It’s fair to say that Stephen Bogart was born into Hollywood royalty. Yes, as his last name suggests, Stephen’s father was Humphrey Bogart, while his mom was the legendary actor’s fourth and final wife, Lauren Bacall. And both performers had established themselves as silver-screen icons by the time of their son’s birth in 1949. But how exactly did Stephen cope with having A-list movie stars as parents?
Well, perhaps we should first establish how Bogart originally made it in Tinseltown. Born in 1899 in New York City, the future Oscar winner started his acting career in the post-WWI era on the Broadway stage. Then a decade later – and in the wake of the 1929 Wall Street Crash – he ventured into cinema with the John Ford comedy Up the River. And Bogart instantly made a splash portraying Spencer Tracy’s love rival.
This putative breakthrough proved to be something of a false start for Bogart, however, as over the next few years he only landed bit parts in unmemorable movies. Nevertheless, the actor got his career back on track with 1936’s The Petrified Forest. His performances in The Maltese Falcon and High Sierra similarly marked him out as one to watch.
Then, having made his name playing gangsters, Bogart surprised everyone by taking on the sentimental starring role in 1942’s Casablanca. It proved to be an inspired move, too – not least because the star’s turn in the classic gave him the first of several Academy Award nominations. But it would be another movie that ultimately changed his life forever.
In 1944, you see, Bogart shared the screen with Lauren Bacall for the first time in To Have and Have Not. And the pair hit it off as well; just a year later, they tied the knot at a ceremony at writer Louis Bromfield’s Ohio home. The married couple also continued to mix the professional with the personal when they starred together in The Big Sleep, Dark Passage and Key Largo.
Unlike Bogart, though, Bacall had found fame on the big screen at the first time of asking. Yes, To Have and Have Not marked her debut appearance in a feature film. And from then on, Bacall seemingly never looked back. Following the trio of movies she made with Bogart in the late 1940s, she became a rom-com queen in the likes of How to Marry a Millionaire and Designing Women.
Bacall later picked up Tony Awards for her performances in Broadway musicals Applause and Woman of the Year. She was also invited by John Wayne to appear in what would be his final movie: 1976’s The Shootist. And in 1997 she landed an Oscar nomination for her turn in The Mirror Has Two Faces.
That said, Bogart hardly stood back and let his wife take all the acclaim. Instead, in 1951 he earned perhaps the crowning achievement of his career: the Best Actor Oscar for his leading role in The African Queen. In 1954 the star picked up another Academy Awards nod in the same category for his turn in The Caine Mutiny. And, naturally, he continued to make further movies, with the actor also appearing alongside Ava Gardner in The Barefoot Contessa and Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina.
Sadly, though, tragedy would ultimately put paid to the union between the two screen icons. Bogart was diagnosed with esophageal cancer at the start of 1956, and surgery and chemotherapy failed to improve his condition. Just a year later, then, the star passed away at the age of 57. Future U.S. President and fellow actor Ronald Reagan was one of many celebrity names who attended his funeral service.
Bacall, by contrast, went on to live a much longer life; she reached the age of 89 before dying in 2014. And just like Bogart, Bacall was laid to rest at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in California’s Glendale. But, naturally, the couple’s legacies endured after their respective deaths – not only through their contributions to the big screen, but also through their two children.
Yes, in 1949 Bogart and Bacall became parents for the first time with the birth of son Stephen Humphrey. Rather sweetly, the Hollywood icons named him after a character in To Have and Have Not – the romantic movie that had brought them together five years earlier. In later life, Stephen would achieve success of his own as a documentarian, writer and news producer.
Then in 1952 the couple welcomed their second child: daughter Leslie Howard. And just like her older brother, her name was also inspired by an earlier Bogart movie. Leslie Howard was the name of the actor and friend who had appeared alongside Bogart in The Petrified Forest.
Bogart and Bacall’s daughter subsequently went on to become both a nurse and a yoga teacher. And as it happens, she also ended up marrying a master of the ancient discipline. Erich Schiffmann shot to fame as the man behind best-selling guide Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness and the acclaimed video Yoga Mind and Body.
And Leslie Howard and Stephen also have a half-brother named Sam from their mother’s second marriage. In 1961 Bacall had walked down the aisle in the Mexican city of Enseneda to marry fellow actor Jason Robards. But Robards’ struggles with alcohol eventually tore the couple apart, and so they ended up divorcing eight years later.
It seems, too, that Sam – who was born in 1961 – has followed in the footsteps of his acting parents. On the big screen, he’s most famous for playing Henry Swinton in Steven Spielberg sci-fi A.I. Artificial Intelligence. He also picked up a Best Actor Tony Award nomination in 2002 for his performance in Arthur Miller classic The Man Who Had All the Luck.
And Bacall’s children have been willing to discuss what it was like growing up with Hollywood icons for parents. In a 1982 interview with People magazine, for example, Sam admitted that he had been left distraught after hearing about his mother and father’s divorce. The actor revealed, “I blubbered, ‘But why… why can’t you just get back together and live in the same house? I mean, it’s so easy.’”
But Sam also acknowledged the impact that his folks had had on his career, adding, “They made me realize what the dedication of a professional was. I’ve often found myself doing a scene and then realizing, ‘Gee, I’m playing my father playing this scene.’ My mother is probably a little discouraged with me because I’m not quite as intense about standards as she is.”
Then in 2015 Leslie told Harper’s Bazaar readers about the more charming aspects of her parents’ marriage. “My mother always described my father, Humphrey Bogart, as very sentimental and romantic,” she said. “He often gave her beautiful jewelry, and almost every piece was engraved with a sweet sentence or thought and his initials or name. Romantic indeed!”
But it’s perhaps Stephen who has been the most candid about his famous parents over the years. In 1995 he even published a book, In Search of My Father, about the man who had died when Stephen had been just eight years old. And in the memoir, Bogie and Bacall’s offspring speaks of a “big, red-lettered label that hangs from [him]. It doesn’t say ‘Steve.’ It says, ‘Humphrey Bogart’s son.’”
As the publication of that book suggests, then, Stephen isn’t shy about being linked to his dad. Indeed, he’s also gone on to present a Turner Classic Movies special about his legendary actor father’s career. Not only that, but Stephen has additionally given countless interviews on the subject of his relationship with the man. And in 2019 he opened up once more to Fox News, during which he talked about the joys and hardships of growing up with two silver-screen legends.
Stephen began by discussing the moment that he had realized his father wasn’t an ordinary man – and it occurred at a particularly harrowing time. He told Fox News, “When my father died, there were 3,000 people I didn’t know at the funeral. I figured there was something different. And there certainly was.”
Given that he was only eight years of age at the time of Bogart’s passing, Stephen sadly missed out on the chance to create many memories of his father. The actor’s workaholic nature meant that he didn’t get to spend much quality time with his son, either. Even so, the now 70-year-old can still remember several happy moments that the pair shared on a boat named the Santana.
“Eventually, finally, when I learned how to swim, we would go out on the boat,” Stephen reminisced to Fox News. “I remember going to Catalina Island and swimming back… to the Santana. I made it, and [Bogart] was very proud of me at that time because he knew that I knew how to swim. That kind of pride sticks with you.”
Stephen also revealed that he had known from an early age that his mother and father were deeply in love with one another. In particular, he recalled that Bogart would always look forward to sharing dinner with Bacall after he returned from a day’s filming. However, both Stephen and sister Lesley would be absent from the table during such occasions.
“It was the age in the ’50s when kids were seen, not heard,” a seemingly understanding Stephen told Fox News. “Parents had dinners – at least my mother and father did – with the adults. But they were in love. And they were good together. They were man and wife.”
And Stephen similarly held forth about the reasons why his parents may have gotten together in the first place. Referring to his mother, he said, “She was pretty good-looking. She was 19, and he was 44. But I think it was her strength. She was a strong woman. She didn’t take crap from anybody. He thought she was very talented as well, but she could also keep up with him.”
Stephen then expanded on the aftermath of his father’s death and how it had impacted on family life. “A year later, we were living in England,” Bogart told Fox News. “And then we moved to New York. I had a house with a pool in California. Life was pretty good. And then all of a sudden, there was a big change for all of us.”
According to Stephen, though, this change did his grieving mom the world of good. He explained, “I think she eventually started to do the things she wanted to do for herself. She always wanted to move back to New York because her mother lived there. And I think that was important for her… she also got into theater.”
Plus, even though Bacall would later walk down the aisle again with Robards, Stephen believes that his father remained her one true love. “She would talk about him all the time,” he revealed. “It was almost like, ‘What would your father think?’ or ‘Your father believed in treating people correctly.’”
So, while Bogart may not have been around in the flesh, Bacall ensured that he was able to remain a fatherly presence in Stephen’s life. “She wanted me to remember that he didn’t like to lie,” the couple’s son added. “He wasn’t a liar. She always used to pound that into me. Don’t lie. Tell the truth. That was a big deal.”
And five years after Bacall’s passing, Stephen went on to discuss life without both of his parents. When he was asked by Fox News what he misses most about his mother, he replied simply, “Just the fact that she’s not here anymore. Being able to talk to her.”
Stephen further explained that while he hadn’t spent much time with his mother during his adolescence, he nevertheless knew that she could be reached. He said, “I left home to go to boarding school when I was 13. I didn’t really live with [Bacall] after that, but she was always there to talk to and just to hear her voice. I think hearing her voice is a big thing.”
And Bacall’s son also reflected on the difficulty of watching the screen legend suffer during her final years. He told Fox News, “She was sick and in bed a lot. The last couple of years, they weren’t great for her. Not that they’re great for anybody as they go down that road, as I’m now 70 years old. She had a couple of illnesses, and she really didn’t go out much. She liked to stay at home.”
Stephen revealed that owing to her previously outgoing nature, Bacall found this period of seclusion especially hard. “She was used to getting up and doing things [and] going out,” he said. “She had assistants there for her all the time if she needed them. But I think it was a very tough time for her, those last few years.”
In happier news, Stephen revealed that he’s currently living his best life with his wife, Carla, in their Florida home. He said, “I play some golf and – knock wood – I’m healthy so far. I’m perfectly content right now. I have three children and one grandchild. Two of them live in Florida, so I get to see them and talk to them.”
And although Stephen has since enjoyed his own success, he could very well have used his connections to help become a Hollywood star himself. But when asked whether he had ever considered following his famous mother and father into the acting game, Stephen replied, “How do you compete with that? The comparisons would have been obvious. No, never.”
Rather modestly, Stephen also admitted that even if he had wanted to pursue an acting career, he didn’t have the talent. He added, “Plus, I was lousy at [acting]. I was in a couple of plays in high school [and] wasn’t very good. I couldn’t do it – I just wasn’t very good at all. It’s not an easy thing to do to be someone else.”
Yet while Stephen may not have attempted to replicate the big-screen success of his famous father, he’s still apparently determined to ensure that the Bogart name isn’t forgotten. Indeed, as the Humphrey Bogart Estate’s co-managing partner, Stephen has seemingly made it his personal mission to preserve the star’s legacy.
In 2018, for example, the estate joined forces with ROK Drinks to launch a new brand of spirits named after the actor. “My dad liked a wide variety of spirits, but he preferred gin and whiskey,” Stephen told Fox News. “Some of his favorite cocktails were martinis – which were made with gin in those days – gin and tonics, Manhattans and Old Fashioneds.”
And there’s the yearly Bogart Film Festival that showcases the best of the icon’s silver-screen performances. Stephen added to the network, “We’re trying to do stuff that will reach a lot of people. We try to do things that not only keeps [Bogart] alive but [also] classic Hollywood alive. There’s a lot of great movies now… but I think [that] there’s still room for classic Hollywood.”