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On 70th anniversary of 'Casablanca,' son Stephen Bogart recalls great romance of Bogie and Bacall

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, [email protected]

Time’s gone by: Casablanca, one of the world’s best-loved films is 70, Humphrey Bogart has been dead more than a half-century and his young widow, movie star Lauren Bacall, is now 87.

“It was one of the greatest romances of the 20th century,” said their son Stephen Bogart, now 63 and selling real estate in Naples, Fla. “He died so young. But they found each other and many people don’t.”

Bogie married Bacall in 1945, three years after he starred opposite Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca, which will screen Wednesday night in movie theaters nationally and be re-issued March 27 in a special edition Blu-ray/DVD combo set (Warner Home Video, $65).

Bacall made her first film in 1944 starring opposite Bogart in To Have and Have Not.

Bogart was 25 years older than Bacall — 19 when they made the movie. “That would have gone over well today,” Stephen jokes.

But Bacall was more than a match for Bogart. “She was an old soul,” Stephen says. “They had just done To Have and Have Not. [Their romance] evolved that way because of what happened on the screen. He was the highest-paid actor of his time. No. 1. You saw him fall in love on the screen. It was Bogie and Bacall.”

The couple had stellar movie careers in the ‘40s and ‘50s. He starred in The Maltese Falcon (1941), The African Queen (1951), The Caine Mutiny and Sabrina (both 1954; she in Young Man With a Horn (1950), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) and Designing Woman (1957). Together, they also made The Big Sleep (1946), Dark Passage (1947) and Key Largo (1948).

Stephen and his sister, Leslie, now 59, were youngsters when their father, 57, died of cancer in 1957.

Bacall, then 32, famously stood by her husband in his final days. “She was tough,” Stephen Bogart says. “She did take care of him. It was too bad it ended the way it did. It almost ruined her.”

She later fell in love with and married Oscar-winning actor Jason Robards. The couple had a son, Sam, now an actor and film director. Bacall and Robards were wed from 1961-69.

After their divorce, Bacall made a career comeback, this time on Broadway in two Tony-winning musical star vehicles: Applause (1970) and Woman of the Year (1981).

Stephen Bogart has three grown children, including son Richard, a University of Miami law student.

The son of Bogie and Bacall — whose gravelly voice is just like dad's — has mostly avoided show business. “I was in a play in high school,” Stephen Bogart says. “I wasn’t very good. I was not a good actor. It’s not easy to be good. I could have been a bad actor.”

Instead, he opted for a career in TV news, working at ESPN, NBC and Court TV.

Now, he co-manages Humphrey Bogart’s name and likeness. His father’s estate receives no residuals from the old films. “If we owned the rights to Casablanca, that would be lovely,” Stephen Bogart says.

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