Monday, March 10, 2014

Humphrey Bogart: Tough Guy or High Society?

"Tennis, anyone?"
Humphery DeForest Bogart hardly sounds like the name of  a tough guy born and raised on the rough streets of New York.  Well, Humphrey Bogart actually was born in New York City, but his father was cardiopulmonary surgeon, and his mother, a graphic illustrator. The Bogarts lived in a fashionable Upper West Side Apartment.

I learned these facts after reading a biography of Bogart years ago. I was surprised, perhaps because he played tough guys so convincingly. He even received fan mail from street toughs and criminals who could identify with Bogie because they were convinced he was one of them!

Bogart's parents did try to shape his future by enrolling him in the prestigious preparatory school Phillips Academy, in Andover, Massachusetts. But that only resulted in an expulsion. The Bogarts had hopes of their wayward son attending Yale. Needless to say, that never happened.

Following the expulsion, Bogart joined the United States Navy. It was during his Navy stint that Bogart's character and values developed independently of his family's influence.  He began to rebel against the values instilled in him, and developed into a liberal who hated pretensions, phonies, and snobs. Sometimes he defied conventional behavior and authority, characteristics he showed in real life, as well as in his movie roles.  He did, however, hold on to the positive character traits of good manners, articulateness, punctuality and modesty.
As Duke Mantee, the caption says it all!

After serving in the Navy, Bogart returned to New York and began working for a friend's father who had theater connections. From this experience, Bogart received the opportunity to try everything from writing and directing to acting. Although Bogart had been raised to believe that acting was beneath a gentleman, he did enjoy stage acting.

Wikipedia says "He never took acting lessons, but was persistent and worked steadily at his craft. He appeared in at least seventeen Broadway productions between 1922 and 1935. He played juveniles or romantic second-leads in drawing room comedies. He is said to have been the first actor to ask 'Tennis, anyone?' on stage."

Bogart played the hard boiled criminal Duke Mantee in the stage production of the Petrified Forest in 1935. The film version of was released in 1936. His performance was called "brilliant", "compelling", and "superb." After this film, Bogart was typecast as a gangster in a several B-movie crime dramas. Bogart enjoyed his success, but not the fact that it came from playing gangsters. He once said: "I can't get in a mild discussion without turning it into an argument. There must be something in my tone of voice, or this arrogant face—something that antagonizes everybody. Nobody likes me on sight. I suppose that's why I'm cast as the heavy."

Of course Bogart went on to become a star in some of the greatest A-movies of all time, including The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca, but few are aware of his upper-crust beginnings! Were you?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!


Old Kitty said...

Much as I love this man *Swooon*! I've never really known about or of him!! This is brilliant!! What a background and bless him for nurturing his awesome talent through hard work and persistence! I think it's his unique voice that gives him an edgy persona! Glad he got to play the romantic leads eventually!

Take care

shelly said...

He was definitely unique. Love most of his movies. Love old movies for sure.

William Kendall said...

I didn't know that about his background!

Peculiar timing, Maria... my next blog is a review of his Key Largo.

Norma said...

I wasn't...and I'm a longtime Bogey fan!

Intangible Hearts said...

No, I wouldn't have thought he came from educated parents but maybe that's why he had the good genes needed to follow through with his large scope of work, script memorization and character studies. Super talented, gruff and wonderful The second post I've read on Bogie today!!

Maria McKenzie said...

@Kitty: His background is surprising!

@Shelly: I'm a huge Bogie fan!

@William: What a coincidence! Great review, btw!

@Norma: It's rather shocking:).

@Eve: Good genes help, and it looks like his were top of line;)!