Last week I got to sail on the actual African Queen with
Bogart—Stephen Bogart, that is. The occasion was the first annual Humphrey
Bogart Film Festival, held in Key Largo, Florida, the setting of the 1948
Bogart-Bacall picture Key Largo. My
sailing companion was Stephen Humphrey Bogart, the famous couple’s son, who
hosted the festival. Much like the TCM Classic Film Festival one week earlier, this
event drew movie buffs from all over the country—along with two avid fans from
Sydney, Australia—to watch vintage films on a big screen, even outdoors at
night, and to meet Stephen, as well as Jack Huston, the grandson of Bogie’s
friend and collaborator John Huston.
Stephen has worked in television news most of his career and
now hosts a movie review show called Bogart
on Movies on WXEL, the public broadcasting station in Palm Beach, Florida,
near his home. He was eight when his famous father died, but he has vivid
memories of sailing with him on his dad’s famous yacht, Santana, and
interesting observations about show business, having grown up in London and New
York with Bacall and her second husband, Jason Robards, Jr.
Fans were especially taken with some of the personal
memorabilia Stephen brought along, including Bogie’s home-movie camera in its
monogrammed leather case, a pair of sailboat cufflinks, a money clip from the
21 Club, and even a letter from President Harry Truman.
The African Queen is moored at Key Largo and takes tourists
sailing on a daily basis. It was purchased and moved from Africa to Florida
some years ago, where it sat rotting until concerned people became involved and
had it lovingly restored. Now, skipper Lance Holmquist presides over the
modest-sized boat, which looks just as it did onscreen, with a steam whistle, a
bell in the back, and a replica case of Gordon’s Gin up front. If you love the
movie it’s impossible to be blasé about setting out on the water on this famous
vessel. You can see a very brief video of our sail HERE.
On closing night we attended the Casablanca Ball, where my
wife and I had the pleasure of sitting with Jack Huston. This handsome and
charming actor has made a splash on Boardwalk
Empire and is currently filming a new feature for David O. Russell. He was
raised in England and was only five when his famous grandfather died, but he is
devoted to his family heritage and history. That’s what brought him to Florida,
where he made a gracious speech and explained that he learned about his
grandfather from watching his movies.
We also got to meet Stephen Bogart’s daughter Brooke, who
bears a striking resemblance to her grandmother, Lauren Bacall. There’s no
getting around genetics, is there?
For a first-time effort, I think the Humphrey Bogart Film
Festival ran quite well, with very few glitches. Much of the credit goes to
Suzanne Holmquist, who kept her cool while tracking multiple events every day
in a variety of locations. Robbert De Klerk and Russell Yagel, who manage the
Bogart estate, should be proud of what they and their partners, including
Michael Crain, pulled off here. I heard many people say they were already
looking forward to a return visit next year. You can learn more at: humphreybogart.com.