“Oh, maybe just whistle,” said 19-year-old Lauren Bacall, giving future husband Humphrey Bogart “The Look” in “To Have and Have Not.” “You know how to whistle don’t you Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.”
70 years later, Lauren Bacall has died at age 89 in her home, the Humphrey Bogart estate has confirmed, of a massive stroke. The New Yorker known as Betty Bacall had a long and illustrious life, from her early days as Howard Hawks’ discovery in such films as “To Have and Gave Not” (clip below) and “The Big Sleep” to later successes in Hollywood (“Key Largo,” “Written on the Wind,” “Designing Woman,” “Sex and the Single Girl,” “Harper” and “Murder on the Orient Express”) and on Broadway, winning Tonys for “Applause” and “Woman of the Year.” She was nominated for an Oscar for playing Barbra Streisand’s mother in “A Mirror Has Two Faces.”
In 2009 the Academy awarded Bacall, still stunningly beautiful at age 85, an honorary Oscar presented by her old Academy of Dramatic Arts pal Kirk Douglas. “Never fear, Kirk is here,” she recalled him telling her.
“People said Bacall was tough,” said Douglas. “She’s a pussycat with a heart of gold. I’m sure Lauren Bacall will teach the Oscars how to whistle.” When Douglas had a threadbare coat, she got him a thicker one. He admitted that he tried to seduce her, but they became friends instead. Anjelica Huston, who was born while her father John, Humphrey Bogart and Bacall were on faraway location in Africa filming The African Queen, was visibly moved as she thanked Bacall for being her “mother, friend, guide, teacher.” Here’s the video clip.
After falling in love on the set of 1944’s “To Have and Have Not,” Bacall had to wait for Bogart’s 1945 divorce to get married. They stayed together until he died in 1957, when she had to raise two children alone. Bacall married Jason Robards in 1961. They had one son, Sam, and divorced in 1969. I met Bacall on the set of “The Fan,” a 1981 New York theater-set thriller co-starring James Garner and Michael Biehn that required Bacall to sing and dance. She was gorgeous– and did not suffer fools. She could even write: her 1978 autobiography “By Myself” tells stories of dating Frank Sinatra and traveling to Africa with Bogey to shoot John Huston’s “The African Queen,” among other events in a very full life indeed.