Skip to main content

Golden Couples: Humphrey Bogart & Lauren Bacall

In 1943, Nancy Hawks spotted a 19-year-old model named Betty Bacall on the cover of the March edition of Harper's Bazaar. Fascinated by her sultry looks and "scrubbed clean, healthy, shining and golden" appearance, Nancy urged her husband, director Howard Hawks, to screen test Betty for the new picture he was working on, To Have and Have Not (1944), loosely based on the Ernest Hemingway 1937 novel of the same name. Hawks, too, was impressed with what he saw  so much so that he immediately brought Betty to Hollywood, where he began managing her career. Thereafter, he changed her name to the sexier-sounding "Lauren" and asked Nancy to advise her on clothing, shoes and general demeanor. Hawks also sent Betty to a voice coach to lower her naturally high-pitched, nasal voice to a deeper, sultrier tone. When both Hawkses were satisfied with their new protégée, Howard took Lauren to the set of To Have and Have Not and introduced her to the star of the picture, Humphrey Bogart. The meeting was pleasant enough, but contrary to popular belief nothing particularly steamy happened. "The first three, four weeks that we were working on the film, were were just working on the film, just having a good time," Lauren later recalled. "But certainly there was no romance of any kind. That just accidentally just kind of happened, much to my amazement and, I suppose, his as well."

Bogie and Bacall in To Have and Have Not
In To Have and Have Not, loosely based on the Ernest Hemingway 1937 novel of the same name, Bogart played Harry "Steve" Morgan, a fisherman and American expatriate living in the French colony of Martinique during the summer of 1940. One night at the hotel bar, he meets an attractive young American wanderer named Marie "Slim" Browning and quickly becomes smitten with her and she with him. They begin a whirlwind courtship, but their romance is complicated when Steve gets deeply involved with the French Resistance.

The affair between Bogart and Bacall began before anyone noticed, including the two of them. She would often write to her mother about him how he would tell jokes to put her at ease during filming  and how "very fond" he was of her. Fond was all he was until about three weeks into production. At the end of shooting one day, he went by her dressing room, leaned over, put his hand under her chin and kissed her. Then he took a book of matches out of his pocket and asked her to write her phone number on the back. And she did. After that, Bogie and Bacall began to see each other and grew closer and closer each day. They tried to be as discreet as they possibly could, but their electrifying body language and the way they delivered their dialogue immediately gave them away. Lauren was a safe haven for Bogie, who was terribly unhappy in his marriage to the actress Mayo Methot, whose unbalanced and violent nature would often put him in difficult situations. In contrast, Bacall, whom he called "Baby", was loving and caring, always ready to go to him whenever he called.

In The Big Sleep
I wanted to give Bogie so much that he hadn't had, all the love that had been stored inside of me, all my life for in invisible father, for a man. I could finally think of allowing it to pour over this man and fill his life with laughter, warmth, joy things he hadn't had for such a long time, if ever.
(Lauren Bacall)

After To Have and Have Not opened to great critical and financial success, Warner Bros. quickly capitalized on Bogart's pairing with Bacall by teaming them up again for the noir The Big Sleep (1946), which also reunited them with director Howard Hawks. Based on Raymond Chandler's 1939 novel of the same name, The Big Sleep stars Bogart as Philip Marlowe, a Los Angeles private detective investigating the involvement of a society girl, Vivian Rutledge (Bacall), in the murder of a pornographer. Shorty before filming began, Bogart put an end to the affair in hopes to salvage his marriage, or at least get Mayo to stop drinking, but the separation lasted only one month. Bogie and Bacall were too far gone on each other to stay apart. They were truly in love and the fact he was married, and even the variance in age (he was 25 years her senior), made absolutely no difference.

Bogie and Bacall on their wedding day
The end of filming on The Big Sleep coincided with the conclusion of Bogart's marriage to Mayo Methot. On May 21, 1945, eleven days after the divorce was granted, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall got married in the great hallway of the Malabar Farm in Lucas, Ohio, the country home of author and Bogie's close friend Louis Bromfield. Several days later, the Bogarts returned to California and settled in a furnished house in Beverly Hills.

Original planned for a 1945 release, the premiere of The Big Sleep was pushed back to capitalize on the "Bogie and Bacall" phenomenon, which had grown after their marriage. Also, Bacall's agent had asked that several portions of the film be reshot to enhance their chemistry and counteract the negative press she had received for her performance in Confidential Agent (1945). Upon its August 1946 release, The Big Sleep was a smash hit among audiences and critics alike, although some found its plot somewhat confusing and difficult to follow. But that did matter, because they felt that the electrifiying chemistry between Bogie and Bacall was more important than a well-told story.

Publicity still for Dark Passage
Bogart and Bacall's next pairing was Delmer Daves' suspenseful noir Dark Passage (1947). Bogie plays Vincent Parry, a innocent man framed for murdering his wife, who escapes prison to find the real killer. Along the way, Parry meets painter Irene Jansen (Bacall), who believes in his innocence and offers to help him. Despite its use of innovative cinematography and filming techniques, Dark Passage was released to disappointing reviews and box-office results.

The following year, the couple was cast in yet another film noir, Key Largo, their last picture together. In this John Huston production, Bogart plays ex-Major Frank McCloud, who travels to a hotel in Key Largo, Florida, to visit the family of a friend from the Army killed during the war. There, he meets his friend's widow, Nora Temple (Bacall), who runs the hotel with her father-in-law. When a hurricane hits the island, the hotel gets taken over by a mob of gangsters led by Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson) and confrontations soon ensure. Key Largo was another hit for Bogie and Bacall and went on to become one of the most iconic and celebrated gangster films of all time.

As Nora and Frank in Key Largo

In between films, Bogart and Bacall savored their marriage in the best of ways, with extensive travels through Europe and sailing trips in their 54-foot yacht, Santana

He'd never had kind of a real marriage life, and the first few years we had the most wonderful time. It was a real three-year honeymoon.
(Lauren Bacall)

The Bogart family
However, by the time Key Largo was made, the excitement seemed to have dulled a little. Until the day Lauren told him she was pregnant. Bogart was terrified of becoming a father. After all, he was 49 years old. How would he relate to a newborn at that age? When Stephen Humphrey Bogart (named after his father character in To Have and Have Not) was born in January 1949, all those doubts went away and Bogie wholeheartedly embraced his new role as a father. Three years later, the Bogart family welcomed a new member: a baby girl named Leslie Howard Bogart, in honor of Bogie's friend and mentor, Leslie Howard. 

In the mid-1950s, Bogart develop a racking cough and started to find it painful to swallow, which led a considerable drop in weight. In January 1956, after much insistence from his friends and family, he finally agreed to see a doctor. The diagnosis came several weeks later and crushed everyone: Humphrey Bogart had esophageal cancer. An extensive surgery to remove his entire esophagus, two lymph nodes and a rib followed, but by then it was too late so stop the disease, even with chemoteraphy. With time, Bogie grew too weak to even walk up and down the stairs, but he fought the pain valiantly, with Lauren always at his side, making sure that he was comfortable and always refusing to accept the inevitable.

On January 13, 1957, after a visit from close friends Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, Bogie fell into a coma and died the next day, at age 57. He was buried with a small, gold whistle once part of a charm bracelet he had given to Lauren before their marriage, on which was inscribed an allusion to an iconic line from their first film together. It read: "If you want anything, just whistle".

On August 12, 2014, he finally whistled.

What it felt like to be so wanted, so adored! No one had ever felt like that about me. It was all so dramatic, too. Always in the wee small hours when it seemed to Bogie and me that the world was ours that we were the world. At those times, we were.
(Lauren Bacall)

My tribute to Humphrey Bogart & Lauren Bacall:

Tough Guy With a Gun: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of Humphrey Bogart by Stefan Kanfer (2011) | Bogart: The Untold Story (1996)


Popular posts from this blog

Golden Couples: Gary Cooper & Patricia Neal

It was April 1948 when director King Vidor spotted 22-year-old Patricia Neal on the Warner Bros. studio lot. A drama graduate from Northwestern University, she had just arrived in Hollywood following a Tony Award-winning performance in Lillian Hellman's Another Part of the Forest . Impressed by Patricia's looks, Vidor approached the young actress and asked if she would be interested in doing a screen test for the female lead in his newest film, The Fountainhead (1949). Gary Cooper had already signed as the male protagonist, and the studio was then considering Lauren Bacall and Barbara Stanwyck to play his love interest.          Neal liked the script and about two months later, she met with the director for sound and photographic tests. Vidor was enthusiastic about Patricia, but her first audition was a complete disaster. Cooper was apparently watching her from off the set and he was so unimpressed by her performance that he commented, « What's that!? » He tried to con

Golden Couples: Henry Fonda & Barbara Stanwyck

In the mid- and late 1930s, screwball comedy was in vogue and practically every actress in Hollywood tried her hand at it. Barbara Stanwyck never considered herself a naturally funny person or a comedienne per se , but after delivering a heart-wrenching performance in King Vidor's Stella Dallas (1937), she decided she needed a « vacation » from emotional dramas. In her search for a role, she stumbled upon a « champagne comedy » called The Mad Miss Manton (1938), originally intended as a Katharine Hepburn vehicle. Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda as Melsa and Peter in The Mad Miss Manton .   Directed by Leigh Jason from a script by Philip G. Epstein, The Mad Miss Manton begins when vivacious Park Avenue socialite Melsa Manton finds a corpse while walking her dogs in the early hours of the morning. She calls the police, but they dismiss the incident — not only because Melsa is a notorious prankster, but also because the body disappears in the meantime. Sarcastic newspaper editor

Films I Saw in 2020

For the past four years, I have shared with you a list of all the films I saw throughout 2016 , 2017 , 2018 and 2019 , so I thought I would continue the «tradition» and do it again in 2020. This list includes both classic and «modern» films, which make up a total of 161 titles. About three or four of these were re-watches, but I decided to include them anyway. Let me know how many from these you have seen. As always, films marked with a heart ( ❤ ) are my favorites. Sherlock Jr. (1924) | Starring Buster Keaton, Kathryn McGuire and Joe Keaton The Crowd (1928) | Starring James Murray, Eleanor Boardman and Bert Roach Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) | Starring Henry Fonda, Alice Brady and Marjorie Weaver Brief Encounter (1945) | Starring Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard and Stanley Holloway The Bells of St. Mary's (1945) | Starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman The Girl He Left Behind (1956) | Starring Tab Hunter and Natalie Wood Gidget (1959) | Starring Sandra Dee, Cliff Robertson an

Wings of Change: The Story of the First Ever Best Picture Winner

Wings was the first ever film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Since then, it has become one of the most influential war dramas, noted for its technical realism and spectacular air-combat sequences. This is the story of how it came to be made.   A man and his story The concept for Wings originated from a writer trying to sell one of his stories. In September 1924, Byron Morgan approached Jesse L. Lasky, vice-president of Famous Players-Lasky, a component of Paramount Pictures, proposing that the studio do an aviation film. Morgan suggested an «incident and plot» focused on the failure of the American aerial effort in World War I and the effect that the country's «aviation unpreparedness» would have in upcoming conflicts. Lasky liked the idea, and approved the project under the working title «The Menace.»   LEFT: Byron Morgan (1889-1963). RIGHT: Jesse L. Lasky (1880-1958).   During his development of the scenario with William Shepherd, a former war correspondent, Morga

80 Reasons Why I Love Classic Films (Part II)

I started this blog six years ago as a way to share my passion for classic films and Old Hollywood. I used to watch dozens of classic films every month, and every time I discovered a new star I liked I would go and watch their entire filmography. But somewhere along the way, that passion dimmed down. For instance, I watched 73 classic films in 2016, and only 10 in 2020. The other day, I found this film with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. that I had never heard of — the film is Mimi (1935), by the way — and for some reason it made me really excited about Old Hollywood again. It made me really miss the magic of that era and all the wonderful actors and actresses. And it also made me think of all the reasons why I fell in love with classic films in the first place. I came with 80 reasons, which I thought would be fun to share with you. Most of them are just random little scenes or quirky little quotes, but put them together and they spell Old Hollywood to me. Yesterday I posted part one ; here i

Top 10 Favourite Christmas Films

Christmas has always been a source of inspiration to many artists and writers. Over the years, filmmakers have adapted various Christmas stories into both movies and TV specials, which have become staples during the holiday season all around the world. Even though Christmas is my favourite holiday, I haven't watched a lot of Christmas films. Still, I thought it would be fun to rank my top 10 favourites, based on the ones that I have indeed seen. Here they are.  10. Holiday Affair (1949) Directed by Don Hartman, Holiday Affair tells the story of a young widow (Janet Leigh) torn between a boring attorney (Wendell Corey) and a romantic drifter (Robert Mitchum). She's engaged to marry the boring attorney, but her son (Gordon Gebert) likes the romantic drifter better. Who will she choose? Well, we all know who she will choose.   Holiday Affair is not by any means the greatest Christmas film of all time, but it's still a very enjoyable Yule-tide comedy to watch over the holi

The Gotta Dance! Blogathon: Gene Kelly & Judy Garland

In 1940, up-and-coming Broadway star Gene Kelly was offered the lead role in Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's new musical Pal Joey , based on the eponymous novel by John O'Hara about an ambitious and manipulative small-time nightclub performer. Opening at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Christmas Day of that year, the show brought Gene his best reviews up to that date. For instance, John Martin of The New York Times wrote of him: «A tap-dancer who can characterize his routines and turn them into an integral element of an imaginative theatrical whole would seem to be pretty close, indeed, to unique .»   One of Gene's performances in Pal Joey was attended by established Hollywood star Judy Garland , who requested to meet him after the show. Gene agreed and then accompanied Judy and her entourage, which included her mother Ethel and several press agents, to dinner at the newly-opened Copacabana nightclub, at 10 East 60th Street. They sang and danced until 3 a.m., after whi

Films I Saw in July & August

In the past five years, I shared a year-end list of the films I saw throughout 2016 , 2017 , 2018 , 2019 and 2020 . For 2021, I decided to do this monthly and share a list of the films I saw during each month of the year. These are the films I saw in July and August, which make up a total of 18 titles. As always, films marked with a heart ( ❤ ) are my favourites.   Resistance (2011) | Starring Andrea Riseborough, Tom Wlaschiha and Michael Sheen Siberian Education [Educazione siberiana] (2013) | Starring Arnas Fedaravi čius The Last of Robin Hood (2013) | Starring Kevin Kline and Dakota Fanning The Water Diviner (2014) | Starring Russell Crowe, Olga Kurylenko and Yılmaz Erdoğan Holding the Man (2015) | Starring Ryan Corr, Craig Stott and Anthony LaPaglia The Last King [Birkebeinerne] (2016) | Starring Jakob Oftebro and Kristofer Hivju The Pass (2016) | Starring Russell Tovey and Arinzé Kene Access All Areas (2017) | Starring Ella Purnell, Edward Bluemel and Georgie Henle

The Sinatra Centennial Blogathon: Frank Sinatra & Gene Kelly

  In January 1944, MGM chief Louis B. Mayer happened to see a young crooner by the name of Frank Sinatra perform at a benefit concert for The Jewish Home for the Aged in Los Angeles. According to Nancy Sinatra, Frank's eldest daughter, Mayer was so moved by her father's soulful rendition of « Ol' Man River » that he made the decision right then and there to sign Frank to his studio. Sinatra had been on the MGM payroll once before, singing with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra in the Eleanor Powell vehicle Ship Ahoy (1942), although it is very likely that Mayer never bothered to see that film. Now that Frank was «hot,» however, Metro made arrangements to buy half of his contract from RKO, with the final deal being signed in February of that year. Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra in  Anchors Aweigh Being a contract player at the studio that boasted «more stars than there are in the heavens» gave Frank a sudden perspective regarding his own talents as a film performer. The «g

Films I Saw in May & June

In the past five years, I shared a year-end list of the films I saw throughout 2016 , 2017 , 2018 , 2019 and 2020 . For 2021, I decided to do this monthly and share a list of the films I saw during each month of the year. These are the films I saw in May and June, which make up a total of 16 titles. As always, films marked with a heart ( ❤ ) are my favourites.   Pelle the Conqueror [Pelle Erobreren] (1987) | Starring Pelle Hvenegaard The Elementary School [ Obecná škola] (1991) | Starring Václav Jakoubek Female Agents [Les Femmes de l'ombre] (2008) | Starring Sophie Marceau Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe [Vor der Morgenröte] (2016) | Starring Josef Hader ❤ Cold War [Zimna wojna] (2018) | Starring Tomasz Kot, Joanna Kulig and Borys Szyc Dreamland (2019) | Starring Finn Cole, Margot Robbie, Travis Fimmel and Garrett Hedlund Mr Jones (2019) | Starring James Norton, Vanessa Kirby and Peter Sarsgaard Official Secrets (2019) | Starring Keira Knightley, Matt Smith an