Humphrey Bogart, Happy Birthday! Born Christmas Day; 1899-1957

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Born Christmas Day of 1899, Humphrey DeForest Bogart made 8 appearances on Broadway before his first role in film came in 1928 in short film called “The Dancing Town”; it would be two years more before Bogart would make his first feature film.  His was a stalwart career, full of envious roles, with many Oscar worthy performances. His one Academy Award for Best Actor, of course, was in the African Queen, 1951, a brilliant interpretation as the drunkard, Charlie Allnut. But, he was just as dynamic as café owner Rick Blaine, in Casablanca, 1942 or one could choose, his turn as Lt. Cmdr. Philip Francis Queeg, in The Caine Mutiny, 1954. These few films I have mentioned but scratch the surface of his weighty, admirable resume, and what should have been an award-strewn path to film glory.

Bogart’s lack of multiple Oscars does not detract from his appearance in so many of what we the modern film-watchers consider to be true classics: The Maltese Falcon, 1941, To Have and Have Not, 1944, The Big Sleep, 1946, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Key Largo, 1948 and Sabrina, 1954. Other movies which Humphrey Bogart made might not come to mind immediately as a classic, but on further review we see that in their own way they rank at least as a minor classic as well; I am thinking of The Harder They Fall, 1956 (Bogart’s last film), The Barefoot Contessa, 1954 and High Sierra 1941. I could go on listing his plaudit laudable works but shall end by saying that since I was a boy I have been fascinated by Bogart, his tough-guy persona, he being my first anti-hero-hero and found so much more in his acting arsenal as I watched amazed at what this little guy with a slight lisp and too much saliva could do with a choice part.

Whether the lead or in support Humphrey Bogart seemed always to grab the camera’s attention, thereby our attention, and make the movie his own. What a great Christmas present we the movie-loving public received on Christmas Day, 1899. I don’t know about you but any and all of my differing Best-Film-Lists contain Bogart films galore, which if we take the second syllable of galore we find that the work of Bogart has taken on Hollywood lore status. Relax, if you can while taking in a Bogie movie of your choice.

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By C. S. Williams

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