In 1936, Humphrey Bogart, a rich kid from New York City who became a professional actor by default, finally achieved stardom on Broadway and in the movies.
Leslie Howard’s Role in Bogart’s Stardom
The function that put him the map was Duke Mantee, the ruthless mobster in the Broadway hit The Petrified Forest. Warner Bros. Purchased the rights to the Robert Sherwood melodrama and desired Edward G. Robinson to perform Mantee.
But Leslie Howard, who starred with Bogart in the Broadway production, held casting endorsement and insisted Bogart drama Mantee in film.
The movie won Bogart acclaim along with also a Warners studio arrangement. But the studio proceeded to throw him — surprise! — gangsters and other unsavory outsiders.
He despised being typecast.
Bogart Stars in The Maltese Falcon, Often Considered the First Film Noir
1941 attracted Bogart’s next breakthrough, the landmark film noir The Maltese Falcon. Screenwriter John Huston has been making his directorial debut with the twice-before filmed Dashiell Hammett detective narrative.
Huston and Bogart were a cinematic fantasy group and the movie wasn’t a hit — it also helped establish the Bogart character mixing tough-mindedness and idealism.
The remainder of the 1940s pretty much belonged to Bogart.
Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine in Casablanca
In 1942 came the wartime melodrama of intrigue, love and patriotism, Casablanca, considered one of the best of Hollywood films. Directed by Michael Curtiz and featuring a remarkable cast, Casablanca took the Best Picture Oscar.
As world-weary, cynical saloon keeper Rick Blaine, “Bogie” reclaims his idealism while sacrificing a star-crossed love. Bogart and Warners had discovered a character template for the ages. But amazingly, Bogart dropped on the much-deserved Best Actor statuette, which went instead to Paul Lukas for Watch on the Rhine.
(The function in Casablanca fit Bogart like a custom made suit, reflecting his personal disdain for pretension, authority and anything “phony.” Not coincidentally, while Bogart felt forced to wear a toupee on screen starting in the ancient 40s, he refused to wear it off camera. And that he didn’t give a damn about being photographed without it.)