Jane’s Book Review – Tough without a Gun : The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of Humphrey Bogart by Stefan Kanfer

Humphrey Bogart was born Christmas Day in 1899 and died January 14, 1957.  Only 58 years old, he left a body of work in American Film so profound he was dubbed the “Greatest Male Star in Cinema History” by the American Film Institute.  After working in pictures for years, his career didn’t even take off until he was 40.  In the following 18 years he gave nuanced, powerful performances in “High Sierra”  “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” “The Petrified Forest” “The Maltese Falcon” “Casablanca” “To Have and Have Not” “Key Largo” “The Big Sleep” “The African Queen” and “The Caine Mutiny” among others.

Stefan Kanfer does a very thorough job of detailing all the influences that made Bogart the man and the actor, including his aristocratic background, his rebellious youth, his womanizing, alcohol use and cigarette addiction.  Even more important, he discusses Bogart’s films and how they shaped his image.  Full of insider information, the details are fascinating.  Bogart had a legion of loyal personal friends, including David Niven, John Huston, Alistair Cooke, Frank Sinatra, Judy & Sid Luft among many others.  It was Lauren Bacall who coined the term the Rat Pack for the stars who clustered around the Bogarts.

After Bogart’s death from esophageal cancer, his legend continued to grow – the “afterlife” referred to in the title.  He remains the most iconic film star ever to come out of Hollywood.  After all, Bogart quipped, ‘You’re not a star until they can spell your name in Karachi.”

Kanfer has an extensive bibliography and include quotes from other biographers.  I really enjoyed this in-depth look at old Hollywood and the man who was “tough without a gun.”