“I think your whole life shows on your face and you should be proud of that.” –Lauren Bacall
While Lauren Bacall may have been on my list of eventual revolutionary women to cover, she has been bumped to the top due to her recent death. Her film legacy is stunning, but what her legacy means to me as a modern woman is even more extraordinary.
I hate to include a paragraph that in any way defines Bacall by her husband, but I really love Humphrey Bogart so am going to anyway. He is one of my celebrity crushes (most of my celebrity crushes are on dead men) and I just love when he smiles. The Bacall and Bogie relationship was one of commitment and love. Thinking about them just makes me grin. But that is all I’ll say about that. Bacall was not defined by Bogie, even if their marriage was beautiful.
Bacall entered the film industry as a fierce contender. Her talent and presence on the screen represented a brand of acting and female representation you rarely if ever see anymore. While there were incredibly awful circumstances for women 60-70 years ago, the Golden Era of film did include great portrayals of women. Admittedly, there were also some not-so-great portrayals of women, but just look at this famous scene from To Have and Have Not:
Lauren Bacall could very well be my patronus. In the above clip her character is obviously very interested in Bogart’s character (who wouldn’t be?) and instead of waiting around dropping hints, she just goes for it! In theory, I am all about doing this but in practice I don’t even know where to begin. My default when attempting to flirt with guys is appearing completely aloof, which of course results in absolutely nothing.
I don’t want to pontificate on the overdone and inaccurate idea that women are only about finding romance. Romance is lovely, but there are so many more things in which women have interest. Nonetheless, in a world that assumes a woman making the first move is a bad idea (especially back then!) this scene just makes me shout in support and gives me a desire to just go for it. Not only in dating, but in everything! Waiting around never got anyone anything!
Born Betty Perske, she developed a love of theatre and eventually made her way into the movies. To Have and Have Not (1944) was her first film and where she met her eventual husband Humphrey Bogart. She is known for her uniquely husky voice, as well as her “look.” The “look” entails looking down with her face, but up with her eyes in a way that looks both mysterious and sexy. Reportedly, this “look” is the result of her being so nervous when she was shooting To Have and Have Not she had to keep her chin on her chest to keep her head from shaking.
Besides her early success in film, she was an accomplished thespian, taking a several year break from film to focus on theatre in the 1960’s. She also won a Tony Award for her role in Applause, a stage adaptation of the film All About Eve.
In the film The Holiday starring Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jack Black, and Jude Law, Kate Winslet’s character is going through a tough time involving a horrible guy. While on holiday, her Oscar-winning screenplay writer neighbor (played by Eli Wallach) advises her to watch a bunch of old movies starring all these incredible women who had gumption and guts. To me Lauren Bacall epitomizes what Winslet’s character learns. She has gumption, both on screen and off, and is about as outspoken as one can be.
Bacall stands out in the history of film because she was a woman of her own in a time when an outspoken, independent woman was largely a societal no-no. Her films showed a woman in charge of her life, taking the lead and speaking her mind. Her life showed a woman who understood choice and sacrifice and love. While it is true her name will always be tied to Bogart’s, she had her own life, created her own legacy, and was a not-so-typical force in the world of film.