We think of Bogart as the tough man with a stiff drink and a dilemma, but that's because we think of him in movies. Bogart started on the Broadway stage. When he was offered a part in the play "The Petrified Forest,” in which he played an escaped murderer, he was relieved. "It marked my deliverance from the sleek, sybaritic, stiff-shirted, swallow-tailed 'smoothies' to which I seemed condemned to life," Bogart stated in his biography, which was written by Jeffrey Meyers.
“The Petrified Forest” had an initial 197-show run. Warner Brothers bought the rights to make a movie and wanted to retain the star of the play, Leslie Howard (Bogart had a supporting role). Howard insisted that Bogart be cast in the same stage role but Jack Warner wanted the more cinematically established gangster actor, Edward G. Robinson. From England, Howard cabled: "Attn: Jack Warner - Insist Bogart Play Mantee - No Bogart - No Deal - L.H." And 15 years of cinematic history was changed from that wire. Bogart was a murderer in the film version of The Petrified Forest, then he was a gangster in Angels With Dirty Faces, followed by a hardened detective in The Maltese Falcon.
Bogart's performance in The Petrified Forest was a revelation at the time. It was an announcement of a new, charismatic—but rough—actor. If you watch it now, you wait patiently for Bogart to appear, as he doesn't hit the screen until midway into the film. But this is the first of many scowls and condescending remarks that we'd come to love thereafter. And Bogart never forgot how he got there. He named his only daughter Leslie Howard. The kid stays in the picture, indeed.