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Actress Lauren Bacall dies at the age of 89

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  • by MARGARET NEIGHBOUR
 

Lauren Bacall, the award-winning actress and Humphrey Bogart’s partner off and on screen, has died at the age of 89.

She was pronounced dead at a New York hospital on Tuesday.

Bacall was a star from almost her first moment on the silver screen. A fashion model and bit-part New York actress before moving to Hollywood at 19, 
Bacall achieved immediate fame in 1944 with one scene in her first film, To Have and Have Not.

Leaving Bogart’s hotel room, Bacall murmured: “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.”

With that cool, sultry line, not only was a star born, but the ­beginning of a legend, with pivotal roles, signature New York wit, and a marriage to Bogart that made them one of the most famous Hollywood couples of all time.

The Academy-Award nominated actress received two Tonys, an honorary Oscar and scores of film and TV roles. But, to her occasional frustration, she was remembered for her years with Bogart and treated more as a star by the film industry than as an actress.

Bacall would outlive her husband by more than 50 years, but never outlive their iconic status.

They were “Bogie and Bacall” – the hard-boiled couple who could fight and make up with the best of them. Unlike Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, Bogart and Bacall were not a story of opposites attracting but of kindred, smouldering spirits.

They starred in movies like Key Largo and Dark Passage ­together, threw all-night parties, were friends with Frank Sinatra and others, and formed a gang of California carousers known as the Holmby Hills Rat Pack, which Sinatra would resurrect after Bogart’s death.

She appeared in movies for more than half a century, but none brought her the attention of her early pictures.

Not until 1996 did she receive an Oscar nomination – as supporting actress for her role as Barbra Streisand’s mother in The Mirror Has Two Faces. Although a sentimental favourite, she was beaten by Juliette Binoche for her performance in The English Patient.

She finally got a statuette in November 2009 at the movie academy’s Governors Awards gala. “The thought when I get home that I’m going to have a two-legged man in my room is so exciting,” she quipped.

Bacall was born Betty Joan Perske in the Bronx on 16 September, 1924 and was raised by her Romanian immigrant mother after her parents split up. Her mother took part of her family name, Bacal; Betty added the extra L when she became an actress.

As a young woman, Harper’s Bazaar editor Diana Vreeland thought she was ideal for fashion modelling and Bacall ­appeared regularly in the magazine. The wife of film director Howard Hawks saw her on a magazine cover, recommended her as film material and she went to Hollywood.

Hawks became her mentor, coaching her on film acting and introducing her to Hollywood society. He was preparing a movie to star Bogart, based on an Ernest Hemingway story, To Have and Have Not, with a script partly written by William Faulkner.

By this time, she had acquired the professional name of Lauren, though Bogart and all her friends continued to call her Betty.

She wrote of meeting Bogart: “There was no thunderbolt, no clap of thunder, just a simple how do you do.”

Work led to romance. The 23-year age difference (he called her “Baby”) failed to deter them, but they faced a serious ­obstacle – Bogart was still married to the mercurial actress Mayo ­Methot, with whom he engaged in much-publicised alcoholic ­battles.

She was persuaded to divorce him, and the lovers were married on 21 May, 1945.

“When I married Bogie,” 
Bacall remarked in 1994, “I agreed to put my career second because he wouldn’t marry me otherwise. He’d had three failed marriages to actresses and he was not about to have another.”

But the party began to wind down in March 1956, when Bogart was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus.

On the night of 14 January 1957, Bogart grabbed his wife’s arm and muttered: “Goodbye, kid.” He died in the early morning at the age of 57.

SEE ALSO:

Lauren Bacall: Her career in pictures (via WOW247)

Interview with Lauren Bacall in 2005

 

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