Humphrey Bogart gave unforgettable performances in Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, and more. He was nominated for three Academy Awards and won a trophy for Best Actor in John Huston’s The African Queen. Sometimes he was the cynical good guy, other times he was the villain. In all of his films it was impossible to take your eyes off him.
Though his iconic film roles often had some rough edges, Bogart himself came from a privileged background. He grew up on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. His father, Belmont DeForest Bogart, was a respected cardiopulmonary surgeon and his heiress mother, Maud Humphrey, was a prominent commercial illustrator. She was responsible for numerous successful advertising campaigns and used a photo of baby Humphrey in a baby-food advertisement.
Bogart’s parents reportedly had little time for their children, insisting on a formal environment and showing little physical affection. Maud often dressed Humphrey, her only son, in clothes that resembled those worn by the “Little Lord Fauntleroy,” a character from a popular children’s novel from the late-19th century.
From the start of his education, Bogart was a poor student. One of the reasons for this may be that he faced some bullying and humiliation from his peers. After finishing a private elementary school, he was sent to the prestigious Trinity School, where many students are said to have mocked him for his old-fashioned posh clothes, his overly tidy appearance, his rather unusual and comic name, and the fact that his mother used his portraits for baby food advertisements.
The Bogart family had connections, and despite being a less than stellar student, Humphrey attended an elite boarding school named Phillips Academy. He had grown into a rebellious young man who despised the upper class and exhibited anti-authoritarian behavior as soon as he showed up at Phillips. His parents wanted him to go to Yale, but he never attended any university. Bogart was expelled from Phillips.
Sources differ on the reason for Bogart’s expulsion. Several of Bogart’s biographies claim that he was expelled due to smoking and drinking alcohol in class and a catastrophic academic performance. However, the reason supported by Bogart’s third wife, Mayo Methot, and his long-time friend John Huston names more than a typical teenage misdemeanor. Bogart was allegedly so disenchanted by the Phillips Academy’s elitism that he drunkenly assaulted the headmaster and threw him into the campus pond named “Rabbit Pond.”
After the incident, Bogart in 1918 enlisted in the Navy and got a chance to move away from his career-obsessed parents. He enjoyed his time in the Navy: he was a model sailor and experienced some combat while on the ship USS Leviathan. Most of his service took place after the Armistice. In an interview conducted in the late 1940’s, he stated: “At eighteen, war was great stuff. Paris! Sexy French girls! Hot damn!”
Throughout his career, Bogart never revealed many details from his personal life, and because of this, the origin of his trademark facial scar remains unknown. Some claim that the scar was the result of a shrapnel injury sustained while on board the USS Leviathan, and several biographies claim that Bogart was cut by a prisoner while working at a U.S. Navy prison in Boston. He was honorably discharged from the Navy in June 1919, and moved toward an acting career.
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Whatever caused the injury, the wound wasn’t properly treated and the scar remained a trademark of Bogart’s appearance for the rest of his career, adding to his tough guy persona.