No one combined sophistication with menace like Humphrey Bogart. His smart-mouthed, brooding tough guy characters came to define the film noir era, while his messy marriages became juicy tabloid fodder. One thing's for sure: Scandal followed Bogart right up until his tragic end—and beyond.
Born on Christmas day in 1899, Humphrey Bogart seemed to have it all—but beneath the glittering surface of his privileged upbringing, there was a sad reality. No amount of financial security could provide the young boy with familial love and affection. His parents, focused on their careers, treated their children in a shocking way.
Bogart’s parents constantly butt heads, but that wasn’t the worst part. In addition to their frequent fights, they were never emotionally generous with their children. Bogart remained heartbreakingly distant from them and only ever called his mother “Maud”. He later remembered, “A kiss, in our family, was an event”.
Bogart—no stranger to iciness and dysfunction—began acting out.
In school, Bogart was an apathetic and sad child. To his parents’ dismay, he also had a rebellious nature. As his grades tanked, he began drinking and slacking off, his academic future going up in flames. With his family’s disappointment at his back and little to no career options, Bogart made a very risky decision.
When WWI began, Bogart saw his chance to climb out of his depressing rut. He enlisted in the United States Navy as a coxswain. For him, it was an exciting adventure. He later recalled, “At eighteen, war was great stuff. Paris! Sexy French girls! Hot damn”!
Moreover, many believe that it was during his time in the navy that Bogart gained one of his most legendary trademarks.
In Hollywood, Bogart became known for the scar on his lip and tell-tale lisp. As his popularity took flight, so did the stories behind his famous look. Some claimed he’d been hit by shrapnel, while others insisted that a prisoner had hit him across the mouth with handcuffs. Audiences were ravenous for a backstory as dramatic as the actor himself.
But the truth was much simpler than it seemed.
According to actor David Niven, the studios encouraged the wild stories behind Humphrey Bogart’s scar, hoping to capitalize on the actor’s history. Instead, Bogart confessed to Niven that a childhood accident caused the injury. Of course, as the studios soon learned, they wouldn’t have to perpetuate false gossip to prop up the actor.
When it came to making sensational headlines, Bogart had only to rely on his very real penchant for scandal.
When Bogart returned home from WWI, he was a changed man. There was also more of a chasm between him and his family. He found his father in a downward spiral—the patriarch's business and health failing—and the family’s wealth lost to bad investments. Bogart decided to turn his back on this mess by rebelling against everything he’d been taught.
Though he’d been raised to regard acting as a poor profession, Bogart decided to chuck the rulebook out the window. After all, acting seemed like the perfect fit; it lured him in with its late hours and the promise of attention and praise. He later said, “I was born to be indolent and this was the softest of rackets”.
Between 1922 and 1935, the amateur actor began appearing in small acts on Broadway. He had no clue that this was only the beginning.
Humphrey Bogart’s foray into romance began innocently enough, but would later take on a life of its own. In 1922, he met actress Helen Menken, and four years later, they tied the knot…but they were never meant to go the distance. Their marriage barely lasted longer than a year—and the details from Menken’s divorce filing painted a nasty picture.
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According to his first wife, Bogart neglected his marriage and even mistreated Menken. She believed that, above all else, he valued his career. What’s more? Bogart seemed to bounce back from this break a little too quickly. It didn’t take him long to find another wife in actress Mary Philips—but sadly, she didn’t satisfy his search for “the one".
Bogart’s worrisome vices only intensified after he made the leap from Broadway to Hollywood. It didn’t help that he became close friends with Spencer Tracy, who quickly became his drinking buddy. However, after a tragedy darkened his doorstep, he fell even deeper into his cups. In 1934, he visited his father on his deathbed—and the unthinkable happened.
Bogart’s family had come apart at the seams. His parents had separated, and debt plagued his father until the bitter end. But despite this, Bogart managed to get some much-needed closure. Before his father passed, he finally expressed how much he truly loved him. From then on, he carried this complicated relationship with him in a very unique way.
Bogart not only inherited his father’s debt, but also his father’s gold ring. In many of his films, the actor wears this sentimental reminder of his late father. However, this loss wasn’t the only thing feeding his depression. Bogart began to feel increasingly dissatisfied with his acting career and his second marriage.
Little did he know, it was going to get a lot worse before it got better.
Try as he might, Bogart couldn’t break out of the box Hollywood had fashioned for him. He became typecast as a gangster, and to his studio, that’s all he’d ever be. Bogart’s life was a far cry from the glamor and stardom he yearned for.
The hours were long and demanding—and there was even a stretch of years where he churned out a film every two months. But as grueling as his professional life had become, his personal life was even darker.
Unsurprisingly, Bogart’s rocky marriage with Mary Philips came to an end. But if he thought that romance was rotten, he had no clue what was coming for him. Enter: Mayo Methot.
Now, on paper, Methot seemed like a dream. She was beautiful and charismatic…but only when sober. When it came to drinking, Bogart had certainly met his match. Unfortunately, it turned their relationship into a downright nightmare.
In a distasteful move, Bogart blamed his previous failed marriages on his wives’ demanding careers. So, two years after he married Methot, his wife quit acting altogether. Was this their saving grace? Absolutely not.
Together, Bogart and Methot became a high-profile couple—but for all their notoriety, behind closed doors, they were beyond messy.
Bogart and Methot’s marriage became renowned for all the wrong reasons. The press called them “The Battling Bogarts”—but it didn’t stop there. Under the influence, Methot gained a reputation for being physically aggressive, and thus earned herself the unbecoming nickname “Sluggy”.
Bogart faced down his difficult wife, but eventually, she went completely off the deep end.
In 1943, Bogart began to fear for his wife’s well-being. After Methot attempted to take her own life, Bogart desperately wanted her to see a psychiatrist. That’s when the distressing truth came out. Doctors diagnosed Methot with paranoid schizophrenia.
This heartbreaking diagnosis answered a number of questions—but from there, the Bogarts were on a fast track to their fiery downfall.
When WWII hit, Bogart and Methot flew to Europe to entertain the officers. While in Italy, the couple spent time with legendary director John Huston. During one crazy night, Methot—completely inebriated—embarrassed herself terribly.
Already wobbly, she stood up and got everyone’s attention. The actress wanted to sing a song for everyone. It ended badly.
Although everyone tried to dissuade her from performing, Bogart’s wife let loose—and not in a good way. In fact, her singing was so bad, the occasion inspired a scene in Huston’s film Key Largo, where the boozy girlfriend sings “Moanin’ Low” completely off key.
However, compared to the disturbing shenanigans of the Bogart household, this was only the tip of the iceberg.
As though things couldn’t get any worse, the Bogart residence became nothing short of a boxing ring. In fact, it even became known as Sluggy Hollow due to the couple’s constant fighting. Infamously, Methot stabbed Bogart in the shoulder. Then, during another fight, they pummelled one another with heavy, glass bottles.
Soon, their behavior spiraled out of control.
According to actress Gloria Stuart, during a dinner party, Methot dangerously handled a pistol and even threatened to take Bogart’s life. But that wasn’t all.
Stuart also recalled seeing dark bruises on Methot’s face, proving that Bogart didn’t hesitate to get physical when he saw fit. On one occasion, he reportedly ripped his wife’s dress right off her body. And yes, it gets worse.
To some extent, Humphrey Bogart seemed to enjoy confrontation—but his wife definitely went the extra mile. Though she threw plants and crockery at him and set their house on fire, Bogart remained entrenched in their shared toxicity: “I like a jealous wife…We get on so well together (because) we don’t have illusions about each other…I wouldn’t give you two cents for a dame without a temper”.
Little did he know, he was about to meet the one woman who could drive a wedge between him and Methot for good.
43-year-old Humphrey Bogart had no clue that his life would be turned around entirely by a 19-year-old girl. Who was she? Well, her name was Lauren Bacall and, at first, she was not a huge fan of Bogart. When director Howard Hawks came to her with the prospect of either Cary Grant or Humphrey Bogart as her leading man, her reaction was unforgettable.
In the beginning, Humphrey Bogart was not Lauren Bacall’s cup of tea: “I thought, ‘Cary Grant—terrific! Humphrey Bogart—yucch’”. Later, when writing of their very first encounter, she said, “There was no clap of thunder, no lightning bolt”. Well, all that was about to change.
In 1943, Bogart and Bacall found themselves cast in To Have and Have Not—and so began one of Hollywood’s most controversial love affairs.
A few weeks before filming commenced, Bogart said something prophetic to his leading lady: “We’ll have a lot of fun together”. And boy, was he right. On their very first day on set, Bacall wrestled with her mounting nerves. In fact, she was so fearful to perform, she shook. That’s when Bogart swooped in and tried to rescue her.
Bogart recognized Bacall’s nervousness and tried to quell her misgivings. She appreciated his gentle approach and, to hide her trembling, she learned to lower her chin. This meant that she’d have to look up at Bogart through her eyelashes, resulting in a move that famously became known as “The Look”. From there on out, crew members marked a noticeable change in Bogart.
As filming continued on To Have and Have Not, Bogart and Bacall became much closer. Usually serious and taciturn, Bogart became uncharacteristically “giggly” in her presence. Their growing chemistry even made the director change his mind about the movie’s ending.
Originally, Bogart’s character pursued another woman. However, his red-hot connection with Bacall’s character offered up an even better option.
Bogart and Bacall were so wonderful together, the screenplay changed so that their characters found their “happily ever after”. However, it was more than just acting. Bogart felt an undeniable pull toward his leading lady, and three weeks into filming, he decided to make his move.
While chatting with her in her dressing room, he leaned in and kissed her.
After Bogart and Bacall locked lips for the first time, he suavely asked for her phone number. She complied, writing it down on the back of a matchbook. But, of course, this burgeoning romance posed a huge problem. Still married to the tempestuous Mayo Methot, Bogart had to go to extraordinary lengths to keep his affair with Bacall a secret.
Soon, Bogart and Bacall began meeting under the cover of darkness. They met in cars on poorly lit streets, during work breaks, or at the golf club. Bacall later said in an interview, “From then on I would get phone calls, occasionally at 3 am. My mother used to say, ‘Where do you think you’re going so early in the morning? That man, he’s a married man”!
But as time wore on, their infatuation with one another only intensified.
Bogart and Bacall affectionately called each other “Slim” and “Steve,” their characters’ nicknames in To Have and Have Not. But when filming ended, so did their illicit dalliance. Bogart still felt tied to his wife and decided to stick it out. And so, he sent Bacall a parting note that was so heartbreaking—it’s unforgettable.
When Bacall read Bogart’s note, it really felt like the end. It read, “I know what was meant by ‘To say goodbye is to die a little’—because when I walked away from you that last time and saw you standing there so darling I did die a little in my heart”. However, the turbulence and drama that underpinned their entire affair also had a sinister bent.
Bogart and Bacall’s relationship had all the haters coming for them: Bogart’s wife, Bacall’s mother, and even their director Howard Hawks. You see, Hawks was awfully jealous of Bogart for capturing Bacall’s interest. He’d been hoping to pursue the actress himself, and when he lost his chance, he lashed out in a threatening way.
Desperate to win Bacall over, Hawks insisted that Bogart’s feelings were disingenuous. Then he started throwing out pointed threats, telling Bacall he’d sell her contract to a lesser studio. It was a volatile love triangle—but Hawks didn’t hold the winning hand.
With Bogart and Hawks at each other’s throats, the studio arrived to mediate their feud. This worried Bacall to no end.
For Bogart and Bacall, their goodbye was really only the beginning. Due to the great success of To Have and Have Not, the two actors reunited on the set of 1944’s The Big Sleep. At first, Bogart told Bacall that he wanted to remain loyal to his wife and give her a second chance.
Of course, Bacall’s response was as bitter as it was iconic.
When it came to Bogart’s devotion to his wife, Bacall later wrote, “I said I’d have to respect his decision, but I didn’t have to like it”. Unfortunately for Bogart, his best-laid plans went horribly awry. As filming began, his chemistry with Bacall reignited.
Torn between two women, Bogart put both Methot and Bacall through the wringer; his indecision became his greatest weakness.
Bogart played a painful game of leaving his wife and then getting back together with her. This had Bacall bouncing back and forth between hope and despair, so much so that she wept right before a scene. She had to remedy her puffy eyes with ice so that she looked presentable. Bacall not only endured Bogart’s indecisiveness, but also his wife’s wrath.
Luckily for Bacall, Bogart finally made up his mind. He decided to leave Methot for good, and on May 10, 1945, his divorce finally went through. Only 11 days later, he and Bacall married. It was an incredibly emotional day for Bogart, who cried throughout his vows. Of course, this fairytale romance wasn’t without its shocking ups and downs.
When Bogart found out that he was going to be a father, he absolutely lost it on Bacall—and an upsetting shouting match ensued. Bacall later confessed, “It hadn’t occurred to me that, 48 years old and childless, he wasn’t ready to be a father. He kept yelling that he hadn’t married me just to lose me to a baby”.
The very next day, he wrote her a long letter that exposed his vulnerabilities.
Apparently, Bogart worried about being a bad father. However, he also acknowledged Bacall’s desire for motherhood and promised to come around to the idea. Most fittingly, the couple named their first child Stephen after Bogart’s character in To Have and Have Not. Two years later, in 1952, they welcomed another child—a daughter named Leslie.
Bogart had no clue that he’d never live long enough to watch his children grow up.
Nobody thought that the odd pairing of Bogart and Bacall would last. Bacall later said, “What the catastrophe-anticipator didn’t consider was that the Bogarts were in love”. For 12 blissful years, the couple thrived. Bacall stepped away from acting to focus on raising her family, while Bogart snagged himself an Academy Award. And then it all came crashing down.
In 1956, Humphrey Bogart received a heartbreaking diagnosis: cancer of the esophagus. Though he underwent surgery, the illness had already taken root. Bacall nursed him as best she could, but it became increasingly obvious that Bogart had no chance of survival. The day before he passed, the actor received a special visit from some of Hollywood’s elite.
Frank Sinatra, Spencer Tracy, and Katharine Hepburn arrived at his bedside. Weighing only 80 pounds, Bogart’s body had given up on him. In an interview, Hepburn recounted some of Bogart’s last words: “Spence patted him on the should 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”.
On January 14, 1957, Bogart’s life ended far too soon. When it came to the burial of his ashes, a memento of his love for Bacall went with him—a very special charm from a bracelet he’d given to her. It was a small, gold whistle with a heartbreaking inscription: “If you want anything, just whistle”.
This alluded to Bacall’s classic line in their first film together: “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow”. But as romantic as this final gesture seemed, a specter of scandal still hovered over Bogart’s legacy.
Bogart’s romance with Bacall has been immortalized in Hollywood—and yet it wasn’t without its stunning betrayals on both sides. To begin with, while Bogart lay on his deathbed, his wife had already begun an affair with the blue-eyed crooner, Frank Sinatra. In fact, not long after Bogart’s passing, she almost married him.
However, Bacall wasn’t the only one with infidelity in her back pocket.
In 1982, a woman named Verita Thompson dropped a bombshell. She claimed to have been Humphrey Bogart’s secret lover for 17 years. Starting her career as an actress, Thompson had decided to pivot and become a wig-maker. However, her meeting with Bogart was unforgettable.
She first crossed paths with him at the wrap party for Casablanca. And once he set eyes on her, he couldn’t look away.
At the time, Thompson was a married woman and Bogart was still with Mayo Methot. They spent that first night dancing and drinking into the night—and it sparked the beginning of their lengthy affair. It couldn’t have begun at a better time.
With Thompson’s husband away serving the war, her Burbank residence became the perfect hideaway for the two lovers. However, there was one thing she never saw coming.
Thompson decided to cut contact with Bogart during their respective divorces—but felt blindsided when her lover turned around and married Lauren Bacall. This, however, didn’t stop her from slipping back beneath the sheets with him. Apparently, they continued to see one another, usually on board Bogart’s boat, the Santana.
But Bogart’s betrayal went even further than that.
As a wig-maker, Thompson had every reason to be around Bogart as he needed a toupee. She even ended up on his permanent staff and he had her written into his personal agency contract. She later said, “I worked on all but four of Bogie’s last 18 pictures”. However, not only did Bogart work with his mistress, but he also had a sneaky way of hiding her in plain sight.
Bogart regularly invited Thompson to dine with his family at his home. He felt that if his mistress acted like any other employee, their time together wouldn’t raise any suspicions. Thompson admitted, “I became more familiar with Betty (Bacall) and the two children than I wanted to under the circumstances”.
But that wasn’t the only thing she had to say about Bacall.
Eventually, Bogart bid his mistress adieu when she married another man, though they remained friends until his passing. Then, in 1982, Verita Thompson finally penned her scandalous memoir, Bogie and Me: A Love Story. Eventually, she even opened up a New Orleans piano bar with the same name. And then Hurricane Katrina hit.
As the hurricane approached, Bogart’s old mistress allegedly refused a private jet, saying, “Lauren Bacall failed to chase me out of Hollywood. Katrina won’t force me out of New Orleans”.
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