Betty Joan Perske (born September 16th, 1924), better known as Lauren Bacall, is a Golden Globe– and Tony Award–winning, as well as Academy Award–nominated, American film and stage actress and model. Known for her husky voice and sultry looks, she became a fashion icon in the 1940s and has continued acting to the present day.
She is perhaps best known for being a film noir leading lady in films such as The Big Sleep (1946) and Dark Passage (1947), as well as a comedienne, as seen in 1953's How to Marry a Millionaire. Bacall also enjoyed success starring in the Broadway musicals Applause in 1970 and Woman of the Year in 1981.
Bacall was born Betty Joan Perske in New York City, the only child of Natalie (née Bacall or Weinstein), a secretary, and William Perske, who worked in sales. Her parents divorced when she was six. Bacall no longer saw her father and formed a bond with her mother, whom she took with her to California when she became a movie star.
Bacall studied acting for thirteen years, taking lessons at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. During this time, she became a theatre usher and worked as a fashion model. As Betty Bacall, she made her acting debut on Broadway in 1942, in Johnny 2 X 4.
Bacall became a part-time fashion model. Howard Hawks's wife Slim spotted her on the cover of Harper's Bazaar and showed the photo to her husband, who invited Bacall to Hollywood for a screen test.
Hawks gave her the first name Lauren. After several screen tests, he cast her in To Have and Have Not (1944). She was nervous, so she pressed her chin against her chest and tilted her eyes upward to face the camera. This effect became known as 'The Look', Bacall's trademark. To Have and Have Not made Bacall a star. Her turn in the film has later been acknowledged as one of the most powerful on-screen debuts in film history.
On the set, Bacall met Humphrey Bogart. Bogart, who was married to Mayo Methot, initiated a relationship with Bacall some weeks into shooting and they began to see each other off set.
On May 21, 1945, Bacall married Humphrey Bogart. Their wedding and honeymoon took place at Malabar Farm, Lucas, Ohio. It was the country home of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Louis Bromfield, a close friend of Bogart. The wedding was held in the Big House. Bacall was 20 and Bogart was 45. They remained married until Bogart's death from cancer in 1957.
In the 1960s, Bacall's movie career waned, and she was only seen in a handful of films. But on Broadway she starred in Goodbye, Charlie (1959), Cactus Flower (1965), Applause (1970) and Woman of the Year (1981). She won Tony Awards for her performances in the latter two.
For her work in the Chicago theatre, she won the Sarah Siddons Award in 1972 and again in 1984. In 1976, Bacall co-starred with John Wayne in his last picture, The Shootist. The two became friends, even though Wayne was politically conservative and Bacall was a liberal. They had previously been cast together in 1955's Blood Alley.
In 1997, Bacall was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her role in The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996), for which she had already won a Golden Globe. She was widely expected to win the award, which went to Juliette Binoche for The English Patient.
She received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1997. In 1999, she was voted one of the 25 most significant female movie stars in history by the American Film Institute. Since then, her movie career has seen a new renaissance and she has attracted respectful notices for her performances in high-profile projects such as Dogville (2003) with Nicole Kidman, The Limit (2003) with Claire Forlani, and
Birth (2004), again with Kidman.
In September 2006, Bacall was awarded the first Katharine Hepburn Medal, which recognizes "women whose lives, work and contributions embody the intelligence, drive and independence of the four-time-Oscar-winning actress", by Bryn Mawr College's Katharine Houghton Hepburn Center. She gave an address at the memorial service of Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr at the Reform Club in London in June 2007.
Bacall is the spokesperson for the Tuesday Morning discount chain. Commercials show her in a limousine waiting for the store to open at the beginning of one of their sales events. She is one of the leading actors in Paul Schrader's 2007 movie The Walker.
Bacall was married to actor Jason Robards from 1961 to 1969. According to Bacall's autobiography, she divorced Robards mainly because of his alcoholism. Bacall had two children with Bogart and one child with Robards. Her children with Bogart are Stephen Bogart, a news producer, documentary film maker and author, and daughter Leslie Bogart, a leading yoga instructor. Sam Robards, her son with Robards, is an actor.
Bacall has written two autobiographies, Lauren Bacall By Myself (1978) and Now (1994). In 2005, she updated and renamed them by the title By Myself and Then Some.