Tuesday, August 19, 2014

R.I.P.: Lauren Bacall

Back in the 1990s, I once began a conversation about Humphrey Bogart films with a co-worker. He was an older man, having easily 40 years over me. He more-or-less liked Bogart's pictures but complained about "all those movies he made with Lauren Bacall." I didn't have a retort prepared for him because I could only recall three pictures Bogart & Bacall made together (Dead Reckoning, Key Largo & the Big Sleep). In fact, there were only four Bogart-Bacall pictures.

Still, there was some kind of backlash against Bacall, a perception from outsiders that she had profited on her marriage to Bogart and Bogart's legacy, rather than being a talented actress in her own right. That was certainly how many critics reacted to her 1994 performance in Pret-a-Porter. Personally, I haven't much effort into seeing Bacall's roles outside of the four she made with Bogart (the only non-Bogart picture from her filmography I've seen is Harper).

Now that Bacall is dead, everyone is free to praise her again - just as the public originally loved her in To Have and Have Not (the fourth Bogart-Bacall film I couldn't think of in the earlier anecdote). There is very little about the film which is memorable, but for those moments when Bacall smoulders her way into the scenes. It fits perfectly with director Howard Hawks philosophy: "A good movie consists of three good scenes and no bad ones."

As an OTR fan, I should also make mention of Bacall's appearances in radio comedy & drama (almost always at Bogart's side). Although she and Bogart had their own syndicated show - Bold Venture - I can't really recommend it. It's okay, but every episode tends to sound alike. Instead, check out this fun episode of Jack Benny (mp3 at archive.org) where Bacall guest stars (naturally with Bogie tagging along).

Lauren Bacall will be remembered primarily as Bogart's better half, but she seemed to serve the role admirably (certainly better than his previous wives). One more piece of Hollywood's great past has been lost.

No comments: