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Jewesses with Attitude

Falling in Love with Lauren Bacall

My friends know that I love the Golden Age of Hollywood, black and white films filled with cigarette smoke and intrigue. My love of these films was inherited from my parents; when they were in college, they spent many an evening at their university’s film society watching Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and many others on the auditorium screen.

One of the first films they showed my brothers and me was To Have and Have Not, starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. From her first line, “Anybody got a match?” and her first sultry glance, I found myself drawn to Bacall’s easy confidence and deep voice. While other teenagers were obsessed with contemporary movie stars, I found myself wanting to know absolutely everything about this cool, collected woman on the black and white screen.

Lauren Bacall was one of the first female actors who showed audiences that female confidence was incredibly attractive. Her characters didn’t need to be saved by the leading man, they could take care of themselves just fine, thanks. There’s a scene in To Have and Have Not, when the police are interrogating her and Bogart, and one of the officers slaps Bacall across the face. She hardly blinks an eye at the attack, doesn’t falter or faint, and doesn’t need someone else to defend her.

From To Have and Have Not at age nineteen up until her death at eighty-nine, Lauren Bacall simply never stopped. Not only did she appear in over seventy movies, live and animated, dramatic and comedic, she also performed on Broadway and wrote award-winning memoirs about her incredibly rich life. Her book By Myself showed the world that Bacall could survive on her own, even after the death of her first beloved husband, a second marriage and subsequent divorce, and much more.

There are many reasons why Lauren Bacall’s death feels like such a loss to me. She was one of the last of that bygone glamorous era; in fact, someone on Twitter pointed out that Bacall was the last of the stars name-dropped by Madonna in her song “Vogue,” an ode to Hollywood, It’s cliché to say, but it does feel like her death marks the end of an era.

On a personal note, I admired Bacall’s iconic “look,” her take-no-shit attitude, and independence. In To Have and Have Not, she says to Bogart, “You know you don’t have to act with me, Steve. 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.” It didn’t take much at all for audiences to fall in love with Lauren Bacall, and it’s unimaginable that we’ll stop loving her now that she’s gone. 

Lauren Bacall headshot
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Lauren Bacall

How to cite this page

Cantor-Stone , Miriam . "Falling in Love with Lauren Bacall." 13 August 2014. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on November 1, 2014) <http://jwa.org/blog/falling-in-love-with-lauren-bacall>.

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Baby Frida, meet Baby RBG. Happy Halloween! http://t.co/SaJRONVtZG
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A fascinating look at how women's voices affects how they're perceived http://t.co/5Lkk4zuKvD @takeleadwomen @Listen4aChange
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#TBT One of the most strikingly beautiful women ever onscreen was also one of the smartest http://t.co/a7f2d5lNxA http://t.co/i429fBQ8i6