Lauren Bacall

Bogie and Bacall Big Sleep

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

The Actress

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.

The Filmography

To Have and Have Not – 1944

Bacall To have and have not 2

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

Bacall Big sleep

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 AgentAgent 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 Dark Passage

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

Bacall Key Largo

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

pet 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. *

 

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Lux Radio Theater – To Have and Have Not – 1946

THAHN Radio2

My Review

—Recaptures a Lot of the Fun— 

Producer:  William Keighley 

Honorary Bogie Fix:

Radio Fixes out of 5 Honorary Bogies!

The Lowdown

Charter boat captain Harry Morgan (Humphrey Bogart) works as a fishing guide for tourists in Fort de France, Martinique during World War II and does his best to stay out of the way of both the Axis and the Allies.  When he begins to fall for young grifter Marie Browning (Lauren Bacall), Morgan takes a dangerous job transporting members of the French resistance so that he can make enough money to buy Browning a ticket home.

What I Thought

This is the second Lux Radio Theater program that I’ve listened to for the blog, and once again, I found it thoroughly enjoyable.  Unlike Lux’s version of The African Queen, the cast for this one is slightly larger, and so it does come off sounding a bit more like a radio play rather than actual audio from the film.  Regardless, Bogart and Bacall are great, and as I’ve already listened to the recording a half a dozen times on car trips, I’d highly recommend a listen if you’re a Bogart fan or a fan of Classic Hollywood.

The 1 hour and 40 minute film is pared down to about 50 minutes, so there’s a lot from the movie that’s cut out.  Hoagy Carmichael’s “Cricket” is gone from this version, as is all of the music from the nightclub/hotel where Bogart stays.  The parts of “Frenchy” and “Captain Renard” are also condensed considerably for the broadcast.  What’s left is mostly the interactions and relationships between Bogart and Bacall, and the actor playing Walter Brennan’s “Eddie.” (It’s probably Tim Graham, Jack Kruschen, or George Sorell – I found a partial cast list but not who played which parts.)  Still, what remains is often wonderful – and the Walter Brennan impersonator is spot on!

I do feel like Morgan comes off as a less sympathetic character here though, as we lose all of Bogart’s mannerisms, wry grins, and longing stares from the film.  Morgan’s motives in the movie seem much more altruistic than they do in this production, as it really sounds as if he’s taking the job with the French resistance strictly for the money.

At the end of the show, in the “candid” moment onstage between Bogart and Bacall, we find out that this broadcast was taped in order to promote their 1946 film, The Big Sleep.

The Bogart Factor

While listening to this broadcast, I started to think about all of the wonderful things that I’ve read about Bogart’s early stage career.  None of those early theater shows were taped, so we’ll never get to see how good he was on stage – BUT – I think that these radio broadcasts are probably a pretty good example.  Taped in front of a live studio audience in one take (you even occasionally hear Bogart flub, and correct, a line or two), Bogart recreates Harry Morgan with such precision that it’s easy to forget you’re listening to a radio show and not the audio from the film whenever he’s talking.  Like I mentioned before, I think the fact that we don’t get to see a lot of Bogart’s trademark mannerisms keeps us from getting some of the more subtle subtext that he could convey with a sarcastic look or an intimidating glare.

I would highly recommend this one if you’re a big Bogart fan.  There’s plenty to love in his performance.

The Cast

Lauren Bacall reprises her role as Marie “Slim” Browning.  While she does just fine in the radio version and still has a lot of chemistry with Bogart, it is a little more obvious that she’s not as comfortable behind the mic/onstage as he is.

Tim Graham does an amazing impression of Walter Brennan’s drunk Eddie from the film and makes this recording worth a listen on his own.  And Jack Kruschen, and George Sorell fill out the cast as Inspector Renard and Gerard respectively.

Classic Bogie Moment

Four words:

“Go ahead, slap me!”

The Bottom Line

Need a Bogart fix on the road or on a plane?  Download it as a podcast.  You won’t be sorry.

To Have and Have Not – 1944

have

My Review

—Near Perfect—

Your Bogie Fix:

5 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director – Howard Hawks

The Lowdown

All that Howard Hawks needed to make a movie was one woman and one man.

Russell and Grant.  Stanwyck and Cooper.  Bacall and Bogart.

Put them in a room together.  Give them a reason to touch – any reason.  A cigarette needs to be lit.  A bottle needs to be passed.  Someone needs to squeeze through a doorway.  It doesn’t matter.  But don’t let them touch right away.  Make us wait for it.  Let them banter first.  Sharp words that would wound any mere mortal.  Then let them stare.  Maybe for a moment, maybe for longer.  What are they doing to each other in their minds?  Is it as lascivious as what I’m thinking?  Wait until the tension is perfect.  Now let them touch.

White hot sparks.

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.

I can only imagine what Howard Hawks and the rest of the crew were thinking . . .

To Have and Have Not is my all-time favorite Bogart film.  I know it’s not as good as CasablancaI know that many consider it a less-than-perfect attempt to recreate the magic that occurred between Rick Blaine and Ilsa.

I don’t care.

As I’ve been blogging through Bogart’s film library, I was planning on saving this one for near the end.  I was going to make myself wait for it.  A prize at the end of the journey.  But I gave in to temptation early for the Howard Hawks blogathon that’s going on at Seetimaar – Diary of a Movie Lover.

I’ve never been good with temptation.

Bogart plays Harry Morgan, captain of the ‘Queen Conch,’ a charter boat in Fort de France, Martinique.  Morgan spends his days taking wealthy and inept tourists out on the sea to fish for marlin.  Walter Brennan is his first mate, Eddie.  Eddie’s a man who spends most of his day sleeping off a hangover from the back of the boat, only to wake up long enough to refuel with the nearest bottle.

While the characters of Rick Blaine and Harry Morgan might share a lot of similar personality traits, they are men from two different worlds.  Blaine owns a bar.  Harry Morgan lives above one.  Therein lays the key difference between Bogart’s motivations in Casablanca and To Have and Have Not.

Blaine has everything to lose – Morgan has a drunk and a Boat.  When the Germans take over France, Rick Blaine works hard to tread as lightly as possible along the razor thin line between the Axis and the Allies.  Morgan talks a good neutral game, but he is much quicker to throw himself onto the side of the moral good.

Now add in Lauren Bacall as Marie Browning.  Broke and stranded in Martinique, she 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.

The Nazis do their best to keep them distracted from one another.  German-aligned French Captain M. Renard shows up, taking what little money Morgan has left, and forcing him to choose sides.

Despite the threat of Renard hanging over him, Morgan agrees to help bring a man from the French resistance to Martinique.  It’s because he needs the money, right?  Well, if that’s the case, it’s not for long.  Suddenly, Morgan is doing everything from shooting at a patrol boat to removing bullets from the resistance fighter as he begins to plot and plan his way out of Martinique with Marie in tow.

Is Hoagy Carmichael’s ‘Cricket’ as good as Dooley Wilson’s ‘Sam?’  No.  Does Capt. Gerard measure up to Major Strasser.  Nope.  Am I in awe of Walter Szurovy’s ‘Bursac’ as I was for Paul Henreid’s ‘Victor Laszlo?’  Uh, not quite.

Does it matter?  Not to me.

Sure, I can see plenty of parallels, but when you alter the circumstances for Bogart’s two iconic characters from successful businessman to borderline boat-bum, you alter the movie dramatically.  Harry Morgan is Rick Blaine without the bar and employees to worry about.  We don’t spend the movie wondering exactly how the game is going to be played out.  Which path will he choose?  Will he play it safe and keep his head down?  Or will he help the French and risk his life?

No, we know where Morgan’s headed and who’s going with him.  We don’t watch him agonize over his choices.  He doesn’t have to give up the girl to save the world.  In fact, saving the world is great, but Howard Hawks makes this a movie about a man saving himself.  Yes, we lose some character depth, but I feel like we gain a greater sense of urgency for this man and this woman to succeed, and to be together in some other, safer, place.  Somewhere that they can let ‘Slim’ and ‘Steve’ be Marie and Harry.

The Great

There are too many things to point out.  I could type ten thousand words.  So, in brief:

Walter Brennan as Eddie the drunken first mate is superb.  Brennan courts the line of overacting, but never goes too far.  His jake-legged, hopping walk is so good, I chuckled every time I saw it.  The pathetic look on Brennan’s face when Bogart has to slap him to get him off the boat breaks my heart every single time.  Hawks gives us just enough of Brennan without going to the well too many times.

Lauren Bacall.  I . . . I don’t even know where to begin.  I fell so deeply in love with this woman because of this movie.  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.

The Good

Another strong supporting cast surrounding Bogart lends a lot to the film.  Marcel Dalio as ‘Frenchy’ the hotel owner does a great job.  Dan Seymour’s a lot of fun as Capt. Renard.  But it is Aldo Nadi, as Capt. Renard’s silent bodyguard, who does a really good job of stealing scenes with just the right amount of menace.  We wait the whole movie for Bogie to have a go at him, and when it happens, it’s pretty satisfying.

Classic Bogie Moment

Again, there are far too many classic Bogart moments to point out.  We all know them.  We know the famous lines.  We know the famous kisses.  We know the whole routine of, “Bogie sits in a bar, smoking, listening to a dame sing…”  So I’ll stick with the one that still stands out to me a day after watching the film.

Capt. Renard’s men are interrogating Marie with Morgan in the room watching them.  Not happy with one of her answers, the henchman slaps her.  In a heartbeat, Morgan is there at her side, right in the Gestapo man’s face:

Morgan: “Go ahead, slap me.”

I get chills when I watch it.  I get chills now just writing it.  One line and one look and we know Bogart is willing to die in that moment.

The Bottom Line

My first 5-Bogie Fix review so far!  Doesn’t that say it all?  Pair this one with Casablanca for a double feature, and spend your night wallowing in all the glory that is Humphrey Bogart.  There have been countless pages written about the making of this movie, the love affair between the stars, and the lore of Howard Hawks behind the camera.  It’s all worth a read and it only adds to the movie!

Fun Fact:

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.

Added Tidbit:

For some more great facts and fun on To Have and Have Not, check out @citizenscreen’s entry on Howard Hawk using his own quotes – Aurora’s Gin Joint.