The world lost screen legend Lauren Bacall today, August 12, after she suffered a massive stroke in New York City. Eighty-nine years earlier she was born Betty Joan Perske in the Bronx to Polish-native parents on September 16, 1924.
As Betty Bacall, she studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and worked as a theater usher before landing a walk-on part in a Broadway play. Soon after, she was discovered while working as a fashion model and offered a screen test for To Have and Have Not (1944).
She got the part as well as the first name of Lauren, international stardom, and her leading man Humphrey Bogart, who she married the following year. Together, Bogie and Bacall had two children: son Stephen Humphrey Bogart and daughter Leslie Bogart; plus three more films: The Big Sleep (1946), Dark Passage (1947) and Key Largo (1948).
After Bogart’s death in 1957, Bacall was briefly engaged to Frank Sinatra before marrying actor Jason Robards Jr. in the early sixties. The marriage produced son Sam Robards in 1961 and a divorce in 1969.
Bacall continued to act, making comedies How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), Designing Woman (1957), Sex and the Single Girl (1964), and The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996) which earned her a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress and her first and only Academy Award nomination. In 2009, the Academy gave Bacall an Honorary Oscar.
Additional films in Bacall’s catalog include Murder on the Orient Express (1974), The Shootist (1976), The Fan (1981), Misery (1990), and The Walker (2007). Bacall also performed in two of Nicole Kidman’s most controversial vehicles: Lars von Trier’s Dogville (2003) and Jonathan Glazer’s Birth (2004).
Bacall served as the spokesperson for Tuesday Morning discount chain, High Point coffee and Fancy Feast cat food. She also appeared on radio, on TV (including a cameo appearance as herself on The Sopranos) and on stage. She received the Sarah Siddons Award in 1972 and 1984 for her work in Chicago theater yet refused an invitation from Grauman’s Theatre to press her hands in cement for prosperity.