Lauren Bacall is one of my favourite actresses from Hollywood’s so called Golden Age. A beautiful actress, she starred as a knowing femme fatale in films like The Big Sleep and Key Largo, and went on to do more comedic roles in films like How To Marry A Millionaire. Her relationship with husband Humphrey Bogart was on e of Hollywood’s greatest romances.
Born in New York to a hardworking Jewish family, Lauren Bacall always knew that she wanted to be an actress. Her father was not in the picture, having left when she was a child, and he only returned later, when she was famous, a fact that made her feel quite resentful. Her family were close, especially her hard working mother, and her uncle Charlie, who took on a fathering role for her, when he could. She studied acting and worked hard, always pushing to get in to auditions and selling magazines outside Sardi’s on her lunch break so that she could accost producers and introduce herself.
Her big break came after some modelling work caught the eye of Hollywood, and eventually she chose to sign with Howard Hawks, who had the idea of creating her as a starlet, and perhaps had designs on her heart too. He cast her in To Have Or Have Not, opposite Humphrey Bogart in 1944, and their relationship blossomed.
She went on to work in films until after Bogarts death, when she eventually headed back to New York, almost married Frank Sinatra, and entered into acclaim on the stage there. She continued to appear in acclaimed films sporadically. An actress of charm and wit, as well as beauty, she could play sexy or funny, and her autobiographies show that she was also quite a writer.
Bacall came to be known as The Look, a way she had of holding herself that had her looking upwards from under her brows that gave her a sexy, knowing aspect. Many pictures capture this pose, and it made her famous in the film noir she started out working in, but actually came about because of nerves. Bacall would get very anxious and nervous on set and would shake with nerves. The only way she felt that she could stop her head from shaking and ruining the shot was to keep her head slightly lowered and look upwards. Luckily, this paid off with the look that she would become known for. But it often amused her that she was known for this look and played knowing, sexy femme fatales when she felt herself such a naive, innocent type in real life.
The Love Story: Bogie and Bacall
Bacall thought Humphrey Bogart was a nice man, on meeting him, but had never been taken with his looks. When work started on To Have And Have Not, in 1944, Bacall was an untried 19 year old actress, and Bogart felt sorry for the nervous actress. He tried to help her by making jokes to put her at ease. His kindness blossomed into friendship, which started to become something more, despite him being married and 25 years her senior. Bogart was not a man who normally payed around, but he had been married three times, and was in a destructive relationship with his wife who was a raging alcoholic. Bacall had been raised to know better, but the two couldn’t help themselves. After two years, Bogart finally got divorced, and they got married. If you’re ever feeling low, googling pictures of these two should restore your faith in love. They had a beautiful marriage that lasted 11 years, til his death, and had two children together. The way they look at each other is adorable, and their romance has become legend.
“If you can’t make me laugh, I don’t want to know you.”
Bacall went through quite a lot in her time. From falling for Bogart, to nursing him through the cancer that slowly killed him, then losing her beloved uncle, her mother, marrying and then divorcing an alcoholic, and more. One thing that I love about her, especially if you read her auto-biographies, is her sense of humour. She’s a woman who laughed, who loved to laugh and look for the funny side of things, something that she learned at home, she says, from her family. I feel like that ability to laugh is a really good life lesson.
Her autobiographies give the best sense of her as a person and in her own words. By Myself is my favourite, but be prepared to weep over her true love, Bogart, as they meet, fall in love, and life blissfully, until he starts to get sick.
- To Have and Have Not
- The Big Sleep
- Key Largo
- How To Marry A Millionaire
- Murder On The Orient Express
- The Fan