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Lauren Bacall is an Academy Award-nominated actress known for roles in films like The Big Sleep, How to Marry a Millionaire, The Fan and The Mirror Has Two Faces.
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Born on September 16, 1924, in New York City, Lauren Bacall was a fashion mag cover model before landing her debut film role in To Have and Have Not, co-starring with Humphrey Bogart, whom she would marry. A decades-long career ensued with movies that include Key Largo, A Woman's World, Murder on the Orient Express, The Fan, The Portrait and The Mirror Has Two Faces.
"I think your whole life shows in your face and you should be proud of that."
"I don't think anybody that has a brain can really be happy. What is there really to be happy about?"
Lauren Bacall was born Betty Joan Perske on September 16, 1924, to a middle-class family in the Bronx borough of New York City. Her father, William, was an alcoholic who left the family when Bacall was six; Bacall and her mother later changed their last name to her grandmother's maiden name, Bacal, and added the second "l."
Enthralled by the theater from an early age, Bacall started working in high school as an usher, and then performed in plays both on and off Broadway. However, it was her work as a model, and in particular her appearance on a Harper's Bazaar cover in 1943, that caught the eye of Nancy Hawks, wife of Howard Hawks, who was a powerful Hollywood director. At Nancy's encouragement, Hawks gave Bacall a screen test. Hawks then brought her to Hollywood, taught her to speak in a lower register, and convinced her to take the first name Lauren to deemphasize her Jewish heritage. For that reason, Bacall has never been entirely comfortable with the name the world knows her by.
Lauren Bacall first appeared on the silver screen when she was only nineteen, in 1944's To Have and Have Not, which starred Humphrey Bogart. On set for that film, Bacall developed her trademark gesture, "The Look." Oddly enough, it began as a defense against nerves: Bacall had to keep her chin pressed against her chest to keep from shaking until just before the cameras rolled, causing her to begin every shot bringing her gaze upward. The film launched Bacall toward her reputation as a leading lady in the film noir genre. Her poorly reviewed performance in the 1945 film Confidential Agent, set her back slightly, but more success was to come.
Bacall and Bogart, who was twenty-five years her senior, soon fell in love. Bogart was married at the time, and, within months, divorced his wife. Bacall and Bogart married on May 21st, 1945. The marriage was generally a happy one, though it did put a hold on Bacall's career. "I think many directors never thought of me except as Bogie's wife," she explains. "That doesn't lead to a great career, and I certainly did not fight for a career. So I guess you win some and you lose some. It was by choice."
During her marriage to Bogart, Lauren Bacall starred in only one film per year. The pair co-starred in three more films (The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, and Key Largo), and had two children together, Stephen and Leslie. In 1957, Bogart died of lung cancer. Bacall was devastated. After a brief and disastrous fling with Frank Sinatra, including a very brief engagement, Bacall went east to return to her very first love, the theatre.
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Humphrey Bogart met Lauren Bacall on the set of To Have and Have Not in 1943. At the time, Bacall was 19 years old and living with her mother and Bogart was 44 and married to actress Mayo Methot. The couple wed in 1945, had two children and remained together until his death from cancer in 1957. Of Bogart's four marriages, it is said that the only one to bring him any happiness was the one to Bacall, whom he called "Baby" both in private and in public. Founding members of Las Vegas' famous Rat Pack in 1955, Bogey and Bacall's most memorable films include The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, and Key Largo.
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