Tuesday, August 12, 2014


This was known as "The Look" back in the day, chin down looking up into the lens, her trademark.
In a long autobiographical poem I wrote forty years ago called "My Life" I announced I was a "nut about Lauren Bacall."  That was before I met her a decade later. And what I meant was when I was a kid her black and white movies with Bogart made me fall in love with her.

She had a hard time living that down. Being Bogie's young wife, having been "discovered" from her photo on the cover of a fashion mag and brought to Hollywood and thrown into her first movie in a starring role opposite the Hollywood legend Humphrey Bogart.

Having held her own and not only that but making an impact that brought her instant fame and recognition, then seemingly never "topping" that in the eyes of some critics and some of the public. But that early impression had a lasting impact and despite the often lackluster "career" that followed her early success, she too became a lasting Hollywood legend, even though she didn't like the term.

I met her in the 1980s at a social event. After being introduced to her I tried having a conversation but she seemed unhappy to be there or to be talking to me or to be famous and put upon or maybe just being older. Or maybe she was just unhappy with my lame attempts to flirt with her and let her know I had a lifelong crush on her. Afterward I figured she may have been tired or just tired of the attention or the kind of attention I was giving her.

In the 1990s I was at a party at Penny Marshall's house to celebrate hers and Carrie Fisher's birthdays and it seemed like every guest there was at the pinnacle of Hollywood fame and legendary status, from Clint Eastwood and Barbra Streisand to Steven Spielberg and Louis Malle. I'd been to some star packed parties but this was like the biggest stars at every Hollywood party all in one place together.

I was pretty much sitting by myself most of the time with the stars hardly noticing me, and if they did their eyes quickly moved on, when a woman I didn't recognize came up and asked who I was and what I did. I said I was a poet who also acted in some movies and on TV. Then she asked what I was doing at this party with all these big stars. I told her I was a friend and guest of Carrie Fisher's and said I could ask her the same question, what was she doing among all these stars, and she said, "I'm Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall's daughter, Leslie."

We talked for quite a while, and I ran into her again here and there and we always were glad to see each other. She was a really nice, smart woman who could sometimes be wittily caustic, which I figured she got from her parents, but also seemed wise beyond her years and certainly unimpressed with fame and Hollywood games. She always seemed comfortable in her skin and with who she was. Most people in the situations where I'd run into her had no idea who her parents were, which seemed fine with her.

My heart goes out to her tonight, and to her siblings for the loss of their mother, a woman who had such an impact as a teenager and ever after, that there are multiple generations of fans for whom, like me, she was their first movie star crush. The inimitable Lauren "Betty" Bacall.

[Here's the New York Times pretty thorough obit.]


-K- said...

I'm afraid I'm one of those people who appreciate her early work.

The more I see of "Key Largo" the more I admire how much complexity they were able to squeeze into a simple 'crooks on the lam' story.

Veterans having trouble re-adjusting to society, mis-treatment of Native Americans, alcoholism, man vs. nature (hurricane), brave men who are scared, crooks betraying other crooks, all in the space of a day and with just a few different sets.


Lally said...

Nice take on KEY LARGO, and yeah, that and TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT and THE BIG SLEEP are the Bacall trinity that lasts for me (though if you're looking for fun, HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE is what Louis Armstrong and Hubert "Cubby" Selby used to call "a gasser").

Lally said...
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tpw said...

I remember your insisting that I go see "To Have & Have Not" with you at the Biograph in DC in the early '70s, part of your attempt to educate me in the art & history of Hollywood's Golden Age. And, of course, I was blown away.

Lally said...

Ah, The Biograph, those were the days...