Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Humphrey Bogart

Humphrey Bogart movies are on
Turner Classic Movies cable
channel all day tomorrow
(August 31st). You might like
a little background material
from Frank Westmore's
biography of his family
"The Westmores of Hollywood,"
Lippincott, 1976, pages 22-24:
(Courtesy of www.humphreybogart.com )
Maybe the best example of the kind of influence the Westmores could have on the making of a movie was provided by my brother Perc (pronounced "Purse"). Perc had more clout in the industry than any other Westmore; sometimes he was called the fifth Warner Brother.
One night early in 1945, Perc's boss, Jack Warner, called him at home. He had just had a terrible fight with his biggest male star, Humphrey Bogart, Warner explained. Bogart had flatly refused to show up in the morning to start his next picture, "Conflict." "Bogie says," Warner told Perc, "that he won't do the movie because his co-star, Alexis Smith, is too tall. Now you know that isn't why he doesn't want to do the film."
Perc knew. Just the year before Bogart had fallen madly in love with a young New York actress with whom he had co-starred in her first movie, "To Have and Have Not." Her name, Betty Joan Perske, had been changed to Lauren Bacall. Bogart was determined to change Betty's name once more, to Bogart. The hitch was that he was still married to Mayo Methot, and the wild brawls he was having with May over her attempts to block a divorce were hitting the newspapers almost as often as Bogie and Mayo were hitting each other. During that time, Perc frequently had to apply makeup very skillfully to some of Bogart's bruises.
Warner told Perc that Bogart was going to walk out on his contract, the studio, his entire career. He was a rich man anyway, and he just didn't give a damn. "You're the only one I can count on. Do something," Warner ordered Perc.
Perc hung up and immediately called Bogart at his home. The beleaguered actor answered by saying, "Now what?" thinking it was Warner again. Perc plaintively told Bogie it was his birthday (although it was actually seven months away) and that he was alone and depressed. Would Bogie come out and have some drinks with him? Not without some suspicion, Bogart agreed, saying, "But if that son of a bitch Warner thinks you can make me change my mind, he's crazy and so are you."
Next, Perc called the Westmores' favorite dining and watering hole, Don the Beachcomber, then the "in" restaurant in Hollywood. (Special ivory chopsticks with names hand etched on them were made for special customers. Mine and all my brothers' are still there, encased in a glass breakfront.) On the phone Perc ordered a pair of personalized chopsticks for Bogart and instructed the bartender to serve Bogart with his usual navy grogs but to make every second drink of Perc's plain fruit punch.
An hour later, Perc and Bogie arrived and were seated, at Perc's instructions, in a booth at the back of the big room where it was so dark they could hardly see each other across the table.
Along abut his fourth navy grog (to Perc's two), Bogie abandoned his vilification of Jack Warner and launched into a maudlin rehash of his love problems. He cried. Perc cried too. On Bogie's next potent drink, Perc uncorked his Bogie. Few people knew, least of all the movie stars, that Perc had a lifetime contract with Warner Brothers as head of their makeup department, breakable only by Perc himself, so what Perc said sounded believable. "I got you here under false pretenses, I guess," he confessed. "Warner did call me tonight. And he fired me. Said if you weren't going to report for work, there's no need for me. But that's all right. I've got a few bucks. 'Course, it's all tied up in our beauty shop, The House of Westmore, and we maybe can't make the next mortgage payment, but that's okay, too. I'll always manage. Wally may be able to find a place for me at Paramount combing wigs or something."
Bogie picked up his brand-new chopsticks and hurled them across the room. "I told you that bastard Warner is a son of a bitch," he snarled. "Well, I'll fix him. I'll make that movie."
The next morning a badly hung-over Bogart reported to the makeup department. Perc, immaculate as always in his white doctor's coat, did his makeup. Only once during the shooting of the film did Bogie complain. "Alexis Smith is too tall." he told Perc. "I have to stand on a box to kiss her."
. . .
Dang! I don't even want to
THINK of the language that
Humphrey Bogart would
have used if he'd found
out what Perc Westmore
had done to him!

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