Famed showbiz restaurateur Dave Chasen summed up Humphrey Bogart’s impact on the world and Bogie himself when he observed, “The trouble with Bogart is that he thinks he’s Bogart.” After a major break in “The Petrified Forest,” the formerly suave male ingenue had morphed completely into a major Hollywood tough guy, an image solidified by roles in “High Sierra” and “The Maltese Falcon.”
When Bogie observed that “The problem is the whole world is about three drinks behind,” no one doubted his sincerity. A troubled marriage and lurid tales of barroom brawls — most of which he actually managed to flee — bolstered the rough and tumble persona in the eyes of his loving public.
His range, however, was not an illusion, with powerful character turns in “In a Lonely Place,” “The Caine Mutiny” and “The Barefoot Contessa” proving his versatility and willingness to play heavies as often as he played heroes.
By the time of “Casablanca,” Bogart was a bona fide screen icon, but it was after his death in 1957 that he was rediscovered by the rebellious youth of the ’60s and made a perfect college-kid poster boy for the timeless virtues of principled rebellion, world-weariness and romantic pessimism.
Two key partners — one creative, the other creative AND romantic — helped shaped the Bogart legend: John Huston and Lauren Bacall. Huston guided Bogie through classic roles in “Falcon,” “Beat the Devil,” “The African Queen” and perhaps most indelibly, as the bitter, venal Fred C. Dobbs in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.”
Bacall was the perfect love match in “The Big Sleep” and “To Have and Have Not,” a youngster whose erotic insouciance matched and melted the older Bogie’s vain attempts at nonchalance. “Bogie and Bacall” became an iconic pairing that has endured along with Bogart’s hissing lisp and the never uttered, but always remembered, “Play it again, Sam.”