YMRT #13: Bogey, Before Bacall / by Karina Longworth

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Humphrey Bogart is perhaps the most enduring icon of grown-up masculine cool to come out of Hollywood’s first century. But much of what we think of when we think of Bogart — the persona of the tough guy with the secret soft heart, his pairing on-screen and off with Lauren Bacall — coalesced late in Bogart’s life. Today we take a look at how Humphrey Bogart became Bogey, tracing his journey from blue blood beginnings through years of undistinguished work and outright failure (both in the movies and in love), to his emergence in the early 1940s as a symbol of wartime perseverance who could make sacrifice seem sexy. Finally, we’ll look at what it took to get him to take the leap into a fourth marriage that seemed to saved his life … until the world’s most glamorous stoic was faced with cancer. Next week, we’ll present the sequel to this story: Bacall, After Bogey.

Show Notes!

This episode was researched in part at the Warner Brothers Archives at USC. Thanks to Brett Service for inviting me to make use of the Archives and for helping me find what I needed. 

As I noted last week, each episode in this season has some connection to Hollywood Frame by Frame, the book I worked on which compiles previously unseen contact sheets of Hollywood still photographers. The admittedly rather flimsy connection to this week and next week’s episodes is that there are images in the book of Bogart and Bacall on the set of The African Queen. Pre-order the book now! </blatant plug>

There are a lot of biographies of Humphrey Bogart. I’ve flipped through many of them over the years, and I’m not sure there’s a single definitive or really great one. But, the most recent, Stefan Kanfer’s Tough Without a Gun, at least does the work of sorting through most of the previously published sources and comparing versions of the truth. Bogey by Clifford McCarty was one of the few film books my parents had around when I was a kid, and it was disappointing to open it during research for this episode and find that it had more pictures than text, although that also makes it pretty emblematic of the wave of Bogey image worship that sprung up in the late-60s and 1970s, which we’ll talk about in next week’s episode.

I became interested in the idea of exploring Bogey’s life before Bacall through City of Nets, Otto Friedrich’s beautifully written book on Hollywood in the 1940s. which dramatizes Bogart’s relationship with his third wife, Mayo Methot. Other sources relevant to this episode include By Myself by Lauren Bacall, Who the Hell’s In Itand Who the Devil Made It by Peter Bogdanovich, Humphrey Bogart by Nathaniel Benchley, Bogart and Bacall by Joe Hyams, Slim: Memories of a Rich and Imperfect Life by Slim Keith with Annette Tapert. and finally, the chapter on Bogart in Louise Brooks’ Lulu in Hollywood. After his death, more than one Bogart biographer disputed Brooks’ impressions/interpretations of her old friend Humphrey Bogart, who she insisted was not the same man as the Bogey the world thought they knew. Of course, Brooks’ recollections are self-serving, but I always think first-hand accounts are interesting, especially when they challenge or add shading to a legend. And that’s the thing about Bogartography: for all that’s been written about the man, his life and his work, there still seems to be so little that we actually know. 


"Intro" by The Big Sleep

"Fourty Four" by The Kills

"Dances and Dames" by Kevin MacLeod

"Out of the Skies, Under the Earth" by Chris Zabriskie

"Divider" by Chris Zabriskie

"Melody" by Serge Gainsbourg

"Love Like a Sunset" by Phoenix

"roughcut" by Tripwire

"Life Round Here" by James Blake

"Your Impersonation This Morning of Me Last Night" by Joan of Arc

"Rite of Passage" by Kevin MacLeod

"For Better or Worse"Chris Zabriskie

"Intelligent Galaxy" by The Insider

"Looped" by Jahzzar

"Shadow of a Doubt" by Sonic Youth

"Cyllinder One" by Chris Zabriskie

"Theresa’s Sound World" by Sonic Youth

"Will Be War Soon?" by Kosta T

"Prelude No. 21" by Chris Zabriskie

"Tikopia" by Kevin MacLeod

"Benbient" by canton

”Don’t Fence Me In,” by Cole Porter, performed by Frank Sinatrac