On August 12, 2014, actress Lauren Bacall, who shot to fame in her debut film, 1944’s “To Have and Have Not,” in which she appeared opposite Humphrey Bogart, with whom she would have a legendary romance, dies at her New York City home at age 89. In a career that spanned nearly 70 years, the smoky-voiced Bacall made more than 40 films, including “The Big Sleep,” (1946) “How to Marry a Millionaire” (1953) and “The Mirror Has Two Faces” (1996).
Born Betty Joan Perske on September 16, 1924, in the Bronx, New York, she began using the last name Bacal, part of her mother’s maiden name, after her parents divorced when she was young. (While breaking into acting, she added a second “l” to her last name, and Howard Hawks, who directed Bacall’s big-screen debut, dubbed her Lauren). After graduating from high school in Manhattan in 1940, she studied acting but quit after a year because she could no longer afford the tuition. She went on to work as an usher in Broadway theaters and also started modeling. Her cover photo for Harper’s Bazaar magazine eventually came to the attention of Hawks, who cast her in his wartime drama “To Have and Have Not.” During the making of the film—in which Bacall famously utters the line: “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow”—she and the then-married Bogart, who was more than twice her age and already the star of such films as “The Maltese Falcon” and “Casablanca,” began an affair.
Married in 1945, Bogart and Bacall became one of Hollywood’s iconic couples and made three more films together, “The Big Sleep,” “Dark Passage” (1947) and “Key Largo” (1948). Bacall also appeared in such movies as “Young Man with a Horn” (1950) with Kirk Douglas, “How to Marry a Millionaire” with Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable and “Designing Woman” (1957) with Gregory Peck. Her marriage to Bogart, which produced two children, ended when the actor died of cancer in 1957 at age 57. After a brief romance with Frank Sinatra, Bacall wed actor Jason Robards in 1961. The pair, who had a son together, divorced in 1969.
Among Bacall’s other screen credits are “Harper” (1966) with Paul Newman, “Murder on the Orient Express” (1974), “Misery” (1990) and “The Mirror Has Two Faces” with Barbra Streisand. For her role in the latter film, Bacall earned her lone Academy Award nomination, in the best supporting actress category. (In 2009, she received an honorary Oscar.) Bacall also appeared in a number of theatrical productions and won best actress Tony awards for 1970’s “Applause” and 1981’s “Woman of the Year.”
Despite her achievements, Bacall realized the public likely would always associate her with Bogart. As she said in a 1999 Newsday interview: “I’ll never get away from him. I accept that. He was the emotional love of my life, but I think I’ve accomplished quite a bit on my own.”