Birth Name: Betty Joan Perske
Date of Birth: September 16, 1924
Date of Death: August 12, 2014
Number of films that Lauren Bacall made with Humphrey Bogart: 6
I wasn’t planning on adding Bacall to ‘The Usual Suspects’ portion of the blog for quite a while. Much like when I saved Casablanca for my final Bogart film review, Bacall was going to be the cherry on top of a year spent recapping some of Bogart’s other greatest collaborators. I was going to save the best for last. But alas, with Bacall’s passing this past week, I couldn’t help but spend some time reliving a handful of my favorite films with my all-time favorite actress.
When I heard the news that Bacall had died, I had a strange feeling of regret rather than remorse. Usually when one of my favorite Hollywood icons passes, it leaves me in a funk for several weeks. (Jimmy Stewart passed not too long after my grandfather. Don’t even ask how wonderful I was to be around for a few months after that . . .) Here though, I felt different. I felt an immediate sense of great disappointment rather than grieving.
I think that in the back of my mind I had always assumed that I would eventually get to see Ms. Bacall in person. Maybe even get the chance to talk to her or get an autograph. Perhaps it would be at a TCM or Bogart film festival – I’m not sure, I hadn’t actually planned it out in my head, but of all the actors that I’ve written about since starting this blog, Lauren Bacall was still alive. She was still with us. She was a physical link to Classic Hollywood, Humphrey Bogart, and cinema history. She was a living, breathing presence that graced the same ground that I did.
I have no doubt that the grieving will hit me sooner than later. Just the act of creating this post gave me pause a few times as I popped Bogie/Bacall DVDs. A quick and simple screencap from To Have and Have Not ended up lasting over an hour as I just started watching the film rather than watching for a good moment to steal.
So no Bacall bio from me this week. Maybe someday. If you need to, check out her IMDB page here, or read her wonderful autobiography. Head over to Wikipedia for her page or watch one of the numerous Bogart DVD extras that record her amazing rise to fame at nineteen and the subsequent love affair with Hollywood’s greatest star. I just don’t think that I’m ready to dive back in and write-up a more concise record of her life and career yet.
Rest in peace, Slim. If only we were so lucky as to have seen you walk into that great gin joint in the sky and be reunited with Mr. Bogart. Your legacy will live forever, but your presence will be sorely missed.
To Have and Have Not – 1944
From my original post on the film here:
“I . . . I don’t even know where to begin. I fell so deeply in love with this woman because of this film. Marie is reportedly based largely on Hawks’ own glamorous wife, which, if true, good for him. This being Bacall’s first movie, I am continually astounded at how she is able to play such a depth of maturity at such a young age. I’ve seen Bogart fall in love with a lot of women on screen, but this is the one time I truly believed it. It’s more than the lines and the blocking. We are watching this woman and this man court one another right before our eyes.”
Bacall plays Marie Browning, a young grifter in Fort de France, Martinique who falls for Bogart’s tour fishing captain, Harry Morgan. Again, from the orignal post:
“The first moment when Lauren Bacall sits on Humphrey Bogart’s lap in To Have and Have Not, something inside me stirs in such a deep and private way that I’m uncomfortable watching the film with other people in the room.
“Broke and stranded in Martinique, Marie takes to conning men – teasing them to the point of stupidity, before making off with their wallets. She says that she’s slowly building her funds so that she can make it back home, but we don’t believe her because Morgan doesn’t believe her. He reads her even better than she can read him or any other man. Marie is running from a past of pain and abuse, and the fact that Morgan picks up on it so quickly unnerves her deeply.
“Morgan and Marie are two people who both exude extreme confidence while privately loathing what they’ve let themselves become. So close are they attuned to each other’s inner truth, that they immediately start to distance themselves in a bit of role-play – as if using each other’s real names might be too intimate. Morgan only refers to her ‘Slim.’ Marie refers to him as ‘Steve.’ (Which, according to IMDB might, be a reference to the word “stevedore” which means “dockworker.”) They circle one another endlessly, gently keeping their distance – until Hawks has them touch. And then? Boom. White hot sparks.
“Bacall was nineteen when she starred in this! NINETEEN! What were you doing when you were nineteen? I was . . . well, I won’t bother telling you where my sympathies lay back then.”
This was the film where I fell hard for Lauren Bacall and she became my number one classic film screen crush. I could have this one on a loop in the background for eternity and never get tired of it. You can also read the write-up I did on the radio adaption of the film starring both Bacall and Bogart here.
The Big Sleep – 1946
A film that I got to enjoy posting on twice, The Big Sleep is available in two versions. From my original posts here (1946’s Hollywood release) and here (the unreleased pre-edited 1945 version):
“The widely accepted and well chronicled story is that Lauren Bacall’s agent, Charles Feldman, started to get nervous about his new young wunderkind after horrible reviews were written for her performance in the film Confidential Agent. Agent was Bacall’s follow-up film after becoming an overnight sensation alongside of Bogart in To Have and Have Not, and Feldman was apparently freaking out at the idea of Bacall disappearing into Hollywood obscurity after being labeled as a one-hit wonder.
“With this film already delayed, Feldman wrote to Jack Warner, pleading to reshoot some scenes and add more of the fiery romantic flavor that Bogart and Bacall shared in To Have and Have Not. Warner agreed, Director Howard Hawks eventually relented to rework some shots, the stars reassembled a year after production, and seven reels of the film were altered with reordered scenes and a little over 20 minutes of new or alternate material.
“Bogart and Bacall’s romance is beefed up considerably. I felt that in the pre-release version, Bacall comes off as a bit more threatening to Bogart. Reshoots were done on a few scenes to make her a little more affectionate, and their innuendo-heavy ‘horse racing’ scene was added to help build up the sexual tension. In the original version though, I thought that Bacall came off as much less trustworthy and there seemed to be considerably more tension as to whether or not she was really on Bogart’s side.”
As the older sister Vivian Rutledge, Bacall is fantastic in both films. Whether you love or hate the overly complicated plot, this one’s a must see if you’re a Bacall fan, a Bogart fan, a classic film fan, or a cinema fan of any sort!
Two Guys from Milwaukee – 1946
It’s just a brief cameo here by the couple playing themselves. I’ve got a write-up on the film coming in about a month, so, as I said, I was planning on holding off on this ‘Usual Suspects’ post for a bit. But since it’s just a cameo, I figured that I could update it when the post on the film is finished . . .
But to make up for it, here’s a YouTube clip of the entire cameo.
Dark Passage – 1947
Bacall plays Irene Jansen, the woman who mysteriously seems to have a personal stake in an escaped convict (Bogart) and houses him after he alters his appearance with plastic surgery while on the run. As the story goes, Jack Warner and the critics were pretty upset that Bogart spends the first hour of this film hidden behind bandages. Not only that, but there are a number of first-person shots from his eyes, so all we hear is his voice over.
As for me? I can’t complain. From my original post on the film here:
“Make no mistake about it, this is Bacall’s movie to make or break. She’s gotten a lot of flak for not being able to stand on her own without Bogart when it comes to many of her non-Bogart films, but here she shows that with the right director, she can work wonders. Much of the first hour of this film is spent in close-ups on her remarkable face as we see from Bogart’s first-person point of view, and it’s impossible to take your eyes off the screen whether she’s talking, moving, or just sitting perfectly still. This woman is stunning, and when given a chance, she knew how to combine her looks and her acting talent to truly command the big screen. If you’re a Bacall fan at all, this one’s definitely worth a look.”
Key Largo – 1948
Their last big screen film together, Bacall plays Nora Temple, the widow of Bogart’s recently deceased army buddy. Not the deepest of roles compared to their other four major pairings, but Bacall is strong, defiant, and just soft enough to care for the stranger who has stumbled across her doorstep. The real life chemistry between Hollywood’s greatest couple carries over well into the film, and the close ups they share together are worth the price of admission alone.
The overall film is so great, and with Lionel Barrymore and Edward G. Robinson as costars, it’s a wonderful way for Bogie and Bacall to finish their time together on the silver screen. Bacall’s relationship with her surrogate father, Barrymore, speaks volumes to her subtleties as an actress as she’s able to convey so much affection through simple touches and caring looks.
That shot above where Bacall casually brushes back her hair as she helps Bogart on the docks is such an authentically small moment that it melts my heart every single time. How is it possible that she seems even younger here than she did four years earlier in To Have and Have Not? How amazing is it that Bogart got to close out his onscreen relationships with two of his greatest costars (Bacall and Robinson) in one film?
If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and call in sick tomorrow. You can read my original post on the film here.
Producer’s Showcase – “The Petrified Forest” – 1955
From my original post here:
“Nearly twenty years after Humphrey Bogart made Duke Mantee his breakout role on the silver screen, he returned to the small screen to reprise the gangster one more time for the TV show, Producer’s Showcase. Stepping in for Bette Davis is Lauren Bacall as Gabby, and Henry Fonda plays Alan Squier, the role made famous by Leslie Howard.”
Well, to be honest, trying to step into a young Bette Davis’ shoes is all but impossible, but Bacall still does well here. She may not capture the spunk and vigor of Davis’ original love-struck teen, but Bacall does comes off as much more believable in the scenes where she talks about literature and recites poetry.
Again, it’s another wonderful instance of Bacall getting to share in a monumental moment with Bogart as he returns to the role that really notched his belt with its first major mark as a superstar in front of the world. Such an incredibly interesting experiment in the rebooting of a film, this one’s worth a look if only to say that you saw Bogie and Bacall together for the last time!
* ‘The Usual Suspects’ is an ongoing feature at The Bogie Film Blog where we highlight some of Bogart’s most celebrated costars, and occasionally, it makes this writer tear up a bit when he has to write a post like this one. You can read the rest of the posts in the feature here. *