My grandmother and I used to stay up late and watch old movies on cable when I was a teenager. We especially loved Humphrey Bogart movies, and that was how I was first introduced to Lauren Bacall. I think I fell in love with her as quickly as Bogey did! And now, for the past almost-thirty years, I have watched those old movies over and over, each time feeling my grandmother’s presence and remembering how she always knew little tidbits about each actor, and could recognize them all. (Yet somehow, she never remembered the end of any movie, except, maybe, Casablanca!)
So I was sad to glance down at my Facebook page late last night and learn that Lauren Bacall, one of the last icons of Hollywood’s Golden Age, had passed away. It was a bittersweet feeling; I’m sad she’s gone, but happy that she lived such a long, full life. I loved her. I loved her not only for her immense talent as an actress, but also for her exquisite beauty, her famously arched eyebrows and her sultry, smoldering eyes. And that slight, enigmatic smile! I bet even the Mona Lisa envied her smile!
I loved the roles she played, too. My favorite was Mrs. Vivian Rutledge, widowed daughter of Colonel Sternwood, who wooed the ever hard-boiled Detective Phillip Marlowe into falling helplessly in love with her. Anyone else see “The Big Sleep”? It’s my favorite Bogart Movie! A fast-moving movie with some of the best lines in cinematic history. Those were the days! When even strong, fiercely independent women needed to be rescued by even stronger, more independent men. And the men always came to the rescue, no matter the personal cost. They were heroes, icons. I know every age has its problems, but oh! how I’d love to go back to that Golden Era!
Bacall’s hero was also my hero: Humphrey Bogart. From the side, he looked like my grandfather (the most wonderful man who ever lived, in case any of you were in any doubt about that!) I still think Bogey and Bacall were one of the sexiest, most perfect couples of all time, and considering that they were a Hollywood Couple, it’s even more wonderful to me that their love was so apparent and strong off-screen.
So, it is with deep respect that I write to say RIP, Betty Bacall! You taught me that women could be graceful, elegant and soft, while remaining fiercely independent and sexy. And, in “To Have and Have Not”, you taught us all how to whistle “. . . just put your lips together, and . . . blow.” You were the whole package: you could act and sing, and you never lost your nerve or your dignity. I pray that you are back in Bogey’s arms, sailing away on The Santana into Eternity.