Friday, August 29, 2014


When Lauren Bacall died on August 12, 2014 at the age of 89, I did not report it on my blog. Due to the death of Robin Williams, I took a week of silence to mourn the comedian’s passing. I have to admit, I am not a huge fan of Lauren Bacall’s work, but I do feel that her passing is worth noting. I don’t feel Bacall was a great actress in the caliber of Bette Davis or Ingrid Bergman, but she was really a lasting screen goddess in the genre of film noir. Like fellow film noir actress Veronica Lake, Bacall made her best movies in the 1940s, and she never won an Oscar. Lauren was awarded an Honorary Oscar in 2009 though.

Lauren Bacall was born Betty Joan Perske on September 16, 1924 in New York City. Her parents divorced when she was five, and she never really had a relationship with her father. The young beauty started out as a model and appeared on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. In 1941, she took acting lessons with fellow student Kirk Douglas, and they would be lifelong friends. 

Bacall changed her name, and made her first movie To Have And Have Not (1944). During his screen test for the role, Bacall was so nervous that to minimize her quivering, she pressed her chin against her chest and to face the camera, tilted her eyes upward. This effect became known as “The Look” and became Bacall’s trademark. Also on the set of this first film, she started a relationship with the then married Humphrey Bogart. Bogart would get a divorce and marry the young Bacall a year later. They would stay married until Bogart’s death in 1957.

In the 1940s, Bacall was one of the best film noir actresses. She filmed some great screen roles during this time in movies such as: Confidential Agent (1945), The Big Sleep (1946), Dark Passage (1947), and Key Largo (1949). As the 1950s approached, Bacall became more famous for being Mrs. Humphrey Bogart than her own movies, but she did make some decent films. In Young Man With A Horn (1950), she starred as the bisexual wife of a trumpeter (played by friend Kirk Douglas), and she held her own in How To Marry A Millionaire (1953) starring along sex goddess icons Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable.

Bacall moved on to Broadway in the 1970s to great success, and while she was no longer a screen goddess Bacall seemingly did not age much. Even though she was nominated for an Oscar for The Mirror Has Two Faces in 1996, she pretty much only played supporting roles in films like a small role in Misery (1989) and a wasted role as the wife of Jack Lemmon in My Fellow Americans (1995). Was Lauren Bacall a great actress – in my opinion maybe not a great actress. However, her iconic film noir roles defined an era of films in the late 1940s. Bacall died of a stroke nearly 70 years after her first movie, and the young movie goers these days do not have an attention span that goes that far back. Bacall's last performance was a voice appearance earlier this year on television's Family Guy! It was a sad last role for a great beauty. However, Lauren Bacall deserves to be remembered, not only as a beauty but another one of the fading true stars of classic Hollywood…

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