When Mayo Methot passed away in 1951 at age 47, she was recognized as a “boozy floozy” and the former wife of Humphrey Bogart before the Hollywood leading man ran into the arms of much younger screen siren, Lauren Bacall.
But one author insisted there was so much more to this fellow actress, who has been seemingly forgotten with time.
Roy Widing recently published a book on Methot titled “Sluggy: Bogie’s Other Baby,” which carefully examines Methot’s life, including her rise to stardom and devastating downfall before succumbing to alcoholism. Widing dug up personal letters from friends, unseen wills, divorce papers and other unpublished documents that painted a rare portrait of Methot.
“Mayo’s story is far from neat and tidy,” Widing told Fox News. “But how many people starred on Broadway, got big in Hollywood and then married one of the most important actors in history? She did all of that and more.”
“But the fact that she died young, the fact that she had multiple divorces, the fact that she had alcohol problems — yes, those are all true,” he continued. “But if you take just a step back and realized everything she did achieve, there’s certainly a story that hasn’t been told enough.”
Methot first got her start on Broadway as both an actress and singer during the Roaring ‘20s, the University of Oregon shared.
The Oregon resident even made her grand debut on stage before she learned to read, Portland Monthly added. The Oregonian hailed her as “the youngest leading lady in the world,” and was frequently mentioned in local outlets for her unmistakable talent.
After appearing in about a dozen productions, she moved to Hollywood in the 1930s and began working with Warner Bros. Studios. Methot appeared in 28 films, usually as a no-nonsense broad or "the other woman.”
By the time Methot met Bogart during the filming of 1937’s “Marked Woman” alongside Bette Davis, she had already been married twice: first to cinematographer John M. La Mond from 1921 until 1927, followed by Percy T. Morgan Jr. from 1931 until 1937.
“One of the things that attract Bogart to Mayo instantly was the fact that she could make him laugh,” Widing noted. “And he loved to laugh. They had a lot of good times together. Whenever you saw them, they were clearly enjoying themselves.”
But they were passionate for more than just each other. In fact, it was no secret that by this point, the two enjoyed hitting the bottle for a good time.
“There was no denying that the pressures of their jobs, of being in the spotlight took a toll on them individually, as well as their relationship,” said Widing. “Documents suggested that Humphrey hit Mayo. But she hit him back. I think the alcohol clearly fed into their frustrations, their passions in a negative way. And she knew how to push people’s buttons.”
Drinking binges led to arguments that were so volatile, the two became known as the “Battling Bogarts” by the press. According to Portland Monthly, the pair were caught “drunkenly firing guns in the middle of the night” during a World War II USO tour. It’s even been reported that Methot stabbed Bogart in the shoulder at one point. The University of Portland shared that Bogart applied his wife’s nickname “Sluggy” to his motor yacht.
But everything changed when Bogart met a throaty blonde 25 years his junior on the set of the 1944 film “To Have and Have Not.” During filming, Bogart stopped Bacall at her trailer to say goodnight when “he suddenly leaned over, lifted her chin and kissed her,” the New York Times reported. Despite a blossoming romance, the outlet reported Bogart returned to Methot several times before realizing his marriage couldn’t be saved.
Bogart and Bacall had fallen for each other and both couldn’t escape the epic romance. In 1945, Methot and Bogart finally called it quits. That same year, he married Bacall. They remained together until his death in 1957.
“Lauren Bacall was a very good partner for him,” said Widing. “They had children and clearly, they loved each other. And I think that explains why Methot ultimately became a footnote in this great saga. Given the fights and their personal demons, Humphrey moves on and finds peace with Lauren Bacall. He realized that his marriage to Mayo just wasn’t working. They had grown apart. And it was time to move on. Fate made him move on.”
For Methot, the same sense of happiness wasn’t in the cards for her.
“She was already in her 40s,” WIding explained. “At that age, you weren’t going to get good parts in Hollywood as a woman. And my research suggests that there may have been some kind of blacklisting involved. By this time, Bogart was a powerful star in Hollywood. And I believe there was tension involved. [Filmmakers] probably didn’t want to be associated with somebody like her at this point. She did get offers, but not the kind of quality roles women of her age range would be given today.”
“And her health wasn’t great at this point, either,” Widing continued. “It was surprising because, after her previous divorces, she would find a way to bounce back and keep working. But her health started to deteriorate at this point, making it difficult for her to continue acting.”
Methot ultimately retreated to her native Oregon to be near her mother. According to Widing, it’s were Methot spent her final years to be near the coast, “retreat from the alcohol” and escape the media scrutiny after her public divorce.
Her last on-screen role was 1940’s “Brother Rat and a Baby” where she played a “girl on the bus.”
“She a kept a low profile,” he said. “There wasn’t much news about her whereabouts and I think that’s how she wanted it.”
But Bogart never forgot Methot, whose death was attributed to acute alcoholism. He would go on to send flowers to her mausoleum until he died in 1957 at age 57 from cancer.
“I think in a different time, Mayo could have bounced back in California or returned to her stage roots in New York,” Widing explained. “But the media scrutiny and her age both made it very difficult for her to break free again and start fresh. She couldn’t go back to an industry that basically tagged her negatively. And she didn’t want to play another gangster girlfriend. By the end of her life, she wanted a fresh start and it was clear that Hollywood wasn’t going to give to her. But at the end of the day, she made the decision to return to Oregon where she found to have some peace again.”
“Her ending is an incredibly sad one,” continued Widing. “But her life wasn’t all tragedy and drama. This is a woman who lived a full, rich life and made her mark both on Broadway and Hollywood – an incredible accomplishment for her star. Her life was nothing like a fairy tale — and I think that’s what makes her all the more intriguing.”