Lauren Bacall – Golden Girl
Another Hollywood icon has passed this week, Hollywood will be mourning deeply for the loss of the best comedian actor of all time and the day after for one of their Golden Girls.
Lauren Bacall, one of Hollywood’s leading ladies from the Golden Age of motion pictures has died at the age of 89. The award-winning actress had a massive stroke at her home on Tuesday morning, according to US website TMZ.
She was pronounced dead at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Centre. The Bogart estate posted the following tweet: ‘With deep sorrow, yet with great gratitude for her amazing life, we confirm the passing of Lauren Bacall.’
Born Betty Joan Perske to a Romanian Jewish mother and a Polish Jewish father in New York, young Betty studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts while working as a model and cinema usher. The wife of Hollywood director Howard Hawks spotted her in a magazine and persuaded her husband to take a closer look. The rest is history.
Lauren Bacall was a movie star from almost her first moment on the silver screen. At the age of 19, she achieved immediate fame in 1944 with Howard Hawks’ To Have And Have Not, her first film in which she starred alongside Humphrey Bogart.
She was teamed with the man who would eventually be her husband in two more films: classic film noir The Big Sleep and Key Largo.
Marriage to Bogart made them one of the most famous Hollywood couples of all time; they had a son and a daughter, but cancer cut their happy marriage short. After his death, she was romantically involved with Frank Sinatra and had an eight-year marriage to actor Jason Robards Jr, with whom she had a son.
The Academy-Award nominated actress received two Tonys, an honorary Oscar and acted in scores of film and TV roles – including How To Marry A Millionaire with Marilyn Monroe, The Mirror Has Two Faces with Barbra Streisand and HBO gangster series The Sopranos.
Lauren Bacall outlived her husband by more than 50 years, but she never outlived their iconic Bogie and Bacall status.
Howard Hawks’ To Have And Have Not immortalised the young Lauren Bacall thanks to one scene: her character Slim glides out of Harry’s hotel room (she calls him ‘Steve’) and murmurs: ‘You don’t have to say anything, and you don’t have to do anything. Not a thing. Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.’
With that cool, sultry come-on, not only was a star born, but the beginning of a legend.
At the time they were paired on To Have And Have Not, Humphrey Bogart was 44 and Lauren Bacall was 19. She wrote of their meeting: ‘There was no thunderbolt, no clap of thunder, just a simple how-do-you-do.’ He was on his third disastrous marriage with alcoholic actress Mayo Methot and determined to work through it, but everything changed on To Have And Have Not.
Bogart nicknamed Bacall ‘Baby’ and they eventually fell into an affair. But he felt unable to leave his wife, despite her drinking.
Mayo Methot was eventually persuaded to divorce Humphrey Bogart and the lovers wed on May 21 1945. ‘When I married Bogie,’ Lauren Bacall remarked in 1994, ‘I agreed to put my career second because he wouldn’t marry me otherwise. He’d had three failed marriages to actresses and he was not about to have another.’
She may not have made the most of her talent in this period, but Bogart and Bacall’s mansion became the place to be invited in Hollywood, thanks to their parties and gatherings.
Lauren Bacall held out for stronger roles in Hollywood; she also became politically active, joining her husband in protesting the Hollywood blacklist of suspected Communists and campaigning for numerous causes. During this period, there were a couple of movies she judged good enough for her presence.
One of them was 1953 hit How To Marry A Millionaire in which she starred alongside 1940s favourite Betty Grable and the up-and-coming blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe (pictured). It’s essentially about three gold diggers in New York who end up with men they didn’t expect.
Smart and funny, it contained this nice inside joke as Bacall’s character tries to convince an old millionaire (the great William Powell) that age doesn’t matter to her: “Look at Roosevelt! Look at Churchill! Look at that old fella… what’s his name from The African Queen!” The ‘old fella’ was her old man, Bogie.
The happy Bogart and Bacall marriage produced two children: a boy called Stephen and their daughter Leslie. The party began to wind down in March 1956 when Bogart was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus.
On the night of January 14 1957, Bogie grabbed his wife’s arm and muttered: ‘Goodbye, kid.’ He died in the early morning at the age of 57. After a period of mourning, Lauren Bacall became romantically involved with Frank Sinatra, but when an ‘engagement’ was mistakenly leaked to the press, the singer blamed her and terminated the romance.
Still mourning for Bogart, Lauren Bacall left Hollywood in October 1958. She made a film in England and did a critically panned play that was significant because she would meet her second husband during her time on Broadway: Jason Robards.
He was similar to Bogart in that he was an accomplished actor, hard drinker – and married. After Robards was divorced from his second wife, he and Lauren Bacall married in 1961. They had a son together, but Robards’ drinking and extramarital affairs resulted in divorce in 1969.
Lauren Bacall’s movie career waned in the 1960s partly due to Hollywood’s unforgiving attitude to women of a certain age. Little wonder she turned to Broadway. She starred in Goodbye, Charlie (1959), Cactus Flower (1965), Applause (1970) and Woman of the Year (1981) and won Tony Awards (the stage equivalent of the Oscar) for her performances in the latter two.
Lauren Bacall adored the theatre – and the theatre adored her. ‘I think the stage is an actor’s place because actors, it belongs to you,’ she once said. In an interview with CNN’s Larry King she expanded on her love of theatre:
‘When the curtain goes up, it’s ours. It’s ours to project what the playwright wants to stay to an audience, what to convey and to get a response from the audience immediately. Movies are great fun and wonderful when they’re good. But you never get to see them until six months after they’re finished. So you never get a sense of whether they’re really well liked or how good they are. And you don’t really know what the finished product is going to be like, because it’s a director’s medium.’
In 2009, Lauren Bacall was (finally!) given an honorary Oscar by the Academy in recognition of ‘her central place in the Golden Age of motion pictures’.
A New Yorker by birth, it was perhaps inevitable that she would return there. She lived in Manhattan’s Dakota Building, where neighbours included John Lennon and Yoko Ono, for decades. She was ever protective of the Bogart legacy, lashing out at those who tried to profit from his image.
She told Parade magazine in 1997: ‘Everyone’s a survivor. Everyone wants to stay alive. What’s the alternative? See, I prefer to prevail.’
Always Bogie & Bacall
Lauren Bacall born September 16, 1924 – died August 12, 2014
She was also a crazy cat lady! LOVE!