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Friday, August 15, 2014

In Memoriam: Lauren Bacall

Written by Jon Williams

It’s been a rough week in Hollywood. It started on Monday afternoon with the news of Robin Williams’s passing, which stunned and saddened the entertainment industry and millions of fans worldwide. The veteran comedian and actor, who parlayed his role on the sitcom Mork and Mindy into a long and successful TV and movie career, was just 63 when he died.

With the shocking nature of that news, the death of another big-screen icon has been nearly overshadowed. On Tuesday, Lauren Bacall passed away at age 89. Yes, she was married to Humphrey Bogart, but she had quite a career in her own right. Her work as a model brought her to the attention of filmmaker Howard Hawks, who brought her to Hollywood. He was the one who assigned her to a voice coach that helped her develop the low, sultry voice she became known for. Hawks then cast her in 1944’s To Have and Have Not, and the rest is history.

It was on the set of To Have and Have Not that Bacall met Bogie. The two married in 1945 and remained so until Bogart’s death in 1957. In addition to being husband and wife, they also paired up on the silver screen three more times in the 1940s, beginning with 1946’s The Big Sleep (another Howard Hawks film). Adapted from the Raymond Chandler novel about detective Philip Marlowe, it featured a screenplay co-written by William Faulkner. That was followed in 1947 with Dark Passage, and in 1948 with Key Largo, directed by John Huston.

Bacall’s career was at its peak in the 1950s, beginning with Young Man with a Horn (currently unavailable), an early jazz film. She also starred in such films as How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), Woman’s World (1954), and the classic Written on the Wind (1956), among others. The 1957 film Designing Woman (currently unavailable) was filmed as Bogart’s health was failing, and released just a few months after his death.

Beginning in the 1960s, Bacall dialed back her involvement in Hollywood productions, although she continued to act into her later days. One of her most significant roles was as part of an all-star ensemble cast in 1974’s Murder on the Orient Express. Speaking personally, the first time I saw her was in a small role in Stephen King’s Misery adaptation, as author Paul Sheldon’s agent. In 1996, her role in The Mirror Has Two Faces earned her a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress, as well as her first Academy Award nomination. She also put that famous voice to good use with roles in such animated projects as Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) and Ernest & Celestine (2012).

With Lauren Bacall’s passing on Tuesday, we’ve lost another small piece of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Share her films with your patrons. In addition to the movies listed above, you can SmartBrowse her name on our website for a more comprehensive list.

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