Bogart, Humphrey DeForest (1899-1957)

Humphrey DeForest Bogart was chiefly a stage actor, in fact a typecast gangster, until he broke through to stardom in 1941 with noir roles in High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon. The next year his role in Casablanca made him the biggest male star in Hollywood and crystallized a new persona, that of the tough guy with a tender underside. Bogart also played tough but not-quite -noir heros in To Have and Have Not (1944); Dark Passage (1947) and Key Largo (1948). He returned to noir in hiis later career with classics The Big Sleep (1946,) The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), The Caine Mutiny (1954) and The Harder They Fall (1956).

Wikipedia has a good entry on Bogart here, detailing the actor’s difficulties in moving from the stage, where he put in an electrifying performance in The Petrified Forest, into his initial but minor screen roles. At Warner Brothers he had to wait in line behind the established stars James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, Victor McLaglen, George Raft, and Paul Muni. Humphrey_Bogart_in_The_Petrified_Forest_film_trailer

High Sierra, however, was written by Bogart’s friend and drinking buddy John Huston, adapted from the novel by W. R. Burnett (Little Caesar, etc.) Raft and Muni turned down the role, giving Bogart his first big chance. But director Walsh fought the casting of Bogart, because he was just a supporting player.

Raft also turned down the lead in The Maltese Falcon, in part because it was a remake, which his contract said he could veto, and in part, possibly, because its director was a rookie – John Huston. It was also a bowdlerized version of the pre-Production CodeThe Maltese Falcon (1931). The original novel, written by Dashiell Hammett, was first published in the pulp magazine Black Mask in 1929.

Bogart not only admired, and could quote from, a wide variety of writers, but become intense in talking about them: “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.” In these two extraordinaryhumphrey-bogart-9217486-1-402 films Bogart was able to take that intensity, perhaps because he liked the books, and turn it to advantage, demonstrating an extraordinary screen persona.



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