LAUREN BACALL, included in the National Portrait Gallery’s “American Cool” exhibition, through September 7, 2014. Artist: Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1949 (printed 2013). Pigmented ink jet print.
Born: September 16, 1924, The Bronx, New York City, NY
Died: August 12, 2014, New York, NY
Lauren Bacall was definitely cool.
Each generation has certain individuals who bring innovation and style to a field of endeavor while projecting a certain charismatic self-possession. Lauren Bacall is one of the figures selected for the National Portrait Gallery‘s “American Cool” exhibition.
Ms. Bacall was 89 and a longtime resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
Launched by a Harper’s Bazaar cover when she was a 19-year-old model, the former Betty Joan Perske, born to Jewish immigrants in New York City, was signed by Warner Bros. in 1943.
Whatever she may have lacked in acting experience, the willowy teen made up for with a certain grace that was made camera-ready by the great director Howard Hawks. Lauren Bacall, as she had been renamed, modeled her character in 1944’s adaptation of a Hemingway novel, To Have and Have Not, after Hawks’s stylish wife, Nancy “Slim” Keith, and delivered the immortal line to the grizzled Humphrey Bogart, who was 25 years her senior: “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.”
A star was born. So was a legendary off-screen romance with and marriage to Humphrey Bogart, with whom she made four films.
Other memorable roles that made Ms. Bacall a Hollywood legend were The Big Sleep (1946), Key Largo (1948), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) and The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996).
Once Bacall left Hollywood for New York in the late ’50s, she found a new career working on Broadway, where, despite her raspy singing voice, she won Tony Awards for the musicals Applause (1970) and Woman of the Year (1981).
In my opinion, she was one of the most beautiful and talented actresses in Hollywood. She had ‘The Look’ — cool and mysterious — and she had the sound, courtesy of that irresistibly low and throaty voice.
Thanks for the memories, Lauren.