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FILE - This March 7, 2010 file photo shows actress Lauren Bacall backstage during the 82nd Academy Awards in Los Angeles.

Vince Bucci, Associated Press - Ap

Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in the 1944 movie classic “To Have and Have Not,” based on an Ernest Hemingway novel.

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Film star Lauren Bacall dies at 89

  • Article by: Adam Bernstein
  • Washington Post
  • August 13, 2014 - 9:39 AM

Lauren Bacall, a bewitching actress whose husky voice and smoldering on-screen chemistry with her husband, Humphrey Bogart, made her a defining movie star of the 1940s and who decades later won Tony Awards in the Broadway musicals “Applause” and “Woman of the Year,” died at 89.

Robbert de Klerk, comanaging partner of the Humphrey Bogart Estate, confirmed the death.

Bacall was one of the last surviving major stars of the studio system, which flourished from the silent movie era to the dawn of the television age. She was a willowy, ash-blond fashion model when veteran film director Howard Hawks plucked her from the pages of Harper’s Bazaar in 1943 and molded her seductive screen persona.

Hawks gave Bacall, then 19, an electrifying film debut: as a sexy and insolent woman of mystery in “To Have and Have Not” (1944), based on an Ernest Hemingway story set in the Caribbean during World War II. The movie shaped her public identity: a woman as sexually confident as she was formidable, or in Bogart’s words, “steel with curves.”

In the film’s best-remembered scene, Bacall sidles up to Bogart, who plays a hard-boiled charter boat captain named Steve. As she prepares to leave his hotel room, she tells him, “You don’t have to do anything. Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.”

Bogart, more than twice her age, wore an expression of someone who could not believe his luck. He divorced his third wife and married Bacall after filming.

Palpable connection

The sexual undercurrent was repeated in “The Big Sleep” (1946), with Bogart as Raymond Chandler’s fictional private detective Philip Marlowe and Bacall as a resourceful divorcee. She went on to act opposite some of the top leading men of her day — Kirk Douglas (“Young Man With a Horn”), Gary Cooper (“Bright Leaf”), John Wayne (“Blood Alley”) and Gregory Peck (“Designing Woman”).

After Bogart died in 1957, Bacall was engaged to Frank Sinatra and had a turbulent marriage to actor Jason Robards Jr. Attracted to liberal politics, Bacall grew close to a series of Democratic leaders, including President Harry Truman, Robert F. Kennedy and Adlai Stevenson II. In 1947, she flew with Bogart to Washington as part of a group of actors and directors protesting the House Un-American Activities Committee and its inquiry into alleged communist subversion in Hollywood.

Later character roles

On-screen, Bacall matured into character parts that culminated in her Oscar nomination in a supporting role as Barbra Streisand’s mother in “The Mirror Has Two Faces” (1996). She received an honorary Academy Award in 1999 that celebrated “her central place in the Golden Age of motion pictures.”

Bacall was born Betty Joan Perske on Sept. 16, 1924, into a middle-class Jewish family in New York City. She was a child when her father left. She grew up with her mother, who took the surname Bacal; Betty later added the extra “L” and paired it with the screen name Lauren at director Hawks’ behest.

She had modest training as an actress, but her stunning looks led to a modeling career and an appearance on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar.

On Broadway, Bacall won her two Tonys as an aging actress in “Applause” (1970), a stage version of the Bette Davis film “All About Eve.” And she filled the Katharine Hepburn part of a high-powered journalist in “Woman of the Year” (1981).

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