Humphrey Bogart Lived Here
August 6, 2009 § 10 Comments
The reason moviegoers don’t remember Humphrey Bogart as a youthful actor was that his career didn’t really begin until he was 35, when Robert E. Sherwood’s play “The Petrified Forest” made him a star on Broadway. Though Bogart reprised the role of Duke Mantee–after an intervention by Leslie Howard–in the Warner Brothers version of “The Petrified Forest” in 1936, real stardom didn’t arrive until 1941, when his starring roles in “High Sierra” and “The Maltese Falcon” made him a bona fide leading man.
Although Bogart’s long road to stardom was traveled mainly on the stage–he had made his New York debut at 22–he was under contract to two other studios before Warners signed him in 1935. The first stint, from 1930-1932, was at Fox, where he played minor parts in forgettable movies. A second contract with Columbia in 1932 yielded no better results. Bogart, whom the studios considered not handsome enough to be a romantic lead, spent his time playing gangsters. Worse yet, supporting gangsters in B-movies.
He had better luck on the stage, where he played leading roles and worked steadily for a decade. In 1932, he was cast opposite Peg Entwistle and Billie Burke in the romantic comedy, “The Mad Hopes,” which sold out its run at the Belasco Theater in downtown Los Angeles. He also briefly dated the 24-year-old Peg , who played his young love interest in the play. When I interviewed Peg’s brother Milt for “Under the Hollywood Sign,” he remembered meeting Bogart when he came to the Entwistle family’s home at 2428 N. Beachwood Drive. He was “a very nice person and [there was] nothing haughty about him, nothing ‘I am a star’ or anything like that.” [For more about “The Mad Hopes,” and Peg Entwistle, visit www.thehollywoodsigngirl.com]
At the time of his date with Peg, Bogart was still married (at least in name) to his second wife, Mary Phillips, a stage actress with a much bigger career that kept her in New York. (Bogart had four wives, all actresses, and except for brief periods around his three divorces was a married man from 1926 until his death in 1957.) Interestingly, he was also a Beachwood neighbor of Peg’s, living less than a mile north of the Entwistles in this huge Tudor-style house.
The house was one of the first to be built after construction on the Hollywood tract began in 1923. It still stands, barely visible behind dense foliage and all but unrecognizable. Located on Ledgewood Drive, its large sloping lot reportedly has a stream running through it. Because the vantage point of the old picture would be impossible to match today–the house is completely obscured by newer houses in the foreground–here’s how the west facade looks from uphill:
Although I haven’t been able to find his dates of residence, it seems unlikely that Bogart stayed in the house beyond 1937, the year he ended his marriage to Phillips. Pictures of him at home with his third wife, Mayo “Sluggy” Methot, clearly show them living elsewhere. His final marriage, to Lauren Bacall in 1945, took him farther west, to a suburban house in Brentwood.
In spite of the brevity of his stay in Hollywoodland, everyone still calls the place the Bogart House. Though the current owner, Dean Torrance of the 60’s band Jan and Dean, bought it decades ago, his name has never replaced Bogart’s among locals. Torrance lives elsewhere now; the house is a rental and exudes a fairytale charm from behind its garden walls. If only they could talk.