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He Knows About Women—Humphrey Bogart

Several months ago eye-filling Italian actress Silvana Pampanini aroused Humphrey Bogart’s ire, when, in a magazine article she declared that Bogart, Gary Cooper and Clark Gable were too old to be convincing lovers. Now Bogart, defender of the rights of man, was not one to stand idly by and let this crushing statement pass unchallenged. When they met at lunch in Rome, Bogey arrived with ammunition tucked away under his arm—a huge photograph of his wife, sexy Lauren Bacall, whom he calls Betty, and their two handsome young children.

“Signorina Pampanini,” he began, “this is the kind of work I do, and I’m fifty-four. What do you think of it?” All that his bosomy companion could murmur at this point was a soft, “Che bello—how beautiful.” Bogey ended the argument decisively with, “The next time you pick on a man, make sure you know what you’re doing. Better still—what he’s doing.”

At fifty-four, Bogart has enough film projects lined up to make your head spin. And they’re none of them simple studio jobs. Nothing easy for Bogart—he’s either off in the wilds of the African jungle, as in “African Queen,” roughing it in the barren Italian hills as he did for “Beat The Devil,” riding out a typhoon in “The Caine Mutiny,” or safari-ing it in primitive, mysterious India, as he will soon be doing in the film “The Man Who Would Be King,” after he finishes work on his next project—the film version of the stage hit, “My Three Angels” for Paramount. Had enough, yet?

So natural and effortless an actor is Bogey, no matter what type of role he essays, that it’s difficult to realize that he is emoting when his concise, hard-hitting portrayals grab hold of you. And who cares anyway? Bogey the character is as famous in his own right as Bogart the actor.

He’s also a connoisseur of women. “You may not believe this,” says Bogey, “but the first thing I notice about a woman is her face. If the face interests me I’ll give the rest of her the once over. Take Ingrid Bergman for example. I worked with her all through ‘Casablanca’ before I realized she had a wonderful figure to go with that fascinating face. There’s a woman! And besides, there’s too much emphasis on bosoms today. With all the fuss caused by the Monroes, the Russells and the Lollobrigidas, you’d think that bosoms were just invented yesterday. It takes more than a well-stacked front balcony and a prominent back porch to make an actress. Somewhere in between there’s got to be just a hint of talent.”

When I asked Bogart to name his five favorite young women he began with a, “Well, let’s see—there’s Lauren Bacall, and then, hmmm, Lauren Bacall, and then—Oh, I must have got carried away for a moment.” He grinned, then he resumed in earnest. “It’s not easy, but I’ll try. First there’s Lauren Bacall, then Ingrid Bergman, Katharine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn and Margaret Sullavan.” Well, it’s quite evident from that interesting selection that Mr. Bogart’s evaluation of women is more than just skin-deep. When I asked how the two Hepburns, Katharine and Audrey, differ he remarked, “Strangely enough they’re quite similar in many ways. For one thing, they’ve both got that same forceful drive in relation to their careers. They know what they want, and they know how to go about getting it. Of course, Katie is much the more experienced, and the most fun. Audrey is a little too serious now, but she’ll get over that in time. Katie works like a demon when there’s work to be done, but when she relaxes she can be a whale of a lot of fun. Got a great sense of humor, that gal, and it certainly came in handy when we were making ‘African Queen’ together. But this Audrey, she’s cute as a button. She’s got it, that magical stuff from which true stars are made. I found that out while we were making ‘Sabrina’ at Paramount. This gal certainly proves the theory that a little talent in the hand is worth more than two in the bust!”

There’s nothing phony about Bogey. Perhaps no other movie personality speaks his mind as openly and as publicly as he. Friend or foe, no one escapes Bogart’s barbs.

As I watched him run through a particularly difficult scene with Ava Gardner and Edmond O’Brien on the set of the new Joseph Mankiewicz film, “The Barefoot Contessa,” in Rome, I was reminded of another side of Humphrey Bogart—his quiet and sure skill. During a highly emotional sequence, when all concerned were trying to capture the nuances of this extremely original Mankiewicz story, Bogey suddenly looked up with a devilish gleam in his eyes and hissed, “Highly poetic nonsense, ain’t it?” and followed it up with some very unpoetic epithets. Ava, who had been tense, broke out into gales of laughter. After this little byplay, she so completely relaxed that the difficult scene was shot perfectly—with all the nuances—in the very next take. This is an aspect of Bogart’s personality that doesn’t often get as much play as his pranks—a perceptive and sensitive human quality and a natural instinct that permits him to help a fellow-actor overcome a bothersome situation.

Then there’s the Humphrey Bogart who would be caught dead in his tracks before allowing an opportunity for a smart gag or wise-crack to pass him by unnoticed. And as Bogey’s most intimate friends will tell you, once you’ve passed the Bogart “acid test” (namely, being able to withstand a withering dose of Bogart leg-pulling)and can give it back to him with the same audacity as he dishes it out, you’re in. You have a friend. You’re one of the gang. So it was at a party in Rome when I introduced Bogey to exquisite and charming Marisa Pavan, Pier Angeli’s sparkling twin sister. Bogey was fascinated, especially because Marisa actually blushed at some of his more purple remarks, and then again because she turned down champagne—rare qualities in movieland. Suddenly the unpredictable Bogart began to query her about Pier’s romance with her heart-ache, Kirk Douglas. Marisa won the everlasting respect and admiration of Bogey in what otherwise might have been an embarrassing situation, because she played right along, met his every assault with diplomacy, and never let him get the better of her.

Ignoring many other bigwigs at the party, Bogey asked Marisa to be his dinner companion. As we were seated at our table, Bogart began to study her fresh young beauty, and, as if struck by a sudden idea, clapped his hands. “A rose, please, for the beautiful signorina. And presto, buddy,” Bogart the Lothario imperiously commanded the head waiter. Soon, a sickly-looking, long pink drink was placed in front of Marisa. Bogey looked at it and gasped, “I thought you didn’t drink. What’s that?” Marisa looked at it as curiously as he did and muttered that she hadn’t ordered it. A hastily summoned waiter clarified the mystery. “This, signor, is the special drink of the house, ‘la Rosa,’ ” he proudly announced. Bogey nearly exploded. “Quick,” he screamed, “take it away—a rose, a rose, a ‘flora,’ you know—flower—smell!” The entire restaurant, including Marisa’s and Bogey’s party, was in hysterics.

Probably the most authoritative treatise on Bogart the Man could be written by the one and only Vera Peterson. Pete, as everyone affectionately calls her, has been working for Bogart for more than a dozen years, under every conceivable and inconceivable circumstance. She began as his personal hairdresser, then gradually took on the chores of personal secretary, companion, valet and bouncer. Pete is never quite sure how Bogey will introduce her. Sometimes he may call her his “mother,” other times his “barber,” or perhaps his “keeper.” More often than not he’ll tell you with a sly wink that “Betty sent her along to keep an eye on me.”

But Betty knows she doesn’t need to worry. She and Bogey have a pretty wonderful set-up, and they darned well know it. They love, understand and respect one another. When Bogart meets you, he bares his strong white fangs, gives you his well-known leer, and in a belligerent, wanna-start-a-fight manner snarls out, “I’m fifty-four years old now, and I don’t care who knows it. My wife’s twenty-nine, but you know, she’s older than I am. She pretends she really likes older men, old codgers like me. But, she’s not kidding anybody—she’s older than all of us.”

As for “Baby” herself, she says, “After being married to Bogey for more than eight years, I’m still not sure where his sense of humor ends, and his serious nature—if he has any—begins . . .”

Here, then, is the key to unpredictable, outspoken, unconventional but never dull Humphrey Bogart. Our boy Bogart has been on top for as many years as you or I care to remember. From all indications he’s going to outlive us all, and be around to entertain or frighten the wits out of our grandchildren, too. He’s indestructible. And his tough exterior and quick tongue can’t hide the fact that he happens to be one swell guy.





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