Remembering Lauren Bacall

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Hollywood seems less bright today, with the passing of one of its guiding stars. Lauren Bacall was one of the most recognizable actresses of the 1940s, the very definition of the noir leading lady. Her real-life romance with on-screen partner Humphrey Bogart created one of the first Hollywood power-couples, a match that would set the press ablaze and add real romance to the crime genre.

Bacall began her film career in Ernest Hemingway's To Have and Have Not, starring alongside Bogart. Though the plot has echoes of Casablanca, Bacall's debut in To Have and Have Not is remarkable for the incredible on-screen chemistry between Bacall and her future husband. The usually stoic Bogart is genuinely animated in their shared scenes, which Bacall sells with her signature coy look and sultry voice. While volumes have been written about the power of that signature gaze, Bacall's range extended far beyond a "look." Her lines are smoky, confident -- low but never languid. In The Big Sleep, Bacall is just as cool and quippy as Bogart, offering a performance fine enough to make the audience look past a famously convoluted plot.

Bacall expanded her repertoire in the 1950s through the 1980s, acting in several more films and Broadway productions. She twice won the Best Actress in a Musical Tony award for her work on Applause (1970) and Woman of the Year(1981). She would later pen a series of frank autobiographies, which are as vivid and entertaining as many of her on-screen characters. We are less for the loss of Lauren Bacall, a woman of many talents who became a cultural icon and the template for noir heroines the world over, but we are enlivened by the rich legacy she left behind.