Why Humphrey Bogart Claimed William Holden Was Trying To Kill Him On Set

When it comes to Hollywood legend, the feud between Humphrey Bogart and William Holden is no secret. Bogart's distaste for Holden is usually credited to the work the pair did together on 1954's "Sabrina," in which the actors played brothers who both caught the attention of Audrey Hepburn's titular character. In an excerpt from the book "Audrey and Bill" published in The Daily Mail, author Edward Z. Epstein explains that Bogart was irritated by Holden and Hepburn's relationship, at one point provoking a physical altercation with the former which ended with crew members pulling the two men apart.

The "Sabrina" set sounds like a nightmare, with Bogart reportedly complaining about Holden's cigarette smoke, making fun of his dyed hair, and nicknaming him "Smiling Jim." Yet it turns out the discord between the two actually started decades earlier, on the set of a 1939 gangster film called "Invisible Stripes." In the Warner Brothers film, Bogart plays an ex-con and leader of a criminal enterprise, while Holden is the younger brother of a recently released prisoner tempted to return to a life of crime.

A stunt gone wrong

Years later, after the release of both "Sabrina" and "Invisible Stripes," Holden appeared on "The Dick Cavett Show." After telling some great stories about classic Hollywood productions, the subject turns to Holden's working relationship with Bogart. "There's a rumor [that's] been around the business that Humphrey Bogart and you got in a fight one time," Cavett says, asking if it's true. It's unclear whether or not he means the "Sabrina" fight, which Epstein claims occurred after Bogart accused Holden of drinking too much on his lunch break. Surprisingly, Holden jumps into an entirely different Bogart story, about a stunt gone wrong on the "Invisible Stripes" set.

"I think I almost killed him," Holden admits, deadpan enough to elicit audience laughter, "But it was accidentally!" He explained that he had to drive a motorcycle with a sidecar for the film, and it "had a shimmy in the front wheel." The actor says that he had experience with motorcycles at the time, but the one on set was simply "a bad machine." Here's how Holden tells the story:

"So Bogart got out. He said, 'I'm not riding with that crazy so-and-so.' He said, 'He's liable to kill me.' So a stunt man got in and sure enough we turned the corner and went right through a brick wall. The whole gear in the front broke.

Bogart apparently took this as proof positive that Holden wanted him dead, to which Holden says he replied, "I had to go through the brick wall! You think I'm immune to bricks and you're gonna get away with it?" Holden is in good humor as he talks about the incident, reframing the anecdote as a funny story rather than a potentially frightening stunt gone wrong. Despite his apparent insistence that Holden was trying to kill him, the accident wasn't enough to keep Bogart from working with the actor again 15 years later.