Lauren Bacall, the legendary Hollywood starlet who romanced and married fellow screen legend, Humphrey Bogart, has perished at the age of 89. Angels are whistling in heaven as the versatile actress had a storied career that spanned seven decades and included prolific film, TV, and stage roles. Her death occurred on Tuesday, August 12 at her New York City home as the result of a massive stroke, according to her family. Among many memorable achievements, Bacall was often best known for her epic love story with Bogart, as well as the iconic movie line she uttered in their first film together, the 1944 classic To Have and Have Not: “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together, and blow.”
That innuendo-filled line not only made Bacall a screen siren for the ages, but was also later named the 34th greatest line in the history of cinema by the American Film Institute (AFI). Their first foray into film together was a smashing, commercial success and it has become a much beloved, classic film over the years. Moreover, it exists as part of the legend and lore that is Bogie-Bacall, as all their films do. To Have and Have Not (1944) was the first of four films that Bogie and Bacall starred in together. Their next film was The Big Sleep (1946), followed by Dark Passage (1947) and Key Largo (1948).
As angels are whistling in heaven, Lauren Bacall was born Betty Joan Perske on September 16, 1924, in New York City. She was the daughter of Romanian and Polish Jewish immigrants. Her family was middle-class and her parents divorced when she was only five-years-old. While still in school, Bacall originally wanted to be a dancer, but later, she switched to acting and studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York after high school, which enabled her to secure roles in some off-Broadway productions.
Once out of school, Bacall started modeling and appeared on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar, which was one of the most popular magazines in the U.S. at the time. It was due to this exposure that the wife of famed director Howard Hawks became aware of her and arranged with her husband to have Bacall screen test for To Have and Have Not. This collaboration resulted in not only a legendary screen pairing, but a Hollywood romance that continues to delight and dazzle fans with its epic scale. Moreover, it was during this film that Bacall’s famous nickname as “The Look” was established.
Bogie-Bacall were known for their fire and ice dynamic and had their share of spats over the years, due to their opposite personalities. Bogart was a homebody, who enjoyed his solitude, while Bacall enjoyed socializing. However, the iconic pair were madly in love and both found happiness in each other. In fact, their friends and family have often remarked how Bogie and Bacall were the great loves of each other’s lives. The couple married in 1945, following a tumultuous period when Bogart was still married to his first wife and Bogie-Bacall were carrying on an affair. In 1949, the couple had a son, Stephen, who was named after Bogart’s character in To Have and Have Not, followed by a daughter, Leslie, in 1952. The enduring pair often referred to one another by their character’s names from To Have and Have Not–‘Slim’ and Steve as pet names. Bacall also proved to be a stalwart mate when Bogart developed esophageal cancer in 1956, as a result of his perpetual smoking and drinking. Bacall was his constant support system—through the removal of his esophagus, chemotherapy, and several other surgical procedures. Bogart ultimately lost his cancer battle and passed away on January 14, 1957. He weighed only 80 pounds when he died.
Following Bogart’s death in 1957, a devastated Bacall had a brief fling and engagement to close family friend, Frank Sinatra, which “old blue eyes” promptly backed out of after Bacall’s announcement to the media. The screen siren later married and divorced another fellow Hollywood legend, actor Jason Robards, whom she had a son with in 1961, actor Sam Robards.
As angels are whistling in heaven, the woman who made the line famous, Hollywood legend Lauren Bacall, has perished in New York City at the age of 89. At Bogart’s funeral, Bacall put a whistle in his coffin as a reference to the famous line she says to him in their first film together To Have and Have Not (1944). Her storied 70-year career and epic love story with Bogart has left an indelible mark on Hollywood and inspired lovers for generations. While “The Look” may have perished from the Earth, she will remain among the Hollywood greats, as will the legendary romance of Bogie and Bacall.
Opinion Written & Edited by Leigh Haugh