Lauren Bacall

From SM-201
Jump to: navigation, search

Lauren Bacall
Bacall AFRS.jpg
Birth name Betty Joan Perske
Born Sep 16, 1924
New York City, NY USA Flag of USA.png
Years active 1944 - present
Spouse(s) Humphrey Bogart (1945-1957)
Jason Robards (1961-1969)

This article is part of
"The Pin-up Girl History Project"
"The Movie Star History Project"
"The YANK Magazine History Project"
Click here for information on Special History Projects
This page incorporates information from (or links to) under GFDL license

Betty Joan Perske (born September 16, 1924), better known as Lauren Bacall, is a Golden Globe– and Tony Award–winning, as well as Academy Award–nominated, American film and stage actress. Known for her husky voice and sultry looks, she became a fashion icon in the late 1940s and has kept on acting to this day.

She is perhaps best known for being a film noir leading lady in films such as The Big Sleep (1946) and Dark Passage (1947), as well as a comedienne, as seen in 1953's How to Marry a Millionaire. Bacall also enjoyed success starring in the Broadway musicals Applause in 1970 and Woman of the Year in 1981.


Early life

Bacall was born Betty Joan Perske in New York City, the only child of Natalie (née Bacal or Weinstein), a secretary, and William Perske, who worked in sales. Her parents were Jewish immigrants, their families having come from France, Poland, Romania and Germany. Her first cousin is former Prime Minister and current President of Israel Shimon Peres. Her parents divorced when she was six. Bacall no longer saw her father and formed a bond with her mother, whom she took with her to California when she became a movie star.

Bacall studied acting for thirteen years, taking lessons at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. During this time, she became a theater usher and worked as a fashion model. As Betty Bacall, she made her acting debut on Broadway in 1942, in January Two by Four. According to her autobiography, Bacall met her idol Bette Davis at Davis's hotel. Years later, Davis visited Bacall backstage to congratulate her on her performance in Applause, a musical based on Davis's turn in All About Eve.

Bacall became a part-time fashion model. Howard Hawks's wife Slim spotted her on the cover of Harper's Bazaar and showed the photo to her husband, who invited Bacall to Hollywood for a screen test.

The Breakthrough

Hawks gave her the first name Lauren. After several screen tests, he cast her in To Have and Have Not. She was nervous, so she pressed her chin against her chest and tilted her eyes upward to face the camera. This effect became known as 'The Look', Bacall's trademark. To Have and Have Not made Bacall a star. Her turn in the film has later been acknowledged as one of the most powerful on-screen debuts in film history.

On the set, Bacall met Humphrey Bogart. Bogart, who was married to Mayo Methot, initiated a relationship with Bacall some weeks into shooting and they began to see each other off set.

The 20-year-old Bacall made worldwide headlines on a visit to the National Press Club in Washington D.C. on 10 February 1945. Her press agent Charlie Enfield, chief of publicity at Warner Bros., asked her to sit on the piano which was being played by then Vice-President of the United States Harry S. Truman. The photos of the incident caused controversy.

After To Have and Have Not, Bacall was seen opposite Charles Boyer in the critically panned Confidential Agent (1945). She then appeared with Bogart in three more pictures: the film noir The Big Sleep (1946), the thriller Dark Passage (1947), and John Huston's melodramatic suspense film Key Largo (1948). She was also cast with Gary Cooper in the adventure tale Bright Leaf (1950).


Bacall kept turning down scripts she didn't find interesting. This earned her a reputation for being difficult to deal with. Yet she continued to get favorable reviews for her leads in a string of significant films. In Young Man with a Horn (1950), co-starring Doris Day and Kirk Douglas, Bacall played a two-faced femme fatale, with more than a hint of lesbianism to her character. This film is often considered the first big-budget jazz film.

In 1953, Bacall starred in the colorful comedy How to Marry a Millionaire, a runaway hit that saw her teaming up with Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable. Bacall got positive notices for her turn as the witty gold-digger, Schatze Page. According to her autobiography, Bacall refused to press her hand- and footprints in the cemented forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theatre at the Los Angeles premiere of the film.

Written on the Wind, directed by Douglas Sirk in 1956, is now considered a classic tear-jerker. Teaming up with Rock Hudson, Dorothy Malone and Robert Stack, Bacall played a determined soap opera woman. Bacall states in her autobiography that she didn't think much of the role. While struggling at home with Bogart's severe illness, Bacall starred with Gregory Peck in the 1957 slapstick comedy Designing Woman for rave reviews. It was directed by Vincente Minnelli.

1960s and 1970s

In the 1960s, Bacall's movie career waned, and she was only seen in a handful of films. But on Broadway she starred in Goodbye, Charlie (1959), Cactus Flower (1965), Applause (1970) and Woman of the Year (1981). She won Tony Awards for her performances in the latter two. The few movies Bacall shot during this period were all-star vehicles such as Sex and the Single Girl (1964) with Henry Fonda, Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood, Harper (1966) with Paul Newman and Janet Leigh, and Murder on the Orient Express (1974), with Ingrid Bergman, Albert Finney and Sean Connery.

For her work in the Chicago theatre, she won the Sarah Siddons Award in 1972 and again in 1984. In 1976, Bacall co-starred with John Wayne in his last picture, The Shootist. The two created a bond,[vague] even though Wayne was politically conservative and Bacall was a liberal. The two had previously been cast together in 1955's Blood Alley.

Later career

During the 1980's, Bacall appeared in the poorly received star vehicle The Fan (1981) as well as some star-studded features such as Robert Altman's Health (1980) and Michael Winner's Appointment with Death (1988). In 1997, Bacall was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her role in The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996), for which she had already won a Golden Globe. She was widely expected to win the award, which went to Juliette Binoche for The English Patient.

She received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1997. In 1999, she was voted one of the 25 most significant female movie stars in history by the American Film Institute. Since then, her movie career has seen a new renaissance and she has attracted respectful notices for her performances in high-profile projects such as Dogville (2003) with Nicole Kidman, The Limit (2003) with Claire Forlani, and Birth (2004), again with Kidman.

In March 2006, she was seen at the 78th Annual Academy Awards introducing a film montage dedicated to the film noir genre. She also did a cameo appearance on The Sopranos in April 2006, during which she was both punched and robbed by a masked Christopher Moltisanti. In September 2006, Bacall was awarded the first Katharine Hepburn Medal, which recognizes "women whose lives, work and contributions embody the intelligence, drive and independence of the four-time-Oscar-winning actress," by Bryn Mawr College's Katharine Houghton Hepburn Center. She gave an address at the memorial service of Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr at the Reform Club in London in June 2007.

Bacall is the spokesperson for the Tuesday Morning discount chain. Commercials show her in a limousine waiting for the store to open at the beginning of one of their sales events. She is one of the leading actors in Paul Schrader's upcoming movie The Walker.

Personal life

On May 21, 1945, Bacall married Humphrey Bogart. Their wedding and honeymoon took place at Malabar Farm, Lucas, Ohio (the country home of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Louis Bromfield, a close friend of Bogart). The wedding was held in the Big House. Bacall was 20 and Bogart was 45. They remained married until Bogart's death from cancer in 1957. Bogart usually called Bacall "Baby", even when referring to her in conversations with other people. During the filming of The African Queen in 1951, Bacall and Bogart became friends of Bogart's co-star Katharine Hepburn and her partner Spencer Tracy. Bacall also began to mix in non-acting circles, becoming friends with the historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. and the journalist Alistair Cooke.

In 1952, she gave campaign speeches for Democratic Presidential contender Adlai Stevenson. Shortly after Bogart's death in 1957, Bacall had a relationship with singer and actor Frank Sinatra. In her autobiography, Bacall stated that the relationship began after Bogart's death.

She told Robert Osborne of Turner Classic Movies (TCM) in an interview that she had ended the romance. However, in her autobiography, she wrote that Sinatra abruptly ended the relationship, having become angry that the story of his proposal to Bacall had reached the press. Bacall and her friend Swifty Lazar (a legendary talent agent and deal-maker) had run into the gossip columnist Louella Parsons, to whom Lazar had spilled the beans. Sinatra then cut Bacall off and went to Las Vegas.

Bacall was married to actor Jason Robards from 1961 to 1969. The divorce was mainly due to Robards' alcoholism, according to Bacall's autobiography. Bacall had two children with Bogart and one child with Robards. Her children with Bogart are Stephen Bogart, a news producer, documentary film maker and author, and daughter Leslie Bogart, a leading yoga instructor. Sam Robards, her son with Robards, is an actor.

Bacall has written two autobiographies, Lauren Bacall By Myself (1978) and Now (1994). In 2005, she updated and renamed them by the title By Myself and Then Some.


Bacall is known for speaking out her mind and her sarcastic remarks on her colleagues and peers. She has also delivered some of the most famous lines in movie history.

Movie quotes
  • From To Have and Have Not (1944): "You know you don't have to act with me, Steve. You don't have to say anything and you don't have to do anything. Not a thing. Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow."
  • From The Big Sleep (1946): Humphrey Bogart: "What's wrong with you?" Lauren Bacall: "Nothing you can't fix."
  • From How to Marry a Millionaire (1953): "Look at that old fellow, what's his name, in The African Queen. Absolutely crazy about him!" (in reference to her then-husband, Bogart)
On Howard Hawks
Of Mr. Hawks, Bacall told Larry King on CNN:
"He was a Svengali. He wanted to mold me. He wanted to control me. And he did until Mr. Bogart got involved."
On Frank Sinatra
She told Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne:
"He was a womanizer, he wanted to be in the sack with everybody and I liked that."
She said of Sinatra to Larry King
"Well, his attention span was not long, shall we say."
On her political leanings
From the Larry King interview:
Bacall: "I'm a total Democrat. I'm anti-Republican. And it's only fair that you know it."
King: "Wait a minute. Are you a liberal?"
Bacall: "I'm a liberal. The L word!"
Bacall was a staunch opponent of McCarthyism along with other Hollywood figures such as Humphrey Bogart.
On Tom Cruise
From the 8 August 2005 issue of Time:
"When you talk about a great actor, you're not talking about Tom Cruise. His whole behavior is so shocking. It's inappropriate and vulgar and absolutely unacceptable to use your private life to sell anything commercially, but, I think it's kind of a sickness."

Awards and nominations

  • 1970 Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical, Applause
  • 1972 and 1984 Sarah Siddons Award
  • 1977 BAFTA Award Nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role, The Shootist
  • 1980 National Book Award for Best Non-Fiction Book, By Myself
  • 1981 Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical, Woman of the Year
  • 1993 Golden Globe, Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 1994 National Board of Review Award for Best Cast (NBR Award) for Best Cast Prêt-à-Porter
  • 1997 Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, The Mirror Has Two Faces
  • 1997 BAFTA Award Nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, The Mirror Has Two Faces
  • 1997 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, The Mirror Has Two Faces
  • 1997 Academy Award]] Nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, The Mirror Has Two Faces
  • 1997 Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime achievement
  • 2000 Stockholm Film Festival, Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 2007 Norwegian International Film Festival, Lifetime Achievement Award

She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (at 1724 Vine Street).

Pin-up Gallery



External links


Jump to: Main PageMicropediaMacropediaIconsTime LineHistoryLife LessonsLinksHelp
What links hereReferences and SourceseMail The Wiki StaffContact Info