She was only 19 and a novice. He was 45 and an established movie star. And yet somehow Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart not only clicked on screen, they made a life together off screen. The husky voiced Bacall saying, “you know how to whistle, you just put your lips together and blow” in her screen debut “To Have and Have Not” (1944) captured Bogart’s, and the audience’s complete attention. They were married the following year and remained married until Bogart’s death in 1957.
Together Bogie and Bacall also appeared in “The Big Sleep” (1946), “Dark Passage” (1947), and “Key Largo” (1948), their chemistry always standing out, even in the ensemble cast of the latter film that included Edward G. Robinson, Claire Trevor, and Lionel Barrymore. Bacall’s scene when she tries to attack Robinson’s character is so well done, with almost no expression on her face, but with a steely expression in her eyes.
Lauren Bacall not only kept working after Bogart’s passing (she was also married to actor Jason Robards from 1961-1969), she kept active right up until the end, doing a voiceover on TV’s “Family Guy” as recently as this year. Her death on August 12, 2014 ended a 70 year career that included Oscar nominations and a multitude of awards, including Kennedy Center honors in 1999.
Bacall was born Betty Jane Perske in the Bronx on September 16, 1924. She came to California as a young girl, became a fashion model, was spotted by director Howard Hawks’ wife Nancy, and ended up being cast in “To Have and Have Not.” Nervous, she often tilted her head down but tilted her eyes upward. This became known as “the Bacall Look.”
During the 1950s, Lauren Bacall worked steadily, but was very particular about which scripts to accept. Her best work during this period can be found in such films as “Young Man With a Horn” (1950), “How To Marry a Millionaire” (1953), and “Written on the Wind” (1956). In later years, Bacall appeared in such notable films as “Murder on the Orient Express” (1974), “The Shootist” (1976), which was John Wayne’s last film, and “The Mirror Has Two Faces” (1996), which earned her a Golden Globe, a Screen Actor’s Guild award, and an Oscar nomination.
Bacall also did extensive television work, from a 1950s TV version of “The Petrified Forest” with Henry Fonda, to a cameo as herself on “The Sopranos” where she is attacked and mugged, but gamely fights back, causing her attacker to run off.
Lauren Bacall was one of the last living actors of Hollywood’s golden age, and among the even fewer who remained active into the 21st century.