The above is the title of the newest biography of Humphrey Bogart, written by Stefan Kanfer. The American Film Institute ranks Humphrey Bogart the #1 male movie-star of all time. Kanfer agrees with that, but he also points out that Bogart has had the most enduring and successful afterlife of any film star. Bogart died in 1957, but today, his popularity is still soaring.
I have to think that his enduring popularity is due, in large part, to his role in Casablanca. As Rick Blaine, he was not only the ultimate tough guy, but the ultimate strong and heroic American: hard-boiled and unwavering on the outside, but compassionate and duty-bound on the inside. That’s pure Americana.
Casablanca was made in 1942 when he was 42. His co-star, of course, was the beautiful and luminous Ingrid Bergman. She was only 27 at the time, so he was 15 years her senior. It’s interesting that the rather large age difference between them was never a factor in the story, not then, and not now. The very realistic toupee he wore certainly helped mitigate the age difference. Another obstacle that, if unaddressed, would certainly have marred their screen chemistry was the fact that Ingrid was at least two inches taller than Bogie. That was solved with various props, and when necessary, he wore 3 inch shoe-lifts. And besides being short, he was rather small; he typically weighed in the 130s -so not a big guy. I really think they padded his white dinner jacket in Casablanca. I have never read that anywhere, but I believe it. He looks beefier wearing it than he does in other scenes. Another movie in which they did that, and even more exaggerated, was In A Lonely Place. They made him look like a linebacker.
But, there is another reason why Rick Blaine is often considered the ultimate personification of the real Humphrey Bogart: and that’s all the smoking and drinking his character did. In real life, Humphrey Bogart smoked and drank heavily. Was he an alcoholic? He reportedly was at times in his life, but they say that he never let alcohol interfere with his work. His most famous quote is: “There are two kinds of men: professionals and bums.” On the set, he limited himself to one beer, and that was it until shooting stopped.
Bogie looked good in Casablanca, but just 15 years later, he died an agonizing death from esophageal cancer. It wasted him down to 80 pounds. Was it mainly the smoking or the drinking that killed him? Considering that it was esophageal cancer, it is impossible to say because both are strongly linked to it. If we say both equally, we won’t be far off.
Also, it’s worth noting that the culture of his day truly celebrated smoking and drinking. The status of alcohol was actually elevated by Prohibition. Bogart once said, “I don’t trust a man who doesn’t drink because it means he’s afraid to reveal himself.” The anti-smoking movement did not begin until the 1960s, which was after Bogart’s death. Bogart was a product of his era. His habits were commonplace, especially in Hollywood circles.
Unlike other stars of whom I have written, Bogart did not dream of being an actor as a child. He stumbled into it by chance. After a lackluster stint in the Navy at the tail-end of WW1, he returned to New York and drifted aimlessly from job to job. Then, an old boyhood chum, Bill Brady, got him a job as a stage hand at his father’s theater company. That led to small roles for Bogart because it was common to use stage hands to fill out scenes. Right away, he found out that he enjoyed acting and had a knack for it.
They say that Bogart came from wealth, but it hardly benefited him. His parents had no role in facilitating his acting career. His father was a prominent physician and surgeon in New York, but he became an alcoholic, a morphine addict, and a compulsive gambler. He died penniless and in debt, and young Humphrey assumed all his father’s debts and paid them off- even though he was under no legal obligation to do so. Bogie’s mother, Maud Humphrey, was one of the leading commercial illustrators of the early 20th century. She did the first Gerber baby illustrations that were used in advertising and on labels. She lived quite long and did leave some assets to her two surviving children (one daughter had died of alcoholism). However, Bogart saw to it that the money went to the care of his surviving sister Frances who was mentally ill her entire life. Bogart paid for Frances’ expensive care throughout, and it was something that motivated him to succeed in his career.
It was the Great Depression that took Bogart from Broadway to Hollywood. Hard times stifled the demand for live theater, but in contrast, the popularity of movies soared. Bogart was type-cast as a gangster, and he had some memorable roles, such as in High Sierra and The Petrified Forest. But then, the role of Detective Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon gave him a cooler, hipper image with audiences. And that led to his casting in Casablanca, which put him at the top of his profession, where he remained for the rest of his life.
But now, let’s delve into his health in more detail because that is always our focus on this blog. My impression is that, despite his bad habits, Humphrey Bogart was remarkably healthy most of his life. Unlike other stars, such as Clark Gable, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marilyn Monroe, no movie ever had to be postponed because of his ill-health. And he made 75 of them!
As I mentioned, Bogart was always thin, and he struggled to maintain his weight, and I mean to hold on to it. Why? It was probably due mainly to his smoking and drinking. Both undermine digestion and assimilation. However, adding to that in Bogart’s case was the fact that he was simply not a food person. He had little interest in food. He ate to live, but he certainly didn’t live to eat. He was a conventional eater with working class tastes. He famously said that a hot dog at the ball park was better than a steak at the Ritz. The book I read said little about Bogart’s diet, but there was one incident concerning a stray cat that he adopted that shed some light on it. It said that he fed the cat whatever he ate, including half-raw meat, organs, milk, steak, rabbit, venison, and chicken. The cat also enjoyed potatoes, so Bogie named him Potato; and the cat lived for 15 years.
There was mention of food during the making of The African Queen. There was great concern about parasites and dysentery in Africa, so they did not drink the local water or eat the local food. Bogart said that he lived on canned baked beans and canned asparagus that they brought with them. I suspect a person living on such limited fare would lose weight, and he does look bone-thin in The African Queen.
What about exercise? Bogart was naturally athletic. He was an excellent golfer, and he was also an excellent sailor, which can be very physical. Reportedly, he also had his share of barroom brawls- also physical. And on the mental side, Bogart was a tournament chess player, just one level below Master. He once played to a draw against a leading grandmaster. He loved chess, and it was his idea to insert chess in his introductory scene of Casablanca.
Humphrey Bogart started getting sick in a serious way at the age of 55 in 1955. He was married to his 4th wife Lauren Bacall at the time who was surely the love of his life despite being 24 years his junior. It started with non-stop, uncontrollable coughing. He avoided seeing doctors at first, and his cancer was not diagnosed until 1956. He underwent multiple surgeries and chemotherapy. My impression is that nothing they did prolonged his life, and they probably shortened it. After all, radical treatment imposes a huge strain on the body, and we are talking about 1950’s Medicine. But when his death spiral set in, it was frightening, his weight falling off rapidly and his energy withering away to nothing. He was wheelchair-bound in his final months. Temporarily, on doctor’s advice, he would quit smoking and drinking, but never for long. He would leave the world the same way he went through it, and apparently with no regrets.
I am a non-smoker, a teetotaler, and a vegetarian. So, how did I wind up becoming such a Bogart fan? I’ll answer that by quoting another actor, Rod Steiger, who I believe was speaking for a lot of people when he said:
“Bogart has endured because in our society the family unit has gone to pieces. And here you had a guy about whom there was no doubt. There is no doubt that he is the leader. There is no doubt that he is the strong one. There is no doubt that this man can handle himself- and others; that he can protect the family. This is all unconscious, but with Bogart you are secure; you never doubt that he will take care of things.”
That was the image Bogart had in his life- and it only grew bigger after his death.
A recent study out of the University of Texas found that blueberries confer an inhibitory effect on the development of adipocytes (fat cells) in mice. They found that giving blueberry polyphenols to mice resulted in the formation of fewer adipocyte cells. There is a differentiation that has to take place in order to for fat cells to materialize, and that differentiation process- from preadipocyte to adipocyte- was inhibited by the blueberry polyphenols. The result was fewer fat cells. The effect was found to be dose-dependent with the highest dose causing a 74 percent reduction in lipid content. The concluding remarks were:
"We still need to test this dose in humans, to make sure there are no adverse effects, and to see if the doses are as effective. This is a burgeoning area of research. Determining the best dose for humans will be important. The promise is there for blueberries to help reduce adipose tissue from forming in the body."
Meanwhile, last year, a study out of Israel concerning pomegranates found that college students (both male and female) who were given 8 ounces of pomegranate juice every day for six weeks lost significant fat weight- without altering their diets at all.
For a long time, the prevailing wisdom was that a calorie was a calorie, and fatness was entirely a numbers game. If you consume more calories than you burn, you get fat, regardless of what the source of the calories is. But, that is rubbish. Some calories are definitely more fattening than other calories. And some foods, such as blueberries and pomegranates, which do contain some calories (as all foods do) actually help you lose weight.
That’s why I have been saying for years that it is much more important to control what you eat than how much you eat. If you are going to eat junk, then even if you skip meals occasionally, your body is going to undergo a gradual but relentless fatification. It’s not so much a caloric numbers game as it is a degenerative disease resulting from chronic malnutrition.
The key is to eat a lot of unrefined plants, and it’s a good idea to eat plenty of them raw too. At least, eat raw the ones that can enjoyably be eaten raw, which includes all fruits, all nuts except chestnuts, and whichever vegetables you find tender, succulent, and sweet enough to eat and enjoy raw. They myriad of phytochemicals in whole plant foods not only protect us against disease; they help keep us lean.
I recently heard from a man who was advised to have a CT scan of his brain, which he underwent. The reason was that he has a hand tremor. His age is 63. He got a second opinion before submitting to the brain scan. Both doctors strongly urged him to do it because they thought it was highly possible he could have a brain tumor. And ultimately, he did it because he was freaked out about that. Who wants to live with uncertainty about whether or not you have a brain tumor? So, he did it, and fortunately, the scan came back negative. But, how likely was it that he had a brain tumor? The most common symptoms of a brain tumor are headaches, seizures, visual problems, hearing problems, garbled speech, gait problems, cognitive and personality disruptions, and nausea/vomiting. This man had none of those symptoms. The chance that a brain tumor would present with one-sided hand tremor and nothing else is exceedingly small. Laughably small. However, to treat peripheral neuropathy, he has been taking two anti-seizure drugs, Neurontin and Tegretol, for decades, and both of those drugs are known to cause tremors with longterm use. Weren't those drugs the most likely cause of his hand tremor and not a brain tumor? He received a whopping dose of radiation from that CT scan, and the dye they injected into him is hardly safe either. I think it was medical malpractice for them to order that scan. There was no justification for it. And in the tiny, remote possibility that he had a brain tumor, other symptoms would have manifested soon enough to point to it. There was no need to go fishing for it. This is prime example of medical exploitation, and it happens countless times every day. And we are all victims because the costs get passed down to all of us through higher medical insurance premiums and the taxes that we pay. And of course, it is only going to get worse under Obama Care. Now, more than ever, you need to be wary and remain independent when it comes to all medical decisions. It's a jungle out there, and the system is rigged against patients. Don't be overly impressed with any doctor. Be prepared to make your own decisions concerning your health.
I have been asked by a faithful customer to write a blog about the elderly. So, I am just going to muse a little bit here about what I think are important issues for the elderly. First, I think the elderly should be very cautious about taking drugs. Older people do not clear drugs from their bodies as efficiently or as rapidly, and there is greater risk of harm. Note also that the effects of drugs are cumulative. For instance, painkillers- including both prescription and over the counter ones- damage the kidneys. The same is true of anti-inflammatory drugs. So, you really want to avoid them as much as possible. For instance, if you have a headache, instead of taking a painkiller, try applying an ice-pack. Try to steer clear of those drugs as much as you possibly can.
Another example is statin drugs for high cholesterol. I don't think they should be taken by the elderly, and certainly not prophylactically. What I mean is that if you have no history of heart disease, and no particular signs of heart disease, but you happen to have high cholesterol, just leave it. Of course, you can always improve your diet and try to lower it that way. I'll never object to that. But don't take statins. For one thing, the association between high cholesterol and heart attacks falls apart after age 70. And more important, elderly people with higher cholesterol actually live longer than those with lower cholesterol. It's believed that cholesterol protects against cancer and infections-two of the leading causes of death among the elderly. But the most important thing, in my opinion, is to refuse to take statin drugs. Read the book, Lipitor: Thief of Memory by Dr. Duane Graveline. If you do, you'll want no part of statin drugs.
An invariable effect of aging is atrophy. That's where your good tissues (such as bone, muscle, even your brain) shrink and shrivel up. The result is that you get weaker, slower, more frail, more fragile, etc. This happens to everyone to some degree,. It's natural and you might even say universal. However, we need to fight it as much as we can. There are various causes of it, including the loss of youthful hormone levels, and also habitual inactivity. However, another reason that applies specifically to the elderly is malnutrition, which relates not only to what the elderly person eats but also to how well he or she digests and absorbs the food. Digestion, like everything else, gets weaker with age. In particular, hydrochloric acid production in the stomach declines a lot with age, and you need hydrochloric acid to properly digest your proteins. I think there are many elderly people who should consider taking digestive support, in the form of hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes, to help them make better use of their food. And of course, their diet has got to be properly constructed and balanced. No "tea and toast" elderly diet will do. I should add that dental problems often compromise nutrition for the aged. Obviously, you should work closely with your dentist and practice careful, thorough, and regular dental hygiene- as should everyone. But, if your choppers just aren't up to par any more, you need to find ways to work around it. If you can't chew raw green salads any more, then you should blend them. If you can't chew raw nuts any more, then you can grind them in a coffee grinder. Don't compromise your diet just because of bad teeth. Find ways to work around it.
You have to exercise if you intend to live. There is nothing better than walking. If you can walk at all, you had better do it. Even if you do other things, make it a practice to walk regularly, faithfully, and daily, if possible. Realize that walking is the most bio-mechanically sound exercise you can do. There is nothing better. There is nothing kinder and gentler to your body. There is nothing more rythmic and smooth and balanced. Swimming and pool exercises are also very good. Gym machines like stair climbers and stationary bicycles aren't bad either, but nothing beats walking. Games like tennis, golf, and racquetball are fun, but many people get hurt playing them. There is lots of strain involved when you're twisting and turning and reaching, etc., as you do in those sports. So be cautious with those activities.
I mentioned the need to be cautious about drugs, but the same is true of surgery. Older people do not tolerate anesthetics as well. The shock of surgery, the blood loss, the trauma- it's all much more arduous for an older person. So, don't be overly enthusiastic about having surgery. For instance, if you are an 80 year old man, and if you are not in pain and if you are able to pass your urine freely, don't submit to prostate cancer surgery. I certainly wouldn't. I'm 60 and I wouldn't.
One surgery I do believe in for the elderly is cataract surgery. Just make sure you have a highly experienced surgeon.
Should the elderly get flu shots? I don't and I wouldn't. For one thing, the serological (antibody) response of the elderly to the flu shot is much weaker. There are plenty of authorities within mainstream Medicine who say that flu shots are useless for the elderly. Are you aware that those who have had multiple flu shots have a much higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease? I think that a much better, safer, and more effective option is to take high-dose Vitamin D3: 5000 IUs daily. That's what I do. Yes, it's safe, even for the elderly.
I'll finish by pointing out that it's in your senior years that the idea of "leaving well enough alone" should carry a lot of weight, especially when it comes to radical interventions. I hate to have to say this, but in my opinion, medical abuses far outweigh medical miracles even in 2011, so be wary!
There is a new film out, available for free on Youtube, entitled The Marketing of Madness that you really should see. It covers the entire history of psychiatric drugs and the manner in which they have been marketed. The most startling thing is that the foundation of modern psychiatry- that mental illness centers around chemical imbalances in the brain- has never been proven. And all attempts to prove it have led to strikingly inconsistent results. For instance, attempts to induce depression by deliberately depleting serotonin have failed miserably. And despite all the fanfare, Prozac and its pharmaceutical cousins have not been shown to work any better than placebos. It's very unsettling to consider this vast area of health care because it's so widespread and pervasive in our lives (10% of Americans are on anti-depressant drugs), and yet, there is so little science behind it. It's one thing to talk about a chemical imbalance, but once you start treating people for it with potent pharmaceuticals, you had better have a way to measure what you are doing. But no such measurements exist. It's all theoretical. They are treating what they purport to be a physical, organic problem but on the basis of a purely conceptual model that cannot be substantiated- certainly not at the level of the individual patient. And if patients can be forgiven for participating in this scam, can doctors? How many doctors who prescribe Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, etc. have really studied the data on these drugs? Most of them have not studied them at all. In a way, doctors are just like patients: they are cogs in the wheel that keeps the whole psycho-pharmaceutical carousel turning.
Here is the link to The Marketing of Madness. Please watch it.