Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Lauren Bacall

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 in New York. She was 89.

Her death was confirmed by her son Stephen Bogart. “Her life speaks for itself,” Mr. Bogart said. “She lived a wonderful life, a magical life.”

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 with her first movie, Howard Hawks’s adaptation of the Ernest Hemingway novel “To Have and Have Not,” playing opposite Humphrey Bogart, who became her lover on the set and later her husband.

It was a smashing debut sealed with a handful of lines now engraved in Hollywood history.

“You know you don’t have to act with me, Steve,” her character says to Bogart’s in the movie’s most memorable scene. “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.”

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She also expressed impatience, especially in her later years, with the public’s continuing fascination with her romance with Bogart, even though she frequently said that their 12-year marriage was the happiest period of her life.

“I think I’ve damn well earned the right to be judged on my own,” she said in a 1970 interview with The New York Times. “It’s time I was allowed a life of my own, to be judged and thought of as a person, as me.”

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Years later, however, she seemed resigned to being forever tied to Bogart and expressed annoyance that her later marriage to another leading actor, Jason Robards Jr., was often overlooked.

“My obit is going to be full of Bogart, I’m sure,” she told Vanity Fair magazine in a profile of her in March 2011, adding: “I’ll never know if that’s true. If that’s the way, that’s the way it is.”

Ms. Bacall was an 18-year-old model in New York when her face on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar caught the eye of Slim Hawks, Howard Hawks’s wife. Brought to Hollywood and taken under the Hawkses’ wing, she won the role in “To Have and Have Not,” loosely based on the novel of the same name.


She was a nice Jewish girl brought up right by mother in two rooms on the wrong side of the tracks in Manhattan, her father long fled from their lives. She was so nervous in her first film role, at all of 19 years old, that her head shook; so she tilted her chin down to steady herself, and had to look up from under at the camera. She stood at the bedroom door of "a hotel in Martinique in the French West Indies" – the Warner Bros lot in Hollywood – looked up, and asked Humphrey Bogart for a match. And defined her life.

At that incendiary moment in 1944, Lauren Bacall, who has died aged 89, was still Betty Bacall, and had been recently Betty Perske; a stagestruck teenager whose poor family finances bought her a bare year at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (fellow pupil and first crush, Kirk Douglas), and whose fought-for debut parts were in flops. She had to pay her way as an usherette and model, an unglam garment trade live dummy, until her photogenic potential was spotted by Diana Vreeland, fashion editor of Harper's Bazaar. Vreeland had an instinct for the face of the times, for a movie in a single still; and the shot that begat Bacall was a Bazaar cover, Betty besuited before a Red Cross office door. It's lit noirishly, and she is acting independent – a frank, clever gal caught up in the war effort.

It was seen in Hollywood by David O Selznick, and Columbia pictures; both inquired after her. But the real connection was made by Nancy "Slim" Hawks, wife to director Howard Hawks, who seems to have recognised in Betty's stance a style much like her own, plus the physical substance of her husband's dreams. She alerted Hawks, and Bacall was invited to entrain across America on the 20th Century Limited to be screen-tested; Hawks offered her a personal contract. Bacall treated him as a surrogate father, and understood only later that he always wanted to be Svengali, making over a kid from nowhere into his desirable girl. His fantasy woman was sexually experienced and insolent; Hawks had hung out with Ernest Hemingway and co, who (as Slim complained after the marriage was over) wanted females who did not wimp out or whinge about the big game hunting, the hard drinking and harder bullshitting – but who were young enough not to be equals, so that they were never a threat.

She slouched on to screens in the 1940s, a new kind of female star: sexy, smart, able to give as good as she got. Sixty years on, Lauren Bacall is still making films - but it is those early lines and angled looks that cast her for ever as an icon. Susie Mackenzie meets her. Read the interview Here.

Lauren Bacall (/ˌlɔrən bəˈkɔːl/, born Betty Joan Perske; September 16, 1924 – August 12, 2014) was an American film and stage actress and model, known for her distinctive husky voice and sultry looks.

She first emerged as a leading lady in the Humphrey Bogart film To Have and Have Not (1944) and continued on in the film noir genre, with appearances in Bogart movies The Big Sleep (1946), Dark Passage (1947), and Key Largo (1948), as well as comedic roles in How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) with Marilyn Monroe and Designing Woman (1957) with Gregory Peck. Bacall worked on Broadway in musicals, gaining Tony Awards for Applause in 1970 and Woman of the Year in 1981. Her performance in the movie The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996) earned her a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination.

In 1999, Bacall was ranked #20 of the 25 actresses on the AFI's 100 Years... 100 Stars list by the American Film Institute. In 2009, she was selected by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to receive an Academy Honorary Award "in recognition of her central place in the Golden Age of motion pictures."

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