RIP, Lauren Bacall: Why She Was My Girl
We learned today that actress Lauren Bacall has died at the age of 89.
The first time I saw her was in How To Marry A Millionaire, which my Dad had given to me on VHS.
The movie had three knockout women playing the leads: Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe, and Lauren Bacall.
I knew Betty Grable, thanks to a Grable 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 General Patton would have shrunk from….I loved it.
But when I looked into her biography, I loved her even more. From laurenbacall.com:
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.
She didn’t give a rat's 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
According to Biography.com, Bacall only starred in one film a year during her marriage to Humphrey Bogart. They co-starred in three iconic films after they were married: The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, and Key Largo. They had two children, named 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 theater. “I finally felt that I came into my own when I went on the stage,” she said.:
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, even though 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?
And her story continued. She married Jason Robards, Junior, in 1961 and had a child, Sam, with him. When that marriage broke up in 1969, she starred in a Broadway musical based on the Bette Davis film All About Eve. The production, called Applause, earned her a Best Actress Tony Award. She won another in 1981 for Woman of the Year, which Biography.com calls a "semiautobiographical role."
What gets me the most about Bacall is her opinions. Because a lady has two things: good shoes, and radical opinions:
" “I don’t think anybody that has a brain can really be happy. What is there really to be happy about? You tell me. If you’re a thinking human being, there’s no way to divorce yourself from the world. Yes, I probably was happy when I was married to Bogie, but I was very young then. 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.—Lauren Bacall to Vanity Fair
She just cracked me up.
I like a woman who knows herself.
~~For those of us with fire.~~