Lauren Bacall, who played femme fatales and other commanding women in countless films and plays, died this morning at age 89. She had a stroke in her New York home.
Bacall, born Betty Joan Perske in the Bronx, was an aspiring actress and part-time model, was discovered by director Howard Hawks' wife, who said she should be tested for an upcoming Humphrey Bogart movie, To Have And Have Not, after seeing Bacall on the cover of Harper's Bazaar. She got the part and, at 19, played opposite Bogart in the 1944 film. Her film debut was memorable, because she held her own against Bogart with what was called "The Look" which she explained, "I used to tremble from nerves so badly that the only way I could hold my head steady was to lower my chin practically to my chest and look up at Bogie."
And, of course, she had one of the most famous lines in movie history: "You know how to whistle, don't you? You just put your lips together and blow."
She and Bogart, who was married at the time, also began an affair during the filming and were married a year later. They had two children and were together until his death in 1957. According to CBS News, "Bacall said she never got over the loss.... Bacall once worried her obituary would be all about Bogart. But stealing Bogie's heart was just the opening act in a career that lasted decades and made her one of the last of the stars of Hollywood's golden age."
Bacall also starred in more film noire with Bogart—The Big Sleep (1946), Dark Passage (1947) and Key Largo (1948)—as well as How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) with Marilyn Monroe, Designing Woman (1957) with Gregory Peck and Harper with Paul Newman. But her only Academy Award nomination was for 1996's The Mirror Has Two Faces, as Barbra Streisand's mother.
She was also active on Broadway, winning Tony Awards for Applause (1970) and Woman of the Year (1981). She even made instant decaffeinated coffee seem glamorous:
The Hollywood Reporter says, "She admitted that being a 'legend' and 'special lady of film' unnerved her because 'in my slightly paranoiac head, legends and special ladies don’t work, it’s over for them; they just go around being legends and special ladies.'" Well, legends mean nothing to Christopher Moltesanti:
After Bogart's death, Bacall was engaged to Frank Sinatra ("he behaved like a complete shit" though he was good to break off the engagement) and was married to Jason Robards ("The marriage ended when I came across a letter written to him by his girlfriend."). She said what tied all three men together was how they were "all off-center people—trouble and troubled. They all had talent, humor and were very complex. I suppose I must like all of that. No one simple ever thought I was great."