Lauren Bacall (1924-2014)
First, we have to acknowledge the voice. That slightly rough, very smooth, absolutely arresting voice. Then the look. Chin down, gaze up, right-in-the-eyes look. And finally, the attitude. Tough with a streak of vulnerability. Is it any wonder that men fell hard for Lauren Bacall? And not just the guys in the audience. She also won the love of her first film leading man – Humphrey Bogart.
She was Betty Perske from The Bronx, New York. As a teen, her beauty led to a career in modeling. But she was also interested in acting and began studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Her photo on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar got the attention of director Howard Hawks’ wife Nancy, who urged her husband to bring the young model to Hollywood. Hawks suggested a first name change to Lauren. The new last name of Bacall was the maiden name of Lauren’s mother.
She took lessons to lower her voice. She was so nervous during her screen test that her whole body shook. She pressed her chin to her chest to control the trembling and looked up at the camera. And a star was born.
Bacall’s first movie, To Have and Have Not (1944), co-starred one of the biggest names in movies: Humphrey Bogart. The attraction was immediate. They married in 1945 and had two children. Both Bacall and Bogart made some of their best films during this time, including three more together. But in 1957, Bogart died from cancer, and Bacall cut back on her film career. She moved to New York and took on Broadway, winning two Tony Awards. She married Jason Robards, Jr. and together they had a son. That marriage ended in divorce.
Bacall continued working in films and on television. She received her only Oscar nomination for The Mirror Has Two Faces. In 2009, she received the Academy Honorary Award in recognition of her career.
This week, she passed away at age 89.
Lauren Bacall was an actress who drew the attention of every moviegoer, no matter how big or small the role. She was a star. And there are plenty of actresses today who could still learn a thing or two from her.
If you’d like to see some of Bacall’s best work, check the list below. Or click on her highlighted name in the first paragraph for a more complete list of her films.
To Have and Have Not
The Big Sleep
Young Man with a Horn
How to Marry a Millionaire
Written on the Wind
Murder on the Orient Express
My Fellow Americans