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Portrait Gallery: Lauren Bacall’s Portrait in ‘American Cool,’ until Sept. 7

Cover of Life Magazine / Lauren Bacall-at age 24  in 1949
Cover of Life Magazine / Lauren Bacall-at age 24 in 1949
© 1949, Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery / Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedtat

Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery presents the life and accomplishments a visual representation of an America shaped and displayed by American icons such as those appearing in the “American Cool” series. The American iconic actor Lauren Bacall, who recently passed away, has joined that exhibition.

Originally, Lauren Bacall was Betty Joan Perske, born September 16, 1924, in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Jewish immigrants, who were a salesman and a secretary. Betty dreamed of becoming an actor and studied at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City.

Totally, on her own, the 19-year-old Ms. Perske became a fashion model and appeared on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar, the most popular fashion magazine of its day. Director Howard Hawks’ wife saw Betty on the cover, and arranged a screen test for her.

Finally, she landed the part of “Marie Browning” in To Have and Have Not (1944), across from Bogart and was newly renamed “Lauren Bacall.” The deep husky throated young Lauren Bacall launched the first of many Bogart / Bacall movies created by the passionate couple.

In May of 1945, Lauren Bacall married Humphrey Bogart, who was 25 years her senior. They went on to have a son Stephen (a writer) born in 1946 and a daughter Leslie (nurse/yoga teacher) arrived in 1952. Bogie, who diagnosed with throat cancer, passed away in January of 1957.

As a new 33-yr.old widow with two small children, she returned to film and then moved back to New York City, to work on Broadway in several different plays with positive reviews. Bacall loved live audiences and they loved her as well. It was six years before she returned to films.

Lauren Bacall worked regularly in films and Television as a guest star. In 1961, she finally remarried, to Jason Robards (a dramatic actor) and they had one son, Sam Robards (a talented actor) born in 1961.Then, Lauren Bacall and Jason Robards divorced in 1969, after being married for 8 years.

Lauren Bacall remains an icon of her time, as Great Britain’s Empire Magazine voted her one of the Top 100 Sexiest Stars in Film History in 1995. Then one of the Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time in 1997. People Magazine chose here as one of the “50 Most Beautiful People in the World."

The American Film Institute ranks Lauren Bacall as #20 among the Top 25 Legendary Actresses in the history of the film industry.

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