Cook Library Cinema Club: Lauren Bacall
The entertainment world lost another legend this week with the passing of actress Lauren Bacall at the age of 89. Of her many fine film performances over the years, she is perhaps most fondly remembered for the four classic films in which she co-starred with Humphrey Bogart. Already a successful fashion model, the 19 year-old Bacall made a storied film debut in the 1944 film To Have and Have Not opposite the then 43 year-old Bogart, and the rest, as they say, is history. The sexual tension between the pair is palpable and is not something put on just for the movie cameras; the pair was truly smitten and married soon after the completion of the film. The couple made three more films together before Bogart's untimely death in 1957, each showcasing the unique onscreen chemistry that was so apparent in their first pairing. Although she ultimately dated other prominent public figures and later married actor Jason Robards, Bacall often referred to Bogart as the love of her life.
A product of Hollywood's studio system, Bacall went on to star in films with many other iconic actors of the era including Kirk Douglas, John Wayne, Gary Cooper, and Gregory Peck. As her film career began to wane, she took her talents to the Great White Way. Although not a trained singer, Bacall wowed Broadway audiences with her unique voice and style, winning two Tony Awards for Best Actress in a Musical in the process for her performances in the musicals Applause (1970) and Woman of the Year (1981). She turned to character parts in films in her later years, earning an Oscar nomination for her supporting performance in the 1996 film The Mirror Has Two Faces; and ultimately receiving an Honorary Oscar for her contributions to the film industry in 2009. Known throughout her life for her intelligence, wit, and unbridled candor, Bacall charmed her many fans with two memoirs: By Myself (1978) and the National Book Award-winning By Myself and Then Some (2005).
Here is just a sampling of a few of Bacall's better-known projects:
To Have and Have Not (1944): Bogart and Bacall truly smoulder in their first screen outing together, in which an American expatriate (Bogart) agrees to help the French Resistance transport a fugitive on the run from the Nazis to the island of Martinique. Amidst all of the intrigue, Bogart finds time to romance a sexy lounge singer, played by Bacall.
The Big Sleep: Our favorite among the films in which Bogart and Bacall starred together is this 1946 noir classic in which Private Detective Philip Maarlowe investigates a blackmail case involving the spoiled upper classes. Be sure to check out their two other films as well: Dark Passage (1947) and Key Largo (1948).
How to Marry a Millionaire (1953): Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe share the screen with Bacall in this frothy tale of three women who each set their sights on marrying a millionaire. A bit of chaos ensues, of course, as does the prospect of true love.
The Shootist (1976): In one of his best roles, John Wayne plays an aging gunfighter with a short time to live who wants nothing more than to spend his last days peacefully. Bacall plays a widowed owner of a boarding house with whom he finds a chance for a last romance.
Murder on the Orient Express (1974): Agatha Christie's detective Hercule Poirot is on the case when an American millionaire is murdered aboard a snowbound luxury train. The film received six Oscar nominations, and Bacall is joined onscreen by the likes of Ingrid Bergman, Albert Finney, and Sean Connery, to name just a few among the film's amazing all-star international cast.