Humphrey DeForest Bogart (/ˈboʊɡɑːrt/; December 25, 1899 – January 14, 1957) was an American screen and stage actor whose performances in 1940s film s noir such as The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, and The Big Sleep earned him status as a cultural icon.
Bogart began acting in 1921 after a hitch in the U.S. Navy in World War I and little success in various jobs in finance and the production side of the theater. Gradually he became a regular in Broadway shows in the 1920s and 1930s . When the stock market crash of 1929 reduced the demand for plays, Bogart turned to film . His first great success was as Duke Mantee in The Petrified Forest (1936), and this led to a period of typecasting as a gangster with film s such as Angels with Dirty Faces (1938).
Bogart’s breakthrough as a leading man came in 1941 with High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon. The next year, his performance in Casablanca (1943; Oscar nomination) raised him to the peak of his profession and, at the same time, cemented his trademark film persona, that of the hard-boiled cynic who ultimately shows his noble side. Other successes followed, including To Have and Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), Dark Passage (1947), and Key Largo (1948), all four with his wife Lauren Bacall; The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948); In a Lonely Place (1950); The African Queen (1951; Oscar winner); Sabrina (1954); The Caine Mutiny (1954; Oscar nomination); and We’re No Angels (1955). His last film was The Harder They Fall (1956).
Bogart, a heavy smoker and drinker, developed cancer of the esophagus. He almost never spoke of his failing health and refused to see a doctor until January 1956 after much persistence from Bacall. A diagnosis of cancer was made several weeks later. He underwent a surgical operation on March 1, 1956, where his entire esophagus, two lymph nodes, and a rib were removed but, by then, it was too late to halt the disease, even with chemotherapy. He underwent corrective surgery in November 1956 after the cancer had spread.With time, he grew too weak to walk up and down stairs, fighting the pain yet still able to joke: “Put me in the dumbwaiter and I’ll ride down to the first floor in style.” It was then altered to accommodate his wheelchair. Frank Sinatra was a frequent visitor, as were Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. In an interview, Hepburn described the last time she and Tracy saw their dear friend, on the evening of January 13, 1957, the day before Bogart’s death :
Spence patted him on the shoulder and said, “Goodnight, Bogie.” Bogie turned his eyes to Spence very quietly and with a sweet smile covered Spence’s hand with his own and said, “Goodbye, Spence.” Spence’s heart stood still. He understood.
Bogart fell into a coma and died in his bed the next day. He had just turned 57 twenty days prior and weighed only 80 pounds (36 kg). His simple funeral was held at All Saints Episcopal Church, with musical selections from favorite composers Johann Sebastian Bach and Claude Debussy. The ceremony was attended by some of Hollywood ’s biggest stars, including Hepburn, Tracy, Judy Garland, David Niven, Ronald Reagan, James Mason, Bette Davis, Danny Kaye, Joan Fontaine, Marlene Dietrich, James Cagney, Errol Flynn, Gregory Peck, Gary Cooper, Billy Wilder, and Jack Warner. Bacall had asked Tracy to give the eulogy, but he was too upset, so John Huston spoke instead. He reminded the gathered mourners that while Bogart’s life had ended far too soon, it had been a rich one: