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Culture

Hollywood legend Lauren Bacall dies at 89

© AFP

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-08-13

Lauren Bacall, the sultry actress with the husky voice and heavy-lidded eyes who captured Humphrey Bogart’s heart both on and off the movie screen, died on Tuesday at the age of 89.

“With deep sorrow, yet with great gratitude for her amazing life, we confirm the passing of Lauren Bacall,” the estate of the Bogart family said on a verified Twitter account. Bacall was married to Bogart from 1945 until his death in 1957. They had two children.

US media reports said Bacall died after suffering a stroke at her home in New York on Tuesday morning.

The public knew her as Lauren, the screen name hung on her by director Howard Hawks, while friends used her given name, Betty. Bogart simply called her “Baby” in a love story that ended prematurely with his death from throat cancer.

Born Betty Joan Perske in 1924 – "a nice Jewish girl from the Bronx," as she later put it – Bacall was the only child of immigrant parents. After her parents’ divorce, she adopted a variation of her mother’s maiden name, Bacal.

Bacall had set out to be a Broadway star. She played small roles on stage and modelled for Harper’s Bazaar magazine, which published a photograph of her that was spotted by Hawks’ wife.

Bacall was only 19 when Hawks cast her in her first movie, 1944’s “To Have and Have Not,” as an American girl who shows up at a seedy hotel in Martinique. She won a place in Hollywood history with her sexy query to Bogart, “You know how to whistle, don’t you? You just put your lips together – and blow.” Bacall and Bogart were married the next year after he ended his turbulent third marriage to actress Mayo Methot. Bacall and Bogart went on to star together in “The Big Sleep” (1946), “Dark Passage” (1947) and “Key Largo” (1948).

When Bogart died, Bacall placed a whistle in his coffin.

‘Rollercoaster’ life

Much of Bacall’s allure came from what was known as “The Look,” a sexy but soft glance. She explained it by saying: “I used to tremble from nerves so badly that the only way I could hold my head steady was to lower my chin practically to my chest and look up at Bogie. That was the beginning of ‘The Look’.” After Bogart’s death at age 57, Bacall had a well-publicised affair with Frank Sinatra and a stormy eight-year marriage to actor Jason Robards that produced a son, Sam, who would become an actor.

Beginning in the Golden Age of Hollywood, Bacall appeared in more than 30 movies, including “Young Man With a Horn” (1950), “How to Marry a Millionaire” (1953) and “Murder on the Orient Express” (1974).

After her film career cooled, Bacall returned to the stage. She won best actress Tony Awards for “Applause” in 1970 and “Woman of the Year” in 1981. Over the years she had transformed her persona from a willowy temptress with a come-hither look to a shrewd and worldly woman.

Her career revived in fits and starts through the 1980s and 1990s, culminating in her first Oscar nomination for her supporting role as Barbra Streisand’s domineering mother in “The Mirror Has Two Faces”. Bacall won the Golden Globe and several other honours for the role but the Oscar continued to elude her.

Of her career and life, Bacall once said, “I travelled by roller coaster, a roller coaster on which the highs were as high as anyone could ever hope to go. And the lows! Oh, those lows were lower than anyone should ever have to go – 10 degrees below hell.”

She published two volumes of memoirs, “Lauren Bacall by Myself” in 1979 and “By Myself and Then Some” in 1996. In 2009, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded her an honorary Oscar “in recognition of her central place in the Golden Age of motion pictures.”

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-08-13

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