R.I.P. Lauren Bacall

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When I first was exposed to Lauren Bacall, I was watching a program on TV counting down the best movie quotes of all time. One of the quotes I saw came from a movie called To Have and Have Not. I recognized the scene as something I saw a parody of in The Far Side, but now I understood the context. In the clip, a gorgeous woman in a pinstripe robe is about to leave a room, and tells the man in the room to whistle for her. She pauses in the doorway and says the immortal line: “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and…blow.”

That line and that role was what helped push Lauren Bacall into the public conscious. She gained the role in that film when she was only nineteen after director Howard Hawks’ wife saw Bacall on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar. Her chemistry with actor Humphrey Bogart was what helped give her a larger role in the film, and the two would marry sometime after production wrapped. The two would remain together until Bogart’s death in 1957.

Bacall’s career spanned decades, including roles in films like The Big Sleep, Key Largo, Murder on the Orient Express, and more. Most of these roles played up Bacall’s unique appearance, with her crooked eyebrows, piercing eyes, and low voice. Her voice is part of the name of a voice disorder known as Bogart-Bacall syndrome, in which horseness develops when people speak or sing outside their normal vocal range.

Bacall will be remembered for her work on film, television, and stage. She had a unique look and carried herself in a way that will be remembered when one looks back on classic Hollywood cinema. With a career of over seventy years, it will be hard to forget how to whistle. All one has to do is think of the fabulous Lauren Bacall, and it will come back to them.

This tribute was originally featured in Quail Bell Magazine.

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