Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Remembering Lauren Bacall

So many great actors and actresses dying this year: Shirley Temple on February 10th, Mickey Rooney on April 6th, James Garner on July 19th, Robin Williams yesterday, and today Lauren Bacall.


I've already "written" a post about her fabulous eyebrows - here. But besides that, she was a great actress. Sure, she didn't always get good parts (she was suspended 12 times for rejecting scripts) - one of the downsides of the studio system -  but if the script was good she was fantastic.

The first movie I saw with her in it was The Shootist (1976), starring John Wayne and Ron Howard. It's the best out of John Wayne's '70s films (in my opinion). Rooster Cogburn (1975) is good but I did not like True Grit (1969) - the girl is too annoying. But enough about John Wayne. Bacall's performance is very good, but it is a John Wayne picture and I didn't know anything about her at the time.


My next Bacall encounter was on the special features for You've Got Mail (1998), called "You've Got Chemistry." The famous on-screen couples highlighted were Bacall/Bogart, Powell/Loy, Tracy/Hepburn, Flynn/de Havilland, Mickey and Judy, and of course Hanks and Ryan. Since watching it I have watched many  of these couples on-screen and love all of them. It introduced me to such classics as the Thin Man series (1934 - 1947) and the other eight movies Powell and Loy made together (yes, I have watched them all as well as nearly 30 of Powell's films - TCM is a wonderful thing). I have watched the beautiful Olivia de Havilland get the better of the dashing Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1939), They Died with Their Boots On (1941), and others. I have loved Mickey and Judy since I was a little girl and especially enjoy watching them in the Andy Hardy series. And I watch You've Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle (1993) multiple times a year (all you have to do is play a song from the soundtrack and I'm a goner). And yes, I watched Joe Versus the Volcano (1990). Once. It was more than enough.

After doing a little research on IMDb to see which film Bogart and Bacall made together, I checked out To Have and Have Not (1944) from my library. I LOVED IT. It is very similar to Casablanca (1942), but as I am not a big fan of Ingrid Bergman, I liked To Have and Have Not much better. My favorite part is at the very end, when Bacall sort of wiggles over to Bogie and then smiles when he grabs her arm and leads her out of their hotel, which is also a café/bar. The smile she gives him is so cute and genuine, because she had fallen in love with him. Read more here!


The next film they made together, The Big Sleep (1946), was good but a little confusing. Even the author was confused! There are two versions: the pre-release version and the theatrical version with more scenes between Bogart and Bacall.


I did not like Dark Passage (1947). The first 30 or so minutes is filmed so that you are only seeing what Bogart sees, which was kind of weird and annoying. But when Agnes Moorehead fell out the window to her death and they showed her falling and screaming... that was too much. Here's an interesting post on the film locations then and now in San Francisco.


The last film they made together was Key Largo (1948), which is my second favorite of the four films. It has Lionel Barrymore, Edward G. Robinson, and Claire Trevor in it. I really wanted to go to Key Largo after watching it.

Interesting article on the TCM blog about Key Largo: the movie and the island - did you know the African Queen is kept there?? And you can take rides on it!?!

And another one...


They were scheduled to make another movie together in 1957, but Bogart died before they started working on it.

The only movies I've seen of Bacall only (that is, not with Bogart) are Designing Woman (1957) with Gregory Peck, Sex and the Single Girl (1964) - a hilarious movie starring Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood, and Henry Fonda, and the aforementioned The Shootist (1976). On my "To Watch" list are Blood Alley (1955) - also with John Wayne, How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) with Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, and William Powell, Harper (1966) with Paul Newman (and Robert Wagner!), and a film adaptation of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express (1974) - after I read the book of course. (UPDATE: I have watched both How to Marry a Millionaire and Blood Alley and really enjoyed both of them.)

At the premiere of How to Marry a Millionaire ~ love the expression on her face

And now, a brief bio.

She was born on September 16, 1924 in NYC. Her birth name was Betty Joan Perske (she was always called Betty by her close friends). She was an only child and her parents divorced when she was five. She lived with her Jewish mother and grandmother, both of whom she was very close to.

Aged 9

Age 15 with mother, Natalie

Studying


Modeling for Harper's Bazaar
 
Harper's Bazaar cover seen by Slim Hawks
 
In 1943, at the age of 18 she began modeling. She was discovered on the cover of Harper's Bazaar by Slim, the wife of Howard Hawks, who signed her to a contract and took her under his wing. She took her mother's maiden name Bacal and added an extra "L" on the end for her screen name. Hawks chose the name Lauren. It was during the filming of her first film, To Have and Have Not, in which her character was based and named after Hawk's wife, that she fell in love with Humphrey Bogart. She was 5'8.5" tall to his 5'8." They married the following year on May 21, 1945, at the farm of a friend, Louis Bromfield. Bacall was 20 and Bogart was 45. It was one of Hollywood's greatest love stories. They had two children: Steve, born in 1949 and named after Bogart's character in To Have and Have Not, and Leslie, born in 1952, who was named after their great friend Leslie Howard. Bacall still did work in films, but she took time off to be with her children and travel with Bogart for his films.


With daughter, Leslie
 
On location with Bogie for The African Queen

With Bogie and Katharine Hepburn

 
With Bogie on his boat, the Santana

I put my career in second place throughout both my marriages and it suffered. I don't regret it. You make choices. If you want a good marriage, you must pay attention to that. If you want to be independent, go ahead. You can't have it all.source

Bacall and Bogart were part of the original Rat Pack, which included Judy Garland and her husband, David Niven and his wife, Frank Sinatra, and a few others. To be a part of it you had to be voted in unanimously and be addicted to nonconformity, staying up late, drinking, laughing, and not caring what others thought or said about you. Their great friend Spencer Tracy was an honorary member, as he preferred a more secluded life.

The "Original" Rat Pack, 1956
 
In January of 1957, Bogart died from cancer of the esophagus. Bacall placed a whistle in his coffin as a reference to the famous line she said to him in their first film together, "You know how to whistle, don't you? You just put your lips together and blow."

The whistle bracelet

A woman isn't complete without a man. But where do you find a man - a real man - these days?

 After his death, Bacall continued working. She dated crooner and fellow Rat Pack member Frank Sinatra for a while and in 1961 married Jason Robards, a big stage actor. They had one son, Sam. In 1969 they divorced, due to Robard's drinking problem.

Bacall spent many years on Broadway, which had been her dream before becoming a Hollywood actress. She created the character of Charlie in Goodbye Charlie (1959), which was later made into a movie starring Tony Curtis and Debbie Reynolds (1964). She also played the part of Margo Channing in the musical stage version of All About Eve (played on the screen by Bette Davis) in 1970 called Applause and Woman of the Year in 1981 (based on the 1942 movie starring her close friends Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy). In addition to her film and stage work, she also loved to travel, especially to Paris, and was actively involved in politics.

Honorary Oscar

She died this morning at her home in NYC of a stroke. She was 89 years old. She will be greatly missed.



Article in the New York Times.

Article on the TCM blog

Lauren Bacall: A Life in Film on Old Hollywood Films

           

Earlier this year I read her autobiography, By Myself ~ and Then Some published in 1978/2005. It is one you can read without saying, "Wow. I really didn't want to know that about you" that is in so many biographies. I love the style it is written in, just a bunch of short anecdotes separated by a space - no chapters to interrupt the flow. It was a very easy read and I enjoyed learning so much about her, her life with Bogie, and the behind-the-scenes of her movies and plays. I also read her book Now, published in 1994, which had separate chapters discussing her work, children, her house, acting, friendship and loss, and beginnings and endings. I liked the format of it as well. Here are some of my favorite quotes from Now:

There are many kinds of friendship: those from childhood and school; friendships - the passing friendships, the faraway ones; the I-would-do-anything-for-you, the understanding, compassionate; the part-time social and the work friendships. ~ p. 151

Memory is a precious commodity, not to be tampered with, not to be rejected. We have to be glad of its existence, for it keeps alive those special people - the moments, the places, the feelings. So, Memory, I drink a long life - for both of us. ~ p. 166

I have spent a good deal of time trying to  figure friendship out, without much luck. Why one friendship survives whether people see each other or not, why another fades for no apparent reason. Why sometimes old friends are easy to talk about everything and impossible to talk about anything. ~ p. 192

Here is a beautiful quote of Bogie's that was in By Myself ~ and Then Some:

(Coming home from the hospital during his illness) This is what it's all about - this is why marriage is worth it... I've been trying to tell these guys [attendants] how great it is to be married - that you can't beat having your wife and kids there to greet you, that there's nothing like it. ~ 265

 


 

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