August 12, 2014 at 5:02 pm #158043
Lauren Bacall, the sultry blonde siren who became an overnight star via a memorable film debut at age 19 opposite Humphrey Bogart in Howard Hawks’ “To Have and Have Not,” died Tuesday at her home of a suspected stroke. She was 89.
Much later in life, she was Oscar-nommed for supporting actress for
her role as Barbra Streisand’s mother in 1997’s “The Mirror Has Two
Born Betty Joan Perske, “a nice Jewish girl from the Bronx,” she
stunned audiences in the forever-after-famous “you know how to whistle”
scene in the 1944 romance “To Have and Have Not,” in which she was as
flirtatious as possible within the parameters of the Hays Code.
Audiences were impressed; her co-star, the 44-year-old Bogart, even
more so. They were soon married and remained devoted to one another for
the next 12 years, until Bogart’s death in 1956.
It wasn’t until almost 20 years later that Bacall would emerge from
the shadow of being Bogart’s wife/widow and hit her stride, this time
onstage, where she scored successes in the comedy “Cactus Flower” and
then won two Tonys in musicals “Applause” and, later, “Woman of the
Her gravel-voiced, sultry persona, however, immediately transformed
her into a celebrity. The voice was said to have come from a year
shouting into a canyon. Regardless, “the Look,” her slinky, pouty-lipped
head-lowered stare, influenced a generation of actresses.
That had less to do with her acting assignments than with her social
and political reputation — lying long-legged on President Truman’s
piano, bravely protesting with her husband against the House Un-American
Activities hearings as early as 1947, campaigning for Adlai Stevenson
(twice), or hosting the Rat Pack in Holmby Hills with Bogie and later,
in New York, with another famous husband, actor Jason Robards
Jr. It has been suggested that her career — she was under contract at
Warners for several years — was harmed by her political outspokenness.
Bogart did some of his best work in those years, but then, he was
Her fierce independence caused her to be suspended from Warners no
fewer than seven times. Backed by Bogart, she justifiably complained
about the poor material she was handed. That independence sometimes
crossed over into diva territory and became more pronounced as time
At AMPAS’ first Governors Awards ceremony in November 2009, Bacall
was one of four honorees. Anjelica Huston saluted her by quoting Bacall
as saying, “Stardom isn’t a career, it’s an accident,” though Huston
said Bacall’s ascendance was not accidental.
Bacall expressed surprise at her own career, saying, “It’s quite
amazing the people I worked with — some of the all-time all-time
greats.” And she admitted that when Hawks told her he wanted to pair her
with either Bogart or Cary Grant, she said she wasn’t impressed with
the dese-dem-dose quality of Bogart and said of Grant, “Now you’re
Bacall’s fierce ambition to achieve stardom began at Julia Richman
High School in Manhattan, from which she graduated at 15. By that time
she was already doing department store modeling. She studied acting and
dancing and enrolled in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, where she
remained only one term. She quit modeling on Seventh Avenue to become a
theater usher and got herself a walk-on in “Johnny 2 x 4” in 1942 and
an ingenue role in George S. Kaufman’s out-of-town failure “Franklin
Harper’s Bazaar editor Niki de Gunzberg hired her to model for the magazine, and a 1943 cover photo
came to the notice of Hawks, who screen-tested Bacall and put her under
contract (which he later sold to Warners). The studio coached her for a
year, and then she was slipped into “To Have and Have Not,” where Hawks
found that “when she became insolent, she became rather attractive.”
Bogart’s marriage to Mayo Methot was on the skids, and Bacall soon
became his fourth wife, bearing him two children over the next dozen
years. They appeared together in movies three more times, most memorably
in “The Big Sleep” and then in “Dark Passage” and “Key Largo.”
Otherwise, when she wasn’t turning down assignments, she was agreeing
to appear in mediocre ones such as “Young Man With a Horn” and “Bright
Leaf.” At Bogart’s urging, she bought herself out of her contract
shortly before Warners shaved its roster in the wake of the TV boom of
the early ’50s.
One of her better assignments, “How to Marry a Millionaire,” teamed
her with Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable, and “Woman’s World” again
utilized her glamorous, stylish persona to dress up the proceedings.
On television she co-starred with Bogart and Henry Fonda in a live
production of “The Petrified Forest,” which Bogie had done on film in
1935 with Bette Davis and Leslie Howard. She also starred with Noel
Coward and Claudette Colbert in the TV production of Coward’s “Blithe
When Bogart succumbed to throat cancer, Bacall threw herself into her
work, again in A pictures, but with mixed results. There were
impressive efforts like “Written on the Wind” and “Designing Women” and
considerably less impressive ones like “Blood Alley” and “Flame Over
After a serious affair with Frank Sinatra, she moved east and
appeared onstage in the comedy “Goodbye, Charlie.” She met and married
Robards, whose star was on the rise, and they had a son. His drinking
problems contributed to their breakup and divorce in 1969.
In 1967, she was the toast of Broadway in Abe Burrows’ comedy “Cactus
Flower” (a role she lost to Ingrid Bergman onscreen). She appeared in
the comedy for two years, and then starred in a musical stage version of
“All About Eve,” called “Applause,” in the Margo Channing role
originated by Davis. For it she won a Tony Award, and she played the
role in the London version too.
Later screen roles consisted of cameos and character parts in films
including “Harper,” “Health” and “Murder on the Orient Express.” She
appeared in John Wayne’s last film, 1976’s “The Shootist.” A rare
starring opportunity, “The Fan,” was a dismal failure, and Bacall
returned to Broadway in another musicalization of a classic Hollywood
film, “Woman of the Year,” which had starred Katharine Hepburn.
Bacall’s 1978 autobiography “By Myself,” written without the aid of
the usual ghostwriter, translated that gravel voice onto the written
page and became a bestseller. She also penned “Now,” in which she wrote
about her career, family and friends since ’78 but which she declined to
call an autobiography. In the book, she wrote, “I’m called a legend by
some, a title and category I am less than fond of.”
She continued to work on stage and screen and television, doing a TV
remake of “Dinner at Eight” and taking a small role in “Misery.”
In 1997, she received the Kennedy Center Honors; in 1999, the
American Film Institute voted her one of the 25 most significant female
movie stars in history.
Bacall was among the stars of Lars Von Trier’s “Dogville” and
“Manderlay,” made a cameo on “The Sopranos” as herself in April 2006 and
appeared in the 2012 film “The Forger” with Josh Hutcherson and Hayden
But mostly she continued to be Lauren Bacall.
She is survived by her two children by Bogart, Stephen and Leslie and her son by Robards, actor Sam Robards.August 12, 2014 at 5:14 pm #158045
Wow… Death doesn’t let us breath.
Rest in peace, Lauren.August 12, 2014 at 5:18 pm #158046
Rest In Peace Ms. Bacall. I’ll always fondly remember your work.August 12, 2014 at 5:19 pm #158047
89 years old is certainly not as tragic to go out on than 63, but still – losing her so closely after Robin is a bit of a punch. What a great figure in cinema. Still have yet to see The Big Sleep, but To Have and Have Not is fantastic. What a life she led, too.
RIP to an icon.
Anybody got a match?August 12, 2014 at 5:20 pm #158048
I know some of her work, but not nearly all, and she is definitely a legendary actress. I know I’ll see more of her work as I continue into the classic films, because her filmography is definitely worth seeing. Sad loss.August 12, 2014 at 5:21 pm #158049
She was in the English dubbed version of “Ernest and Celestine” this year. She did a really good job it’s avalible on DVD now.August 12, 2014 at 5:29 pm #158050
No wordsAugust 12, 2014 at 5:40 pm #158051
RIP to another great.August 12, 2014 at 5:48 pm #158052
“…You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and… blow. “August 12, 2014 at 6:01 pm #158053
A great actress, and an even more humble person.August 12, 2014 at 6:10 pm #158054
That’s 3 from MY FELLOW AMERICANS this year alone, after the two Jameses (Garner & Rebhorn).
She was a consummate pro and class act, and married to two Oscar winners herself (Bogie & Jason Robards), though my favorite film of hers hands down, THE BIG SLEEP, never got any Academy love but will be remembered for eons to come.
RIP.August 12, 2014 at 6:13 pm #158055
OMG Lord!!! Not Bacall. Yes she was 89 but the timing is crazy. So freaking iconic.August 12, 2014 at 6:38 pm #158056
Oh no. Lauren Bacall too? What an awful week this has turned out to be. RIP.August 12, 2014 at 6:42 pm #158057
This week is bad. First Robin and now her?! She was always one of my grandfathers favorite actresses so I think I have seen almost all of her films. Such a great actress.