Young Man with a Horn
Written on the Wind
The Gift of Love
North West Frontier
Sex and the Single Girl
Murder on the Orient Express
Appointment with Death
John Huston: The Man, the Movies, the Maverick
Tree of Hands
Dinner at Eight
A Little Piece of Sunshine
A Star for Two
All I Want for Christmas
A Foreign Field
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
The Mirror Has Two Faces
My Fellow Americans
Day and Night
Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke
Madeline: Lost in Paris
The Venice Project
Presence of Mind
A Conversation with Gregory Peck
Howl’s Moving Castle
These Foolish Things
Scooby-Doo! and the Goblin King
Wide Blue Yonder
Ernest & Celestine
Lauren Bacall was only nominated for one Best Actress in a Supporting Role Academy Award for her role in The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996)
Lauren Bacall: Learn more about her, review her filmography and more
Lauren Bacall was born Betty Joan Perske on September 16, 1924, in The Bronx, New York, the only child of Natalie (née Weinstein; 1901–1977), a secretary who later legally changed her surname to Bacall, and William Perske, who worked in sales.
Soon after her birth, Bacall’s family moved to Brooklyn’s Ocean Parkway. She was educated with the financial support of her wealthy uncles at a private boarding school. Her parents divorced when she was five. She no longer saw her father and formed a very close bond with her mother, who remarried Lee Goldberg and came 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 classmates with Kirk Douglas, while working as a fashion model and theatre usher at the St. James Theatre.
She made her acting debut on Broadway in 1942, at age 17, as a walk-on in Johnny 2 X 4. By then, she lived with her mother on Bank Street, Greenwich Village, and in 1942 she was crowned Miss Greenwich Village.
As a teenage fashion model she appeared on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar, as well as in magazines such as Vogue.
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 Hollywood producer and director Howard Hawks’ wife Slim, who urged Hawks to have Bacall take a screen test for 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” (the Romanian form of her mother’s last 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 to make her voice lower and deeper instead of her normal high-pitched, nasal voice. Hawks had her, under the tutelage of a voice coach, lower the pitch of her 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, unusual among young actresses in the 1940s and 1950s, also helped her stand out. Her voice was characterized as a “smoky, sexual growl” by most.
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 filmmakers and other actors.
On May 21, 1945, Bacall married actor Humphrey Bogart, 25 years her senior. 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.
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, had her performance as the mysterious, acid-tongued Vivian Rutledge in Hawks’s film noir The Big Sleep (1946), co-starring Bogart, not 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. In Dark Passage (1947), another film noir, she played an enigmatic San Francisco artist. And, in 1948, she was in John Huston’s melodramatic suspense film Key Largo with Bogart and Edward G. Robinson.
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, Doris Day, and Hoagy Carmichael.
In 1953 she starred in the CinemaScope comedy How to Marry a Millionaire, 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.
At the time, Bacall was still under contract to 20th Century Fox. Following How to Marry a Millionaire, she appeared in yet another CinemaScope comedy directed by Jean Negulesco, Woman’s World (1954), which failed to match its predecessor’s success at the box office.
In 1955 a television version of Bogart’s breakthrough film, The Petrified Forest, was performed as a live installment of Producers’ Showcase, a weekly dramatic anthology, featuring Bogart as Duke Mantee, Henry Fonda as Alan, and Bacall as Gabrielle, the part originally played in the 1936 movie by Bette Davis. Bogart had originally played the part on Broadway with the subsequent movie’s star Leslie Howard, who had secured a film career for Bogart by insisting that Warner Bros. cast him in the movie instead of Edward G. Robinson; Bogart and Bacall named their daughter “Leslie Howard Bogart” in gratitude,
In 1955 Bacall starred in two feature films, The Cobweb and Blood Alley. Directed by Vincente Minnelli, The Cobweb takes place at a mental institution in which Bacall’s character works as a therapist. It was her second collaboration with Charles Boyer and also starred Richard Widmark and Lillian Gish.
Many film scholars consider Written on the Wind, directed by Douglas Sirk in 1956, to be a landmark work in the melodrama genre. Appearing with Rock Hudson, Dorothy Malone and Robert Stack, Bacall played a career woman whose life is unexpectedly turned around by a family of oil magnates. Bacall wrote in her autobiography that she did not think much of the role, but reviews were favorable.
While struggling at home with Bogart’s battle with esophageal cancer, Bacall starred with Gregory Peck in Designing Woman 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.
Shortly after Bogart’s death in 1957, Bacall had a relationship with singer and actor Frank Sinatra. During an interview with Turner Classic Movies’ Robert Osborne, Bacall stated that she had ended the romance, but, in her autobiography, she wrote that Sinatra ended the relationship abruptly after becoming angry that the story of his marriage proposal to Bacall had reached the press. When Bacall was out with her friend Irving Paul Lazar, they encountered the gossip columnist Louella Parsons, to whom Lazar revealed the details of the proposal.
Bacall later met actor Jason Robards. Their marriage 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 pair a marriage license. They were refused a marriage also in Las Vegas, Nevada. On July 4, 1961, the couple drove all the way to Ensenada, Mexico, where they wed. The couple divorced in 1969. According to Bacall’s autobiography, she divorced Robards mainly because of his alcoholism.
Bacall had two children with Bogart and one with Robards. Son Stephen Humphrey Bogart (born January 6, 1949) is a news producer, documentary film maker, and author named after Bogart’s character in To Have and Have Not. Her daughter Leslie Howard Bogart (born August 23, 1952) is named for actor Leslie Howard. A nurse and yoga instructor, she is married to Erich Schiffmann.
Bacall appeared in two more films in the 1950s: the Jean Negulesco-directed melodrama The Gift of Love (1958), which co-starred Robert Stack; and the adventure film North West Frontier (1959), which was a box office hit
Bacall’s movie career waned in the 1960s, and she was seen in only a handful of films. 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
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.
In 1976, she co-starred with John Wayne in his last picture, The Shootist. The two became friends, despite significant political differences between them. They had also worked together in Blood Alley (1955).
During the 1980s, Bacall appeared in the poorly received star vehicle The Fan (1981). Bacall also was featured in Robert Altman’s Health (1980) and Michael Winner’s Appointment with Death (1988). In 1990, she had a small role in Misery, which starred Kathy Bates and James Caan.
In 1997, Bacall 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 fifty years. Bacall had already won a Golden Globe for the role and was widely expected to win the Oscar, but lost in an upset to Juliette Binoche for The English Patient.
Bacall received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1997, and in 1999, she was voted one of the 25 most significant female movie stars in history by the American Film Institute. Her movie career saw something of a renaissance, and she attracted respectful notices for her performances in high-profile projects such as Dogville (2003), Birth (2004), both with Nicole Kidman, and in Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), as the Witch of the Waste. She was a leading actor in Paul Schrader’s The Walker (2007).
In September 2006, Bacall was awarded the first Katharine Hepburn Medal, which recognizes “women whose lives, work and contributions embody the intelligence, drive and independence of the four-time-Oscar-winning actress”, by Bryn Mawr College’s Katharine Houghton Hepburn Center. She gave an address at the memorial service of Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. at the Reform Club in London in June 2007.
Bacall was selected by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to receive an Honorary Academy Award. The award was presented at the inaugural Governors Awards on November 14, 2009.
In July 2013, Bacall expressed interest in taking the starring role in the film Trouble Is My Business. In November, she joined the English dub voice cast for StudioCanal’s animated film Ernest & Celestine. Her final role was in 2014: a guest vocal appearance in the twelfth season Family Guy episode “Mom’s the Word”
Bacall wrote two autobiographies, Lauren Bacall By Myself (1978) and Now (1994). In 2006, the first volume of Lauren Bacall By Myself was reprinted as By Myself and Then Some with an extra chapter.
Lauren Bacall died on August 12, 2014, at her longtime apartment in The Dakota, the Upper West Side building overlooking Central Park in Manhattan. She was 89, five weeks short of her 90th birthday. According to her grandson Jamie Bogart, the actress died after suffering a massive stroke. She was confirmed dead at New York–Presbyterian Hospital. By some accounts she was cremated and her ashes spread over Martha’s Vineyard.