Q&A with Stephen Bogart

Stephen and Carla Bogart (photo by Michael Caronchi).

Although born into Hollywood royalty, Stephen Bogart exudes an unpretentious air, sprinkling a conversation with self-deprecating wit. As the son of legendary actors Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, he devotes himself to sharing and preserving his father’s work. He also works with ECAN, the Esophageal Cancer Action Network, volunteering time, as well as his voice for a PSA, to raise awareness, because his father died from esophageal cancer. Stephen moved to Naples a few years ago with his wife, Carla, who works with locally based NewsBank Inc., a leading global information provider. The couple first became friends in 1982, then reconnected after years in and out of touch, and married in 2014. The Bogarts organize a wonderful annual tribute to Bogie—the Humphrey Bogart Film Festival in Key Largo, with film screenings, talks, special guests, memorabilia, parties, and cruises aboard the African Queen from the classic film. The fourth annual festival, slated for October 12–16 at the Playa Largo Resort & Spa, will celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the noir classic The Maltese Falcon.

NI: What’s coming up in the 2016 festival?

Humphrey and Stephen Bogart on the Sirocco set, 1951.

Bogart: This year it’s getting a big upgrade at the brand new Playa Largo Resort. We’ve got classics on the big screen, not just in theaters, but under the stars. It’s very mellow, very Key Largo-ish. No suits and ties, just a fun time. And we’re going to kick off our new line of Bogart’s Spirits—Bogart’s gin and vodka are the first two. We are making the booze in California and giving people jobs, which is important.

Why is your father an enduring American icon?

I think because he was a real guy. He believed in treating people well; he was not a snob and was his own man. Add that to the number of great movies he made—it is almost unparalleled. The number one movie of all time could be Casablanca. Then there’s The Maltese Falcon, High Sierra, The Desperate Hours, Key Largo, To Have and Have Not, Sabrina. That type of filmography is special for an actor, and that type of success is special for anyone in any business.

Do you have a favorite Bogart film?

I just love Treasure of the Sierra Madre. He wasn’t going to do the movie because his character dies at the end. He said, “I’m a big star, why am I going to die?” My father’s manager, Sam Jaffe, said, “John Huston, the director, is your best friend, and he wants you to do the movie and won’t do it without you.” So he did it and it turned out to be one of the great films, in my view, of all time. That’s my favorite, other than To Have and Have Not, which is the movie when my parents met. If it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t be here.

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