For our next Readers' Review: "Go Set A Watchman." You've heard about the mystery surrounding its publication, you’ve read the reviews: Now we give you a chance to weigh in on this new release by Harper Lee.
Humphrey Bogart was an unlikely leading man. He was neither conventionally handsome nor a versatile actor. But he had a unique style. Bogie starred in such classics as “The Maltese Falcon,” “Casablanca,” and “The African Queen.” He often played men from the wrong side of the tracks, though he grew up in a wealthy New York family. His fourth marriage to a much younger Lauren Bacall became one of Hollywood’s great love stories. In 1997, the American Film Institute ranked him the greatest male star in cinema history. A new biography has just been published on the legendary Humphrey Bogart. We’ll discuss why there was only one Bogie.
- Stefan Kanfer author and biographer, his past biographies include ""Ball of Fire," "The Essential Groucho," and "Stardust Lost."
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us, I'm Diane Rehm. Humphrey Bogart died over 50 years ago, but his image lives on. As my guest, Stefan Kanfer, writes, "No one claims to have discovered the new Humphrey Bogart with good reason." There was nothing like him before his entrance. There's been nothing like him since his exit. Stefan Kanfer's new book is titled, "Tough Without a Gun: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of Humphrey Bogart." He joins me in the studio. First, let's listen to a clip from one of Humphrey Bogart's best known films. Here he is with Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains, in the 1942 film, "Casablanca."
MS. DIANE REHMHow I love those last words.
MR. STEFAN KANFERThey are irresistible, aren't they?
REHMTruly, truly. But, you know, I was sitting here listening in my headphone and concentrating on the sound of his voice. That voice is so unusual. Where did it come from?
KANFERIt is, it's very musical. Well, you know, he had a long, long apprenticeship in the theatre and also radio was very important in those days. We're talking the '20s and '30s.
KANFERAnd so his -- he learned to project and I think he has a great music in this voice. I listen all the time to him and just now when you hear him, it doesn't amount to a hill of beans. He stresses beans. He makes those things seem more important because of the way he articulates them. And he always was, I think, an expert at kind of making his voice into a musical instrument.
REHMYou have titled this book, "The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of Humphrey Bogart." Why did you want to include the afterlife?
KANFERBecause as you point out, he's been gone for more than 50 years and yet he's with us. Why is that so? Largely because I think there's no male equivalent. We have in films today what are called boy-men, you know, not to single too many people, but Leonardo Dicaprio, that sort of individual, Tobey Maguire. They're not -- they don't have the faces or the voices that men did in the '40s and '50s in film and Bogart seemed to be the quintessence of that.
REHMSort of craggy, not terribly good looking, but somehow you had faith in their masculinity.
KANFERThat's true. It was called a lived-in face, I think. Partly, I think, alcohol and partly tobacco, but also experience.
REHMInteresting that he came from such a well-to-do family.
KANFERThat's right. The name Humphrey Bogart would ordinarily have been accepted in a filmdom that used Kirk Douglas, for example, rather than Issur Danielovitch, but I think he had so much experience in the theatre, they accepted him as that. His father was a doctor, pretty well known surgeon. His mother was famous. She was, perhaps, the most famous illustrator of her time, Maude Humphrey. Her stuff is all over the place. Even now, it's collector items. The Gerber Baby, for example, is what she did. He wasn't the Gerber Baby, but she did the Gerber Baby on all those baby food bottles...
REHMTiny little jars, yeah.
KANFER...that's right. So she was famous long before he was.
REHMIt's interesting that when she died, however, he listed her as housewife.
KANFERYes. I think, he and his mother never got a long very well. She was not an emotional woman. No one ever called her mother. He had two sisters and they referred to her as Maude. That was the way it was. And she displayed so little affection that I think it's one of the reasons why he had trouble with women. You know, Lauren Bacall was his fourth wife and he married three other actresses. I think he had a lot of trouble relating to women.
REHMI had the privilege of speaking with Lauren Bacall years ago. Still a gorgeous, beautiful, wonderful woman. I gather she has had a hip fracture in recent months, which was too bad. But beyond the comparison, between the likes of the young good looking men that one sees coming out of Hollywood these days, what is it about Humphrey Bogart's afterlife? What is it about, "The "African Queen," or, "Casablanca," that continues to draw us in?
KANFERFirst of all, I think he is the essence of cool. That is, he's a little removed from his role. He believes in his role, he acts his role, but at the same time, he looks at the world through that role with a sort of disinterested eye. He's not going to trust anyone and I think in this world that we live in today, that's an admirable way to go through life. Just take a look and not buying everything because somebody tells you it.
KANFERAnd the other part of it is that he divided this world from -- almost from the first time he acted into professionals and bums. And he occasionally acted like a bum and was very sorry about it. Most of the time, he was a professional and you could see it in those roles. Whatever plays on the screen is what he is. If he's a detective, he is the detective. If he's a kind of hardscrabble boatman, as he was in, "African Queen," you buy him as that. He's in that role.
REHMI want to ensure our listeners know you can see some clips from Humphrey Bogart's films on our website. Go to drshow.org and they're all there for you to enjoy. Right now, however, Stefan Kanfer is with me. He is the author of a brand-new book titled, "Tough Without a Gun: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of Humphrey Bogart." So join us on 800-433-8850. His father, you said, was a doctor. He wanted Humphrey Bogart to become a doctor.
KANFERHe did and of course, Humphrey was a rebel all his life. That was the last thing he wanted to be, but he didn't know exactly what he did want to be. So he, first of all, got kicked out of prep schools, which is sort of the normal thing for rebels of his time period.
REHMHe went to Andover Phillips?
KANFEROh, yes, very fine school. Father got him -- his father was a Yale graduate, wanted him to be a Yaley as well. He did everything he could to fail everything he could and then joined the Navy. And it was in the Navy that, people feel – there are many stories about it, but he told his friend, Nat Benchly, the real story, which was that he was guarding a prisoner and the prisoner whacked him with the handcuffed hands and put a permanent scar in his upper lip, resulting in that kind of diction that he had, tight diction. Oh, yes, later you'll give me millions. That kind of diction, which was unique. As you point out, that voice is unmistakable on radio and film clips. You just know it was Bogart.
REHMSo -- but didn't he also have some trouble in the Navy?
KANFERHe did. Once again, we're dealing with father figures and once again, he has trouble with father figures. Well, in the Navy, you don't have trouble with father figures 'cause they knock you down and put you in the stockade.
KANFERAnd that's exactly what happened, he got knocked down and put in the stockade. So that kind of rebellion later took place when he gave directors -- film directors, who were daddy, of course, some problems, but he never gave them that big a problem.
REHMBut I want to interject, he was discharged honorably, was he not?
KANFEROh, yes, yes. He was and he saw very little action. He was in at the very end of the war, but at the same time, he did wear the uniform and he had to obey. It's probably the first time he did have to obey and he learned how to do that.
REHMHow did the acting interest begin? Was it simply because he didn't know what else to do?
KANFERYes, more or less. He had a friend named Bill Brady, whose father was a producer, and so they began to throw this kid into roles. You know, there were big casts in those days and you needed to change the scene every now and then, so someone would come in and say in effect, tennis anyone? And everyone would leave the stage and go to play tennis so they could change the scenery.
KANFERAnd he was the juvenile. Believe it or not, he was a pretty young man and...
REHMI've seen photographs of him as a young man.
KANFERYes. Well, there were some in the book and you can see that he's very -- he changed over the course of the years, as I said, partly because he had to change, partly because he had a hard-worn life of alcohol and tobacco. He later played a role that was central in his career. He played Duke Mantee in, "The Petrified Forest," and it's the first time he stopped being a juvenile and played a criminal and it was a showstopper. He came out unshaven and he looked like a criminal and silence seemed to cling to him. He was very successful on the stage and at that point, he changed from kind of a juvenile lead, which he had become, into something like a character lead. As you point out, he was never handsome, but he could carry a show.
REHMStefan Kanfer and the book we're talking about, his latest, it's titled, "Tough Without a Gun: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of Humphrey Bogart." I look forward to speaking with you, 800-433-8850.
REHMAnd just before the break, Stefan Kanfer, you were talking about Humphrey Bogart's first real success role in the play, "Petrified Forest," where he played a dime store sociopath. But Humphrey sort of played him very differently. He was playing with Leslie Howard, the star of the play, who promised Bogart the same role in the film version, but why was Edward G. Robinson cast instead?
KANFERBecause Jack Warner thought that Edward G. Robinson would be far better in the role. He's more famous, he could play tough. And Leslie Howard, who had promised Humphrey that role, was out of town. He was in Scotland fishing and Robinson would've gotten it except that Robinson, at that point, was rebelling. He wanted more money. And Jack Warner didn't like rebels so he said, all right, go. And so that by the time Leslie Howard said, look, we need to have Humphrey in this, he was pushing on an open door. Jack Warner just welcomed Humphrey. Not very much money, I must say, but a terrific role and so Humphrey naturally accepted it.
REHMHe got it.
REHMHe got it. And he got to Hollywood, went to work for Warner Brothers. Was that a good move for him?
KANFERNot at first because they put him in what we related to -- refer to as Humphrey Bogart movies. They were movies in which he either got shot and killed in numerable ways, he got hanged, he got electrocuted, he got shot. He said he spent more time writhing around on the floor than he did standing up in those awful early Jack Warner movies. But later on, he had a break in, "The Maltese Falcon," and that's what really put him across.
REHMLet's listen to this scene from, "The Maltese Falcon," with actress Mary Astor.
REHMIt makes me want to go back and watch every single one of these movies.
KANFERFortunately, not only can you rent them, but they're on all the time. TCM has them on all the time...
KANFERSaw Casablanca last night. It's always possible to catch up with Bogart films. There's some magic in there, particularly this movie which, as I said, put him across. You know, Louise Brooks was a very good actress who dropped out of films and just sort of became a resident intellectual upstate. And she had acted with Bogart and seen him and she said that he was uncomfortable with words. And I think she was exactly wrong. He's delivering so much exposition with her...
REHMOh, my gosh, yeah.
KANFER...and making it work.
REHMRight. But, you know, here's another case where somebody else was supposed to have that role. George Raft.
KANFERYes. George Raft was hot stuff in those days and he said, when he was given the script, this is not a George Raft picture. He didn't want to be in it. It wasn't big enough. So John Huston, who was directing for the very first time, said, I got Bogie and I was very glad. Because something happened, he realized, when Bogart -- this is something that kids don't understand because they don't watch black and white movies anymore, but black and white changes a person's face and Bogart was apparently a fairly ordinary person to look at, but when he got in front of the camera, it changed him and he became heroic.
KANFERAnd you really gave him great credibility when he was in, "The Maltese Falcon." He's what Raymond Chandler said -- and I took that as my title -- Bogart is tough without a gun. He felt that Alan Ladd was a boy's idea of a detective and Bogart was the real thing. And you see in that little passage when he's talking to Mary, there's no gun, but he's as touch as can be.
REHMYou bet. That was, what, 1941, 1942...
KANFERYeah, it was just released in '41, right.
REHM...just as the U.S. about to get into the war...
REHM...you've got these Falcon movies coming out. But really, success comes late for Bogart.
KANFERIt does. You can't imagine somebody making it big at the age of 42 in today's Hollywood. It's true that Brad Pitt is 42 today, but he made it when he was 25. It's very, very difficult for anybody to be accepted. And I think that would be considered, by most of the kids who go -- and these are the mall rats -- I can call them that 'cause I have granddaughters who are mall rats -- these are the people who go to movies pretty much today. And they want to see people, understandably, their own age. So here's this very mature man who's making it -- I think that that is a part of the '40s when, you must realize, all the world leaders were considerably older. I mean, whether it was General MacArthur or President Roosevelt...
REHMEisenhower, all the rest.
REHMBut he's already too old to enlist in the Army...
REHM...as many other actors did, but I gather the studio really wanted to make Bogie patriotic. How did they do that?
KANFERWell, first of all, he was in some war films like, "Sirocco." But then in -- when he -- after, "The Maltese Falcon," when they realized they couldn't make, "Maltese Falcon," again, they did something called, "Across the Pacific," using the same actors Sydney Greenstreet and Mary Astor and so on and he was against the Japanese at that point. And then came the blessings of, "Casablanca," which was not only made at the right time, but, "Casablanca," became a news item because there was a meeting of Churchill and Roosevelt in Casablanca and that just put that film across and made him a superstar.
REHMAll right. I'm going to open the phones to take calls, 800-433-8850. First to Rochester, N.Y. Good morning, John, you're on the air.
JOHNI wonder why it is that his performance in, "The Caine Mutiny," is not mentioned that often? I see that as -- you know, as really late in Bogart's career, but I see that really as his true breakout performance in some ways, as far as getting away from this fairly one-dimensional sort of dogged single-minded almost stereotyped character (unintelligible)...
KANFERIt's a great question. It really is a great question because...
KANFER...Bogart did bring to it a kind of sympathy. This is a man -- a ship's captain who is breaking down in front of us on the stand and your sympathies go with him. The one thing I would say is that was -- it was not written for him. It was not written with him even in mind. You know, it was played very differently on the Broadway stage. And when it came time for Bogart to do it, he actually took a cut in pay because he wanted to play that so badly.
REHMWho was it written for?
KANFERWell, I don't think that Herman Wouk had any idea when he wrote the book that it was for anybody, but Lloyd Nolan played it on the stage and he owned that part and Bogart saw that and he said, I can do it differently. I can make that part live in a different way and he did. I mean, it's a very good point that the caller makes. It's true.
REHMSo do you agree with the caller that it was one of his real breakout roles?
KANFERIt is. I show it when I talk about this book at Barnes and Noble. I show a little clip from that and also because it's a color film. He didn't make that many color films and it works quite wonderfully.
REHMAll right. To Marla in Terre Haute, Ind. Good morning to you.
MARLAGood morning. I am a fan of Humphrey Bogart. I have several of his films and one of the films that I have in my possession -- and I don't know -- and I don't know if I'm saying the right -- it's called, "Dark Passage," or, "Dark Journey," something like that.
MARLADo you know what I'm talking about?
MARLAOkay. I was just curious as to why he made that film with Lauren Bacall because it's such a kind of an obscure film and it appears to have been done later on, maybe, in their career.
KANFERIt was, it was. I think the reason was because they were just such a hot item. After all, you know, she was 19 when they met and it was a great Hollywood love story and it was actually a genuine love story because they stayed married. This is his fourth and last wife. And because they tried to cast her in various roles and they couldn't quite get the right one until he began to sort of produce on his own, then they did.
REHMLet's hear a scene from, "To Have and Have Not."
REHMAnd, of course, that was Humphrey Bogart with the woman who became his fourth wife, Lauren Bacall. And we're talking about Stefan Kanfer's new book, it's titled, "Tough Without a Gun: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of Humphrey Bogart." You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And what a scene that was when they first met. As you've already said, she was just 19. He was 25 years older...
REHM...than she. Not sparks right at the start.
KANFERNo. As a matter of fact, I think he was somewhat embarrassed to be acting with a 19-year-old who really didn't have a lot of skills, but had that great voice.
REHMBut she was a protégé of Howard Hawks.
KANFERMm-hmm. And they brought her along thinking she might be a movie actress. She was a model, good looking model. And Howard Hawks' wife, who's -- and was also slim said, she has something of the panther about her. And indeed, she did.
REHMThe panther. I like that.
KANFERYeah, that did come across. Yes. Well, she's made an entire life on that line because she is a feline in the way she acts. And with Bogart, there were sparks on screen and they knew what they had. Hawks knew what he had. And after awhile, they did begin to kind of hold hands in the front of a car like two kids and he was married at that time and trying very hard in the end -- he was married to an alcoholic -- to make it work and it simply couldn't work and then finally, he divorced and married Lauren Bacall, the love of his life.
REHMAnd if you want to read about Lauren Bacall, there's a piece in Vanity Fair. She is now 86 years old and just as tough and filled with vitality as ever. Let's go to Steve in Jacksonville, Fla. Good morning to you.
STEVEGood morning and thank you very much. I think Humphrey Bogart's films are just the stuff dreams are made of and I wanted to ask Mr. Kanfer, do you feel that knowing the biography of an actor takes away from being able to watch him on screen? And I'll take my answer off the air.
KANFERI don't think so. You have to realize an actor is an actor and he goes to work and he is a character and his life is something else entirely. Often, of course, life informs his art, so I think you should know both, but I don't think you should ever think that because a man plays a dissolute character or a murderer on screen that that's what he's like in private life. You have to see how the life either illuminates the art or the art illuminates the life.
REHMWas he warm, was he charming, was he gracious?
KANFERMy feeling is that he was -- for everything that one can find, he was gracious in the sense of being formally gracious. I don't think he opened his life to very many people. He was a very private person. And because he was a sailor, much enjoyed going out on the sea in his boat and getting away from Hollywood. And knew how phony much of Hollywood was. This was a man who wore a toupee in most of his pictures, but who wouldn't let them put much makeup on his face. He said, I earned those lines, that's who I want to be. But there was so much tinsel around him, I think he needed to get away from it. And only a few people got past him. Spencer Tracy did and David Niven, among the actors, but he preferred the company of writers.
REHMAnd what about Lauren Bacall? You called her the love of his life. Theirs was not a placid marriage.
KANFERNo. In fact, there's some accounts about the fact that he was carrying on with his wardrobe person and makeup person and toupee person. No. It wasn't an ideal marriage, but it was one that worked because I think they worked hard at it and because she, I think, felt the way he did, that they couldn't go Hollywood and be the person that they wanted to be, so they didn't buy too much into the party scene.
REHMDid you talk with her for this book?
KANFERNot for this book. I talked with her long ago 'cause I used to cover theatre for Time Magazine and I talked to her about -- I didn't talk to her about him. But I think she feels, not incorrectly, but she's who she is and does not want to be tainted only with being the wife of, you know. That's not fair to her.
REHMAnd, of course, that subsequent marriage to Jason Robards...
REHM...didn't work very well, either. All right. We'll take a short break in our conversation with Stefan Kanfer. When we come back, we'll talk about Humphrey Bogart and the House on American Activities Committee.
REHMAnd we're back. And our next caller is in Seattle, Wash. Good morning, Richard.
RICHARDGood morning. Thanks for taking my call.
RICHARDI just heard that during those McCarthy hearings, that Humphrey Bogart kind of caved in and basically indicted either writers or fellow actors and I was just wondering if there was any truth to that.
KANFERThere's quite a bit of truth to it, although it gets distorted as the years go on. Bogart never gave names, never furnished any names, couldn't furnish any names. He never was a member of a communist cell or anything of the kind. But originally, he was with a group, Danny Kay, and the start of the -- of the kind of push back people, Sam Goldwin and others who didn't like the fact that this cheap Hollywood committee was coming in and trying to grab headlines. And Bogart was -- they met often at his house, he was the prime spokesman. Then the Hollywood 10, originally the unfriendly 19. You know, Billie Wilder said, only 10 of them talent, the other 19 are just unfriendly.
KANFERBut in any case, they lied to their own lawyer, Bartley Crum, and they said they weren’t communists, when they had been. It would've been better for them to have claimed the First Amendment rather than the Fifth Amendment. And Bogart, at that point felt, betrayed by them and he jumped ship. Now, this is not a manly thing to do and it was not something that he was proud of later on, but he tried to make amends by hiring some blacklisted people and by talking back eventually to the government, but he was quite chastened in '47 and '48.
REHMHow did that affect his reputation?
KANFERI don't think very much. I think that Richard Brooks and other directors felt that he was never the same man, but you can't see it in performance. I mean, that's sort of wish fulfillment, I think.
REHMHere's an e-mail, let's see, from Scott, who says, "I remember seeing Truman Capote tell Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show" that he once beat Bogie at arm wrestling and Bogie was completely incensed and had a fit. Is there any truth to this?"
KANFERAll true. Truman Capote was writing, almost on a daily basis, "Beat the Devil." They sort of made it up as they went along. Well, "Casablanca," was made up as they went along, too, but this didn't turn out quite so successfully. And in the course of it, here's this little homosexual who was very flaunting in his likes and dislikes and dress and Bogart began to tease him. And he had been beating everybody, Bogart had, with arm wrestling. And Capote sat down next to him and beat Bogart rather easily. He was a strong little guy. And Bogart did become incensed and tried to wrestle him. And Capote also knew how to wrestle, so he threw him to the ground and caused an elbow facture.
KANFERSo -- and yet at the same time, after that, Bogart became rather friendly with him and in the end wrote to his wife, Lauren Bacall, you should see this guy. I'd like to have him in my pocket and take him out on occasion and watch him.
REHMHere's an e-mail from Alma who's in Jacksonville, Fla. "A group of us were visiting New Orleans a few years ago and wandered into a bar on Bourbon Street where we struck up a conversation with an elderly woman very well dressed who told us she was Verita Thompson, Bogart's mistress. Can you comment?"
KANFERShe wrote a book about it and claimed to the end -- it was unsupported, but one sort of tends to believe her because she drops all the right names at the right times, that she was kind of a girlfriend who he let know that he was gonna never leave home. He had two children. He was not gonna leave Lauren for her, but sort of used her as a sounding board when he was unhappy with the way things were going at home. And to the end, she claimed she was the love of his life. I don't think she was, but she certainly had a good time. She kept saying, oh, honey, did we have fun? I guess they did.
REHMAnd how was he as a father?
KANFERI think he was good as a father, but somewhat remote. I don't think he knew how to handle children. He never really had any experience with it. And his -- the great line, which people claim to be true, is when somebody had a kid who was getting up there, going be 10 -- about 10 years old, he said, can I talk to -- can I talk to the kid, you know, about life? So Bogart took him aside, he said, listen, kid, there are 12 commandments.
KANFERThat's the way he began, so I don't think -- I don't think children were a big part.
REHMCourse the huge movie that he did with Katharine Hepburn...
REHM..."African Queen," was really something else. Here's a small piece of it.
REHMOh, that line, I'll never forget it. He -- how did they get along? How did he and Katharine Hepburn get along?
KANFERFamously. They had never worked together. And of course, there's no romance. I mean, she had Spencer and he had Lauren Bacall, who was there on location in Africa. They got along famously and I think because they're such opposite types, you know, it's -- Bogart has a reputation, not incorrectly, of not being able to do comedy and yet he is so wonderful in this. He is funny...
KANFER...opposite because she's such a great catcher.
KANFERYou know, he -- she could let him -- he's playing drunk in that and he's even saying, if in your might rind, which is not the way it's written, but he just adlibbed that, probably made the mistake and she caught it. And she was always very good with him. And when she had her chance to do her skinny old maid, she did it extremely well. They had to rewrite his part and make him a Canadian. Originally it's a Brit, but he couldn't do any cockney accent, so he -- they just made -- they said, be Humphrey Bogart, do it your way, and he did.
REHMBut, you know, you write in the book that everybody else on the set got sick.
KANFERYes. She's a urologist's daughter, so she believed that you have to drink water and water and water.
KANFERThe bottled water was, you know, not really so bottled and everybody got violently ill. But Humphrey Bogart and John Huston believed in brushing their teeth with beer and drinking Whiskey and they remained healthy through the whole scene.
REHMThey remained healthy. One other thing about Humphrey Bogart we haven't talked about. He was not only sort of small in stature, he was short.
KANFERNo. He wasn't that short. He was about, I would say, 5'7", maybe...
KANFER...maybe 5'8," but they used to furnish him with high heels when he was westerns and, you know, he walked the way Julia Roberts walked in, "Pretty Woman." He was very uncomfortable and looked it. It was not the way that -- but, you know, Alan Ladd was even shorter. There are tricks. There are ways of making him look tall.
REHMOkay. So did they build those platforms into the shoes?
KANFERNo. I think what he did was -- they made him taller by putting him higher than the woman that he was acting opposite. And for the most part, he was with shorter actresses, anyway.
KANFERNo. She's not short, but the others were. No, she was a tall job. And because she was thin, she looked even taller. She's not a giant, but she's probably 5'...
REHMShe's tall, yeah.
KANFER...she's probably 5'9" or 10", I guess.
REHMShe's 5'8", 5'9", something like that.
KANFERRight. And when she was younger, she was probably even taller.
REHMProbably even taller.
KANFERBut what they did there, there are very few scenes with the two of them standing.
KANFERHe's standing or she's standing or sitting.
REHMOr the angles in which...
REHM...they photographed them. Because in that last one, "To Have and Have Not," I mean, she's standing over here, he's by the door. It's all very, very cleverly done.
KANFERThat's what Hollywood magic is about.
REHMAbsolutely. Stefan Kanfer and the book we're talking about, "Tough Without a Gun: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of Humphrey Bogart." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Now, let's go to Salt Lake City. Erin, you're on the air.
ERINMy question is about his former marriages. I know he reportedly said, when his third wife died, his comment was, such a waste. And I don't know if you talk about that in the book or is there...
ERINOkay. Could you talk a little bit about that, his marriages?
KANFERWell, the marriages were all to other actresses. And originally, he was married to woman who was older than he and -- named Helen Menken and that helped his career to some degree, but it was never going to work. And he married a very pretty woman named Mary Philips, who is a real careerist, was not going go out and watch him be in second rate stuff in Hollywood when she could be a star, which she was, on Broadway. And so that didn't work. And then she -- he was married to a real sad -- Mayo Methot, a really sad woman who had some talent, but was a violent alcoholic, was physically abusive as well as mentally abusive and that simply was not gonna work either and...
REHMShe attacked him with a knife.
KANFERYes, with a knife, stabbed him in the back. Fortunately, it was not that deep, but I think that he felt -- when he said, what a waste, when he found out about it, he had already been married a couple of years and she died in Oregon in an obscure motel. She had cancer. It was just a very sad business.
REHMDoes that answer it, Erin?
ERINYeah, yeah, it just -- to me, I mean, I really like Humphrey Bogart, but it seemed like a bit of a womanizer, but I guess it lasted with Lauren Bacall until his death.
KANFERThat's right. I don't think he was much a womanizer as he was kind of confused. I really think so.
REHMWell, that's one way to put it. Let's go to Nassau in the Bahamas. Good morning, Jim.
JIMGood morning, good morning. I can't do Bogie's accent during, "The African Queen," Charlie Allnut scene, but I do enjoy a glass of gin from time to time and I've had the privilege of having one aboard the original African Queen. And I wondered if Stefan was aware that the boat is currently based at Key Largo, Fla.?
KANFERIt is and I've often thought I would build a model of it, a small model of it, 'cause I admire that film so much and I must say, there you are in Nassau, you're enjoying the only good weather in the world right now.
JIMI drink rum here, by the way, but I'm quite happy with gin. Again, back to the African Queen, she was actually built in 1912, you're probably aware, the same year as the Titanic.
JIMAnd she was found in 1952 by a guy called Holster who was the production manager for, "The African Queen." And then she was refitted. By that time, she'd been converted to a diesel engine. In 1952, she had a mock up for Bogie's filming of, "The African Queen." And then back in '80, a guy called Langley in England made a replica of the original 1918 -- I'm sorry, 1912 engine and we took it to -- we took the boat over to Ramsgate in England.
KANFERThere's a book -- there's a book in that, I think, itself.
REHMYeah, I should say. Thanks for calling, Jim. Tell me about how Bogie found out he had cancer.
KANFERHe was always -- he's one of these people who smoked continually. I sometimes can't bear to watch some of the films 'cause you can see him killing himself with smoke. Although in those days, they all smoked. You know, everybody in the Army smoked. We all did that. When we're in the Army, smoke if you got them.
KANFERAnd he was coughing so badly that Greer Garson saw him at a restaurant and said, you gotta see my doctor. And he did. And after a little probing, they realized this was a much more serious thing than just a smoker's cough and that was the beginning of the end. You know, he said, I haven't been sick a day in my life and now I feel the rest of my life is going be spent in Intensive Care and so it was. It's a great lesson for anybody who is smoking. Look at this guy who died really at the peak of his career and couldn’t go on.
REHMHe found out he had cancer in what year?
KANFERWell, he died in '57, so probably '56, I think.
REHMAnd he weighed 155 pounds then?
KANFERYeah, and he weighed less -- when he was dying, they had a dumbwaiter in the house and they put him on that 'cause he couldn't make the stairs and they'd just take him.
KANFERIt was -- but he was -- to the end, he was tough. He refused to give into it and was never sorry for himself. He continued to receive visitors and he continued to drink to the end. He just wanted to go out.
REHMTo drinking. Interesting. He weighed something like 80 pounds...
KANFERYeah, he was just...
REHM...when he died.
KANFER...just skin and bones when he died.
REHMDid Lauren Bacall nurse him?
KANFERShe did. She was very good about that and accepted a lot of his friends and even though she knew it was going to shorten the few days that he had, because she felt it was important that he see Spence Tracy for the last time and Katharine Hepburn and all that. There's a very touching scene where Spencer Tracy says, good night, Bogie and Bogart says, goodbye, Spence. 'Cause he knew he was gonna die...
KANFER...the next day and did.
REHMYeah, and he did?
KANFERHe did, yes. And he knew it.
REHMSo -- but he's managed to remain...
REHM...in all our lives.
KANFER...he's had an enormous afterlife, both in Bogart festivals and in the style that he represented, which has sort of vanished now. I think -- if I may say so, I think women miss that and I think it's necessary for American life to realize that stoicism has a part. You can't let it all hang out. Some of it has to be kept inside and I think Bogart was the personification of that kind of existential hero. Camus -- after Albert Camus, a Nobel laureate, based his entire outerwear and a lot of his attitudes on what Bogart's effect was on screen. And there are, of course, many others.
REHMExplain what you mean when you talk about Camus in that way.
KANFERBogart sort of exhaled a disappointment in the way the world had turned out, but an unwillingness to curse that world. He went through it, as Raymond Chandler said, down these streets a man must go who is neither tarnished nor afraid.
REHMStefan Kanfer, his new book, "Tough Without a Gun: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of Humphrey Bogart." What a pleasure to talk with you.
KANFERIt's my pleasure.
REHMThanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture and Monique Nazareth. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. Dorie Anisman answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.
Most Recent Shows
Islamic State militants have blown up the ancient temple of Baalshamin in Palmyra and beheaded a renowned antiquities scholar. We look at recent atrocities by ISIS and the terror group’s broader strategy for power.
The authors of a recent article in The Atlantic argue that political correctness on college campuses is not only harming education — it's also harming students themselves. We look at the debate and how it's affecting the way we learn and teach.
Ongoing fears of a slowdown in the Chinese economy drive a stock sell-off and declines in commodity prices worldwide. We look at what the global market downturn could mean for the U.S. economy, businesses and consumers.