The adjustment of actors’ biographical information for publicity purposes is a practice as old as Hollywood itself. Even back in the silent era, actors’ names were often changed to transform them into appellations shorter, catchier, or less ethnic; ages were altered to make older actors seem younger and younger actors seem more mature (or even to make child stars seem more child-like); heights and weights were fudged to better match actors’ screen personas. Even birthdays could be manipulated, as when song-and-dance man
In another renowned case of shifting a birthday to provide some added symbolism, the studio biographies issued for actor Humphrey Bogart throughout his film career listed him as having been born on Christmas Day in 1899. In later accounts, however, the “truth” came out that Bogie had actually been born on the more prosaic date of
But in a curious case of reverse legendry, the “real” explanation turned out to be false and the supposedly fabricated information proved to be the truth.
If Bogart was really born on
For years, Humphrey Bogart’s birth date would be a matter of dispute, the official date of
December 25,1899, dismissed as so much studio hype. This is one case where the legend turns out to be the truth; for, while his birth certificate appears to be lost, the Ontario County Times, which kept tabs on the region’s notables, announced in its January 10,1900, issue: “Born: at New York, Dec. 25,1899, to Dr. and Mrs. BelmontDeForest Bogart, a son.”
Even in the absence of newspaper documentation, a birthdate of
In any case, the question of Humphrey Bogart’s true birthdate is now fairly beyond dispute, as documentation of it has been found in both state and federal census records from 1900 which list him as having been born in
So for once, Tinseltown lore demonstrates that on rare occasions fiction can be stranger than truth, if only a little.
- Bogart, Stephen Humphrey. Bogart: In Search of My Father. New York: E P Dutton, 1995. ISBN 0-525-93987-3.
- McCarty, Clifford. The Complete Films of Humphrey Bogart. Secaucus, NJ: Citadel Press, 1965.
- Sperber, A.M. and Eric Lax. Bogart. New York: William Morrow, 1997. ISBN 0-688-07539-8.