I’m a little late on this one, but no less sincere. Hollywood lost yet another talent this past week with the passing of smokey-voiced Lauren Bacall.
Lauren was an icon of classic movies, and I am always happy to find one of her movies on TCM. On screen she was a no-nonsense dame, whether flirting on screen with Humphrey Bogart or Gregory Peck, you knew who had the upper hand in these romances.
She was only 19 when she made her screen debut in To Have and to Have Not with Bogart, whose rough exterior seemed an odd coupling with the angular teen. But they sparked onscreen and off, and were happily married for 12 years until his passing in 1957. She was married to Jason Robards (Jr.) from 1961-1969 and had two children from Bogart and one from Robards.
Bacall was well loved by movie fans the world over, but as she said ” “Stardom isn’t a career. It is an accident.” Bacall was foremost an actress, albeit an amazingly glamorous one, and when you compare her work to the sad parade of comic-book female types that populate the blockbusters these days, she has (and will) stand head and shoulders above them for years to come.
I think one thing that draws me back over and over to classic films of Bacall, Bette Davis and Katherine Hepburn is they way they portrayed strong, intelligent, independent women on the screen. These women had presence and power that reminded women that you didn’t have be an air-head to be noticed. There are few of these screen legends left now; we still have Olivia De Haviland, Maureen O’Hara, Doris Day and Kirk Douglas, but I really miss seeing mature men and women portrayed in today’s movies. So often movie heroes are just overgrown boys and beach bunnies. Modern Hollywood summer blockbusters leave me flat, and really good ‘women’s pictures’ are few and far between. I suppose the only place left to find good stories about men and women is in the independent cinema. But it’s sad to see, as these legends pass, the quality of stories go down. Perhaps when Hollywood finally acknowledges that there are movie-goers out there that are outside the 18-24 demographic, we’ll see a return to good drama (but I’m not holding my breath).
But back to Bacall. If you want to see a no-nonsense dame flip a man’s world upside down, watch Lauren nibble Gregory Peck’s ear in Designing Woman, or distract Kirk Douglas in Young Man with a Horn. Bacall could surely kick any reality star fame-monger to the curb with a single glance. Betty Bacall, we’ll never forget you.