The pages of this new book about Humphrey Bogart, published by Knopf and penned by Stefan Kanfer (writer of previous biographies of Marlon Brando, Groucho Marx, Lucille Ball, etc.) start in Bogartian fashion, with an intro contradicting Sunset Boulevard and establishing his thesis from The Brattle screenings at Harvard University in the '50s, where films such as Casablanca (historic love classic, regular in Valentine's Day) and The Maltese Falcon (Time magazine reviewed Bogart's Sam Spade as the performance of his career) were revisited and the "Bogie Cult" was born.
Divided in 10 chapters, Kanfer begins with the DeForest Bogart's family line and Humphrey's childhood in New York's upper society which would conform his WASP inheritance, analyzing the troubles inside a rich but conflictive home, a three-story brownstone house decorated with crystal chandeliers, heavy tapestries, classical statues, and Oriental rugs (Bogart's last home in Holmby Hills had Picassos, Dufy's and French Provincial furniture). Bogart's mom, Maud Humphrey, was known as "Lady Maud", a militant suffragette for women's rights, who became artistic director of the Delineator fashion magazine. She'd say of Bogie: "He is a manly lad, but too delicate in health."
And health reasons were adduced by Rick Blaine for moving to Casablanca:
--"'Captain Renault: What in heaven's name brought you to Casablanca?'
--'Rick: My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.'"
Ole Michelsen, writer of Danish TV program "Bogart," talked about the irreplaceable role of Bogart in Casablanca:
"How much significance do you attribute to the icon Humphrey Bogart as a reason for the film's [Casablanca] cult status?"
"You could hardly imagine any other actor in that part. He put into it all that he had, of mystery, of masculinity as it was defined back then, and also of ambiguity. That setup in the screenplay is brilliant, gradually letting us in behind his shell, but it is never resolved — we know there is a heart beating behind his tough exterior, but he never really shows it, not even in the dubious finale. He says 'Where I go you can't follow.'"
Kanfer confronts the difficult task of explaining why Bogart "attained the summit no other actor had ever reached" in the chapters dedicated to his film career, highlighting behind-the scenes anecdotes and research about almost all of his movies, including filmmakers and co-stars. He provides an interesting blending of news, politics and Hollywood's apogee, obtaining his information of previous biographies (mainly Bogart by A. M. Sperber and Eric Lax, Bogart by Jeffrey Meyers, Bogart: In Search of My Father by Stephen Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Bogie: A Celebration of the Life and Films by Richard Schickel, George Perry, and Stephen Bogart, Bogie and Me: The Love Story of Humphrey Bogart and Verita Thompson, etc.)