Wild Young Minds: Lauren Bacall: Last of the American Girls

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Lauren Bacall: Last of the American Girls

She was said to be cold, she was said to be arrogant and she was said to be self-centered. Things they often say about a powerful, beautiful and succesful lady. Bacall herself said it was only an image - she was vulnerable and she was shy. Whatever idea is right - an image stays an image after all, there's no right or wrong one - we know for sure that Lauren Bacall has led a tumultuous life, yet has always stayed on the right track. No death at 27, no suicide, no drug addictions, men were probably the biggest frustration in her life - after Bogie died. Something many artists can learn from.
Only a day after the news of Robin Williams's suicide came out, another death of a movie star was announced. This time the star was a bit older and this time the star died under more natural circumstances. With the death of Lauren Bacall a generation of leading ladies has died too. Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo and Bette Davis. Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly and Jean Harlow. Of course, we've got our own contempory stars: Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts and Natalie Portman. Yet, none of them will come close to the grace and elegance of stars like Bacall.
Lauren Bacall was born in the Bronx in 1924 as Betty Joan Perske. Both her parents were Jewish and originally from Eastern Europe - something still visible in Lauren's striking face features. When she was five, her parents divorced and Lauren took her mother's Rumanian name. She didn't see her father anymore and that's where her daddy issues have probably been rooted.
As many actresses, Lauren started her career as a model. Her jobs weren't the slightest. Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, every fashion magazine loved her cat-like appearance. In 1942, she took lessons at the American Academy of Dramatic Art, and a year later she first appeared on Broadway. Yet it was while working as a model, that she was discovered by director Howard Hawks' wife. She urged her man to do a screen test with Lauren for 'To Have and to Have Not'.
Lauren Bacall with Ernest Hemingway
Hawks was blown away by her and turned her into a sort of project. He signed her to a seven-year personal contract, turned her name into Lauren and his wife taught her the fashion and taste guide lines. On the set, she was opposite Humphrey Bogart, who was already a major name in America. Though he was still married - and despite their age difference of 25 years - they began an affair. Three films followed in which they appeared together. Bogart and Bacall had an outstanding spark on the screen and also off the screen. In 1945, the 45-year old Bogart married the 20-year old Bacall. They had two kids and remained together until Bogart's death 12 years later.
To Have and Have Not
Bacall never really found another love like Bogie. Romantic, on the one hand, since they must have had a great, passionate and mindblowing affection for each other. Though she probably saw him as a daddy figure as well... Sad, on the other hand, since Bacall was only 32 when Bogie died and so she had to spent almost 60 years of her life without him. Of course, she did have some relationships. Frank Sinatra for example, though this only lasted for a short time, and Jason Robards Jr.
Lauren Bacall with Frank Sinatra
Shortly after Bogie's death, her career became stuck. Bacall didn't feel like acting that much anymore. A shame, since she had made many great films before, such as 'How to Marry a Millionaire'. During this film she met Marilyn Monroe, and they were often photographed together. These two girls together on a photo, that was magic, if you ask me.
Bacall, Bogart and Monroe
In her later career Bacall did a lot of parts. In the seventies and eighties she came back, and in 1997 she won a Golden Globe for her role in 'The Mirror has Two Faces'. Even though she was extremely old already, Bacall kept acting. Her last role was in 2014, as a guest vocal appearance in Family Guy. Yesterday, she suffered a massive stroke in her house in Manhattan. Bacall was 89 when she died and left a giant list of achievements behind.
As for her coldness and arrogance, we will never really know her personality. Fact is that her voice was low and her face was hard - yet beautiful, I think - and those features may come off as distant. Yet, Bacall lost the love of her life and I don't think this left her cold. Rough she may have been, but there was something about her we can all take with us in our lives. Even after the loss of Bogie, she kept on going, winning awards and choosing interesting scripts. In her own words: 'I am not a has-been. I am a will be'.

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