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Hollywood's sultry goddess of cool lived life as a legend

Lauren Bacall, who died yesterday aged 89, was a movie star from almost her first moment on the silver screen.

A fashion model and bit-part New York actress before moving to Hollywood at 19, Bacall achieved immediate fame in 1944 with one scene in her first film, To Have And Have Not.

Leaving Humphrey Bogart's hotel room, Bacall murmured: "You don't have to say anything, and you don't have to do anything. Not a thing. Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow."

With that cool, sultry come-on, not only was a star born, but the beginning of a legend, her title burnished over the years with pivotal roles, signature New York wit, and a marriage to Bogart that accounted for one of the most famous Hollywood couples of all time.

The Academy-Award nominated actress received two Tonys, an honourary Oscar and scores of film and TV roles.

But, to her occasional frustration, she was remembered for her years with Bogart and treated more as a star by the film industry than as an actress.

Iconic

Bacall would outlive her husband by more than 50 years, but never outlive their iconic status.

They were "Bogie and Bacall" - the hard-boiled couple who could fight and make up with the best of them. Unlike Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, Bogart and Bacall were not a story of opposites attracting but of kindred, smouldering spirits.

They starred in movies like Key Largo and Dark Passage together, threw all-night parties, palled around with Frank Sinatra and others and formed a gang of California carousers known as the Holmby Hills Rat Pack.

She appeared in movies for more than half a century, but none brought her the attention of her early pictures.

She did not receive an Oscar nomination until 1996 - as supporting actress for her role as Barbara Streisand's mother in The Mirror Has Two Faces.

She finally got an honourary statuette in November 2009.

Bacall was born Betty Joan Perske in the Bronx on September 16,1924 and was raised by her Romanian immigrant mother after her parents split when she was a child.

As a young woman, Diana Vreeland, editor of Harper's Bazaar, thought she was ideal for modelling and Bacall appeared regularly in the magazine. The wife of film director Howard Hawks saw her on a cover and recommended her as film material and she went to Hollywood under a contract.

Hawks was then preparing a movie starring Bogart based on the Ernest Hemingway novel To Have And Have Not, and he cast Bacall.

She wrote of meeting Bogart: "There was no thunderbolt, no clap of thunder, just a simple how-do-you-do."

Romance

Work led to romance. The 23-year age difference (he called her Baby) failed to deter them, but they faced a serious obstacle - Bogart was still married to Mayo Methot. She was persuaded to divorce him, and the lovers were married on May 21 1945.

"When I married Bogie," she remarked in 1994, "I agreed to put my career second because he wouldn't marry me otherwise. He'd had three failed marriages to actresses and he was not about to have another."

But the party began to wind down in March 1956, when Bogart was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus.

On the night of January 14, 1957, Bogart grabbed his wife's arm and muttered: "Goodbye, kid." He died in the early morning at 57.

After a period of mourning, Bacall became romantically involved with Sinatra, but when an "engagement" was mistakenly leaked, the singer blamed her and terminated the romance.

Bacall left Hollywood in October 1958. She made a film in England and did a play that was significant because she would meet her second husband during her time on Broadway: Jason Robards.

He was similar to Bogart in that he was an accomplished actor, hard drinker - and married. After Robards was divorced from his second wife, he and Bacall married in 1961 but Robards' drinking and extramarital affairs resulted in divorce in 1969.

hnews@herald.ie


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