NEW YORK — Lauren Bacall, the slinky, sultry-voiced actress who created on-screen magic with Humphrey Bogart in To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep and off-screen magic in one of Hollywood’s most storied marriages, died Tuesday at age 89.
Bacall, whose long career brought two Tonys and a special Oscar, died in New York. The managing partner of the Humphrey Bogart Estate, Robbert J.F. de Klerk, said that Bacall died at home, but declined to give further details. Bacall’s son Stephen Bogart confirmed his mother’s death to de Klerk.
She was among the last of the old-fashioned Hollywood stars and her legend, and the legend of “Bogie and Bacall” — the hard-boiled couple who could fight and make up with the best of them — started almost from the moment she appeared on 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 Bogart’s hotel room, she 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.”
She was less than half Bogart’s age, yet as wise and as jaded as him. Her sly glance, with chin down and eyes raised, added to her fame; she was nicknamed “The Look.” Bogart and Bacall married amid headlines in 1945, and they co-starred in three more films, The Big Sleep (1946), Dark Passage (1947) and Key Largo (1948). Their marriage lasted until his death from cancer in 1957.
She appeared in movies for more than a half-century, but not until 1996 did she receive an Academy Award nomination — as supporting actress for her role as Barbra Streisand’s mother in The Mirror Has Two Faces. Although a sentimental favourite, she lost to Juliette Binoche for her performance in The English Patient.
She finally got a statuette in November 2009 when she was presented with a special Oscar at the movie academy’s new Governors Awards gala.
“The thought when I get home that I’m going to have a two-legged man in my room is so exciting,” she quipped.
Bacall was always a star. With her lanky figure and flowing blonde hair, she was seemingly born for checked suits and silk dresses. On television talk shows, she exhibited a persona that paralleled her screen appearances: She was frank, even blunt, with an undertone of sardonic humour, all of which she demonstrated in her bestselling 1979 autobiography, “By Myself,” which beat out works by William Saroyan among others for the National Book Award. (She published an updated version in 2005, “By Myself and Then Some,” noting that as she ages, “I don’t feel that different. But I sure as hell am.”)
When her movie career faded, she returned to the theatre. She starred in the hit comedy “Cactus Flower” and stepped lively in “Applause,” a musical version of the classic movie “All About Eve” that brought her first Tony in 1970.
She got the second Tony in 1981 for “Woman of the Year,” based on a film that starred her idol, Katharine Hepburn. She enjoyed another triumph in London with “Sweet Bird of Youth” in 1985.
She was ever protective of the Bogart legacy, lashing out at those who tried to profit from his image. In 1997, she appeared at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood for ceremonies launching the U.S. Postal Service’s Humphrey Bogart stamp.
When the American Film Institute compiled its list of screen legends in 1999, Bacall ranked No. 20 on the roster of 25 actresses. Bogart topped the list of actors.