Bogart was an original. A truly complex individual, his background encompassed the sophisticated world of New York Society in which he was born and raised all the way through to his gritty life in the Navy and onto the uncertain life of a Hollywood actor. After leaving the Navy, Bogey started his acting career on the stage and was even credited with popularizing the effete term, “Tennis, anyone?’ early in his stage career.
He eventually went to Hollywood and landed roles as a gangster “heavy”. Although not traditionally good-looking, he finally managed to break free of his stereotyped villain’s image and became a leading man in romantic roles in his later years. His deep voice, tempered by years of heavy smoking, and his ultra-cool persona finally worked to establish him as a credible actor and then transform him into a major star.
But Bogart worked in the era of the Studio Bosses. His boss, Jack Warner, held an iron-grip on his employees, which included all the actors who worked at Warner Brothers.
Bogart frequently found himself in disputes with Warner and the Studios over his salary and his schedule. Big studios were notorious for lending actors out to other studios, even if the parts were fairly minor. Bogey balked more than once. And in order to back up his threats to walk, he would often speak of his F. You Money (In Bogart’s case, he would fill in the blank where the F is!) This money was his hedge, a special fund set aside that would enable him to make good on his promise to leave.
This was also part of the ongoing fight between management and labor over forming a union. The studios fought tooth and nail to prevent actors, writers, and other film workers from unionizing. In the end, unions prevailed. In the fifties, the studios caved in to government pressure when faced with the threat of a shutdown during the McCarthy hearings. They fired and black-listed many talented artists of the era after their names appeared on Joseph McCarthy’s list.
Bogart was one of the voices that was front and center in the group traveling to Washington to protest the House Un-American Committee. Bogey was a Maverick throughout his life. He fought in one form or another against the studio bosses and against many other forms of discrimination, oppression and injustice.
Would that we had more Bogey’s these days. Those men and women, like Bogey, with the courage of their convictions to stand up against the powers that be, whether in Washington or globally. It’s not a bad idea for anyone to set aside their own personal F. U. Money fund. It’s a nice thought that you may have a special fund to help you walk away when you know the time is right and you need to back up your rhetoric with action. In Bogart’s case, the F.U. Fund was real and so was he. As is often heard, they don’t make ‘em like that anymore!