Lauren Bacall (born Betty Joan Perske; September 16, 1924 – August 12, 2014) was an American actress. She was named the 20th-greatest female star of classic Hollywood cinema by the American Film Institute and received an Academy Honorary Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2009 in recognition of her contribution to the Golden Age of motion pictures. She was known for her distinctive voice and sultry looks.
Bacall began a career as a model before making her film debut as the leading lady in To Have and Have Not (1944) at the age of 19. She continued in the film noir genre with appearances alongside husband Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep (1946), Dark Passage (1947), and Key Largo (1948), and she starred in the romantic comedies How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) with Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable, and Designing Woman (1957) with Gregory Peck. She co-starred with John Wayne in his final film The Shootist (1976) by Wayne's personal request. She also worked on Broadway in musicals, earning Tony Awards for Applause (1970) and Woman of the Year (1981). She won a Golden Globe Award and was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996).
Lauren Bacall was born Betty Joan Perske on September 16, 1924, in The Bronx, New York City, the only child of her parents, both of whom were Jewish. They were divorced when Bacall was five, after which she no longer saw her father.
Bacall was close to her mother, who remarried to Lee Goldberg and went to live in California after Bacall became a movie star.
In 1941, Bacall took lessons at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, where she was a classmate of Kirk Douglas, while working as a theatre usher at the St. James Theatre and as a fashion model.
She made her acting debut on Broadway in 1942, at age 17, as a walk-on in Johnny 2 X 4, and in 1942, she was crowned Miss Greenwich Village.
As a teenage fashion model, she appeared on the cover of Harper's Bazaar, and in magazines such as Vogue. An article in Life magazine in 1948 referred to her "cat-like grace, tawny blonde hair, and blue-green eyes".
Though Diana Vreeland is often credited with discovering Bacall for Harper's Bazaar, it was in fact Nicolas de Gunzburg who introduced the 18-year-old to Vreeland. He had first met Bacall at Tony's, a club in the East 50s. De Gunzburg suggested that Bacall stop by his Bazaar office the next day. He then turned over his find to Vreeland, who arranged for Louise Dahl-Wolfe to shoot Bacall in Kodachrome for the March 1943 cover.
The Harper's Bazaar cover caught the attention of "Slim" Keith, the wife of Hollywood producer and director Howard Hawks. She urged her husband to have Bacall take a screen test for his forthcoming film, To Have and Have Not. Hawks asked his secretary to find out more about her, but the secretary misunderstood and sent Bacall a ticket to come to Hollywood for the audition.
After meeting Bacall in Hollywood, Hawks immediately signed her to a seven-year contract, with a weekly salary of $100, and personally began to manage her career. He changed her first name to Lauren, and she chose "Bacall", a variant of her mother's maiden name, as her screen surname. Slim Hawks also took Bacall under her wing, dressing Bacall stylishly and guiding her in matters of elegance, manners, and taste. At Hawks' suggestion, Bacall was also trained by a voice coach to make her voice lower and deeper, instead of her normal high-pitched, nasal voice. As part of her training, she was required to shout verses of Shakespeare for hours every day. Her height, at 5 feet 8½ inches (1.74 m), unusual among young actresses in the 1940s and 1950s, also helped her stand out.
During her screen tests for To Have and Have Not (1944), Bacall was so nervous that, to minimize her quivering, she pressed her chin against her chest, faced the camera, and tilted her eyes upward. This effect, which came to be known as "The Look", became another Bacall trademark, along with her sultry voice.
Bacall's character in the film used Slim Hawks' nickname "Slim", and Bogart used Howard Hawks' nickname "Steve". The on-set chemistry between the two was immediate, according to Bacall. She and Bogart, who was married at the time to Mayo Methot, began a romantic relationship several weeks into shooting.
Bacall's role in the script was originally much smaller, but during filming, her part was revised multiple times to extend it into the lead part that it became in the released film. Once released, To Have and Have Not catapulted Bacall into instant stardom, and her performance became the cornerstone of her star image, the impact of which extended into popular culture at large, even influencing fashion,as well as film-makers and other actors.
Warner Bros. launched an extensive marketing campaign to promote the picture and to establish Bacall as a movie star. As part of the public relations push, Bacall made a visit to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on February 10, 1945. It was there that Bacall's press agent, chief of publicity at Warner Bros. Charlie Enfield, asked the 20-year-old Bacall to sit on the piano while U.S. Vice President Harry S. Truman played.
On May 21, 1945, Bacall married Humphrey Bogart. Their wedding and honeymoon took place at Malabar Farm, Lucas, Ohio, the country home of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Louis Bromfield, a close friend of Bogart.
Bacall had two children with Bogart: Their Son Stephen Humphrey Bogart (born January 6, 1949) who is named after Bogart's character in To Have and Have Not. Their daughter Leslie Howard Bogart (born August 23, 1952) who is named after the actor Leslie Howard.
After To Have and Have Not, Bacall was seen opposite Charles Boyer in Confidential Agent (1945), which was poorly received by critics. By her own estimation, it could have caused considerable damage to her career, but her next performance as the mysterious, acid-tongued Vivian Rutledge in Hawks's film noir The Big Sleep (1946), co-starring Bogart, provided a quick career resurgence.
The Big Sleep laid the foundation for her status as an icon of film noir. She would be strongly associated with the genre for the rest of her career, and would often be cast as variations of the independent and sultry femme fatale character of Vivian she played in the movie.
Bacall was cast with Bogart in two more films: Dark Passage (1947), another film noir in which she played an enigmatic San Francisco artist; and John Huston's melodramatic suspense film Key Largo (1948).
Bacall turned down scripts she did not find interesting, and thereby earned a reputation for being difficult. Despite this, she further solidified her star status in the 1950s by appearing as the leading lady in a string of films that won favorable reviews.
Bacall was cast opposite Gary Cooper in Bright Leaf (1950). In the same year, she played a two-faced femme fatale in Young Man with a Horn (1950), a jazz musical co-starring Kirk Douglas and Doris Day.
From 1951 to 1952, Bacall co-starred with Bogart in the syndicated action-adventure radio series Bold Venture.
She starred in the first CinemaScope comedy How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), a runaway hit among critics and at the box office. Directed by Jean Negulesco and co-starring Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable, Bacall got positive notices for her turn as the witty gold-digger, Schatze Page.
After the success of How to Marry a Millionaire, she was offered, but declined, with Bogart's support, the coveted invitation from Grauman's Chinese Theatre to press her hand- and footprints in the theatre's cemented forecourt. "I want to feel I've earned my place with the best my business has produced."
While struggling at home with Bogart suffering from terminal esophageal cancer, Bacall starred with Gregory Peck in Designing Woman (1957) to solid reviews. The musical comedy was her second feature with director Vincente Minnelli and was released in New York on May 16, 1957, four months after Bogart's death on January 14.
Bacall had a relationship with Frank Sinatra after Bogart's death, but Sinatra ended the relationship abruptly after his marriage proposal had been leaked to the press.
Bacall then met and began a relationship with Jason Robards. Their wedding was originally scheduled to take place in Vienna, Austria, on June 16, 1961; however, the plans were shelved after Austrian authorities refused to grant the couple a marriage license. They were refused a marriage also in Las Vegas, Nevada. On July 4, 1961, the couple drove to Ensenada, Mexico, where they wed.
Four months later, on December 16, 1961, their son Sam Robards was born.
The couple divorced in 1969. According to Bacall's autobiography, she divorced Robards mainly because of his alcoholism.
Bacall was seen in only a handful of films in the 1960s. The few films Bacall made during this period were all-star vehicles such as Sex and the Single Girl (1964) with Henry Fonda, Tony Curtis, and Natalie Wood; Harper (1966) with Paul Newman, Shelley Winters, Julie Harris, Robert Wagner, and Janet Leigh; and Murder on the Orient Express (1974), with Ingrid Bergman, Albert Finney, Vanessa Redgrave, Martin Balsam, and Sean Connery.
She starred on Broadway in Goodbye, Charlie in 1959, and went on to have a successful on-stage career in Cactus Flower (1965), Applause (1970), and Woman of the Year (1981). She won Tony Awards for her performances in the latter two.
Bacall published her first autobiography Lauren Bacall by Myself in 1978 and then the second one Now in 1994.
She was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her role in The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996), her first nomination after a career span of more than 50 years. She had already won a Golden Globe and was widely expected to win the Oscar, but she lost to Juliette Binoche for The English Patient.
Bacall received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1997, and she was voted one of the 25 most significant female movie stars in history in 1999 by the American Film Institute.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave her an Honorary Academy Award at the inaugural Governors Awards on November 14, 2009.
Lauren Bacall died on August 12, 2014, one month before her 90th birthday, at her longtime apartment in The Dakota, the Upper West Side building near Central Park in Manhattan. According to her grandson Jamie Bogart, Bacall died after suffering a massive stroke. She was confirmed dead at New York–Presbyterian Hospital.
Bacall had an estimated $26.6 million estate. The bulk of her estate was divided among her three children: Leslie Bogart, Stephen Humphrey Bogart, and Sam Robards. Additionally, Bacall left $250,000 each to her youngest grandsons, the sons of Sam Robards, for college.