The announcement of the death of actress Lauren Bacall on Aug. 12, 2014, at the age of 89, was apparently a result of a stroke, as reported today by the Hollywood Reporter, who named her “Hollywood’s Icon of Cool.” Today, Hollywood has lost one of its most outstanding actresses and beautiful leading ladies. To simply see a photograph of the beauty, who arrived into the world, Sept. 16, 1924, as Betty Joan Perske, you recall what it was like during the best and brightest days of filmmaking. Glamor, excitement, understated elegance–all were embodied by Lauren Bacall.
Women she portrayed in film and on stage were bright, charming, successful, and had at least four dynamic men pursuing her with offers of marriage and promises of “happily ever after” if you were a character played by Lauren Bacall.
Ask any Baby Boomer today to name a glamorous film star, and Lauren Bacall’s name will come to mind. With her sultry alto voice, she spoke softly, yet firmly, and took command of stage and screen with her ability to bring her characters to life, often with just a look.
Her style and most glamorous look in movies spanned over 50 years. Miss Bacall’s films with her husband Humphrey Bogart are all-time favorites, including “To Have and Have Not,” “The Big Sleep,” and of course “Key Largo.” Her comedic talents were showcased alongside Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, and William Powell in “How to Marry a Millionaire.” An actress perfect for any decade, Miss Bacall played Barbra Streisand’s mother in the 1996 film, “The Mirror Has Two Faces,” also starring Pierce Brosnan. She was nominated for an Oscar in 1997 for her portrayal. Even when her character had a more dramatic side, Miss Bacall played each role to its fullest.
Hollywood love stories were common back in the 1940s and 1950s, but the legend of Bogie and Bacall not only is part of the annals of Hollywood, but it even found its way into singer Bertie Higgins’ song, “Key Largo.” Higgins sang, “And you were my leading lady, we had it all, just like Bogie and Bacall, starring in our own late, late show, sailing away to Key Largo.”
Over the past ten years, Miss Bacall accepted roles that she was interested in from time to time. Her final acting credit came earlier this year in the television series, “Family Guy,” where she voiced the character “Evelyn,” in the episode entitled “Mom’s the Word.” In 2010 Miss Bacall received an honorary Oscar “in recognition of her central place in the Golden Age of Motion Pictures.” She also won two Golden Globe awards in the 1990s and she was nominated for a Prime Time Emmy award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her appearance in a 1980 episode of “The Rockford Files.”
Small screen or large, stage, screen or television, no actress of her generation more closely embodied what every woman of the 40s, 50s and 60s wanted to be when they went to New York or Los Angeles to be “a star.” Her name was bright in lights, but her love for her three children was equally bright in her life.
Her children by Humphrey Bogart include son Steven and daughter Leslie Bogart. Steven is highly regarded as a playwright, drama teacher and designer, active with the American Reperatory Theater. Leslie, who became a nurse, was named for one of Humphrey Bogart’s best friends, actor Leslie Howard. Legend has it that she later received her name “after Leslie Howard refused to appear in the film “The Petrified Forest (1936) unless the studio signed Bogart to play Duke Mantee.” Thus, she was named Leslie Howard Bogart and is a dear reminder of what friendship meant in the early days of everyone trying to become “someone.”
After Humphrey Bogart’s death in 1957, Bacall would later marry fellow actor Jason Robards. They were married from 1961-1969 and their son, Sam Robards is also an actor, who is a prolific character actor with recurring roles on many television series.
Lauren Bacall’s works stand as some of the most beloved films made during “the best days of classic movies and glamorous movie stars of the Golden Age,” as it is known. Hollywood actresses today are indeed talented, but for the most part, with a few exceptions, cannot hold a candle to the class, style and grace exhibited by the legendary leading ladies of the silver screen.
The author of three books, “By Myself and Then Some (1978),” “Now” (1994), and “By Myself and Then Some” (updated 2005), Lauren Bacall’s own words should be the last words on the subject herself. For now, there are only two words left to offer in her memory and in her honor: “Thank you.”