What would you give to be a fly on the wall of an Old Hollywood cocktail party? Well, the son of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall claims he never gets tired of hearing the line, “Here’s looking at you kid.” That’s because reminiscing about his famous parents is actually a large part of his career. He understands that his position is a unique one, so he’s finally opened up about what it was like under the roof of Bogie and Bacall.
When Stephen Bogart first opened his baby blues in 1949, the little tyke had no clue he was already kind of a big deal. His parents were two of the most revered stars of the iconic Golden Age of Hollywood: Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart.
Previous to becoming a dad, Humphrey cemented his spot as acting royalty. His star took time to rise, but he quietly impressed in his initial acting roles. Evolving from Broadway to Hollywood films, Humphrey found the big break that defined him as a gangster extraordinaire in The Petrified Forest.
Audiences grew used to Bogie in tough-guy gangster roles, so it came as a pleasant surprise when Casablanca unveiled the romantic hidden beneath those heavy-lidded eyes. This tender side was all too familiar to his future wife — Lauren Bacall.
Bacall herself won the hearts of audiences, critics, and Humphrey right from her silver screen debut. The first film she appeared in was their romance-adventure To Have and Have Not. From then on the pair were inseparable.
Early in their love story scandal reigned supreme: Humphrey was already married and Bacall was just 19 to his 44-years-old. Scheduling fueled their electric chemistry, as they continued right into subsequent production for their next film, The Big Sleep.
Three months after the ink dried on Bogie’s divorce papers, he and Bacall, whom he fondly called Baby, swapped vows in a quaint countryside ceremony on May 21st, 1945. But that didn’t slow down their careers.
During their honeymoon period, the actors made two more films together, Dark Passage and Key Largo. As their relationship grew stronger, they set their sights on a new milestone.
After sewing up their latest film romances, Bogart and Bacall decided it was time to start a family. Welcoming their son, Stephen Humphrey Bogart, named for a character in the movie they met making.
Soon, the power couple welcomed a second child, daughter Leslie Howard, in 1952. Of course, they continued their tradition of using their films as name inspirations, taking hers from Bogart’s costar in The Petrified Forest.
Leslie grew up and pursued totally not entertainment-related endeavors, becoming a nurse and passionate yogi. She shares her passions with husband, prominent yoga guru and author Erich Schiffmann.
The usually private, Leslie gave a rare interview to Harper’s Bazaar about her parents in 2015. She remembered, “My mother always described my father…as very sentimental and romantic. He often gave her beautiful jewelry — and almost every piece was engraved with a sweet sentence or thought and his initials or name.”
With three failed marriages in the books, it took Humphrey a while to find his truest love. Both of them publicly and privately adored each other. So, it was tragic and unfair that their marriage and family life came to an abrupt, and rather grim, end.
The film Goliath is remembered for his toughness and a particular brand of masculinity. But sadly, Bogie wasn’t invincible. When the doctor delivered the news his terminal diagnosis he felt destroyed: esophageal cancer.
Only a few final months together followed. Bacall later recalled in her memoir the torturous decline. She wrote: “He looked so unlike Bogie — still mercifully unconscious…enclosed in another world, protected not by me, but by those raised bedsides, with those bottles and tubes sustaining life.” He died at 57 years old in 1957.
After his father’s death, Stephen recalled what life was like being raised by his single mother. “I think she eventually started to do things she wanted to do for herself,” he said. “She always wanted to move back to New York because her mother lived there. And I think that was important for her. And she also got into theater.”
Bacall remarried in 1961 to actor Jason Robards, and eventually gave her son and daughter a half brother named Sam. Ultimately the marriage didn’t last; alcohol addiction led to their divorce in 1969.
Sam was the only one of Bacall’s children to inherit the acting gene. His most notable role was as Henry Swinton in Steven Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Plus he nabbed a Tony Award for Best Actor in the 2002 play The Man Who Had All The Luck.
Talk about pressure to succeed. Sam commented on his unique position, “They made me realize what the dedication of a professional was. I’ve often found myself doing a scene and then realizing, ‘Gee, I’m playing my father in this scene.’ My mother is probably a little discouraged with me because I’m not quite as intense about standards as she is.”
Of Bacall’s children, Stephen has definitely been the most forthcoming about growing up a Bogart. He published a memoir in 1995 called In Search of My Father, which largely unraveled the thought process of losing his famous father at just 8 years old, and slowly coming to realize his mammoth legacy.
“When my father died there were 3,000 people I didn’t know at the funeral,” he said. “I figured there was something different. And there certainly was.” For Stephen, it’s difficult to untangle the unfairness of Humphrey Bogart existing forevermore on the silver screen when his children got so little time to get to know the off-camera version of their father.
No matter what Stephen accomplishes, he wears, honorably, a “big red-lettered label that hangs from me. It doesn’t say ‘Steve.’ It says, HUMPHREY BOGART’S SON.” It’s a daunting task to walk in the wake of Bogie’s legacy, but Lauren Bacall taught her children to wear their last name with pride.
In his book, Stephen described the lessons Bacall ingrained in them that their father never could, “She wanted me to remember that he didn’t like to lie,” he said. “He wasn’t a liar. She always used to pound that into me. Don’t lie. Tell the truth. That was a big deal.”
Stephen explained that even though his mother moved on, her heart always belonged to the late Humphrey Bogart, “She would talk about him all the time. It was almost like, ‘What would your father think?’ or ‘Your father believed in treating people correctly.'”
Bogie notoriously loved sailing, and Stephen recalled a cherished memory on the family yacht Santana. “Eventually, finally, when I learned how to swim, we would go out on the boat,” he said. “I remember going to Catalina Island and swimming back to the Santana. I made it and he was very proud of me at that time…That kind of pride sticks with you.”
Stephen was struck by the example of true love he recognized in his parents despite his young age. After long days on set, the lovebirds would share an intimate dinner, without their children, as a special reprieve just for the two of them.
Call it what you will, but the Bogart Bacall household prioritized date nights. “It was the age in the ’50s when kids were seen, not heard. Parents had dinners — at least my mother and father did — with the adults. But they were in love. And they were good together. They were man and wife.”
Speaking about what drew his parents together, Stephen acknowledged the obvious, “She was pretty good looking. She was 19, and he was 44. But I think it was her strength. She was a strong woman. She didn’t take crap from anybody. He thought she was very talented as well, but she could also keep up with him.”
Stephen and his siblings laid their mother to rest in 2014. Bacall died at age 89, after a long, beautiful life. She was buried in the same final resting place as her late husband, and other notable forces of Hollywood, in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in California.
In the wake of his mother’s passing, Stephen was asked by Fox News about what he missed most about his mother. Growing up with one parent, the loss affected him deeply, “Just the fact that she’s not here anymore,” he said. “Being able to talk to her.”
He revealed that the end of Lauren Bacall’s life was a challenge. Her outgoing, vibrant personality was restricted to mostly staying in bed. “She was used to getting up and doing things, going out. She had assistants there for her all the time if she needed them. But I think it was a very tough time for her, those last few years.”
Stephen, now in his seventies, lives in Florida with his wife. They share 3 children and dote on their 1 grandchild. A documentarian, author, and news producer, he never bothered with the family trade. “How do you compete with that?” he mused. “The comparisons would have been obvious. No, never.”
Sheepishly he added, “Plus, I was lousy at it. I was in a couple of plays in high school. I wasn’t very good. I couldn’t do it…It’s not an easy thing to do, to be someone else.” Instead, he honors the family by serving as the co-managing partner of the Humphrey Bogart Estate, he’s vowed to uphold and preserve his father’s legacy.
In 2018, they lent Bogie’s name to a brand of spirits; Humphrey himself loved a well-made drink. “He preferred gin and whiskey,” Stephen said. “Some of his favorite cocktails were martinis — which were made with gin in those days — gin and tonics, Manhattans and Old Fashioneds.”
Each year, Bogart Film Festival pays tribute to Stephen’s famous father, “We’re trying to do stuff that will reach a lot of people. We try and do things that not only keeps him alive but [also] classic Hollywood alive. There’s a lot of great movies now…but I think there’s still room for classic Hollywood.” He’s eager to share his mom’s legacy too.
Lauren Bacall’s name could have been very different. She was born Betty Joan Perske, but when her alcoholic father left the family, her mother changed their last name to her grandmother’s maiden name and added another “L.” This wasn’t all she changed.
When Bacall first made it to Hollywood, director Howard Hawks (left) went to work on the “Betty Joan” part of her name. After asking her to lower the pitch of her voice, he recommended she take a new first name, too.
The “Betty Joan,” Hawks said, emphasized Bacall’s Jewish upbringing, which he believed would have an impact on her career. While the name would become iconic, Bacall was uncomfortable with the anti-Semitic reasons behind her name change.
“He [Hawks] felt that Lauren Bacall was better sounding than Betty Bacall,” Bacall said in 2005. “He had a vision of his own. He was a svengali. He wanted to mold me. He wanted to control me.” But she had too much flare to be molded.
As she worked, Bacall became famous for her trademark glare, one she “developed” back in her first film, To Have and Have Not (1944), by accident. It started as a method to hide her nerves from the camera.
So no one could spot her shaking, Bacall held her chin close to her chest between takes. When the cameras rolled, she gazed upwards, and almost every shot had this. Without realizing it, Bacall had developed her “look.”
Bacall became linked to noir films, no doubt because of her “look.” It worked well for the character trope within the genre, the “femme fatale” that was seductive, mysterious and possibly dangerous. Her career was only one aspect of her life that gained notoriety.
Bacall’s career was as famous as her Hollywood romances. She met her first husband, Humphrey Bogart, on the set of To Have and Have Not. He was celebrated for his roles in Casablanca and many more. They starred in several films together, though it seemed an odd pairing.
At the time, Bacall was 19, and Bogart was 25 years her senior. Age didn’t matter much to them. The following year they went on to marry and Bacall was thrust into “Bogie’s” famous circle of friends — which had perks.
Due to her marriage with Bogart, Bacall met the most famous writers, actors, and artists of the time. At just 20 years old, she found herself in the center of Hollywood’s elite. Soon, she was making more moves to climb social circles.
The two soon formed the “Holmby Hills Rat Pack.” It was a tight-knit group of stars who enjoyed drinking, partying, and other lavish pleasures. Of the many members, there were Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland. To outsiders, Bacall and Bogart were the perfect match.
Humphrey and Lauren had two kids together: Stephen and Leslie. The actress also had another child called Sam Prideaux Robards from her second marriage to actor Jason Robards Jr. There are six Bacall grandchildren altogether – including Brooke’s two brothers Richard and Jamie. However, the former is the only girl in the whole group.
But while friends, family, and audiences who watched their movies saw a deep love for one another, reality didn’t quite line up. Behind-the-scenes, they weren’t completely devoted.
Bogart cheated on Bacall with his secretary, Verita Bouvair Thompson. For over seventeen years, their affair was kept alive. Meanwhile, just twelve years after their meeting, Bogart and Bacall’s relationship took another hit.
In 1956, Bogart learned too late that he had throat cancer. He was given less than a year to live. While one of Hollywood’s biggest stars faded away, Bacall started to fall in love with fellow “Holmby Hills Rat Pack” member, Frank Sinatra.
After Bogart died, Sinatra and Bacall went public with their relationship. As fast as they had become involved, the heat simmered down. Reflecting on it, Bacall could only consider her youthful self as pathetic.
When Bacall had let it slip to newspapers that Sinatra proposed to her, Sinatra was enraged. He completely withdrew from Bacall, going to the extreme lengths as in not talking to her for over six years. Looking back, she didn’t mind.
“Frank did me a great favor,” Bacall said. “He saved me from the complete disaster our marriage would have been.” And it wasn’t that she was soured on relationships as a whole. She had much kinder thoughts regarding Bogart.
“I fairly often have thought how lucky I was,” she said of that relationship. “I knew everybody because I was married to Bogie, and that 25-year difference was the most fantastic thing for me to have in my life.” She was free from Hawks’ influence — and on to bigger things.
In the ’70s, Bacall moved away from the big screen. She published her first memoir, By Myself, which won a National Book Award and allowed Bacall to write about the more difficult parts of her life. It was so successful, another part was released in the ’90s.
But before memoir part two, the early ’70s were a huge success for Bacall, as she made her debut on Broadway in an adaptation of All About Eve. Despite not being singer, Bacall got rave reviews and won the Tony Award for her performance.
By the 2000s, Bacall withdrew from films, appearing in a movie only here and there. Despite a legendary career as a Hollywood icon, she had never won an Oscar — until 2009, when she finally earned an honorary award.
In the twilight of her career, she said, “My son tells me, ‘Do you realize you are the…last person who was an eyewitness to the golden age?’ Young people, even in Hollywood, ask me, ‘Were you really married to Humphrey Bogart?’ ‘Well, yes, I think I was,’ I reply.” She continued.
“You realize yourself when you start reflecting,” she said, “that you can’t ignore it. But I don’t look at scrapbooks. I could show you some, but I’d have to climb ladders, and I can’t climb.” For one of her final roles, she made an unexpected choice.
Although she didn’t seem too thrilled with the film scripts that were sent to her later in life, Bacall made a rather unusual decision. One of her final roles was a voiceover gig for Family Guy.
When Bacall passed away in 2014, she was one year shy of being 90. She had lived a long life, and held no regrets over her career and love life. With her passing, she was one of the final few connected to the Golden Age of Hollywood.