Lauren Bacall was one of the greats. Never to be repeated in this life time or the next. Known as ‘The Look’ for the chin down,eyes up look she perfected, Bacall was pure cinema magic. As a very young starlet she and a friend had won a talent competition and the prize was a chance to meet Bette Davis. Apparently Davis was very impressed with the young ingenue and introduced her to the big players in Hollywood which led to a screen test. Immediately she was cast opposite Bogart in ‘The Big Sleep’ and the chemistry was unmistakable. Together they would star together in four films during the 1940s which would create box office gold.
Before all this Betty Bacall had been a cover model for ‘Vogue’ and ‘Vanity Fair’. Her face was striking as was her ‘Don’t mess with me’ expression. Maybe it was the private girls school education that gave her the confidence to be so poised. Her life had not been perfect and her father had left when she was very young leaving her mother to raise her alone. Her uncles came to the rescue and provided for her education while her mother supported her daughters acting pursuits.
Perhaps it was this disfunctional family experience that made her fall for Bogart as he was, at the time, a little disfunctional himself. He was 20 years older and married when they first met. In her book ‘ By Myself’ Bacall describes the problems she had to deal with as their affair became more serious. Bogies then wife was an alchoholic has been actress whose career was on the wane. Bogie felt responsible for her and would join her in her drinking bouts. Alot for a twenty year old to have to cope with. But cope she did and it was this strength of character that won her man and also her meteoric rise to stardom in the film noir genre. Oh and she was gorgeous.
After Bogart’s death Bacall reinvented herself and moved into melodrama and comedy. ‘Designing Woman’ and ‘How To Marry A millionaire’ were both hugely successful films. In both films Bacall played smart ,stylish and self sufficient women. Strong and capable on the outside but sensitive and demure on the inside. ‘ Written On The wind’ with Robert Stack and Rock Hudson was a 50s melodrama in which her character has to deal with an alchoholic husband. Widely recognised as a fore runner for series like ‘Dallas’ and ‘Dynasty’ the film is really over the top. In it Lauren Bacall looks magnificent while manages to stay calm and cool in the most harrowing of scenes. It takes a great deal of panache to pull that kind of image off on screen.
Lauren Bacall was active in film for many years afterwards too and won a golden globe for ‘The Mirror Has Two Faces’ with Barbara Streisand. I remember standing beside her at a theatre in London and wanting so much to ask for her autograph. I couldn’t do it because I saw her being mobbed by hundreds of theatre goers and I felt bad for her. Oh she was gracious and signed all those autographs with incredible ease but I wanted to give her a chance to enjoy the show. Her autobiography ‘By Myself’ which I had read before that night at the theatre had been for me, an acting student at the time, an inspiration. She was a class act on screen and off. A real lady, a real talent but most of all a real person.
© Renee Dallow ( Hybiscus Bloom ) 17/8/2014