The Steinway’s last chord lingers on the spring air as a slinky blonde winds down a staircase to stand beside a balding guy, a whiff of martini about him.
“Dearly beloved,” a voice rises toward the high ceiling. Everyone grows sober.
Everyone, that is, except Prince, the lone quadruped invited to the wedding of the late Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart. He pads into the hallway of the Big House at Malabar Farm and sprawls across the feet of the presiding judge.
Suddenly, it’s Bogart, Bacall and boxer at the center of the most famous wedding of 1945.
The improbable pair—she 20, he 45—are the honored guests of Mary and Louis Bromfield at Malabar Farm in Pleasant Valley, Ohio. With Prince, Bromfield’s favorite boxer, as best dog.
Life-long friends reunite for Bogart’s wedding in Ohio
Bogart and Bromfield had been pals for decades, back to their early careers in New York.
“Bromfield was a play critic for Music News magazine, and Bogart was just starting out,” says Sybil Burskey, administrative assistant at Malabar Farm State Park. “They became fast friends.”
The Twenties roared for Bromfield, whose 1926 book, Early Autumn, won the Pulitzer Prize.
By 1939, Bromfield returned to his native Ohio to start Malabar, 385 acres in Pleasant Valley, 70 miles north of Columbus.
For all his overalls and crop rotations, Bromfield could be bi-coastal. He hobnobbed in New York and rode the rails to Los Angeles to see how his words were being treated on the silver screen.
He’d catch up with Bogart, now with wife No. 3, actress Mayo June Methot. They were the Battling Bogarts, famous for trashing hotel rooms.
Lauren ‘Betty’ Bacall—‘The Look’ was Hollywood’s newest starlet
Into this volcanic marriage stepped 18-year-old Betty Bacall, fresh from New York. She was cast opposite Bogart in “To Have or Have Not.”
Bogart checked out Bacall’s screen tests and told her, “We’ll have a lot of fun together.”
Within a month, they were popping into each other’s dressing rooms between takes, emerging with rumpled clothes.
The wheels of the Bogart-Methot divorce started to churn and Bogart was invited to speak at a Chicago rally.
“Meet me in Chicago,” he’s reported to have told Bacall. “I’ve got a job to do there. Then we’ll go to Louis Bromfield’s farm and get married. Might as well kill two birds with one stone.”
Bacall would have no flowery proposal, but she certainly had what she wanted.
Bogart and Bacall left LA May 18 for their four-day wedding trip.
A homespun affair in the country air of Pleasant Valley
In Ohio, Bromfield and his secretary were handling the details, down to the blood tests, marriage license, judge, cake, even Bacall’s pin curls.
“The happy house went to sleep at a late hour—it was not a night for sleep,” Bacall recalled in her autobiography. “We managed a few hours. I had to rise to roll up my hair so as not to frighten the groom.”
“I’ve met the woman who rolled her hair,” said a manager at Malabar Farm. “She’d just gotten out of beauty school. She washed Betty’s hair and put it in pincurls. She got a $5 tip, which then was quite a bit.”
Judge Herb Schettler of Mansfield Municipal Court stood in the front hall as Bacall descended the stairs and Bogart, fortified with martinis, waited beside his best pal, Bromfield.
“I couldn’t marry unless Louis were the best man,” Bogart quipped. “By the third time, he’ll be good.”
The Bromfields’ daughter Hope, who would later catch the bouquet, played Lohengrin’s Wedding March.
The one unplanned moment? Prince the boxer, the only dog allowed in the house, ambled in and sprawled across Judge Schettler’s feet.
Twin beds for the honeymoon?
The Bogarts spent their first wedded night in a large bedroom suite. The flowered wallpaper, ceramic roosters and Audubon prints are unchanged—as are the twin beds with wheels.
Years later, “a woman who had toured the house went to a program where Lauren was speaking in Columbus, Ohio,” Burskey recalled. “During the question time, she asked her about the twin beds for the first night of her honeymoon.
‘“Darling, don’t worry,”’ Bacall answered in that smoky contralto. ‘“We only used one.’”
When you go
Malabar Farm welcomes couples who would like to marry in Bogie and Bacall’s footsteps.