“With deep sorrow for the magnitude of our loss, yet with great gratitude for her amazing life, we confirm the passing of Lauren Bacall” – Humphrey Bogart Estate.
“Anyone got a match?” Known by many names, Betty Bacall’s first line in her screen debut, To Have or Have Not, would earn her the name The Voice. She was just 19, but her trademark deep, husky tone was born of the vocal training she had undergone to deliberately make her sound more masculine for the role. Director Howard Hawks had wanted to create a fresh, new kind of femme fatale, with as much command on screen as any male counterpart. In 1944 the newly named Lauren Bacall duly took the lead role opposite future husband Humphrey Bogart. In the same scene that we first hear The Voice, Bogart throws her a box of matches, she lights her cigarette and throws it back.
Bacall recounts the scene in her book, By Myself. “My hand was shaking, my head was shaking, the cigarette was shaking… The harder I tried to stop, the more I shook. I realised that one way to hold my trembling head still was to keep it down, chin low, almost to my chest, and eyes up at Bogart. It worked and turned out to be the beginning of The Look.”
Armed with both The Voice and The Look, Bacall’s career spanned seven decades. She starred alongside Kirk Douglas in Young Man With A Horn (1950) and Marilyn Monroe in How To Marry A Millionaire (1953). Her marriage to Bogart lasted 12 years, ending with his death in 1957. He was 25 years her senior, but there was mutual love and adoration between them from that first on-screen encounter. They went on to star together in the hugely successful classic film noir The Big Sleep (1946) as well as Dark Passage (1947) and Key Largo (1948).
Lauren shone on Broadway, saying, “I finally felt I came into my own when I went on the stage,” appearing in two comedies, Goodbye, Charlie (1959) and Cactus Flower (1965), and winning a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her two-year stint in Applause (1970). She went on to make another string of films, most notably Murder on the Orient Express (1974) and The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996), for which she received a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination. On receiving an honorary Oscar in 1999, she said, “I can’t believe it – a man at last!”
With her sultry elegance, her seemingly effortless, seductive charm and her determined strength, along with – let’s face it –remarkable stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks looks, Lauren Bacall re-energised and reshaped the role of women in film.
She lived to the age of 89 and is survived by her three children, sons Stephen Humphrey Bogart and Sam Robards (by her second husband, the late actor Jason Robards), and daughter Leslie Howard Bogart.
JR Doyle @TheWrongGirl_