Cigarette Smoking Was Hazardous to His Health

The following is an excerpt from “Wills of the Rich & Famous: A Fascinating Glimpse at the Legacies of Celebrities”  by Herbert E. Nass, Esq.

Humphrey Bogart
December 25, 1899
West 103rd Street
New York, New York

January 14, 1957
Holmby Hills, California

Dead from throat cancer at the age of fifty-seven, actor Humphrey Bogart appeared in many screen classics and made Casablanca famous. Despite his often brusque style and tough-guy image, Humphrey Bogart was apparently also very lovable, being married to four different actresses. He divorced his first wife, Helen Menken, in 1927 after one year of marriage. His subsequent marriage to Mary Phillips lasted until 1937. In 1938, Bogart married Mayo Methot. Mayo finally allowed Bogart to obtain a Nevada-style divorce from her in 1945. Shortly after that, Bogart married his To Have and Have Not costar, actress Lauren Bacall. Bacall was still happily married to Bogart when he died twelve years later.

The first article of Bogart’s Will, which he signed in 1956 about six months before he died, states:

I am married to Betty Bogart (also known as LAUREN BACALL BOGART) and have two children, namely, my son STEPHEN HUMPHREY BOGART, who was born January 6, 1949, and my daughter LESLIE BOGART, who was born August 23, 1952.

To his wife “Betty,” as Bogart affectionately referred to her, he left all of his “clothing and personal effects…jewelry, automobiles and accessories thereto, and such interest as I may have in household furniture, furnishings, equipment and effects of every sort and nature.” If his wife did not survive him, then Bogart provided that his friend and business manager, A. Morgan Maree, Jr., should dispose of the property “in such manner as he may believe would comply with my desires.” Mr. Maree, who was a trusted adviser to both Humphrey and Betty Bogart, was also named as co-executor of the Will, together with Betty Bogart and the Security-First National Bank of Los Angeles. For her own reasons, Betty declined to serve as an executor of her husband’s estate according to papers filed with the court, but she did serve as a trustee of her children’s trusts.

In his Will, Bogart places one-half of his residuary estate in trust for his wife, “Betty.” That trust provides:

The purpose of this trust shall be to provide for the security and welfare of my beloved wife BETTY during the remainder of her life. In establishing this trust I am particularly aware of her high earning potential, the impact of income taxes thereon, the standard of living to which she has been accustomed during our marriage, and the uncertainties of the many years during which I hope her life will continue in the event of my decease.

The balance of Bogart’s estate was to be held in trust for his two children until they reached the age of forty-five. The trustees had the discretion to invade principal or income for his children’s benefit, and in this regard the Will states:

In exercising such discretion my trustees shall take into account the provisions that my wife BETTY shall be able to make for such child from time to time out of funds available to her and shall be guided as near as may be by the standard of living to which said children have been accustomed during my lifetime. It is my desire that their care, comfort and welfare be adequately provided for during their tender years, that they be afforded every opportunity for such higher education as may be appropriate in view of their interest and ability, and that consideration for their support and maintenance after completion of their education shall be secondary.

If neither Betty nor any children survived, there were provisions for “BETTY’s mother, NATALIE GOLDBERG, so long as she shall live, and thereafter in equal shares to BETTY’s cousins, JUDITH DAVIS ORSHAN and JOAN DAVIS.” Just for the record, Bacall’s mother, Natalie Goldberg, lived on Cranberry Street in Brooklyn, New York.

In addition to providing for his wife’s family, Bogart also makes modest bequests to two of his employees. Finally, the Will also includes an unusual clause in which any persons claiming to be heirs of Bogart would receive only a $1.00 bequest.

One screen habit that Bogart has come to be identified with is smoking cigarettes. The cigarette dangling from the mouth is probably more closely identified with Bogart than with any other actor in history. It is not then surprising that Bogart died of cancer of the esophagus at the relatively young age of fifty-seven. Nor is it then surprising that the one charitable bequest that Bogart makes in his Will is as follows:

If the circumstances shall ever be such that THE HUMPHREY BOGART FOUNDATION shall become entitled to receive any property…I direct my trustees to cause to be formed a nonprofit corporation bearing that name to receive such property. Said corporation shall have as its primary purpose the making of grants for the aid of medical research with special reference to the field of cancer. [emphasis added]

One wonders whether if Bogart had known that the cigarette habit would be hazardous to his health (and that of millions of others), he would have been so willing to use the cancer stick as a prop throughout his career.

/s/ Humphrey Bogart

Will dated June 6, 1956
Residing at 232 S. Mapleton Drive, Los Angeles, California

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