The Academy-Award nominated actress received two Tonys, an honorary Oscar and scores of film and TV roles.
Lauren Bacall, sultry-voiced actress, dead at 89
Lauren Bacall was a movie star from almost her first moment on the silver screen.
A fashion model and bit-part New York actress before moving to Hollywood at 19, Bacall achieved immediate fame in 1944 with one scene in her first film, To Have and Have Not. Leaving Humphrey Bogart’s hotel room, Bacall – a lanky figure with flowing blond hair and a stunning face – murmured:
“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, her title burnished over the years with pivotal roles, signature New York wit, and a marriage to Bogart that accounted for one of the most famous Hollywood couples of all time.
Bacall died Monday at the age of 89 in New York, according to the managing partner of the Humphrey Bogart Estate, Robbert JF de Klerk. Bacall’s son Stephen Bogart confirmed his mother’s death to de Klerk. She was pronounced dead at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center on Tuesday, according to Kathleen Robinson, the hospital’s media relations director.
The Academy-Award nominated actress received two Tonys, an honorary Oscar and scores of film and TV roles. But, to her occasional frustration, she was remembered for her years with Bogart and treated more as a star by the film industry than as an actress. Bacall would outlive her husband by more than 50 years, but never outlive their iconic status.
They were “Bogie and Bacall” – the hard-boiled couple who could fight and make up with the best of them. Unlike Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, Bogart and Bacall were not a story of opposites attracting but of kindred, smouldering spirits. She was less than half Bogart’s age, yet as wise, and as jaded as he was. They starred in movies like Key Largo and Dark Passage together, threw all-night parties, palled around with Frank Sinatra and others and formed a gang of California carousers known as the Holmby Hills Rat Pack, which Sinatra would resurrect after Bogart’s death.
She appeared in movies for more than a half-century, but none brought her the attention of her early pictures.
Not until 1996 did she receive an Academy Award nomination – as supporting actress for her role as Barbra Streisand’s mother in The Mirror Has Two Faces. Although a sentimental favourite, she was beaten by Juliette Binoche for her performance in The English Patient.
She finally got a statuette in November 2009 at the movie academy’s Governors Awards gala.
“The thought when I get home that I’m going to have a two-legged man in my room is so exciting,” she quipped.
Her persona paralleled her screen appearances: She was blunt, with a noirish undertone of sardonic humor that illuminated her 1979 autobiography, By Myself (she published an updated version in 2005, By Myself and Then Some.)
Bacall was born Betty Joan Perske in the Bronx on September 16, 1924 and was raised by her Romanian immigrant mother after her parents split when she was a child (her mother took part of her family name, Bacal; Betty added the extra L when she became an actress.)
“My childhood is a confusion,” Bacall wrote in By Myself, which made Bacall one of the rare celebrity authors to win a National Book Award. She told of nightmares over the arguments of her parents, of her mother’s struggle to earn a living, of being sent off to boarding school.
As a young woman, Diana Vreeland, the famed editor of Harper’s Bazaar, thought she was ideal for fashion modeling, and Bacall appeared regularly in the magazine. The wife of film director Howard Hawks saw her on a magazine cover and recommended her as film material, and she went to Hollywood under a contract.
Hawks became her mentor, coaching her on film acting and introducing her to Hollywood society. He was preparing a movie to star Bogart, based on an Ernest Hemingway story, To Have and Have Not, with a script partly written by William Faulkner.
By this time she had acquired the professional name of Lauren, though Bogart and all her friends continued to call her Betty.
“When I married Bogie,” she remarked in a 1994 interview, “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.”
Still, she appeared in a few films without Bogart: Confidential Agent (with Charles Boyer) Young Man with a Horn, (Kirk Douglas) and How to Marry a Millionaire, with Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable.