Bogie's boy

Bonhams Magazine

Issue 37, Winter 2013

Page 36

Stephen Bogart talks to Zachary Faganson about his father's style

The jewel-encrusted statue that is both the namesake and focus of the 1941 film-noir masterpiece The Maltese Falcon is a McGuffin, "in the Hitchcockian sense of the word," says Stephen Bogart over the telephone from his home in Naples, Florida.

It's the reason Sam Spade, played by Stephen's father, Humphrey Bogart, descends into a world of deceit, theft and murder. The statue is also "one of the great symbols of film", as Stephen puts it. "It represents a collaboration between my father, one of the greatest actors of all time, and John Huston, one of the greatest directors." Huston received two Academy Awards for directing and writing The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, in which Bogart starred in 1948, and Bogart received his only Oscar for his role in Huston's 1951 film The African Queen.

For Stephen, however, the insight into his father's films has come late. As a boy and young man he hid from the limelight that surrounded his larger-than-life parents. His father met his mother, Lauren Bacall, in 1944 while filming To Have and Have Not, based on the Ernest Hemingway novel. The pair married the following year and Stephen Humphrey Bogart was born in 1949.

Humphrey died in 1957 of oesophageal cancer, leaving behind a legacy of more than 70 films – and his young son. Stephen has few memories of his father, and much of what he knows came decades later in 1995 when, at the encouragement of a book agent, he wrote In Search of My Father.

"I was looking to find out who he was," he says. "I was lucky in a sense that there were so many pictures, but they were all in film; I didn't know who he was as a person."

Stephen sees many similarities between his style and his father's. The two have the same piercing gaze from a relaxed and confident face. But while Stephen is not a jacket-and-tie sort, Humphrey certainly was: "My father was always a well-dressed guy.He just exuded style."

Bogart junior never took an interest in acting, and his mother didn't push it. Yet much of his professional life has been spent
in entertainment, albeit behind the camera, working in production at ESPN, NBC and the short-lived Satellite News Channel. Today he hosts a Sunday evening show called Bogart on Movies on a South Florida PBS affiliate.

Though Humphrey was notorious for partying with his famous friends, it was the actor's no-nonsense work ethic that his friends still talk about, according to his son. "There are out-takes of him making mistakes, flubbing a line, and he was upset. He was very exact in what he did," Stephen says. "I try to emulate who he was. You don't want to embarrass the family."

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