Once upon a time in a land called Hollywood, there were two actors named Humphrey Bogart
and Richard Burton.
Humphrey made his name initially in gangster films, later becoming famous as the detective Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon and as Rick in Casablanca. Richard was a British actor known for his marriage to Elizabeth Taylor, performing with her as a dysfunctional, alcoholic husband and wife in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (which was a pretty accurate portrayal of their real life marriage).
Now, both of these guys were pretty celebrated, highly-paid, famous actors that are remembered today as legends of the golden age of Hollywood. Both were known womanizers with heavy drinking habits and a disdain for authority. Neither were classically trained actors, and they didn’t really have much respect for the studio system and the Academy. According to actress Lauren Bacall, for instance, Bogey “never felt that people in town liked him that much.” They just liked to act and they were lucky to get paid for it. Good old chaps.
One day, Richard and Humphrey were hanging out, chatting about bourbon, women and who had the best taste in either, when somehow the subject of who was the better actor came up. Apparently, they initially decided to perform the same scene from Hamlet, back to back before an unbiased audience to decide who was better, but I suppose one glass of whiskey later they eventually just started shouting at each other. At some point, Richard stands up and challenges Bogey, and Bogey storms out of the room.
After a moment, Bogey comes back into the room with the Oscar that he won in 1951 for The African Queen, thumps it down on the table and growls, “You were saying, Dick?”
Burton was dead silent.
Just once, I’d love to have a moment like this.