The first time I saw Lauren Bacall was in “How To Marry A Millionaire,” which my Dad had given to me on VHS.
The movie had 3 knockout women playing the leads: Betty Grable, Marilyn and Lauren Bacall.
I knew Betty Grable, thanks to a “Going Steady With Betty” marathon sometime in the 90s. She’s super sweet, and you can’t not love Betty. And, of course, Marilyn. Marilyn is Marilyn…you don’t need many words for her.
But this other woman I didn’t know just stole the movie and made it her own. She had this husky voice I think she stole from a woodland nymph in the depths of German Black Forests, piercing blue eyes that could peel the flannel off a lumberjack, and a confidence I’m sure Gen. Patton would have shrank from….I loved it.
But when I looked into her biography, I loved her even more.
“On September 16, 1924, Lauren Bacall, the only daughter of Jewish immigrants, William Perske (a relative of former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres) and Natalie Weinstein-Bacal was born in New York City. She was christened Betty Joan Perske. Even until today, her close friends still address her as Betty.
They were a middle class family with her father working as a salesman and her mother as a secretary. For the first five years, Betty lived in Brooklyn with both parents, but her world changed when her parents divorced. Her father got into his car and left the house for good.” (laurenbacall.com)
She didn’t give a rats behind what anyone thought about her. When she married Bogart, she stopped working as often so she could stay home and raise their kids. Bogart said they didn’t even talk about it at the time: they were both “old fashioned people” and they walked in step with each other throughout their marriage.
“I put my career in second place throughout both my marriages and it suffered. I don’t regret it. You make choices. If you want a good marriage, you must pay attention to that. If you want to be independent, go ahead. You can’t have it all.” -Lauren Bacall
“During her marriage to Bogart, Lauren Bacall starred in only one film per year. The pair co-starred in three more films (The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, and Key Largo), and had two children together, Stephen and Leslie. In 1957, Bogart died of lung cancer. Bacall was devastated. After a brief and disastrous fling with Frank Sinatra, including a very brief engagement, Bacall went east to return to her very first love, the theatre. “I finally felt that I came into my own when I went on the stage,” she says.” (biography.com)
I just love that she was always pursuing “coming into her own” during her life. This meant marrying a guy 25 years older than she, because it was the right thing for her, or even that it might have stunted her career because she was now “Bogie’s wife” to the studios.
Bacall was a force. A force of woman. A woman who had a career, a marriage, children and an identity of her own. How can you not love and admire all of this.
“Before long, Bacall again placed her focus on her personal life. She married again in 1961, this time to Jason Robards, Jr. The couple soon had a son named Sam. During her second marriage, Bacall starred in relatively few films. Bacall and Robards were divorced in 1969, and, shortly after, Lauren Bacall was approached to play the lead role in a new Broadway musical, Applause, which was based on the 1952 film All About Eve. Despite not being a singer, Bacall accepted the role. She was a great success, and earned a Tony for Best Actress. She won her second Tony in 1981 for a semi-autobiographical role in the play Woman of the Year.(biography.com)
What gets me the most about Bacall is her opinions. Because a lady has two things: good shoes, and radical opinions:
“She told Vanity Fair that “I don’t think anybody that has a brain can really be happy. What is there really to be happy about? I had a good growing-up life, I would say, but I wasn’t really happy, because I was an only child, and I wasn’t part of a whole family—what we in America consider the proper family, a father and a mother and child, which, of course, is a big crock, we know—and yet I had the greatest family anyone could wish for in everyone on my mother’s side. So what you think is happy? Happy shmappy.”” (biography.com)
She just cracks me up.