Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Lauren Bacall - RIP

Off the heels of one Hollywood death comes another: Lauren Bacall has died. She was 89 years old.

Starting off as a fashion model, she made an auspicious debut in Tinseltown, starring in the lead female role opposite Humphrey Bogart in Howard Hawks' To Have and Have Not. Her glamour looks, husky voice, and delivery of the classic line, "You know how to whistle?", made her a star overnight and caught the full attention of Bogart, who would eventually marry her.

Her career was nearly sunk completely with her second feature, Confidential Agent. Though greatly hurt by its reception, Bacall rebounded with three film noir classics back to back: The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, and Key Largo. Again partnered with Bogart, the films made great use of the white hot chemistry between the two, particularly The Big Sleep, where the two spar in a humorous yet still racy conversation about "horses".

Other popular endeavors include How to Marry a Millionaire, where she played a witty gold-digger, and Written on the Wind, the frothy soap opera authored by Douglas Sirk. When Bogart succumbed to cancer in 1957, Bacall slowly walked away from the Hollywood spotlight.

She would then spend most of her energy on the Broadway stage, including Cactus Flower and Applause, the latter being a musical version of All About Eve and would earn her a Tony. She popped up in films every now and then, such as being one of the many suspects in Murder on the Orient Express and a pastiche of herself in the horror "cult classic" The Fan.

Her last time in the bright lights came in 1996, when Barbra Streisand cast her as the dominating but loving mother of the heroine in the rom-com The Mirror Has Two Faces. She was expected by many to finally earn an Oscar for her acting talents, only to be beaten by Juliette Binoche. She would be given a Honorary Oscar in 2009.

In recent years, Bacall has appeared in several challenging art indies, such as the works of Lars Von Trier (Dogville, Manderlay) and Jonathan Glazer (Birth). She also gravitated towards voice-work, the most notable being the beleaguered witch in Howl's Moving Castle and this year's Ernest & Celestine, which is her last credited role.

Bacall was an amazingly versatile woman: Able to stand toe to toe with rough men, project intelligence in all of her characters, and belt out a chord. She was one of the strongest females to ever grace the screen and stage.

She will be missed.

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