Remembering Lauren Bacall: Her 5 most memorable roles
"You know how to whistle don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together...and blow."
With her smoky, sultry-voiced delivery, unapologetically demanding presence and coquettish bedroom eyes, 19 year-old first-time actress Lauren Bacall caught the eyes of Hollywood, the attention of audiences around the world and the heart of her To Have and Have Not co-star, Humphrey Bogart. The pair married shortly after and went on to make three further films together (Dark Passage, The Big Sleep and Key Largo), not to mention two little projects of their own - children Leslie and Stephen. Though Bogart passed away in 1957, Bacall continued to act on the big screen and in theatre for over seven decades before her death earlier today from a stroke at age 89.
Bacall was born Betty Joan Perske in The Bronx on September 16, 1924. After taking classes at the American Academy of Dramatic Art, she earned a living as a part-time fashion model until being spotted by director Howard Hawks' wife in a spread in Vogue. The notice led to her big break in To Have and Have Not and the rest, as they often say, is history. Bacall went on to make over 50 films, married a second time -- to actor Jason Robards (with whom she had son Sam) -- and earned a Tony Award for Best Actress in 1970, for her role as Margo Channing in "Applause."
As a tribute to this amazing and classy dame's long career, we revisit five of her most memorable roles:
To Have and Have Not (1941)
Most actors can only dream about making the kind of impact Bacall made on Hollywood with her debut opposite Bogart in this big screen, extremely loose adaptation of an Ernest Hemingway novel. The 19 year-old's presence (and chemistry with her co-star) was so strong, that director Hawks expanded the part of rootless Marie "Slim" Browning considerably during filming. Though the film has several memorable moments, including every single moment from the legendary Hoagy Carmichel, her iconic whistle taunt to hero Steve ensured her place among the silver screens greats.
Key Largo (1947)
Though many of Bacall's signature roles played strongly off her strength and sultriness, her performance as war widow Nora Temple is a different thing entirely. Melancholy and kind, mild with a hidden strength of character, Nora's silences throughout this claustrophobic classic speak more clearly then any whistle or witty one-liner ever could. And thanks to John Huston's savvy direction, this tense, atmospheric Oscar-nominated noir holds its own against any modern-day thriller.
How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)
Now before you go thinking Bacall was limited to dramatic roles, take a look at her star comedic turn next to Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable. The icons star as three resourceful gold-diggers determined to snag rich husbands in 1950s New York City. With deft timing, Bacall proves herself a comedienne to be reckoned with snappy one-liners and even a pratfall or two along the way. The film went on to become one of 1953's most successful films.
Designing Woman (1957)
Often cited by Bacall as one of her personal favourite films, it also happens to be one of the actress's most successful. Her razor-sharp comic performance as fashion designer and unhappy newlywed Marilla Brown is energizing to watch even now, almost five decades later. Add to that her sparkling chemistry with co-star Gregory Peck and an Oscar-winning screenplay and the film becomes a positively must-see classic. Though it represented Bacall's only on-screen pairing with Peck, the two went on to become lifelong friends.
The Shootist (1976)
In a role that nabbed her a Best Actress BAFTA nomination, the now-Tony Award-winning actress starred opposite John Wayne in his last big-screen role. With an impressive list of co-stars including Jimmy Stewart and Ron Howard, the melancholy western follows a dying gunfighter (Wayne) on his search for a way to die with dignity. Bacall impresses here as the Widow Bond, the outlaw's disapproving but compassionate landlady. A bittersweet film given The Duke's concurrent fight with the cancer that would soon claim his life, but worth watching if only to see the three legends of the screen collaborate.
What's your favourite Bacall movie or memory? Share below!