Authors: Stephen Humphrey Bogart
And thanks also to the writers, too numerous to name,
who wrote about my dad in a number of publications over
the years. Among the most helpful ones were the
New York Times,
London Daily Mirror,
San Francisco Chronicle,
Los Angeles Times,
Saturday Evening Post,
Hollywood Citizen News,
American Film, Esquire, Playboy,
New York Post, Atlantic Monthly,
New York Herald.
Also for their help in various ways in making this book possible I want to thank Chris Keane, Leslie Epstein, Nushka
Resnikoff, Ted Eden, Bill Baer, Jeff Alan, Bob Pronvost, War
ner Brothers, and the library staffs at the American Film In
stitute and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
I want to thank my agent, Susan Crawford, of the Craw
ford Literary Agency for putting me with the right people at
the right time.
And a special thanks to Audrey LaFehr at Dutton for
having faith in the book, for her support along the way, and
for her editorial wisdom in the final stages.
* * *
It is summer of 1993. I am in California.
I have been thinking about my father, Humphrey Bogart, for some time now. I want to write a book about him, but the words have been coming to me only with great difficulty. I have learned about my father, but, unaccountably, I am still reluctant to speak about him, and about what it is like to be his son.
My mother, Lauren Bacall, is in California, too. We have made arrangements to tour the house in Holmby Hills where we lived when I was a kid. The house now is the home of producer Ray Stark and he has graciously agreed to let my mother and me visit.
But now it is a few days before that scheduled tour with my mother. I am alone. I feel compelled to get up early and drive my rental car around the streets of Los Angeles. Inevitably, I drive to the house at 232 South Mapleton Drive. I know that returning to that house will be a powerful experience and I want it to be private. The truth is I want to see the house without my mother. I don’t want her explaining things to me, altering my perceptions.
It is still early morning when I pull up beside the house. My first sight of it is more powerful than I expect. Almost immediately, I feel myself shaking. Though we lived in that house for some months after Bogie died, I feel now as if my father, the house, and my childhood were all wrenched away from me in a single violent moment. I do not cry, but I am overcome with emotion. I know that what fills my heart is sorrow, but it feels like fear. It is not a fear that I want to run from. It is something that I want to face. I want to rush out of my car, rap on the back door of the house, tell the people who live there that I am Bogie’s son, and beg them to let me run from room to room.
But I don’t really want to bother the people who live there. So I sit in my car for a long time, feeling the waves of emotion sweep over me. As I feel the feelings, I also watch myself have the emotions. I have always been able to detach myself from my feelings this way, playing both the patient and the therapist. I think my father did this, too.
“What are you feeling, Steve?” I ask myself.
“Oh, just a little afraid and sad.”
“You want to talk about it?”
“No, it’s no big deal. It was thirty-seven years ago, for God’s sake.”
Ten minutes later my hands are still gripping the steering wheel. I stare out at the house, as if it, or I, could do something about the past. From where I am parked I can see the patio where Bacall sometimes served drinks. The pool, where I used to float in a yellow tube that was shaped like a duck. The door from the garage into the kitchen, where my friends waited for me. Soon I became self-conscious, thinking someone will call the police and report a stranger casing one of the expensive houses of Holmby Hills. I decide to leave. Still feeling shaky and scared, I drive off, thinking,
God, that’s the place,
that’s where my happy childhood ended on Janu
ary 14, 1957.
Mr. Bogart said, “Listen, kid, there are twelve commandments,”
and then he ordered a drink.
My mother is a woman who usually gets what she wants.
And, in the late 1940s, she was resolved that her hus
band, Humphrey Bogart, would be a father. So Bogie and
Bacall went to work on getting Bacall pregnant. They visited
the doctor to see if all the plumbing was in good working or
der. The equipment was all functional, but the sperm count
was a bit low. So Dad started taking vitamins, and his body
had to be upgraded a bit because, though he had been a
fine athlete at one time, he was now close to fifty and had made a mess of his body with cigarettes and alcohol. The
doctor also told Bogie and Bacall to relax, everything would
Though my father was not as oversexed as many well-
known movie actors of his time, all indications are that he
did enjoy sex. He once said that sex was the most fun you
could have without laughing. And I don’t think he really
wanted his sex life complicated by talk of ovulation and
uteral linings, and all the other unromantic considerations
that arise when couples are trying to have a baby. Still, except
for a small amount of grumbling, he went along with the
idea of being a daddy. This would be a first for him. Dad had
been married three times before, to Helen Menken, Mary
Philips, and Mayo Methot. All three of them had careers as actresses, and neither Dad nor his wives had ever insisted on
procreation. So it is not surprising that when my mother told
Bogie that she was pregnant, in the summer of 1948, he had
My parents lived in a farmhouse in Benedict Canyon at
the time, away from the Hollywood scene and all the “pho
nies” that my father abhorred. My mother says that when Dad
came home from the studio that day, she met him outside
the house and told him the glorious news. Dad got very quiet. Then he put his arm around her gently and led her
into the house. He remained quiet through dinner. After din
ner they had a terrible fight.
Mother says, “It was the worst fight we ever had. Bogie
was very upset. He was afraid that the baby would come be
tween us, that our lives would not be the same. He said
he didn’t marry me just so he could lose me to a child. It
Like many Bogie stories, this one has two versions. There
is no reason to think he would tell the press the real story, of
course, but here is what he did tell a reporter some months
later: “The day came when my spouse walked in the door
with the words, ‘Well, the doctor says you’ll never forgive me,
but I’m going to have a baby.’ I made the proper sounds of
elation. Frankly, I think I did them pretty well, considering it
was my first take. Then I asked her, ‘Why am I never going to
forgive you? To me a baby is a baby.’ ‘Summer is coming,
isn’t it,’ she said. ‘Well, I’m not going to be able to do much
sailing, you know.’ I said, ‘Oh.’”
He doesn’t mention the fight, but the next morning, he
apologized to my mother. He told her that he was shocked at
his own behavior. He had been scared, more than anything else. He said he didn’t want to lose all the happiness he had
found in being married to her. He was afraid of being a
lousy father, he said, and he didn’t know how he would han
dle a kid.
I’m sure Bogie had all the birth defect fears that I had
when I was an expectant father. Would his kid have all the
fingers, toes, and ears that a kid is supposed to have? These
fears probably loom even larger when you are almost fifty
and expecting your first baby. Dad was full of anxiety about
it all, but he also said that he
want a baby, more than any
thing in the world.
After his initial panic, Bogie started to get into this baby
thing. His male pals gave him a baby shower, if you can imag
ine that. Frank Sinatra, Paul Douglas, Mike Romanoff, and
others brought diapers and rattles and even little baby
dresses, because in those days you didn’t know if you would
have a boy or a girl. “His shower was bigger than the one I
had,” Mother says.
Mother spent much of her pregnancy making home im
provements in the middle of the night, and reading books
about gadgets. Already she was lobbying for a bigger house
because she wanted more children. Bogie told his friend
Mike Romanoff, “When other wives are pregnant they’re sup
posed to demand pickles, ice cream, or strawberries out of
season. Mine just wants houses.”
I became known in the papers as “The most discussed
baby-to-be in Hollywood.” Hollywood columnists Hedda Hop
per and Sheilah Graham called often. Did the baby move?
Had they decided on a name?
Throughout the pregnancy Bogie was edgy. He paced.
He ran his fingers through his thinning hair. At times he
must have looked like one of those death row prisoners he
had portrayed, waiting for a phone call from the governor.
Bogie had no experience with kids so he started trying to get
to know the children of his friends. But he tried too hard, it
seems, and was often rebuffed, which made him all the more
insecure about what sort of father he would be.
“I can’t say that I truly ever wanted a child before I mar
ried Betty,” he later said. (Betty is my mother. She was born
Betty Perske. She took her mother’s name of Bacall when she
was a kid and her father ran away. Producer Howard Hawks
made her Lauren, a name she has never felt comfortable
with.) “For one thing, in the past, my life never seemed set
tled enough to wish it on a minor. I was in the theater in New
York, or going on tour around the countryside. And in Hol
lywood, I was either trying to consolidate my foothold in pic
tures or was preoccupied by something else. But Betty wanted
a child very much, and as she talked about it, I did, too. For
one reason, which may seem a little grisly, but true, nonethe
less. I wanted to leave a part of me with her when I died.
There is quite a difference in our ages, you know, and I am
realistic enough to be aware that I shall probably leave this
sphere before she does. I wanted a child, therefore, to stay
with her, to remind her of me.”
* * *
On the day of my birth Bogie was a wreck. This was in the
days when guys stayed out of the delivery room and felt
pretty helpless. I know how Bogie felt, because I was not al
lowed in the delivery room when my first son, Jamie, was
born. But I know what my father missed, too, because a de
cade later I watched Richard and Brooke being born and
those births were easily the most deeply felt moments of
In the labor room Bogie did not do well. He turned
white and felt sick. My father had a great tolerance for pain,
but he had almost no tolerance for the pain of people he
cared about. (Several people recall that a few years later Bo
gie got sick when a doctor came to the house to stick a nee
And a few years after that, when I had my hernia
operation, Bogie got sick. Later he bragged to Nunnally
Johnson that I had been braver than a soldier.) At 11:22
on January 6, 1949, I came along. I was named Stephen
Humphrey Bogart. I was named Stephen after the character my father played in
To Have and Have Not,
the film that
brought my mother and father together. I weighed six
pounds, six ounces, and I was twenty inches long. After the birth, Dad was well enough to yank a flask full of scotch out
of his coat pocket and pour drinks for all the other fathers-
The press was notified and soon presents for me arrived
from Bogie fans all over the world. Among them were several
toy submachine guns, which Dad sent back.
The first present I ever got from my father was a snow
man. Incredibly, it had snowed in Beverly Hills on the day I was born. Three inches covered the ground, a rarity in south
ern California, and when my mother brought me home my
father had built a snowman on the lawn to welcome us back.
When Mom saw the snowman she felt a lot better about the
whole idea of Bogie and fatherhood.