Lauren Bacall Was An Icon For A Reason: 8 Things To Know About the Star
It's been a week that just won't end. Amongst those that have been taken from this world are Robin Williams and, as of Tuesday, screen icon Lauren Bacall. She's a name and a figure that strike a cord to those in the know about Hollywood's golden age: Her stare resonates through the black-and-white photos that captured it decades after she declared herself a part of cinematic history.
Of Hollywood's golden age stars, Bacall was one of the last surviving. As she told Vanity Fair in a 2011 profile:
My son tells me, ‘Do you realize you are the last one? The last person who was an eyewitness to the golden age?’ Young people, even in Hollywood, ask me, ‘Were you really married to Humphrey Bogart?’ ‘Well, yes, I think I was,’ I reply. You realize yourself when you start reflecting — because I don’t live in the past, although your past is so much a part of what you are — that you can’t ignore it. But I don’t look at scrapbooks. I could show you some, but I’d have to climb ladders, and I can’t climb.
She remembered the golden age. Now that she's gone, it's time to remember her.
Her Breakout Was In 1944's To Have and Have Not
Bacall was born Betty Joan Perske in 1924. In 1944, her name was changed to Lauren Bacall. To Have and Have Not was an adaptation of the Ernest Hemingway novel of the same name. It cemented her as a leading lady. It's also where she met Humphrey Bogart. This scene's one of the film's most memorable:
She Stayed Married to Humphrey Bogart Until His Death
They got hitched in 1945, when she was 20 and Bogart was 45. They had two kids and remained married until Bogart's death in 1957.
Her "Sultry" Stare Was Iconic
Here are two examples of Bacall's status as a sex symbol, as evidenced in The New York Times announcement of her death (emphasis ours):
Lauren Bacall, the actress whose provocative glamour elevated her to stardom in Hollywood’s golden age and whose lasting mystique put her on a plateau in American culture that few stars reach, died on Tuesday. She was 89.
With an insinuating pose and a seductive, throaty voice — her simplest remark sounded like a jungle mating call, one critic said — Ms. Bacall shot to fame in 1944...
And a great observation from NPR's Linda Holmes:
She Starred In How to Marry a Millionaire Alongside Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe saw her rise to superfame in 1953 with Gentleman Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire, but the latter already included one major sex symbol.
She Was Briefly Engaged to Frank Sinatra
From that same Vanity Fair profile from 2011:
"I was in terrible shape then, and I was in no shape to cope with Sinatra and his incredible behavior," Bacall tells me. Yet she could not ignore the "insane electric currents running between them all the time." In 1958, Sinatra proposed. "I questioned nothing. That was my trouble — one of my troubles,” she says.
The engagement was off within days after Sinatra's unhappiness over the story leaking led him to break up with her over the phone.
But She Was Far More Than Her Romantic Interests
She dated and married famous men, but Bacall was adamant — and rightfully so — that she be remembered as more than that. As she told The
New York Times in 1970:
I think I’ve damn well earned the right to be judged on my own. It’s time I was allowed a life of my own, to be judged and thought of as a person, as me.
She Wrote Three Autobiographies
By Myself, Now, and By Myself and Then Some (1978, 1994, and 2005, respectively). By Myself won her a National Book Award in 1980.
She Was Outspoken About Her Politics
BACALL: I'm a total Democrat. I'm anti-Republican. And it's only fair that you know it. Even though... KING: Wait a minute. Are you a liberal? BACALL: I'm a liberal. The L word! KING: Egads! BACALL: I love it. Being a liberal is the best thing on earth you can be. You are welcoming to everyone when you're a liberal. You do not have a small mind. Little picayune things. You want to welcome everyone. Liberal, little picayune thing.
That "Sultry" Look Was a Direct Result of Her Nerves
Bacall was so nervous making To Have and Have Not that she could barely shoot the scenes. As she recalls through Vanity Fair:
The only way she could “hold my trembling head still was to keep it down, chin low, almost to the chest, and eyes up at Bogart.” That stance accidentally became Bacall’s signature attitude on-screen, known as The Look.
Rest in peace, lady. You'll be remembered for a very long time.
Images: Warner Bros.; 20th Century Fox