September 16, 1924—August 12, 2014
The look...the voice...Lauren “Betty” Bacall, one of the last remaining bona fide stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood and one half of its most famous film team with the late Humphrey Bogart (December 25, 1899—January 14, 1957), died today of a stroke.
She was just over a month shy of her ninetieth birthday.
Bacall first became a star in 1944 with her silver-screen debut, To Have and Have Not, delivering one of the most famous lines (at 2:53) in film history to the man who was 25 years her senior but who would become the great love of her life, the father of two of her children and whom she would outlive by nearly 50 years:
In a series of indelible classics—The Big Sleep (1946), Key Largo (1948), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), Written on the Wind (1956), Designing Woman (1957)—Bacall became an icon of cool sensuality and sophistication, one with a razor-sharp tongue. She worked steadily but never to excess, preferring to do films and, later, TV and theater, that drew her in. She was only nominated once and never won a competitive Oscar [and indeed was the victim of perhaps the worst-ever case of bait-and-switch when she seemed destined to finally win for The Mirror Has Two Faces in 1996, only to lose unexpectedly to The English Patient's Juliette Binoche (b. March 9, 1964)], but was awarded one for life achievement in 2009 and won two Tonys, for Applause (1970) and Woman of the Year (1981).
Bacall's last work appears to have been a voice on The Family Guy (2014) this year. Her last on-screen appearance was the teen drama The Forger (2012), starring Josh Hutcherson (b. October 12, 1992) and Hayden Panettiere (b. August 21, 1989).
Some of her more interesting later works would include Paul Schrader's (b. July 22, 1946) The Walker (2007) with Woody Harrelson (b. July 23, 1961), and a pair of films with Nicole Kidman (b. June 20, 1967): Dogville (2003) and Birth (2004).
For sheer fun, check out Bacall in Murder on the Orient Express (1974). For unpleasant camp, it's gotta be The Fan (1981).
Bacall was an outspoken personality, not known for suffering fools, gladly or otherwise. She denounced the House Un-American Activities Committee during its Communist witch hunt at great personal risk to her career.
After Bogart's death, she was married to fellow actor Jason Robards (July 26, 1922—December 26, 2000) for several years in the 1960s, and had a son with him, actor Sam Robards (b. December 16, 1961).
My shot of Bacall in 2012
I was lucky enough to have seen Gore Vidal's The Best Man (2012) the same evening as Ms. Bacall, and was ballsy enough to approach her for a photo. I did not in a zillion years expect her to acquiesce, so my interaction with her was not disappointing!
Still out and about, at an event in 2013
...and finally, since I have so many Madonna fans on this site, the passing of Bacall means there are now no living stars name-checked in “Vogue” (released March 20, 1990).
The 16 stars are (listed in order they were mentioned, numbered from first to last to pass away):