Screen Legend Lauren Bacall Dies At 89
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Actress and longtime New York City resident Lauren Bacall has died at the age of 89.
CBS News confirmed Bacall’s death Tuesday night. The estate of her late husband and frequent co-star, Humphrey Bogart, also confirmed her death in a tweet.
With deep sorrow, yet with great gratitude for her amazing life, we confirm the passing of Lauren Bacall. pic.twitter.com/B8ZJnZtKhN
— BogartEstate (@HumphreyBogart) August 12, 2014
As CBS 2’s Alice Gainer reported, Bacall was born Betty Joan Perske in the Bronx in 1924 — the daughter of a Romanian Jewish immigrant mother and a New Jersey-born father who was the son of Polish immigrants. Bacall was first cousin to Israeli statesman Shimon Peres.
PHOTOS: Remembering Lauren Bacall
As a teenager, Bacall became a model and caught the eye of director Howard Hawks. He changed her first name to Lauren; she took her mother’s maiden name of Bacal, adding an L — and her career took off.
WCBS 880 film critic Jeffrey Lyons looked back Tuesday night on Bacall’s unlikely road to celebrity.
“When ‘Tobacco Road’ was being prepared for Broadway, the producer came to Julia Richman High School and he asked a young student there if she could dance the Charleston, two days after the dance was popular. But she said yes,” Lyons said. “Of course, she couldn’t and everybody left, but he said, ‘She’s got a lot of nerve. I’ll give her the part.”
“Tobacco Road” ran briefly in 1942, but two years later, another producer found Bacall selling magazines outside Sardi’s Restaurant in Midtown and suggested Bacall had better things in store, Lyons said.
“Another producer said, ‘You’re too beautiful to be doing this. You should be in the show ‘Come See Me,’ and she got a job. The show closed out of town, but she then starred with Bogie in her screen debut,” Lyons said.
She became an overnight success with that screen debut, Hawks’ romance adventure “To Have and Have Not,” with Bogart in 1944.
In her husky voice, Bacall delivered one of the most famous lines in film history in the movie: “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.”
She also perfected her trademark look – chin down, eyes up to the camera. She said it was a look that came about by accident.
“I would always shake. I really was nervous; I was like this. I had no confidence in myself,” Bacall said in a CBS interview, “and so I found that my head would shake, and I found that the only I could keep it still would be to just hold my head down and then look up.”
Bacall married Bogart in 1945, and made several more films with him — “The Big Sleep,” “Key Largo,” “Dark Passage.” Bacall also starred aside other leading men, including Gregory Peck in “Designing Woman.”
While Bacall and Bogart continued making movies, they also started a family. They had two children, Stephen H. Bogart and Leslie Bogart, CBS News recalled.
But in 1957 Bogart died of cancer. Bacall said she never got over the loss, CBS News recalled.
Bacall was wooed briefly by Frank Sinatra after Bogart died, but it broke off, Lyons said.
“He saw her in a restaurant, sent her over some flowers, and she sent them back with a note: ‘Too little, too late. You don’t mess with Betty Bacall,’” Lyons said.
Bacall later spent eight years married to actor Jason Robards, with whom she had one child, the actor Sam Robards.
Bacall’s film career also went on, including roles in “Sex and the Single Girl” with Henry Fonda and Tony Curtis in 1964, and “Harper” with Paul Newman and Julie Harris two years later.
She also won Tony Awards for her Broadway performances in “Applause” and “Woman of the Year.” She was nominated for an Academy Award for 1996’s “The Mirror has Two Faces,” in which she played the still-glamorous mother of a dowdy professor played by Barbra Streisand, CBS News recalled.
She received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1997 and was voted one of the 25 most significant female movie stars ever by the American Film Institute two years later.
Bacall also made a name for herself standing up for women’s rights.
“At one time, the Oak Room of the Plaza barred women in pants, in 1968. She heard about it,” Lyons said. “The next day, she was there in pants daring them to bar her. They didn’t, and that opened the floodgates.”
Bacall lived for many years at The Dakota at 72nd Street and Central Park West, an iconic building that was also the home of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. In published interviews, Bacall has said she heard the gunshots that took Lennon’s life in front of the building in 1980.
The FDNY reported transporting a woman from The Dakota at around 9:20 a.m. Tuesday, but it was not immediately learned for sure whether it was Bacall.
Bill Karam told 1010 WINS’ Gary Baumgarten reported he knew Bacall as a neighbor. He said they met while walking dogs in Central Park.
“She was always engaging with the dogs. I was irrelevant,” Karam said.
Karam said that he was lucky to have known her as a real person with the Hollywood makeup gone.
While her roles became increasingly rare in recent years, she made an appearance in 2012 drama The Forger, co-starring Josh Hutcherson, Hayden Panettiere and Alfred Molina, CBS Los Angeles recalled.
She is last credited with voicing the character of Evelyn in an episode of Seth MacFarlane’s animated TV comedy “Family Guy,” CBS LA recalled.
Bacall is survived by three adult children.
Bacall’s death comes a day after the suicide of actor and comedian Robin Williams.
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