Lauren Bacall was an American actress known for her peculiar voice and sensual looks. She rubbed shoulders with Hollywood greats like Frank Sinatra, and Humphrey Bogart who she later married. Born into a working class family in New York, she went on to create a name for herself in Hollywood. Before making her debut as an actress, she began her career as a model. She made her debut as a leading lady with the film ‘To Have and Have Not’ in 1944. It was directed by Humphrey Bogart. She starred in stylish Hollywood crime dramas and romantic comedies. Apart from films, she also worked on Broadway in musicals and earned two Tony Awards (1970 & 1981). She won a Golden Globe Award and an Oscar nomination for her performance in 'The Mirror Has Two Faces'. The American Film Institute named her the 20th greatest female star of Classic Hollywood cinema. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored her with an Academy Honorary Award in 2009.
Childhood & Early Life
Lauren Bacall was born on September 16, 1924 in The Bronx, New York to Weinstein-Bacal and William Perske. Her father was addicted to alcohol, and deserted the family when Bacall was just six.
Soon after her birth, her family moved to Brooklyn's Ocean Parkway. She received education at a private boarding school ‘The Highland Manor Boarding School for Girls’ in Tarrytown, New York, and at ‘Julia Richman High School’ in Manhattan.
Her parents divorced when she was just 5. Thereafter, she no longer saw her father and formed a very close bond with her mother, who remarried to lee Goldberg.
Her obsession with theater led her to work as an usher at St. James Theater. She also worked as a fashion model.
While working as a model she featured in the cover of ‘Harper’s Bazaar’ in 1942 and got noticed by ace director Howard Hawks’ wife Nancy Hawkes who encouraged her to take a screen test for ‘To Have and Have Not’ and the rest is history.
Hawks took keen interest in Lauren and taught her how to speak with proper diction and was instrumental in convincing her to take the name Lauren in order to shrug off her Jewish heritage.
As early as 1941, Bacall enrolled at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and took lessons alongside Kirk Douglas. In 1942 she won the title ‘Miss Greenwich Village.
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She was nineteen when she co-starred with Humphrey Bogart in ‘To Have and Have Not’ in 1944. She first displayed her famous gesture of keeping her chin pressed against her chest while on the sets of this movie, which remained a trademark throughout her career.
Although Nancy Hawks spotted her, she was discovered by Diana Vreeland who met her through Nicholas de Gunzburg and persuaded her to model for Harper’s Bazaar.
Soon after the thumping success of ‘To Have and Have Not’ she starred opposite Charles Boyer in ‘Confidential Agent’ in 1945. While visiting the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on February 10, 1945, her agent Charlie Enfield asked her to sit on the piano, while the then U.S. Vice President Harry S Truman played.
Bacall was an instant hit because of her graceful demeanor, cat-like movements, twinkling blue-green eyes and light-brown blonde hair.
In 1946 her stunning performance in Howard Hawks’ ‘The Big Sleep’ alongside Humphrey Bogart established her firmly in Hollywood. By this time Lauren was an iconic star who was much sought after for specific femme fatale roles that she enacted with consummate ease.
The year 1947 saw her being cast with Humphrey Bogart in another blockbuster, ‘Dark Passage’ in which she played the role of a mysterious San Francisco artist and got rave reviews in the ‘New York Times’.
She starred alongside Bogart and Edward G Robinson in the suspense film ‘Key Largo’ in 1948, where she almost outdid her costars through her brilliant performance.
Awards & Achievements
She wrote three books, an autobiography entitled ‘Lauren Bacall by Myself’ in 1978, followed by ‘Now’ in 1994, and ‘By Myself Then Some’ in 2005 when she was an octogenarian.
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Lauren won ‘The Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year’ award in 1967, which is an annual bestowment by Hasty Pudding Theatricals at Harvard.
She won the Tony Award for Best Lead Actress for her role as Margo Channing in the Musical Applause.
Bacall won the Sarah Siddons Actress of the Year Award in 1972, and had to wait 8 years for her next award, which was the National Book Award for her autobiography that she wrote in 1978.
Lauren won yet another Tony Award for Best Actress for her role in the Musical ‘Woman of the Year’ in 1981. It was followed by a second Sarah Siddons Actress of the Year award in 1984
The 90s witnessed a string of awards such as the George Eastman award in 1990, the Donostia Award in 1992, the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1993, and the National Board of Review Award (for best cast) in 1994.
Personal Life & Legacy
There was an age difference of 25 years between Lauren and her husband Humphrey Bogart, because of which she was nicknamed ‘baby’. They were happily married until his death in 1957.
Lauren socialized a lot and mixed with personalities from non-film background, and was a close friend to historian Arthur Scleshinger Jr., and Alistair Cookie who was a journalist.
She dabbled in politics and rendered campaign speeches for Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic Presidential candidate in 1957.
After the death of her husband Bogart, Lauren developed a relationship with singer Frank Sinatra. The relationship soon broke up as Sinatra was annoyed at the news of the relationship being leaked to the press.
Bacall was to have married actor Jason Robards in Vienna, Austria, on June 16, 1961. The wedding plans had to be cancelled as the Austrian authorities refused to grant a marriage license, and the same thing happened in Las Vegas as well.
The couple had to drive all the way to Enseneda in neighboring Mexico to have their marriage solemnized on July 4, 1961. The marriage lasted until 1969, when Lauren divorced Robards, purportedly because he was an alcoholic.
Lauren Bacall died at a ripe old age of 89 on August 12, 2014, when she was just a month and a half short of her 90th birthday.
She left $10,000 in her will, specifically to take care of her dog Sophie. The task was assigned to her youngest son Sam Roberts.
Bacall also left some money for two loyal employees who received $10,000 and $15,000 each from her vast estate valued at $26.6 million, the bulk of which was shared by her three children, with $250,000 going to each of her youngest grandsons towards their college fund.