About Lauren Bacall
Lauren Bacall was born Betty Joan Perske on Sept. 16, 1924, in New York City, NY. Unlike Bogart, who came from a wealthy Manhattan family, Bacall's upbringing was strictly middle-class; her father was a salesman and her mother was a secretary. Her parents divorced when she was five, leaving Bacall to live with her mother, to whom she was extremely close. She had no contact with her father after her parents split, but strong father figures like Hawks and Bogart would play key roles in her early success. After studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and working as a model to pay the bills, Bacall appeared on the cover of Harper's Bazaar magazine. Slim Keith, Hawks' socialite wife, saw the cover and was so taken with Bacall's beauty that she convinced her husband to give the young model a screen test for his next film, "To Have and Have Not" - the film which would make Bacall an overnight sensation and spawn one of the most famous lines in film history, voiced by the husky-voiced actress to her future husband: "You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and... blow." One look at the Bazaar cover, and Hawk's acquiesced to auditioning the unknown.It was a test in more ways than one. Bacall, who was Jewish, had heard that Hawks was anti-Semitic. Intimidated and inexperienced, she allowed her agent to conceal her religious background from Hawks and offered no resistance when Hawks suggested she change her name from "Betty" to "Lauren." Additionally, what became known as Bacall's alluring "look" -chin down; smoldering eyes looking up - was created by the actress out of necessity. She literally was so nervous that keeping her chin closer to her chest was the only way to prevent her head from shaking once the camera started rolling.
Things did not get easier for Bacall when the actual "To Have and Have Not" production began, as apart from being totally green, she began to fall in love with her seasoned, gruff leading man. Bogart's third and often violent marriage to actress Mayo Methot was breaking up and he was miserable. An admirable man not prone to cheating on wives, he nonetheless grew more smitten each day with his young co-star, setting his sights on her despite their 25-year age difference. They started a clandestine affair after several weeks of shooting - mainly to prevent the unhinged Methot from wreaking havoc on either one of them. However, soon after the film was released, not only did Bacall become an overnight movie star with her first film role, she became - more importantly to her - Mrs. Humphrey Bogart. On May 21, 1945, the couple tied the knot during a modest Connecticut ceremony, with the supposed tough guy crying unashamedly at the sight of his "Baby" (as he called her) walking up the aisle.
Coming off such heady stuff, Warner Bros. was anxious to showcase their new vixen quickly, unfortunately choosing the spy drama "Confidential Agent" (1945) and miscasting her opposite refined French actor, Charles Boyer. The film garnered her the worst reviews of her career. She wisely decided to recreate the magic of her debut by appearing in three movies with Bogart back-to-back-to-back. "The Big Sleep" (1946), based on the Raymond Chandler novel with a screenplay by the legendary writer William Faulkner, earned critical raves and box office success, despite everyone involved professing that they did not understand the convoluted plot. Directed by Hawks, the film showcased Bacall's smoldering sexuality and Bogart's genuine infatuation with his wife and co-star. Despite the incomprehensible storyline, Bacall's and Bogart's chemistry was electric and the film was a smash for post-war audiences looking for grit and reality.
Thee couple followed it up with the thriller "Dark Passage" - the least memorable of their four flicks - with Bogart playing a man who escapes from prison to prove his innocence and Bacall essaying the beautiful, young artist sympathetic to his cause. A complex film noir like "The Big Sleep," the sizzling heat generated between its two stars more than compensated for the movie's shortcomings. "Key Largo" (1948), their fourth and final film, again featured the familiar formula of Bogart as the vulnerable anti-hero and Bacall as the tough but tender woman who helps him uncover the courage beneath his hard shell - all set against the backdrop of a Florida hotel under siege by both a hurricane and the notorious gangster, Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson). Directed by John Huston, "Key Largo" was a worldwide success and cemented Bacall and Bogart as one of the greatest film partnerships ever.
At the peak of her popularity, Bacall turned her attention beyond movies to more personal interests. She and Bogart started a family - which could include son Stephen and daughter Leslie - and with her husband's influence, she became an outspoken proponent of progressive politics, with the couple criticizing the anti-Communist attacks of the House Un-American Activities Committee and befriending President Harry Truman. The Life magazine image of Bacall draped seductively on top of Truman's piano while he played became an instant sensation and one of the most indelible photo-ops of the post-war era. Despite being a full-time mother and passionate politico, she continued to work, but very selectively. She was superb as a femme fatale in "Young Man with a Horn" (1950) opposite Kirk Douglas, proving that she did not need her husband's star power to ignite sparks on screen. The romantic romp "How to Marry a Millionaire" (1953) showcased Bacall's comedic talents and contrasted her sharp-witted sultriness against the baby-doll sexuality of Marilyn Monroe. She provided a shot of vinegar to the sugary Douglas Sirk melodrama "Written on the Wind" (1956), proving more than a match for her co-stars Rock Hudson and Robert Stack. She also showed her mettle by taking on some of Hollywood's biggest power players, engaging in a long-running feud with Jack Warner, the head of Warner Brothers, over the quality of scripts sent to her. Since Bogart was Warner's biggest star and, even then, an American institution, Warner backed down before the increasingly ballsy Bacall did.
But the actress could not win every battle. After little over a decade of married bliss, the epic love story took a decidingly tragic turn. During the 1950s, Bogart's health started a long, slow decline - due, it turned out, to his massive cigarette habit. Diagnosed with throat cancer, he became increasingly weak and unable to work. To make matters worse, his cancer was not discussed in polite company - as was the etiquette of the time. Bacall - only 30 odd years old - made the decision to put career aside so she could nurse her ailing husband and spend time with their children. This gave her an unfair reputation for being difficult, but Bacall could have cared less when it came to her beloved Bogie - the one man who had shaped her entire life up until that point. It was a tribute to her professionalism that she shot one of her best comedies, "Designing Women" (1957), during Bogart's last, sad days.
When Bogart died on Jan. 14, 1957, Bacall was on her own for the first time in her adult life. She had more than a few personal and professional missteps in the wake of her loss. An affair with Frank Sinatra, Bogart's good friend and a member of the Bogie-founded Holmby Hills Rat Pack, ended badly, as it was more a fling of two people united in grief. However, Bacall was ill- prepared to deal with womanizing men like Sinatra, so was traumatized when Sinatra coldly dumped her. Without her husband's clout in her corner, she struggled to find good roles, as well. The tepid drama "The Gift of Love" (1958) was beneath her and the British War film "North West Frontier" (1959) was better, but did nothing to erase the power of her early work.
Approaching age 40, Bacall married again; this time to the distinguished actor Jason Robards, whom many thought resembled Bogie in both looks and temperament. In 1961, Bacall had a child with Robards, Sam, and once again seemed more focused on family than films. She worked sparingly throughout the 1960s, dabbling in TV and appearing in just three films: "Shock Treatment" (1964); "Sex and the Single Girl" (1964); and "Harper" (1966). By 1969, her marriage to Robards was over, done in by his alcoholism. Bacall was now middle-aged and on her own again. Amazingly, it marked the beginning of one of the most triumphant periods of her career.
Bacall shifted focus, training to be a stage actress and had found success in the play "Cactus Flower" during the mid-60s. But in 1970, she threw caution to the wind and took on the role of aging stage diva, Margo Channing, in the Broadway musical, "Applause" (1970). The play was a musical version of the classic film "All About Eve" (1950), in which Bette Davis - Bacall's idol - had created the Channing role. Although she was not much of a singer, Bacall threw herself into the play and it became a fantastic success. Bacall won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical and powered the play through a national tour and a London staging. Adapted for TV, "Applause" (CBS, 1973) earned Bacall more rave reviews and an Emmy nomination.
Rejuvenated by her Broadway success, the comeback kid returned to movies after an eight-year hiatus, lending class and elegance to the all-star ensemble cast in "Murder on the Orient Express" (1974). She backed up John Wayne in his last movie, the western "The Shootist" (1976). She and Wayne lived on opposite sides of the political spectrum but they were good friends; both exemplifying tough-talking but fair-minded individualism. Those traits certainly enlivened any film she appeared in, whether it was Robert Altman's sickly comedy "H.E.A.L.T.H." (1980) or the psychodrama misfire "The Fan" (1981). Bacall had more success and better material to work with when she returned to the stage. In 1981, she re-invented the role made famous by old pal Katherine Hepburn in the stage version of the movie "Woman of the Year" (1942). As with "Applause," the play was a smash and garnered Bacall more lavish reviews.
The actress took most of the 1980s off, but picked up again at the end of the decade. Now in her sixties, she found good parts as hard to come by as ever, but she soldiered on in roles that seemed interesting to her. She appeared in "Mr. North" (1988), a comedy notable primarily because it was directed by Danny Huston, the son of her late friend and director John Huston. She did a nice, quick turn in the horror thriller "Misery" (1990) and re-teamed with director Robert Altman for "Ready to Wear" (1994). Barbra Streisand - another smart, tough and talented Jewish girl from New York - directed Bacall in "The Mirror Has Two Faces" (1996), guiding her to her only Oscar nomination and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role.
As Bacall entered her eighties, her appetite for the avant-garde seemed to increase. She made two unusual movies in supporting roles to Nicole Kidman. The experimental drama "Dogville" (2003) and the intriguing but unsatisfying thriller "Birth" (2004) were not box office hits, but were at least ambitious. Lars Van Trier, the Danish director of "Dogville," then cast her in his next film "Manderlay" (2005). An unconventional story of racism in the American South, "Manderlay" also failed to reach a wide audience, but allowed Bacall to work with some top-notch actors like Danny Glover and Willem Dafoe. She lent her acerbically witty charm to Paul Schrader's "The Walker" (2007), another fascinating failure featuring Lily Tomlin, Ned Beatty and Kristin Scott Thomas. Unconcerned about box office projections or production budgets - including her own salary - Bacall embraced the experience of working with interesting actors and directors.
|Len Cariou. Romantically involved during staging of "Applause" (1970); no longer together|
|Frank Sinatra. Began relationship after Humphrey Bogart's death 1957; briefly engaged; Sinatra ended relationship 1958 when news of their engagement was leaked to the press|
|Jason Robards. Married July 4, 1961; divorced Sept. 10, 1969 due to Robards' alcoholism (according to Bacall's autobiography)|
|Humphrey Bogart. Met while filming "To Have and Have Not" (1944); he was 25 years her senior; married May 21, 1945 until Bogart's death Jan. 14, 1957|
|Julia Richman High School, New York , New York|
|Highland Manor, Tarrytown , New York|
|American Academy of Dramatic Arts, New York , New York|
|Co-starred in "The Forger" with Josh Hutcherson and Alfred Molina|
|Cast opposite Woody Harrelson and Kristin Scott Thomas in crime drama "The Walker"|
|Co-starred in "Manderlay," the second part of Lars von Trier's U.S.A. trilogy|
|Played Kidman's mother in "Birth," helmed by Jonathan Glazer|
|Starred with Nicole Kidman and Stellan Skarsgård in "Dogville," directed by Lars Von Trier|
|Returned to Broadway as star of the Noel Coward play "Waiting in the Wings"|
|Appeared as a brothel owner in "Diamonds"; reunited on screen with Kirk Douglas|
|Starred in the title role of the CBS miniseries "Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke"|
|Made rare TV acting appearance as a guest on an episode of the CBS medical drama "Chicago Hope"|
|Received sole Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress for playing Barbra Streisand's critical mother in "The Mirror Has Two Faces"|
|Inducted into the French Order of Arts and Sciences|
|Hosted a series of made-for-TV dramatic presentations "General Motors Playwrights Theater" (A&E); several programs aired each TV season; first installment, "Clara"|
|Hosted TNT special "Kisses," a history of the kiss in movies|
|Hosted and narrated the PBS documentary about Humphrey Bogart, "Bacall on Bogart"|
|Appeared as herself in interview and compilation documentary "John Huston: The Man, The Movies, The Maverick"|
|Starred in a touring, Broadway-bound revival of the Tennessee Williams play "Sweet Bird of Youth"; show closed before making it to New York|
|Returned to Broadway in another musical adaptation "Woman of the Year," based on 1942 film starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy|
|Portrayed by Kathryn Harrold in TV-movie biopic "Bogie" (CBS); Bacall claimed she never saw the movie, nor did she want to|
|Served as ringmaster for CBS variety special "Circus of the Stars"|
|Published first autobiographical work By Myself|
|Made TV-movie debut in "Perfect Gentlemen," co-starring Ruth Gordon and Sandy Dennis|
|Reprised the role of Margo Channing from "Applause" in a CBS TV adaptation of the stage musical|
|Made London stage debut in "Applause"|
|Starred on Broadway in "Applause," a musical adaptation of classic comedy-drama film "All About Eve"; stayed with the show for 18 months and then took show on tour|
|Hosted ABC variety special "The Light Fantastic, or How to Tell the Past, Present, and Maybe Your Future Through Social Dancing"|
|Starred on Broadway in hit comedy "Cactus Flower"; played 900 performances over several years|
|Returned to films after a five-year absence to appear in "Shock Treatment"; also marked first film in which she was not female lead (played by Carol Lynley)|
|First starred on Broadway in comedy "Goodbye Charlie"|
|First film which was not a U.S. Production, "North West Frontier"; last film for five years|
|Acted opposite Bogart in NBC adaptation of "The Petrified Forest"; Bogart recreated role of Duke Mantee, which he had played on Broadway and in film nearly 20 years earlier|
|Made one of earliest TV appearances on "Light's Diamond Jubilee," an all-star variety special celebrating the 75th anniversary of Edison's discovery of the light bulb|
|Acted in first film for three years, "How to Marry a Millionaire"|
|Made radio debut on the series "Bold Venture"|
|Journeyed to Africa with Bogart for filming of John Huston's adventure classic "The African Queen" (did not appear in film) instead of staying in Hollywood to star in "Storm Warning"; Ginger Rogers replaced her in role; after many rifts, parted with Warner Bros.|
|Last film for Warner Bros., "Bright Leaf" co-starring Gary Cooper|
|Last of four co-starring films for Bacall and Bogart, "Key Largo"|
|Suspended temporarily from acting for refusing to act in Western "Stallion Road" opposite Ronald Reagan|
|Appeared with Bogart in comedy "Two Guys from Milwaukee"|
|Made acting debut as the female lead in "To Have and Have Not" opposite Humphrey Bogart, directed by Hawks|
|Spotted on cover of March 1943 issue of Harper's Bazaar by Howard Hawks' wife; Hawks tested her and signed her to a seven-year studio contract|
|Crowned "Miss Greenwich Village"|
|Appeared in short-lived Broadway production "Johnny 2x4"|
|Worked as an usherette in a theater, where she was able to watch actors rehearse|