Monday, September 15, 2014

Lauren Bacall

Hi everyone,

The cover that got
her noticed, 1943
Last month, we lost one of the world's great ladies, Lauren Bacall, who is probably best known for the love story she shared with Humphrey Bogart. But that's only one highlight in a full life of many shining moments. She got her start in the movies by chance: The wife of director Howard Hawks saw her on the cover of Harper's Bazaar in 1943 and urged him to bring her to Hollywood for screen test for one of his upcoming films.

This request led her into a fairytale romance and varied career on screen and stage. At 19, the studio molded her persona, changing her name from Betty Perske to Lauren Bacall and developing The Look, that lowered stare and voice that became her trademark. Her first film To Have and Have Not costarred Humphrey Bogart, who was 25 years older and struggling in a tumultuous marriage. Her sparkling screen debut was unforgettable:

YouTube Video:© Warner Brothers 

Despite their age difference, she and Humphrey Bogart fell in love. (Can't you tell?) They married in 1945, had two kids, and made three other great movies together – The Big SleepDark Passage, and Key Largo – before Humphrey Bogart died in 1957.

Yes, I still have my playbill.
Aside from these timeless films, she showed impressive range in How to Marry a Millionaire (with Marilyn Monroe), Designing Woman (with Gregory Peck), Sex and the Single Girl (with Natalie Wood), Harper (with Paul Newman), and The Shootist (with John Wayne), among others. In 1996, she was nominated for an Oscar for her role as Barbra Streisand's mother in The Mirror Has Two Faces. In later years, she worked with more experimental directors, like Lars von Trier for Dogville and Jonathan Glazer for Birth. She was always working and trying something new.

I was so lucky to see Lauren Bacall in person once. In 1999, she was on stage in Boston's Colonial Theatre costarring with Rosemary Harris in Noel Coward's Waiting in the Wings before it went to Broadway. At the time, I felt elated to be in the same room with her. She won two Tonys in her career, for Applause in 1970 and Woman of the Year in 1981.

Her storybook romance and acting talent aside, Lauren Bacall really won me over through her fantastic memoirs, By Myself (which won a National Book Award) and Now. They introduced me to Betty Perske, a shy, funny girl with lots of guts. I was hooked from the early pages of By Myself, where she relived the thrill of being in an elevator with her idol Bette Davis. These books are fantastic – refreshingly candid, honest, and well written. (We were practically friends by the time I finished reading.) By Myself follows Betty as she's swept into Hollywood and goes along for the ride, with wonder, determination, perseverance, and grace. Now continues her journey, spotlighting earned confidence, experience, and wisdom. Put these on your reading lists.

Lauren Bacall was more than The Look and the wife of Humphrey Bogart. In her profession and in life, she always strove for more – learning, growing, and speaking her mind. I will miss hearing that voice.

You can see some of Lauren Bacall's films on TCM this week! Starting Monday, September 15, at 8 p.m., eastern, my favorite cable channel will be celebrating this classy lady with a 24-hour tribute that will wrap up on what would have been her 90th birthday (September 16). Enjoy it! (And, if you don't get that channel, stock up your Netflix queue.)


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