Bogart and high school never got along. His grades reflected that fact, making it improbable he would ever go to college--an unacceptable reality for his educated, socially connected parents. In a "Hail, Mary" attempt to get their son ready and willing to enter an Ivy League school, Bogie's parents prevailed on Andover Academy to admit the seventeen-year old for the September 1917 term. It was not the start of "beautiful friendship."
Though Bogie was certainly smart enough to do the work, he was bored by the education. "They made you learn dates," he told an interviewer years later, "and that was all. They'd say, 'a war was fought in 1812.' So what? They never told you why people decided to kill each other just at that moment."
By May of 1918, the gig was up. After warnings and a stint of academic probation, Andover and Bogie parted company. World War I was still grinding along but it was also grinding down. Bogie enlisted in the Naval Reserve for four years and presented himself aboard the USS Granite State on May 28, 1918. He had the provisional rating of a seaman 2nd class. He was placed on active duty in June, started his training in July and was deployed aboard the USS Leviathan, a troop carrier, starting November 27, 1918, sixteen days after the armistice was signed ending the conflict. Bogart never served in combat but he saw the horrifying results of it every time his carrier ferried American soldiers home.
Despite an incident that might have ended with Bogie charged for desertion--he missed the departure for Europe of his assigned ship having arrived late to the port then spent the next two months convincing authorities it was honestly unintentional--he received an honorable discharge in June of 1919. Aside from a bronze Victory Medal, awarded to every one that served, and stories of shore-leave in Paris, Bogie had little to show for his year in the military. Though it got him away from a home that was increasingly oppressed by conflict, illness, and substance abuse, Bogie was no closer to having a skill or profession than when he left Andover.
Farther North, in Halifax, Canada, another young American was also being mustered out of the service in June of 1919. Though born in North Carolina, Sylvester Long Lance had volunteered for enlistment in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1916. When the war ended, he requested transportation be provided to his discharge location of Calgary, Canada, a booming frontier town that offered far greater opportunities for a smart, well-spoken young man with a mixed racial heritage than the oppressive city of his birth, Winston.
So, what's off-the-grid about this tiny tale of two young Americans being discharged from active military service in the same month and year? Just this--in the summer of 1919, neither Humphrey Bogart nor Long Lance, separated by 2,400 miles, had any reason to suspect destiny was moving them towards each other. Their paths would cross and a close friendship form a decade later thanks to a book, a play, and a woman.
In the summer of 1929, the comedy, It's A Wise Child, by Lawrence E. Johnson, opened on Broadway at the Belasco Theater. Bogie got fifth billing and steady work for 378 performances. Darwin Porter claimed in his no-notes, non-referenced and strangely salacious 2003 biography on Bogart, The Secret Life of Humphrey Bogart: the early years (1899-1931), that the object of Bogie's flirtatious attention early-on in the production was his beautiful co-star, Mildred McCoy. According to Porter, "Mildred seemed fascinated with Hump [married to another actress, Mary Philips] and invited his amorous attention, even though she constantly refused to go out with him." (p.122)
How Porter discovered this piece of gossip about a flirtation that went nowhere is a mystery. But that's beside the point. It's the man McCoy WAS dating that summer that makes for a juicy anecdote. Without a nod to corroboration from other sources, Porter reveals that McCoy's beau, "Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance, the most famous Indian in America," got wind of the non-affair and showed-up one day at rehearsal to "mark" his woman by planting a direct lip-smacking kiss on McCoy while Bogie looked-on.
Long Lance continued to haunt the rehearsals for days until satisfied that Bogie was not a romantic threat. At six feet tall with the build of an Olympic athlete, the writer, actor, adventurer towered over Bogart and was a much bigger legend on the New York social scene. Darkly handsome with high cheekbones and a rugged jaw, Long Lance was always impeccably dressed and impressively verbal. Sporting a long history of dating high-profile, beautiful women, he was dubbed "the Beau Brummel of Broadway" by social critic Irving Cobb. Bogie, still a struggling, minor-rated actor, was no match for the Native American bon vivant.
So...what's off-the-grid about this tale? As it happens, Bogart is in Los Angeles in 1932 when he learns of Long Lance's violent death at the L.A. home of California heiress, Anita Baldwin. In an eerie twist, Bogie stars in a film, released that same year, entitled Love Affair. He plays a dashing flight instructor who falls for a wealthy socialite. Bogie's aviator character, Jim Leonard--and his romance with a rich woman who offers to finance his revolutionary plane engine project--is remarkably similar to Long Lance's involvement with the eccentric Anita Baldwin, who agreed to purchase Long Lance a plane if he agreed to live by her rules. Hmmm... More about the remarkable Mr. Long Lance next time.
For years, a rumor circulated that Humphrey Bogart was the famous baby face on the label of Gerber baby foods. Alas, while there is a hint of resemblance between the chubby-cheeked infant pictured above and Gerber's smiling dollie-face, they are NOT the same child.
Bogie was a baby food icon but long before Gerber hit the shelves. In the early decades of the 20th century, Mellin's Food for Infants and Invalids was the go-to product in the industry. Maud Humphrey, Bogie's mother, was the illustrator for Mellin's ad campaigns. Sketches of her son often appeared in promotions for the products.
In fact, Bogie's little-boy likeness was a staple when it came to Maud's illustrations--used in and on everything from books to sewing patterns to calendars. In the 2006 book by Richard Schickel and George Perry, The Life and Films of Humphrey Bogart, Bogie states, "There was a period in American history when you couldn’t pick up a goddamned magazine without seeing my kisser in it.”
So, what's off-the-grid in this tiny tot tale? Why Richard M. Nixon of course! It seems the 37th President was also rumored to be the infant model for the Gerber baby. He was NOT. However, the two falsely accused Gerber baby models, Bogie and Nixon, had another quirky "connection" of sorts.
Congressman Nixon and activist Bogart crossed paths in Washington, D.C. when Bogie and his wife, Lauren Bacall, traveled to the city as leaders of a group called Committee for the First Amendment (CFA). CFA was formed in Hollywood to: "...counter what they claimed were reckless attacks by HUAC," the House Un-American Activities Committee.
The 1947 HUAC hearings targeted members of the movie industry for questioning about past or present ties to the Communist Party. Nixon was serving--with gusto--as a member of HUAC at the time. Bogie, Bacall, and other CFA supporters came to show support and solidarity with their subpoenaed colleagues.
What happened? A line from an article written by Bogie for the March 1948 issue of Photoplay magazine--entitled I’m No Communist-- sums up the Washington protest trip this way: “ill-advised." It seems Bogie's fervor in defense of first amendment rights cooled to disenchantment in short order.
At the end of Casablanca, tough guy Humphrey Bogart gently lifts the chin of a teary-eyed Ingrid Bergman and declares a stoic farewell with the pithy line, "Here's looking at you, kid." His gruff voice, softened around the edges, along with his earnest gaze gives the statement emotional heft that surpasses the words, as if the phrase echoes off a sentiment lurking deep in Bogie's soul--and perhaps with good reason.
Bogart's mother, Maud Humphrey, was a renowned illustrator in the early decades of the 20th century. Her specialty? Highly stylized, romantic sketches and watercolors of infants and children. With large eyes, chubby cheeks, small mouths and expressions that ranged from cherubic to mischievous--but never sullen or defiant--Maud's angelic minions were the branding equivalent of today's "Hello Kitty." Humphrey was one of her prize models from the time he was a baby, frequently posing in costume for hours at a time. He often quipped that his young "mug" was one of the most ubiquitous faces in America.
So what's off-the-grid about this tale? There was a dark side to Maud's relationship with her son. Despite the sweetness of her illustrations, she was a cold and unapproachable parent. As an adult, Bogart commented the only time he recalled his mother touching him in affection was once when she squeezed his shoulder in approval. She left a bruise. It seems "Here's looking at you, kid," was the most nurturing act Maud could muster when it came to her child.