“You know how to whistle don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow” said Lauren Bacall to her future husband Humphrey Bogart in her screen debut “To Have And To Have Not.” That one line made a cinematic legend. With a career that spanned over six decades, working in a number of Hollywood’s most beloved classic films as well as roles in challenging contemporary arthouse fare, Bacall did it all. Passing away today at the age of 89, Bacall leaves behind a distinguished legacy.
The wider world may never have heard the name “Lauren Bacall” had Howard Hawks wife not seen her picture in an issue of Vogue magazine. It was during a screen test for Hawks that she developed “the look” —lowering her head and peering at the camera— that became a hallmark. This, along with her distinctive husky voice, made Bacall stand out. But the young actress would soon show she had much more to offer.
While her films with Bogart — film noir staple “The Big Sleep,” “Key Largo,” “Dark Passage” — form an important portion of her filmography, she kept up with Marilyn Monroe in “How To Marry A Millionaire,” went on an adventure with Kenneth More in “North West Frontier,” romanced Gregory Peck in “Designing Woman,” and co-starred with Paul Newman in “Harper.”
Bacall worked sporadically from the late ’60s onwards, but her films were not without highlights, including “Murder On The Orient Express” and “The Shootist.” And it’s interesting to note the directors she worked with, including Robert Altman (“HealtH“, “Ready To Wear“), Barbra Streisand (“The Mirror Has Two Faces“) and Rob Reiner (“Misery“). And her eclectic taste in filmmakers continued late into her career, with two memorable turns for Lars von Trier (“Dogville” and “Manderlay“), a key part in Jonathan Glazer‘s “Birth,” as well as role in Paul Schrader‘s “The Walker.”
Bacall was the definition of Hollywood grace and glamor, an indescribable screen presence and an under-appreciated actress. But there’s no better time to get reacquainted with her work, for which she was given an Honorary Oscar in 2009. Bacall will be greatly missed.