Humphrey Bogart and my mom

My mom’s family moved to Temple City, California, the year the town incorporated (1923). Temple City is just east of Alhambra and San Gabriel. My mom was nine. From the age of fourteen, she worked in my grandfather’s drugstore in town. At the age of twenty-one, she moved to Hollywood and got a job in the makeup department at Warner Brothers. Two years later, she went out with Bogart for the first time. They’d seen each other around the studio – he was making a movie for Warners every two months – but they only spoke to each other for the first time on the “Kid Galahad” set in 1937. He was thirty-eight at the time. She was twenty-three.

Bogart was just divorcing Mary Philips, his second wife, and dating around, but judging from the letters he wrote to my mom that year, which he must have handed to her right there in the studio, and which he resorted to, perhaps, because he wasn’t quite free yet and she was so young, judging from those letters, there was something about her that he couldn’t get out of his mind. However, she was a good Mormon girl and although he tried giving up tobacco and alcohol several times, the longest for two months, he always lapsed.

The letters continued even after he married Mayo Methot the following year. He and Methot brawled constantly, violently, and according to what he wrote my mom, Bogart knew that he’d made a terrible mistake, although he wouldn’t admit it publicly and the marriage lasted for years. Whatever happened after that, my mom quit Warners suddenly in 1939 and returned to Temple City.

Four years later, Bogart was making “Passage to Marseille,” which was shooting at the gardens in Arcadia, and he went out one night with Claude Rains and Philip Dorn, looking for a watering hole. They drove straight down Baldwin Avenue into Temple City and parked across the street from  the Orangeland bar. Bogart got out of the car and saw my mom through the window of grandfather’s drug store, standing behind the counter.

My grandparents were in back at the time. They heard Bogart come in. My grandmother peeked out and recognized him. By this time, he’d made “High Sierra,” “The Maltese Falcon,” and “Casablanca,” and he was a serious Hollywood property. Of course my grandparents knew that my mom had met many actors and actresses, but she had never mentioned Bogart to them. Now, here he was, begging her to come back to him. They spoke for thirty minutes. Rains and Dorn came in and Bogart sent them out again. My mother would never talk about the conversation. Neither would my grandmother, who had her ear to the door the whole time. Finally, Bogart left.

The following week he reviewed Lauren Bacall’s screen test for “To Have and Have Not.” She was nineteen and he was forty-five and still tied to Methot, but at last he had found the love of his life, or the second one.

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2 Responses

  1. Like ships passing in the night, our histories almost touch in a few ways. My wife’s father worked for movie studios, though nothing exciting–building sets, I think. My wife was a product of his first marriage. His final wife (fifth, I think), also worked in studios, though I think she worked with making costumes. (If my memory still holds on this, she helped with my wife’s wedding dress.)

    They both moved to Arizona, near Sedona. We visited them once, and visited the ruins of the cliff dwellers and wondered how they kept their toddlers from falling off the cliffs. Then we visited the Grand Canyon. But we are happy on our island in Puget Sound.

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