Memories of Lauren Bacall 1924-2014

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Film fans have endured a rough summer. We’ve lost many talented people who have brought us immeasurable joy. Today I’d like to celebrate the late great Lauren ‘Betty’ Bacall who mesmerized audiences with her incredible beauty, quick wit, smoky voice and sultry style. She was a beloved stage and screen actress but she was also much more including an award-winning writer, a socially conscious political activist, an avid fashion enthusiast who designed her own maternity clothes and a survivor who out-lived two husbands (Humphrey Bogart and Jason Robards) and managed to raise three children on her own. What follows is a stunning gallery of portraits as well as a collection of personal observations about Bacall from friends, acquaintances and family members who knew her and loved her.

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“She’s a real Joe. You’ll fall in love with her like everybody else.”
— Humphrey Bogart

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“Full of the devil.”
— One of Bacall’s (anonymous) high-school teachers

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“She looked incredible. . .Her voice was husky, low and magnetized everyone in the place.”
— Patrice Chaplin

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“The girl with the honey-colored eyes and baby leopard slouch.”
— Alistair Cooke

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“She was gay and charming and a darling from first to last.”
— Noël Coward

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“Bacall is to blame for getting me in the movies. She never should have talked to that producer. I might have fulfilled my ambition to be a star of the stage.”
— Kirk Douglas (thankfully for film fans his ambitions were thwarted)

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“You can’t get a bad picture out of Bacall. There’s nothing eccentric about her. She’s perfect all over and yet she looks like nobody else.”
— Louise Dahl-Wolfe

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“I kept looking at her and looking at her. In the first place, she is young and she has lovely tawny skin and she has the most fabulous sandy hair. Beautiful whether it’s straight or curled. In fact you have never seen her until you’ve seen her in her bright-green wrapper on the way to the outhouse in the early morning with her hair piled up on her head and no lipstick or anything else. Her sleepy-slanty green eyes and her common-sense look and her lost voice and her lanky figure and her apparent fund of pugilistic good nature. Once she gets on the track of anything, be it picking out a can of baked beans or doing her nails or typing a letter or sunbathing or talking to anyone, don’t try to get her on anything else – don’t try to hurry her – she is immovable. I gazed at her and wondered whether I would go mad with jealousy as I compared our ages – our skin – our hair – our natures.”
— Katharine Hepburn

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“Lauren Bacall was a knockout. Tall and slender, she was a quintessential New Yorker whose presence was felt the minute she walked into a room. She was very much a man’s woman: tough, completely direct and without artifice.”
— Farley Granger

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“Betty was the perfect mate for Bogie, and as they were both completely honest with each other and utterly straightforward in their approach to life, the friction points were few and far between. Occasionally there would be an almighty explosion, but it never lasted long, and with the air cleared, life went on more smoothly than ever. Betty gave as good as she got, but she also understood his love of his men friends, his need for male companionship, and she appreciated his longing for arguments, though she was never too happy when his extreme needling tactics were used to provoke them. She never was just a decoration in her husband’s home, though Bogie loved her to be beautiful and admired her looks, her taste, and her talent. He was, above all, proud of the fact that he had a partner with whom he could share everything good or bad. He never looked at another woman.”
— David Niven

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“She was everything you expected her to be. Amazing politics, so substantial. A true artist.”
— Matthew Weiner

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“I found her to be terrifically funny and vulnerable, and she made me laugh a lot.”
— Piper Laurie

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“I think the qualities that my mother gave me include intelligence, humor, sensitivity, the ability to scrutinize people. I feel she gave me her sense of power and her sense of strength as she deals with the world around her. And her contribution to women and to women’s issues in addition to being a loving mother. She has also, just as a woman, been a great example for me.”
— Leslie Bogart

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It was my privilege to have known her, to have acted with her, and to have directed her. And, most of all, to have had her as a wise and loving friend. She was an original. Even with all those great films we can visit again and again, she will be missed.”
— Barbra Streisand

I’ll let Gregory Peck have the last word about his his fiend and fellow actor in this wonderful tribute produced by TCM:

Further reading:
- The Los Angeles Times: Full Coverage Lauren Bacall | 1924-2014
- Fandor: Keyframe Daily | Lauren Bacall, 1924 – 2014
- Lauren Bacall’s remarkably honest account of Humphrey Bogart’s death
- F—k Yeah Lauren Bacall

15 Responses Memories of Lauren Bacall 1924-2014
Posted By Ben Martin : August 14, 2014 5:43 pm

Wow this is great. Thanks for compiling these quotes – so charming, so touching and so eloquent. What a personality. And what a beauty. My favorite Bacall performance is in Key Largo. And i also think she looks her very best here. I love her as this less sassy, less cosmopolitan figure. At the time and based on her previous work i wouldn’t have thought she could do it. Leave it to John Huston to recognize this amazing talent and bring out a totally new dimension in the remarkable Miss Bacall.

Posted By LD : August 14, 2014 6:22 pm

Thank you Kimberly for this tribute to Lauren Bacall. A legend and an icon. When watching her films it was nice knowing she was still with us. She will be missed by family, friends and fans.

Posted By Susan Doll : August 14, 2014 6:33 pm

Great images. The true end of the Golden Age of Hollywood is at hand with so many famous faces gone.

Posted By maybeimamazed02 : August 14, 2014 6:39 pm

From my mom: “I decided to name you after Lauren Bacall because I loved the sound of the name and she was such a classy lady.” Indeed. Thank you for sharing.

Posted By AL : August 14, 2014 8:43 pm

I met herin 1985 at a Tribute to Nunnally Johnson at AMPAS. What blew-me-away was her amazing buns (she was wearing tight black pants)…ANYWAYZ: can someone answer this question? The legend is that when Hawks hired her he insisted she go into his basement and scream loudly and continuously untill she could no longer speak–thus doing permanent damage to her vocal chords which resulted in that amazing voice. I’ve always wondered if that’s true…(also: is it true that Andy Williams dubbed her singing voice in Hawks’ TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT ?) lemmeknow…AL

Posted By Doug : August 14, 2014 9:37 pm

That last picture before the Peck tribute is startling, but very fine-as someone who was honest, she could look straight into the camera at ANY age-”This is who I am.”
Thank you, Kimberly, for this fine tribute to a fine lady.

Posted By Peter : August 15, 2014 5:02 am

Good piece.

I have to admit that Bacall is not one of my favorites overall. Yet, whenever To Have and Have Not or The Big Sleep come on I’m absolutely compelled to watch. Amazing work in those films. Can’t wait to watch more during her TCM marathon.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : August 15, 2014 6:37 am

Thanks for the comments! And Al, I recommend the book “Howard Hawks: Interviews (Conversations with Filmmakers)” edited by Scott Breivold where the director claims that Bacall originally had a nasally high-pitched voice and he suggested ways that she could fix it. In Bacall’s biography she also goes into more detail about the vocal exercises she did and I believe Bogart also did similar vocal exercises. I think the truth in all these accounts lies somewhere in the middle obviously but at the time it was typical for actors to have lots of training that could drastically alter the sound of their voice. It’s important to remember that Hollywood was in full-on ‘dream factory’ mode at the time.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : August 15, 2014 7:26 am

Doug – That last photo is one of my favorites too. Bacall was 87 or 88 at the time and proud of the fact that she never had plastic surgery and was still alive & kicking. She looks her age but she’s still beautiful. Growing old is something none of us really look forward to but it’s inevitable. I think America has became obsessed with youth and middlebrow standards of beauty so we’re often surprised or shocked when confronted by reality or the ravages of time. Actors over the age of 65 (unless they’ve had plastic surgery) are missing from our movies, TV shows, etc. It’s as if they don’t exist. Agism is a real problem in Hollywood. There are lots of great older actors still with us who would undoubtedly welcome roles in movies or television if they were offered.

Posted By Doug : August 15, 2014 1:18 pm

“Agism is a real problem in Hollywood.”
Here in the heartland,also.
‘Plastic surgery’ is scary to me-those who have gone under the knife…well, it fools no one. I can see that in a visual medium such as film/TV it might be an economic necessity to extend an actor’s viable years…but no. I wish more actors (and regular folks) would follow the example of Bacall and simply do their best to be attractive at every age as they live.

Posted By swac44 : August 15, 2014 1:41 pm

When I think of the phrase “the camera loved her” there are few who suit the description as aptly as Bacall. So long Betty, it was a pleasure to be touched by your gift.

Posted By AL : August 15, 2014 9:25 pm

Kimberly–This Bacall is one of the very best articles you’ve ever provided us–perfectly conceived and very moving; and thank you for clarifying that legend for me! And I agree that the last of the superb portraits you selected is really beautiful and haunting…Brava!

Posted By Jenni : August 16, 2014 12:20 am

I really enjoyed your post, Kimberly. I also read Bacall’s autobiography a couple years ago-highly recommend it. The chapter on Bogart’s death and her trying to cope as a young widow with two small children is heartbreaking. A very strong lady and I am looking forward to the Bogie-Bacall marathon.

Posted By The Roundup: August 18 | The Frame : August 20, 2014 4:04 am

[…] When the news of Lauren Bacall’s death hit last week just one day after Robin Williams’ death, I mentioned on Twitter that as tragic as Williams’ death was, Bacall’s hit me in a deeper place, not because dying at 89 of a stroke is even comparably tragic compared to dying at 62 of suicide, but merely because Bacall and her movies meant more to me personally. I grew up on classic film, and the films of Bogart and Bacall in particular were central to me in much the same way I assume Williams’ films were central to people of my generation who grew up watching contemporary film. In any case, because of that personal bias, I admit that I have read very few of the articles eulogizing Williams, and very many of the articles eulogizing Bacall, and that is why I have one and not the other on this Roundup. This particular one from Dan Callahan is lovely, evocative, and acknowledges Bacall’s insecurities. This one by Karen of Shadows and Satin focuses on Bacall’s early career with just as much warmth, love and insight. And this one by NPR’s Linda Holmes discusses Bacall’s inimical ability to convey sex without sex. I also enjoyed reading tributes from Jennifer Garlan, Noel Murray, Glenn Kenny, and photo and quote galleries from Carly Johnson and Kimberly Lindbergs. […]

Posted By CJ aka Darkamor : August 23, 2014 5:51 pm

thank you for a wonderful Salute, Kimberly …. it’s been a real “bummer hummer” of talent lost over the past few weeks (James Garner, Menahem Golan, Eli Wallach, Robin Williams, Lyndam Gregory, Peter McAlevey, Arlene Martel, Ed Nelson, Charles Keating, Danny Murphy – even Madeleine Collinson passed away)

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