With his long face, shadowed eyes and short stature, Humphrey Bogart almost never made it past supporting roles to leading man. Thank goodness destiny took a hand, and finally gave him top billing.
Here are six great Humphrey Bogart films, where Bogie plays heroes and villains, complex men of honor and deeply flawed characters. Every one of these films deserves its place among the most beloved classic American movies.
Perhaps the most famous movie of all time, Casablanca pairs Bogart with the lovely Ingrid Bergman. It's an iconic love story, a thrilling tale of wartime intrigue, and one of the finest pieces of ensemble acting ever put on screen. Every character, from the overwrought Russian bartender to the deliciously corrupt prefect of police, is well drawn and satisfying. Bogart's journey from bitter self-indulgence to a renewed sense of duty powers the film.
With his Sam Spade, Bogart set the screen standard for tough detectives in film noir, piecing together a puzzle of greed, violence and lust in the pursuit of the priceless Maltese Falcon. It's another terrific ensemble movie, with fun performances by Lee Patrick as Bogie's gal Friday, Mary Astor as the femme fatale, Peter Lorre as a quirky bad guy, and Sydney Greenstreet as a plumply menacing fortune hunter, but this is Bogart's movie from start to finish.
A seasoned and sure performance by an aging leading man, this 1951 movie may be my favorite Bogart film. Paired for the first and only time with Katharine Hepburn, herself no spring chicken by then, the 50-something Bogie plays the scruffy captain of a supply ship, the African Queen, when WWI breaks out. When he's thrown together with Hepburn's prim spinster, the war tests their mettle. In the wilds of Africa, they find adventure, strength – and of course, each other.
This time, Bogie stars as another great pulp fiction detective, Philip Marlowe, engaged to do the dirty laundry for a wealthy family that won't quite come clean. He and real-life love Lauren Bacall are clearly made for each other, but not ready to trust in a tightly woven story of drugs, sex, blackmail and murder. Bogart does a funny bit as a fussy customer in an antiquarian book shop, takes a whole lot of punishment from some nasty thugs, and of course, ultimately solves the mystery of The Big Sleep
Bogart gives us a gripping portrait of human greed and betrayal in this John Huston film, as a down-and-out drifter who joins forces with a fellow drifter and a grizzled old prospector, in hopes of making a gold strike – the title's treasure of the Sierra Madre mountains in Mexico. It's a courageous performance, with Bogart playing an unlikable, ugly-minded man whose inability to trust himself or others turns good fortune into utter ruin.
Bogart sank his teeth into the juicy role of a paranoid U.S. Navy captain, constantly clicking a pair of steel balls together, fretting about the perfidy of his crew, turning tail in the face of danger, and obsessing about the imagined theft of strawberries from the ship's mess. The crew's unheard-of decision to stage a mutiny aboard a U.S. military vessel and the subsequent court martial make for a tense and involving story, in what was Bogart's last truly great performance