Humphrey Bogart

Medic has obtained Bogart’s complete Official Military Personnel Records from the National Archives in Saint Louis. The records are divided into the following categories: Service Documents; Awards,Decorations, Commendations; Medical Records; Reference Documents.

Born on Christmas Day, 1899, in New York City, Bogart’s father was a surgeon, his mother a commercial illustrator. The well to do family lived in a fashionable Upper West Side apartment, and had an elegant cottage on a 55-acre estate in upstate New York. As a youngster, Humphrey’s gang of friends at the lake would put on theatricals. Of his mother, Bogart has said, that when pleased she clapped you on the shoulder, almost the way a man does. I was brought up very unsentimentally but very straightforwardly. A kiss, in our family, was an event. Our mother and father didn’t glug over my two sisters and me.” From his father, Bogart inherited a tendency to needle, fondness for fishing, lifelong love of boating, and an attraction to strong-willed women.

Bogart attended the private Delancey School until fifth grade, then the prestigious Trinity School. He was an indifferent, sullen student who showed no interest in after-school activities. Later he went to the equally elite boarding school Phillips Academy, where he was admitted based on family connections. His parents hoped he would go on to Yale, but in 1918 Bogart was expelled.

bogart-navyWith no viable career options, Bogart followed his passion for the sea and enlisted in the United States Navy in the spring of 1918. He recalled later, “At eighteen, war was great stuff. Paris! Sexy French girls! Hot damn!” Bogart is recorded as a model sailor who spent most of his sea time after the Armistice ferrying troops back from Europe.

It was during his naval stint that Bogart may have received his trademark scar and developed his characteristic lisp, though the actual circumstances are unclear. In one account his lip was cut by shrapnel when his ship, the USS Leviathan, was shelled, although some claim Bogart did not make it to sea until after the Armistice had been signed. Another version, which Bogart’s long-time friend, author Nathaniel Benchley, holds to, is that Bogart was injured while taking a prisoner to Portsmouth Naval Prison in Kittery, Maine.

Changing trains in Boston the handcuffed prisoner allegedly asked Bogart for a cigarette, then while Bogart looked for a match, the prisoner smashed him across the mouth with the cuffs, cutting Bogart’s lip and fleeing. Recaptured, the prisoner was taken to jail. An alternate version has Bogart struck in the mouth by a handcuff loosened while freeing his charge, the other still around the prisoner’s wrist.
By the time Bogart was treated by a doctor, a scar had already formed. David Niven said that when he first asked Bogart about his scar, he said it was caused by a childhood accident. “Goddamn doctor”, Bogart later told Niven, “instead of stitching it up, he screwed it up.” Niven claims the stories that Bogart got the scar during wartime were made up by the studios to inject glamour.

Discharged from the Navy in 1919, his post-service physical makes no mention of the lip scar, even though it mentions many smaller scars. When actress Louise Brooks met Bogart in 1924, he had some scar-tissue on his upper lip, which Brooks said that Bogart may have had partially repaired before entering films in 1930. She believed his scar had nothing to do with his distinctive speech pattern, and said his “lip wound gave him no speech impediment, either before or after it was mended. Over the years, Bogart practiced all kinds of lip gymnastics, accompanied by nasal tones, snarls, lisps and slurs. His painful wince, his leer, his fiendish grin were the most accomplished ever seen on film.”

During a film career of almost 30 years, Bogart appeared in 75 feature films, including High Sierra, The Maltese Falcon,Casablanca,The Caine Mutiny and The African Queen. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Bogart as the greatest male star in the history of American cinema. He went on to become one of the great actors of Hollywood. He died on 14 January 1957.