Lauren Bacall, the sultry siren of a quartet of films she appeared in with Humphrey Bogart as well as a number of other classics of Golden Age Hollywood, died this morning in New York City. She was 89.
Bacall, born Betty Jean Perske, ade her big screen debut in a big way, starring against Bogart in Howard Hawks’ 1944 film To Have And Have Not. Although the director reportedly had more than just a professional interest in the model-turned-actress, she fell for her leading man. There was a 25 year age gap between the 19-year-old Bacall and the 44-year-old Bogart who was in the midst of having his third marriage fall apart in a rather spectacular and public fashion, but it didn’t seem to bother the general public. The heat of their burgeoning relationship was well evident on the screen, perhaps no more so in the scene in which she stands in the doorway to Bogart’s hotel room and asks him if he knows how to whistle. The moviegoers couldn’t get enough and the studio brass at Warner Brothers would see to it that he and Bogart would make three more films together – The Big Sleep (1946), Dark Passage (1947) and Key Largo (1948).
But the rest of Bacall’s Hollywood career was not quite as sooth sailing as her collaborations with Bogart – who she married in 1945 – were. Her follow-up to To Have And Have Not, Confidential Agent (1945) with Charles Boyer, she described as “[T]he worst movie, a nightmare, and I was terrible in it. And as quickly as I had been placed on a pedestal, I fell off.” ore notable films were to follow, especially Bright Leaf (1950), her first comedy, How To Marry A Millionaire (1953), co-starring with Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable, Douglas Sirk’s melodrama Written On The Wind (1956) with Rock Hudson and Designing Women (1957) opposite Gregory Peck.
Following Bogart’s death in 1957, Bacall headed fro Hollywood to New York City where she concentrated her career on stage work. She did continue to make sporadic appearances in such films as Shock Treatment (1964), the light comedy, Sex And The Single Girl (1964), which also starred Henry Fonda, Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood, the noir thriller Harper (1966) with Paul Newman, the all-star ensemble Murder on the Orient Express (1974) and John Wayne’s final film, The Shootist (1976).
In 1996, Bacall received her only Academy Award nomination, for her supporting role in The Mirror Has Two Faces, for her work as Barbara Streisand’s mother. She did receive an Honorary Academy Award in 2010.