It’s standard form for Oscar winners to thank their colleagues, and also those to whom they owe everything — a mother, teacher, friend or wife who offered help or inspiration at exactly the right moment and in just the right way. And perhaps briefly reflect upon their their career journey or whatever combination of fate, luck or happenstance may have contributed to this. And it never hurts to apply a drop or two of emotion. Keep it real, of course, but give that shit up.
The 52 year-old Bogart had been a star for a little more than a decade, having broken through at age 41 (at which point actors are almost never waiting for lightning to strike) as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (’41), and had received his big Hollywood break only 15 years earlier when Leslie Howard insisted that reluctant producers of The Petrified Forest (’36) cast him as Duke Mantee. By any measure Bogart had just barely made it into the club, and by the skin of his teeth.
And yet when the big moment arrived Bogart, obviously unprepared and nervous and interested in exiting the stage as quickly as possible, could only thank Queen director John Huston and costar Katharine Hepburn and rather curtly at that, and mention that accepting the Oscar was more pleasant than shooting The African Queen in the “Belgian” Congo.
No thanks to Howard (who had died in ’43 when his plane was shot down by the Germans), no mention of how dicey Bogart’s life might have been if fate hadn’t intervened, no thanks to wife Lauren Bacall (who was there all through the African shoot as a cook, nurse and clothes washer, and about whom Bogart later said “I don’t know what we’d have done without her…she luxed my undies in darkest Africa”), and no musing about how short anyone’s life can be (Bogart would be dead from lung cancer less than five years hence) and how glorious it is when things somehow work out despite the odds.
No feeling, no humility, no eloquence — just a rote “thanks” or two and lemme outta here. On top of which he didn’t wear his rug. Every would-be Oscar winner should study this acceptance speech to remind themselves what not to say or do.