Oscar History

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Lauren Bacall (1924-2014)

Lauren Bacall receiving her Honorary OscarShe arrived on the scene fully formed, the most womanly, not girlish, teenager you ever did see. In truth Lauren Bacall was newly 20 when To Have and Have Not premiered but it's tough to imagine that she made it at 19. The enormous age gap with co-star Humphrey Bogart (a full quarter century) who she'd marry offscreen almost instantly was mitigated by her steely maturity. There'd be faint echoes of Lauren later, arguably, in the great Kathleen Turner's throaty sensuality and Scarlett Johansson's uncommonly early self-possession, but like all true stars Lauren Bacall was an original and remained her own inimitable thing.

2014 has been unusually cruel in the taking of key giants from Hollywood's golden age but we'll always have their films to remember them by. And in Bacall's case the filmography stretches and stretches and stretches across the eras of cinema. Bacall died yesterday at 89 in Manhattan, bringing her unusually enduring career to an end. She might not have been the most gifted or versatile actress from her peer group, but she had real onscreen fire. Perhaps it was her agelessness - she always seemed 40ish to me, whether she was a teenager or an old woman -- that helped her age so naturally onscreen. She worked consistently right until the end, finding key roles in every decade. That's something to celebrate in and of itself, in an industry so obsessed with youth.

After the jump, 10 essentials covering every decade of her career:

"Slim" in To Have and Have Not (1944, debut)Viviane Rutledge in The Big Sleep (1946)Nora Temple in Key Largo (1948)
Schatze Page in How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) - one of the best character names ever
Lucy Moore Hadley in Written on the Wind (1956)Mrs Sampson in Harper (1966) - HASTY PUDDINGS WOMAN OF THE YEAR (67)

Bond Rogers in The Shootist (1976) - BAFTA NOMINATION
Sally Ross in The Fan (1981)
Hannah Morgan in The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996) - OSCAR, BAFTA, NOMINATIONS / SAG WINNER
Ma Ginger in Dogville (2003) ... though I was tempted to choose Eleanor in Birth (2004)

What's your favorite Bacall? You know how to whistle, don't you?

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Reader Comments (28)

I got to know her later through Dogville and Birth. RIP Lauren! What a rough week...

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBia

Lauren Bacall was a class act and a true Hollywood star. I loved all of her movies including oft named classics like "The Big Sleep" and "The Mirror Has Two Faces", but found she elevated even the more pedestrian fare she was forced to endure. I quite enjoyed her with Charles Boyer in "Confidential Agent" and Gary Cooper in "Bright Leaf". Neither were hits but she stands out nonetheless. Her implied lesbian-bitch turn in "Young Man with a Horn" was in stark contrast to Doris Day's sweetness. Truly marvellous. Of her later roles, watching her and Fonda romp in "Sex and the Single Girl" comes to mind as does the zany "HealtH" with the recently departed James Garner. She left us a legacy on film and stage that is fondly remember and much admired. I'd like to think Bogie and Bacall are having a cocktail and cigarette right now!

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTodd

I am fascinated with 1970s Broadway Bacall. An entire 1973 televised version of "Applause" (the musical version of "All About Eve"!) is on youtube, but I've been sharing this highlight: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRikWbT6WG0 "We're going to Greenwich Village!"

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDave

A class act indeed. I will always regret that the Academy decided to deprive us of the pleasure to see her accept her honorary Oscar during the regular broadcast.

Actresses of the world, look at her beautiful face through the years: avoid plastic surgery!

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I 'read' that Lauren Bacall received an Honorary Academy Award.
I would've been so much greatly if they bothered to televise that fact and the audience could've watched her receive it (instead of being shown a snippet from the Academy luncheon where she was tossed her award.)

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTOM

My favorite thing about her has been seeing her make adventurous choices well into her 70s.
To go from such a serendipitous Hollywood start (spotted on a magazine cover) to working with Glazer and von Trier is just so great. Clearly her love of film grew with her time in it.

My other favorite thing is The Big Sleep.

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

So many terrific performances through the years and that no nonsense manner always firmly in place. I love Written on the Wind, Dark Passage, Designing Woman, How to Marry a Millionaire, the truly bizarre Shock Treatment, The Mirror Has Two Faces and Murder on the Orient Express-my second favorite of her films. Young Man with a Horn, until yesterday one of the only Golden Age film with all the leads still with us, has it's pleasures but I never enjoyed it as much as the rest.

My absolute favorite is 1954's Woman's World where she co-stars with June Allyson, Clifton Webb, Van Heflin, Cornel Wilde, Fred MacMurray and the still with us Arlene Dahl. It's lush and beautifully shot in Technicolor, a little soapy but chock full of gorgeous clothes, cars, houses and some clever dialog. Happily after years of unavailability it finally came out on DVD a couple months ago.

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

When I worked for an Off Broadway theatre company one of our Board members invited her to an event we were having with the legendary director Peter Brook. I was in charge of events, so she called me to RSVP. It took me one word ("Hello") to know it was her - that throaty, smoky voice is unmistakable - even though she introduced herself very sweetly. I politely put her on hold and let out the gayest scream that has ever come out of my mouth. After regaining my composure, I picked back up, professionally answered her questions, took her information, and joined her in gushing over Brook ("I would go see any old thing, that Peter Brook did," she said, and I will never forget her exact cadence). Getting to meet her at the event was the highlight of my life. She looked so regal, but somehow still came across as down to earth. And just as gorgeous as you would imagine a movie star to be. What a woman she was! I got to meet some amazing people while working for the theater, but she was the one that stuck with me the most - I'm still gushing about meeting her! So saddened to hear of her passing, but I'd like to think that her and Bogey are back together again, at long last.

Also, watch this old video from her Tony-winning performance in the musical Woman of the Year (based on the Hepburn-Tracy film). LOVE this song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQpE15e4Zbo

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

This has been a tough week. Lauren Bacall was a sensual, feminine, independent spirit who made an indelible impression no matter which decade the film originated from. I was fascinated by her in the 70's when she made " Murder on the Orient Express". She always seemed to be a force of nature.

Since the early Bogart and Bacall films, I loved her combination of toughness, honesty, humour, and charm. I count myself a fan, and it is a sad day to say goodbye to a wonderful actress. If there is a heaven, she is up there now having a drink with Bogart and laughing that throaty laugh. Here's to you Lauren, you were fabulous!

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

Her brief appearance in "Misery" was the first time I'd seen her. Never forgot that smoky voice.

"Dogville" was certainly a late-career triumph too.

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterParanoid Android

This loss really hurts.

Tough choose a favourite among her films - most likely either Big Sleep or Dogville. And how amazing is it that an actress existed who played in *both* of those films?!

But To Have and Have Not is probably my favourite performance of hers.

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commentergoran

Two brilliant actors gone in a matter of hours.

Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall have left us with great movie, tv and stage performances.

And although Robin was eventually rewarded with an Acting Oscar, Lauren missed out on one for her wonderful performance for The Mirror Has Two Faces.

Sadly the Academy's hatred for Streisand prevented Bacall from receiving a much deserved Oscar.

Thank God they fixed their error by awarding the magnificent Bacall with a Life Achievement Oscar.

But will Robin get a posthumous Oscar nomination for his performance in the LGBT drama 'Boulevard'???

So sad two greats are now gone....thank god we still have their performances to remember them by.

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBette Streep

Essential performances: To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, Young Man with a Horn, How to Marry a Millionaire, Written on the Wind, Harper, Applause, The Shootist, Murder on the Orient Express, The Mirror Has Two Faces, Dogville and Misery, ;-)

A real New York dame, that one. RIP Betty B.

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I'd have thrown her an Oscar for Murder on the Orient Express

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJulien

Another Golden Age star sadly gone. Maureen, Kirk, Olivia, Luise, and Angela-please continue to keep eating your vegetables!

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJestifer

Horrible past two days. I haven't seen any of Lauren Bacall's classics. All of her films I've watched are 90s to present, like "The Mirror Has Two Faces," "Dogville," "Birth," etc. Looks like I have some work to do in the future. I have seen that whistle scene in different countdowns and lists, though I have no context for it. But I know about her storied film history and past loves. Such a vital presence lost forever. I'm bummed out yet again.

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSamson

Her best performance I've seen might be in 'The Cobweb', the Minnelli melodrama from 1955 - tender, withheld, implying complex thought very simply.

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLaika

I watched Harper yesterday; Lauren Bacall was a glorious ice queen -- that purring voice! I also happened to watch Boys Town the day before Mickey Rooney died. I am so scared now to watch The Quiet Man and The Great Ziegfeld (they're ready to be watched) for fear I will wake up the next morning and discover Maureen O'Hara or Luise Rainer has died. I'm not superstitious, but. ...

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercash

I only really knew her work through modern fare of The Walker, Manderlay, Birth, Dogville and she was outstanding in those smaller roles. I really need to go back and watch her leading roles.

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAdamA

Lauren Bacall in Murder On the Orient Express--this performance really helped turn me into a movie buff. What a whirlwind of glamour, electricity and magic. That entrance in the train station --THAT HAT! It was 1975 when I saw this at the theater, and combined with her costar Ingrid Bergman and Jennifer Jones in the concurrently playing The Towering Inferno, this triumvirate of Hollywood actressing sealed my fate. I was obsessed with both films, and I started in on old movies like a feverish junkie. Now I feel like I've lost a piece of my childhood.

When I hear a whistle, Lauren, maybe it'll be you...

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

She will also be remembered for her political activism, particularly during the wretched McCarthy years, when she and Bogie spoke out against the blacklist, while some of her contemporaries reveled in it. We can name names of the McCarthy fan club, but this is neither the time nor the place. Thanks to Lauren for being true to her ideals.

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPatryk

Murder on the Orient Express. The entrance alone is worth the price of admission. To Have and Have Not should be required viewing for any starlet who hopes to make it big.

I met her several times. Secure, polite, charming but you always knew it could turn if she needed it too. You respected her for her strength and realized she was being kind because she wanted to be, not because she felt she had to be.

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Henry, you met her! How cool. I would have died.

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

The first movie I ever saw her in was her very first movie. I was, well, blow away. There are very few debut performances that magnetic. A combo of acting, lighting, costuming, etc, that has rarely been matched.

I was probably around 12 or 13 and saw it on TV and then I got my hands on Lauren Bacall By Myself, her really terrific autobiography, and I was smitten for life.

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Alamitos Beach

Lauren Bacall.... what a woman. A true beauty with style and grace. I have a short film she did that was directed by Natalie Portman called Eve which was one of Bacall's final projects. It's such a beautiful short.

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSteven

R.I.P. Lauren Bacall---- you made an Appointment with Death, went through a Dark Passage into The Big Sleep.

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterUlrich

To Have and Have Not is the movie that made me a film fan. I will simply never recover from it.

August 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

I was just thinking of her exit from MOTOE, which is just as memorable as her entrance. Her character is toasted by a host of glamorous stars as a gorgeously melancholy score accompanies the tribute, filmed in a nostalgic glow. How fitting. Maybe it's happening right now in another place.

August 14, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

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