Many were the ways in which Humphrey Bogart died in the movies, but none had the lingering cruelty of the cancer that killed him in real life. When the hard-boiled actor finally succumbed on Jan. 14, 1957, Hollywood was startled from complacency: Its pantheon of movie greats had begun to crumble. The first sign of Bogart’s illness was a nasty cough at Romanoff’s restaurant around New Year’s 1956. His lunch companion urged him to see Dr. Maynard Brandsma at the Beverly Hills Clinic, and after several tests, Brandsma told Bogie and his wife, Lauren Bacall, that the malignancy in the star’s esophagus would have to be removed. The actor asked if he could get his next film out of the way first. ”You can make the movie,” said Brandsma, ”and you’ll be a big hero at Forest Lawn cemetery.” On March 1, Bogart endured a 91 2-hour operation. Friends rallied to his side, and they would later recall the actor’s grace despite immense pain. After he returned home, the high point of the day was cocktail hour: Bogart, now in a wheelchair, would be brought downstairs in a large dumbwaiter and carried to his favorite chair, where he would soak up the gossip and comfort of visitors. On Jan. 12, 1957, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn came by. As they left, Hepburn recalled in Joe Hyams’ 1966 book, Bogie, ”He looked up at (Tracy) with a most rueful smile and said, ‘Goodbye, Spence,’ and you could tell he meant it. He’d always said, ‘Goodnight,’ before. When we were downstairs, Spence looked at me and said, ‘Bogie’s going to die.’ ” The next morning, Bacall went to pick up their two children-Steve, 8, and Leslie, 4- from Sunday school. Bogart nodded at her and casually said, ”Goodbye, kid.” When she came back, her husband was in a coma. He died, without regaining consciousness, at 2:10 the following morning. He was 56 years old. Because Bogart was cremated, there was no casket at the funeral-only a glass-enclosed model of his beloved yacht, Santana. Eulogist John Huston said, ”In each of the fountains at Versailles there is a pike which keeps all the carp active, otherwise they would grow overfat and die. Bogie took rare delight in performing a similar duty in the fountains of Hollywood….We have no reason to feel any sorrow for him-only for ourselves for having lost him. He is quite irreplaceable.” Huston was right. Through these many years, Bogart still looms large in both our culture and our imaginations.
TIME CAPSULE Jan. 14, 1957 Grace Metalious’ Peyton Place topped the best-seller list; Guy Mitchell’s ”Singing the Blues” dominated the charts; The Ten Commandments was big at the box office; and TV’s The $64,000 Question kept everyone guessing.