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Showing 1-10 of 33 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 58 reviews
For some reason I enjoy bios of Bogie. He's not my favorite movie star, nor my favorite male star, but I find the man fascinating. I read my first Bogart bio when I was about 15 (I think it might've been the Joe Hyams bio.) and even made the significant mistake of buying one of the Darwin Porter books (Referred to as both "scabrous" and "scurrilous" by Kanfer.) and have been gun shy ever since, but a sample of the first chapter was enough to convince me that this book was the real deal and worth buying.

Kanfer's agenda seems to be to tell the story of Bogart's life as directly and informatively as possible without a lot of value judgments and pseudo-psychological analysis. He begins with Bogart's parents and continues on at a fair clip straight through the man's birth, childhood, youth, military service and his seeming inability to find a job he could do well enough to make it a career. According to Kanfer, Bogart pretty much stumbled into acting and kept stumbling until people started to notice that he had some presence. Though he was an upper-middle-class man, well-educated in spite of having been ejected from several schools, he made his bones playing gangsters and hoods. And yet, in spite of his growing notoriety as a heavy, he didn't catch on with the public until his roles began to shift away from the criminal. Bogart's real fame, his real strength was in defining the persona of the American male in the 40s. He became memorable for being the wounded hero, the man with a past -- usually a tragic one -- the guy who might cheat a bit but could be relied upon to do the right thing when the need arose. He gave voice and a face to that new kind of hero, and that made him irresistible to audiences. It made him a star.

Kanfer covers each of Bogart's films with varying degrees of detail depending on how important the films were either as films or to his career. A bit less time is spent on his personal life which was, quite frankly, a mess, with three marriages in fairly quick succession, and the third a train wreck which dragged on for far too long until Bogart at 45 met the 19-year-old Lauren Bacall and found the love of his life. There's a lot of fascinating detail here about the productions, about the people with whom he worked and played. Men like John Huston and Peter Lorre stand out in the narrative for being as vivid as Bogart, and good friends to him as well. The portrait of Kate Hepburn during the shoot of "The African Queen" is compelling and a surprising portrait as well.

But the biggest and best surprise is Bogart himself. He was no poseur, he literally was tough without a gun, holding high standards in spite of some rowdy and ultimately self-destructive behavior. He was smart, a great reader, principled, decent to women, and though apolitical he had strong opinions on things like the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings, which he famously opposed. Kanfer gives us a man who, in spite of having been born with a lot of advantages, made his own way through life, holding to his beliefs, and having one hell of a good time while he was at it. You might not find this Bogart to your taste, but I'd be surprised if he left you unimpressed.
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on April 2, 2013
If you are a fan of old movies like me you will enjoy this book. Even if you are not a reader or are particularly interested in all the nuts and bolts of Humphrey Bogart the book is still worth it. Every time I watch one of his movies I look it up in the book, and it is sometimes better than the commentators on TCM. You get a real behind the scenes look at him and his movies. There is a handy index, so you can look up movies, co-stars, etc. Good read and a great reference.
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on July 15, 2011
As a fan of HB I looked forward to this book. But upon reading I was very disappointed and really struggled to get thru it. I wrote it off as the subject just not being very exciting or real. I next jumped to the new biography of E.B. White by Michael Sims and realized it is the author not the subject. Remarkably the two subjects are very similar with large quanities of personal issues, born the same year, raised in similar surroundings in NYC. But Sims shows you who EBW was, where Kanfer seems to just list what HB did and when he did it.
The two books are on the opposite ends of the entertainment scale. Buy Sims's book even if you are not a fan of Charlotte's Web ( is that possible?)
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on April 22, 2012
I don't read actor biographies as a rule but was drawn to this book through an admiration of its subject - Humphrey Bogart. Stefan Kanfer is a competent writer and walks the reader through Bogart's life and many films. The problem is that the Bogart depicted is never more than just a two dimensional character - good actor who drank a lot, smoked endlessly and enjoyed sailing. You don't get a feel for the real persona and how he interacted with others in his private life. Dropping names and suggesting that these were "drinking buddies" does add to my understanding of the man. Much of the information found in the book can be found at Wikipedia. Even when discussing his rise to fame we learn that he earned little at the beginning and $200,000 per film at his peak, which was a lot of money in the 1950's. How did he get from A to B? How did he handle the money that he earned - did he blow through it or invest it wisely? Neither subject is discussed.

There is a lot of filler towards the end of the book about the staying power of his reputation, the aping of his style by others, how films have evolved and finally a list of top grossing films today - why? The focus should have been on the subject and not what we already know by watching the actor on screen.
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on January 17, 2015
I had almost forgotten how much pleasure I have gotten from watching Bogie onscreen during my life. This bio brought it all back. I'm of the generation that came to know and appreciate Bogart at all-night college film festivals in the 70's. For the next couple of decades I could never see a Bogart movie too many times. Then for some reason I saw them less and less. This biography brought back a lot of great memories and has gotten me in the mood for another Bogie film festival or two.
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on October 28, 2013
A very good read for fans of this essential star of film noir. Learn the back story of Bogart's childhood, early adulthood, entry into acting, and more. His relationships in Hollywood, his marriages, his ill fated production company and more. This book will add to your enjoyment of Casablanca, Key Largo, The Maltese Falcon, African Queen and more, adding depth for your next screenings of these classics.
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on July 13, 2011
Steve Kafner Did An Excellent Job On Humphrey Bogart's Biography. It Was Very Informative & Truly Brought "Bogie" Back To Life. His Observation Of The Industry at The Time Of Bogart's Life and The Impact He still Has Today Shows the "Truth" About Today's Modern Films And The Deep Loss We Have Of Not Having Another Humphrey Bogart. As A Member Of The Film Profession & Show Business, I Am Sure That "Bogie" Would Have Appreciated This Biography Even Though He Hated All The Talk Of Hollywood & Stars. I Wish I Could Meet The Author, To Thank Him For A Great Book Personally,& Look Forward To Any Other Biography He Sells.
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on October 12, 2012
"Tough Without a Gun" was a disappointing read. It reads like a People Magazine article and is more pseudo-analytic than deep. I wish Kanfer would have addressed the "whys" and "hows" of Bogie's life rather than the "wows." The Warner Brothers movies of the 1930's are glossed over very quickly, and coverage of the "The Roaring Twenties" and "Dead End" are without depth or insight. Attempts to place Bogie in an historical perspective seem equally superficial and vague.
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on April 5, 2014
This is the only book I have read on Bogie so I can only argue its value based on its own merits. Which I consider to be good. I love Bogart movies and found this book to be very interesting. Very good reading because of the very good writing. I heartily recommend this book for any Bogart fan.
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on March 19, 2017
A Great! Inside look at maybe the Best Actor of all time.
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