Classic Hollywood was filled with legendary actors, but perhaps Humphrey Bogart was one of the most talented. He began his career as an actor later than most, but a shaky start in life eventually led to a long and fruitful career. He became part of the Rat Pack, an informal, legendary group of entertainers that included the likes of Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra, among others. But Humphrey Bogart rose above even the brightest stars, and in 1999, he was named the greatest male actor of classic American cinema by the American Film Institute.
It took a few years of theatre and bit parts in various films before Humphrey Bogart made a name for himself. In 1941, he was finally launched into stardom after acting in the 1941 films High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon. Before long, his ability to portray gritty private detectives in classic noir films made him an A-list celebrity. In fact, only a year after he became known to the general public, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in the 1942 film Casablanca. While some consider Casablanca his most well-known film, his career was far from over. He continued to act in blockbuster films, and by 1951, he finally earned his Academy Award for Best Actor after starring alongside Katherine Hepburn in the World War I film The African Queen.
Despite his apparent success, however, Humphrey Bogart privately struggled in life. His first three marriages ended in disaster, and he was plagued by alcoholism and health problems. Later on in his career, a scandalous affair meant that his messy personal life made headlines. Even though he was considered a handsome and respectable man, evidence suggests he was also secretly abusive during some of his relationships.
In today’s video, we’re going to delve into the deeply messy personal life of Humphrey Bogart, and examine his three disastrous marriages before he met the love of his life. Make sure you stick around, because we’re also going to reveal how his first marriage to Helen Menken ended in a tragedy that destroyed her career!
A Rocky Start
Humphrey Bogart was born into a wealthy family. His father was a famous heart surgeon in New York, and his mother was a magazine art director. Despite having a prominent, wealthy family, Bogart had trouble in school. Instead of pursuing an education, he decided to join the Navy in order to fight during World War I. He was honorably discharged in 1919, and realized that he had no plans for his life.
He enlisted in the Coast Guard for a while, then found work as a stage manager, which sparked his interest in theatre. In 1921, he managed to land a small role- so small, in fact, that he only had one line! He delivered his single line nervously, but even after his first performance, he knew he wanted to do more. Still, it would be nearly twenty years before he finally became recognized for his talent.
Humphrey Bogart’s First Marriage
In 1926, Humphrey Bogart was a beginner actor. He married another actor named Helen Menken, who was far more accomplished than he was at the time. She and her sister were born into a poor family, and both of their parents were deaf. Not only did she have to teach herself how to act, but she also had to teach herself how to speak! When she was just 16 years old, she began performing for seedy theatre troupes, but she soon proved she had impressive acting abilities.
The two met when Menken was playing a lead role at a theatre, and Bogart was no more than a stagehand with a bit part. During the performance, a set piece fell on Menken, and she yelled and cursed at Bogart backstage for his failure. Three months later, they were engaged.
However, the marriage withered, and Menken later claimed that Bogart would hit and punch her. While nothing was ever confirmed, it’s most likely that the two divorced because Menken was acting in a bold play called The Captive, which revolved around the subject of lesbianism. Not only was the show extremely bold and taboo at the time, but Bogart began to suspect that Menken took the role because she was gay herself. The two divorced just a year after their marriage. Sadly, while Helen Menken’s career was booming when she married Bogart, her reputation was destroyed by the bold choice to perform in a play about homosexuality.
His Second Marriage
Humphrey Bogart acted in the Broadway show Nerves in 1924. He acted alongside Mary Phillips. Like his relationship with Helen Menken, Mary Phillips was already an established actress, while Humphrey Bogart was virtually a nobody. Still, the two were attracted to one another, and began dating. In 1928, they tied the knot. Out of his four different marriages, Humphrey Bogart’s marriage to Mary Phillips was the least turbulent. They were together for ten years, but their careers began developing separately.
While Mary Phillips was satisfied with her work in theatre, Humphrey Bogart wanted to move on to film. He began finding work in Hollywood, and by 1938, he wanted to move to California to truly establish his career. Mary Phillips, however, knew she couldn’t leave New York, and the two divorced. They separated on good terms, and wished each other the best of luck in their careers.
Humphrey Bogart’s ten year marriage to Mary Phillips ended peacefully, but the same can’t be said about his later marriages. Make sure you stick around until the very end, because we’re going to reveal the dark side of his longest and final marriage. And if you’re enjoying this video so far, please take a moment to like this video, and don’t forget to subscribe to Facts Verse for more!
Humphrey Bogart’s Launch into Stardom
For the longest time, Humphrey Bogart was consistently cast in stale roles throughout his theatrical career. A producer was impressed by his role in the play Invitation to Murder, and offered him a role as an escaped killer in the play Petrified Forest. He performed the show a total of 197 times, and even though he wasn’t the lead actor, his performance garnered a lot of attention. Soon, people realized he had a talent for playing dark and gritty characters.
After that, he was offered roles as a gangster or criminal in small films throughout the late 30s, and in 1941, he was launched into stardom for his role in the film High Sierra. Finally, Humphrey Bogart was making headlines, and just a year later, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in the film Casablanca. It took nearly 20 years, but finally, Humphrey Bogart was an A-list celebrity. Still, despite his apparent success, his personal life turned out to be dark and turbulent.
The Affair that Destroyed His Third Marriage
Humphrey Bogart acted alongside Mayo Methot, which sparked a romantic attraction. The two married in 1938, and were deemed a picture perfect Hollywood couple. However, people later learned that they were both heavy drinkers, and nicknamed the pair “The Battling Bogarts” for their frequent violent attacks on one another. In fact, Methot had once stabbed Bogart in the shoulder, and she had also been often seen with bruises on her face. Most people in Hollywood were aware of their frequent physical fights, and they even fought each other in public on numerous occasions.
In 1943, Mayo Methot attempted suicide, and Bogart asked her to see a psychiatrist. She did, and was sadly diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. That same year, Bogart was cast alongside 19 year old Lauren Bacall in the film To Have and Have Not. Bogart was 43 at the time, and used his power and influence to enter into an affair with the young woman. While many claim that the couple fell in love, the stark age difference tells a different story. Just a year later, Bogart filed for divorce, and entered into a relationship with Bacall that would last until his death.
Humphrey Bogart’s Painful Final Years
Bogart’s marriage to Lauren Bacall seemed happy, and together they had two children, named Steve and Leslie. In 1955, he signed a new film contract with Warner Bros., and he was excited to spend the rest of his life acting. However, Lauren Bacall soon noticed that his persistent cough, which he’d developed years earlier due to his constant smoking and drinking, had gotten worse. He started to eat less, and Bacall insisted he go and see a doctor.
The doctors gravely announced that he had esophageal cancer. The doctors were confident at first, and relieved that they had caught it relatively early. Several weeks later, however, he had to have two of his lymph nodes, a rib, and his entire esophagus surgically removed in an operation that lasted nine and a half hours. Still, the cancer was spreading, and even chemotherapy didn’t work. In her memoir, Lauren Bacall described how tragically frail he was, and by the end of his life, he was just 80 pounds. He wasted away for two years despite the doctors’ best efforts, and on January 14th, 1957, he died at age 57.
Despite the messy affair that led to their relationship, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall are often viewed as the perfect couple. But a huge age difference and a history of spousal abuse means things might not have been as perfect as they seemed. Do you think Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were truly in love, or do you think their relationship was much darker behind the scenes? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe to Facts Verse for more!