to advise you that Humphrey has failed to meet the terms of his probation and that it becomes necessary therefore for us to require his withdrawal.... I have learned from the boy's instructors that it was the unanimous opinion of those who are familiar with the situation that it would be unwise for Humphrey to remain here longer. I cannot tell you how deeply I regret our inability to make the boy realize the seriousness of the situation and to put forth the effort required to avert this disaster.
My experience, covering a good many years now, leads me to believe that Humphrey will profit greatly from this seemingly unfortunate occurrence, and that it will tend to bring him to his senses as nothing else could do. I only express the sincere hope that this will prove the turning point in the boy's life, and that from now on he will develop that serious purpose which he appears to have lacked thus far.
Propelled by his parents' ambitions and completely unprepared for the rigorous curriculum, Humphrey received discipline rather than guidance, encouragement and the "personal interest" Dr. Bogart had asked for at Andover. Trinity had nurtured him, but Andover failed to keep him on track. If he had stayed at Trinity instead of transferring to a more demanding school, he might have graduated and gone to college.
The Bogarts were upset when the Headmaster offered no hope of Humphrey's return the following year. They were also deeply disappointed that Humphrey had deliberately destroyed his chances for a diploma from Andover, an education at Yale and a career as a surgeon. Writing in her husband's absence and clearly furious with both her son and the school, Maud told Stearns she had already arranged for Humphrey's employment with an eminent shipbuilder: "I am sending Humphrey $25.00 with instructions to come home at once, packing up his belongings and shipping them home. I believe that is what you ask. Mr. Frank E. Kirby, a very prominent Naval Architect, and now building ships for the Government, has promised to give Humphrey a `job' in the ship yard at once. I trust the boy will come to his senses and work. As Mr. Kirby has both brains and influence ... I hope he can help Humphrey."
After Bogart became famous he wanted to be remembered as a hellraiser rather than an academic failure at Andover. By his own account, he was expelled for ducking an unpopular teacher in a pond. In a letter of May 1949 to George Frazier, who was doing research on Bogart for an article in Life magazine, an Andover official retrospectively recognized Bogart's great talent and recalled a prank that he would later use in his escape-from-prison films: "he appeared to be having quite a bit of trouble with a sizeable majority of his courses, and apparently the faculty felt that here was a man who could do great things if he sets his mind to it.... [There is a] vague off-the-record recollection of once having found a dummy in Bogie's bed one evening, which would indicate that Bogie was somewhere he shouldn't have been."
In other reports of his expulsion Bogart swung from huffy outrage, "I'm leaving this place, and for good. It's a waste of time here," to the frank admission that "the bastards threw me out." He also gave his mistress Verita Peterson a more sober and accurate view of the episode by confessing his academic limitations: "I was a dumb son of a bitch, and if I hadn't got kicked out for drinking, I would have flunked out anyway. I left Andover under duress."
Bogart had no fond memories of Trinity, but remained attached to Andover. Despite his disgraceful exit at the end of his senior year, he told a reporter, soon after his son was born: "I hope he goes to Andover, my old school." (In fact, his son went to Milton Academy and failed out of school as his father had done.) When criticized, while playing Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny, for not acting as a naval officer should, Bogart indignantly defended his behavior and replied: "I went to school at Andover. Are you trying to tell me that Annapolis turns out better gentlemen than Phillips Academy?" Yet a residue of bitterness inevitably remained. When the secretary of the Alumni Fund later "asked him for a contribution, he sent back one dollar, which [he felt was] what he owed Andover." Though Bogart never graduated from high school, he received an excellent education at Trinity and Andover and profited by what he had learned. Articulate and quick-witted, he had a good mind and could hold his own with intellectual friends.
< V >
Humphrey returned home to face the wrath of his parents and hear their tediously familiar recriminations. "You've had every chance that could be given to you, and you have failed," Maud rather unctuously declared, "—not only yourself but your parents. We don't intend to support you for the rest of your life. You're on your own from now on." Instead of building ships with Frank Kirby, Humphrey decided to sail in them. Following his love of the sea, he joined the navy (six weeks after leaving school) on July 2, 1918. Eager for fun and oblivious to danger, he recalled his mood at the time: "At eighteen war was great stuff. Paris! French girls! Hot damn! ... The war was a big joke. Death? What does death mean to a kid of seventeen? The idea of death starts getting through to you when you're older." Trying to see Humphrey's rash act in a positive way, on July 6 Dr. Bogart proudly told the Andover Registrar: "The boy on his arrival home at once enlisted in the Naval Reserve Corps and is now at Pelham Bay" on Long Island Sound. "Please bring this to Dr. Stearns' attention and give Humphrey due credit for his patriotic spirit."
Seaman number 1123062 went to boot camp at the Naval Reserve Training Station in Pelham Bay and emerged as coxswain. In a contemporary photograph he stands stiffly at attention, with fists clenched, and wears a sailor's dress uniform with white puttees, long knotted cravat and white cap low on his forehead. On October 2 Dr. Bogart told Stearns that Humphrey had applied for a transfer to Naval Aviation and asked for a letter of recommendation. Making the best of a bad case, Stearns wrote two days later to the commanding officer: "Bogart was a member of our student body last year; and while not a brilliant scholar ... he is a boy of good character, full of enthusiasm, and when once he has familiarized himself with your requirements, I feel confident he will go fast and far."
Humphrey's poor grades and lack of a high school degree obviously hurt his chances. Rejected by the glamorous air arm of the navy, on November 27—sixteen days after the Armistice was signed and the war ended—he joined the troopship USS Leviathan. He spent the next eight months as a helmsman in the peacetime navy, ferrying troops back and forth between Hoboken, Liverpool and Brest, and made about twelve crossings in the North Atlantic. Confined to routine duties, he never saw the French girls in Paris.
The Leviathan had three huge funnels, masts fore and aft, and zebralike camouflage stripes. In the summer of 1918 it had carried Franklin Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, from France back to the United States. Originally commissioned as the Vaterland and built by the Germans for transporting troops, it was seized, along with all German merchant ships in American ports, when the United States declared war in April 1917. After repairs were made, the ship was pressed into service by the navy.
The navy transports had a distinguished record during the war and, Roosevelt wrote, successfully escorted all American "troops, munitions, and supplies in safety to the shores of France." Convoys of four or five large troopships, each carrying four to five thousand soldiers, zig-zagged through the submarine zone and across the Atlantic. They were escorted by ten or twelve destroyers, which used guns, torpedoes and depth charges against the German U-boats. Steaming "without lights while continuously maneuvering in close formation," the troopships, traveling at twelve to twenty knots, took about three weeks to cross the ocean. Westbound ships sailed south along the coast of France to the Bay of Biscay before recrossing the Atlantic. A naval historian wrote that "no troopship coming to the coast of France by an American escort was ever successfully attacked," and the navy transported more than two million troops without losing a single man.
Humphrey did the same duty, but without the danger of enemy attack. In February 1919 he was transferred to the USS Santa Olivia, but (perhaps while drunk) missed the boat when it sailed for Europe on April 14. He turned himself in, had the offense commuted from Deserter to Absent Without Leave, and served three days' solitary confinement on bread and water. Despite this dereliction, he seemed to have matured and his fitness reports were good. On a scale of 1 to 4, he got 3 or more in proficiency, and 4 in sobriety and obedience. He later summarized his naval career by recalling: "I enlisted on the Granite State, a training ship. Then I went to boot camp and then on the Leviathan. Then on the Santa Olivia, both troopships. I was helmsman on both, striking for quartermaster. The Leviathan was a big bastard, a [three] stacker with forty-eight coal burners. As helmsman I stood two hours on and two hours off."
The only extraordinary event during Humphrey's naval service was the mysterious accident that left a scar on the right side of his upper lip. There are two accounts, equally implausible, of how it happened. In one version, he was wounded in the lower lip by a flying wood splinter during the shelling of the Leviathan. But since the war was over by the time he joined the ship, it is unlikely that it was ever shelled. His brother-in-law rejected this story (invented perhaps by Bogart himself or by the publicity department at Warner Bros.) and said he was wounded in Boston's South Station while escorting a prisoner to the Portsmouth Naval Prison in New Hampshire. In this version, he acted out one of his heroic film roles: "The man was handcuffed, though not to him, and when they changed trains in Boston he asked Humphrey for a cigarette. Humphrey cheerfully complied, and while he was producing a match the man raised his manacled hands and smashed him across the mouth, and fled. Humphrey, his lip almost torn off, whipped out his .45 and dropped the man as he ran."
When the actress Louise Brooks met Bogart in 1924, she noticed that "at one corner of his upper lip a scarred, quilted piece hung down in a tiny scallop. When Humphrey went into films [in 1930], a surgeon [his father] sewed up the scallop, and only a small scar remained." The wound provided his characteristic tough-guy scar and—by supposedly damaging the nerve—his lisp, grimace and distinctive stiff-lipped speech.
Humphrey was honorably discharged from active service on June 18, 1919 in Brooklyn, New York. He reached the rank of seaman second class (but never made quartermaster) and was decorated with a modest Victory medal with clasp. When he returned home from the navy his mother, though proud of his war service, merely said, with her usual restraint: "Good job, Humphrey." In the summer of 1919 he found his sisters still in school, his mother as cold and self-absorbed as ever, his father in poor health and financial trouble. He had to find something to do, but had no idea what it would be.
Though he was not deeply affected by the war, his year of active service threw the teenager into contact with a very different class of men from the wealthy boys he had known at Trinity and Andover, and gave him much greater experience and responsibility than he could have had as a college freshman. His summers at Seneca Point inspired a lifelong passion for sailing; the navy strengthened his ties to the sea and gave him valuable expertise. He put this to good use when he raced his own yacht, served as a coast guard volunteer in World War II and commanded many ships in his nautical roles—from Action in the North Atlantic to The Caine Mutiny.
Alistair Cooke observed that Humphrey rebelled "against the gentility of his parents and the life they had expected him to lead." Liberal rather than conservative in politics, he defied authority, mocked conventional behavior, punctured pretensions, attacked phonies and hated snobs. But his family life and education determined his character and values. His upper-class background gave him an aristocratic self-assurance and his early renown as a Mellin's baby accustomed him to fame. He inherited his parents' high ambitions and social standards, but not their wealth and property. He lacked their drive for success and could not meet their high expectations. Like his father, he married strong-willed women, developed a taste for domestic quarrels and used his caustic wit to needle both friends and enemies.
As a child Bogart was pampered and given all the social advantages, but he was constrained and repressed, and lacked both affection and love. Despite his sissy image and privileged origins, he would play rebellious, criminal characters in the movies. His style of acting, which evolved from his character, was severe and restrained, and he had to break down his emotional reserve in order to reach his full potential as a performer.
|Prologue: Bogart and Hemingway||1|
|1 Childhood, Andover and the Navy, 1899-1919||5|
|2 Broadway and Failure in Hollywood, 1920-1934||23|
|3 The Petrified Forest and Warner Bros., 1935-1937||48|
|4 Strife with Mayo, 1937-1942||78|
|5 Professional Gangster, 1938-1940||95|
|6 John Huston and The Maltese Falcon, 1941-1942||114|
|7 War Movies and Casablanca, 1943||132|
|8 Warner, Bacall and Howard Hawks, 1944-1946||159|
|9 Fourth Marriage, 1945-1950||184|
|10 A Celebrity in Politics, 1947-1951||196|
|11 Mexico and the Florida Keys, 1948-1950||218|
|12 Africa and the Academy Award, 1951-1953||244|
|13 A Versatile Actor, 1954||270|
|14 The Desperate Hours, 1954-1956||287|
|15 A RespectableDisease, 1956-1957||304|
|Epilogue: The Bogart Cult||318|
|Bogart's Plays and Films||352|