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September 22, 2023

Intriguing Photographs of Humphrey Bogart at Garden of Allah, ca. 1937

Taken after his star-making role in The Petrified Forest but before actually becoming a star several years later, these photographs capture a refined and gentlemanly Humphrey Bogart, images that reflect his privileged upbringing, so different from the hard-boiled “Bogie” of movie legend.

The setting is said to be one of the villas at the Garden of Allah, the famous West Hollywood hotel complex where Bogart frequently resided, during and between marriages. Circa 1937, the portraits are possibly the work of Mickey Marigold, a still photographer for Warner Brothers.

The Garden was famously owned by and named after silent film star Alla Nazimova, an exotic Russian import who allegedly had affairs with both of Rudolf Valentino’s wives. In 1919, the actress acquired the property at 8152 Sunset from real estate developer William Hay, who had built the estate in 1913. The palatial home stood on what must have been a secluded parcel of land several miles from the movie studios, making it ideal for keeping her get-togethers private.

Unfortunately, Nazimova’s career took a nose-dive in the 1920s, so she added 25 “villas” and a pool to the estate in hopes of turning it into an income-generating hotel. Even more unfortunately, the partners that had financed the expansion proved to be untrustworthy, and less than a year after the hotel opened in January 1927, the actress sold out her share of the property and made another try at Broadway. In 1930, the new owners officially named the hotel the Garden of Allah.

Maybe the fun was over for Nazimova but for the denizens of Hollywood, it was just starting. The Garden of Allah became the place for the famous and infamous to hide their escapades from the prying eyes of the public. Novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, who had fallen on hard times after early success as a chronicler of the Roaring Twenties, resided at the Garden while toiling as a screenwriter to keep his wife Zelda in a private mental institution back east. Conveniently, his lady love, gossip columnist Sheilah Graham, lived on a nearby side street.


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