‘Mrs. Bogart’ was a ‘straight-ahead lady’ and a ‘good broad’

Lauren_bacallRemembering Betty Lauren Baby Bacall Bogart with Kirk Douglas, Rosemary Clooney, Frank Rich, Larry Hagman, Bo Derek, Barbara Walters and others as collected and compiled by Dana Cook.  Cook’s collections of encounters with the famous have appeared in a wide range of newspapers, magazines and journals.  (cooks.encounters[at]gmail.com)


Schoolgirl crush?
Kirk Douglas, actor

…I went out occasionally with Betty Bacall, who later became Lauren Bacall. She was a junior at the Academy [of Dramatic Arts], not more than fifteen or sixteen years old. I was a senior, and had been in summer stock, so Betty looked up to me, and I think had kind of a schoolgirl crush. She lived near the Schrafft’s where I worked, and she would come over, usually alone, sit at one of my tables and nurse a cup of coffee for an hour. We usually tried to keep the tables moving, because we worked for tips. Betty would sit there, pretending to sip her coffee, and watch me. One evening when I presented her with her bill, she said, “I don’t have any money,” with that throaty laugh. I was rather annoyed. But she always had that tremendous personality, and you couldn’t stay mad for long.

…One warm spring evening on a rooftop in Greenwich Village, I tried to seduce her. Unsuccessfully. As far as I’m concerned, Lauren Bacall can do no wrong. (New York, 1940)

-from The Ragman’s Son: An Autobiography, by Kirk Douglas (Simon and Schuster, 1988)

Handling whistlers
Irv Kupcinet, columnist and broadcaster

One of the most interesting pairs who passed through [Chicago] was Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Bogie and “Baby” had one of Hollywood’s better marriages, and really were made for each other because both had a “tough,”sardonic persona that protected not only their bighearted vulnerability, but also their ardently liberal beliefs and championing of the underdog. I first talked to Lauren at length in the Pump Room before they were married [in 1945]. Bogie had given her a huge diamond ring set in gold. When I asked her if a wedding was in the offing, she leaned over and, feigning seriousness, whispered in the most confidential tone, “I’m already married…to Errol Flynn.”

It was next to impossible to one-up Bacall or Bogie. Another time when we lunched, Bacall was constantly being bombarded by whistles from men because of her famous line in To Have and Have Not in 1944 when she told Bogie that if he wanted anything, “Just whistle…” How did she handle the whistlers? Lauren whirled around langorously, gave the wilting whistler as knowing and sexy look as I’ve ever seen, and then assaulted him in that sultry voice with, “And what…can I do for…you?”

-from Kup: a Man, an Era, a City, by Irv Kupcinet with Paul Neimark (Bonus Books, 1988)

Quintessential New Yorker
Farley Granger, actor

We [he and girlfriend and actor Shelley Winters] went to [film director] Lewis Milestone’s big annual Christmas party together. He and his wife always went all-out, and it was the most festive and traditional party in town [Beverley Hills…

Later that evening, long after the children had gone and after much good cheer had been consumed, I met one of my screen idols, Humphrey Bogart. His young wife, Lauren Bacall, was a knockout. Tall and slender, she was a quintessential New Yorker, whose presence was felt the minute she walked into a room. She was very much a man’s woman: tough, completely direct, and without artifice. All of these qualities are still very much a part of my [New York] neighbor, Betty Bacall. … (Beverly Hills, Ca., 1950)

-from Include Me Out: My Life from Goldwyn to Broadway, by Farley Granger (St. Martin’s Press, 2007)

Jean Negulesco, artist and film maker

…I used to meet Bacall walking her dog on Reeves Drive in Beverly Hills [Ca.]. The famous model of the Bazaar, she was provocative, tall, beautiful. She looked at you from the side of her eyes, the sidelong-glance bedroom look. Stubborn and decisive in her work, anything she started she remained dedicated to, surmounting any handicaps–physical or otherwise–to achieve just what she wanted.

Bogie [Humphrey Bogart] had class; and hers is a kind that is distinctively her own. When one remembers what she did or what she said, what stands out especially is how she did it and how she said it. (c. 1950)

-from Things I Did and Things I Think I Did: A Hollywood Memoir, by Jean Negulesco (Linden Press/Simon & Schuster, 1984)

Beautiful and delightful
Arthur M. Schlesinger, historian and author

The Chicago speech [of Adlai Stevenson, during the 1952 presidential campaign] was a fantastic success. The Governor even finished on time. The whole atmosphere was electric with confidence. Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart gave me a lift into town. We went to a party given by Oscar Chapman [President Harry Truman’s secretary of the interior] at the Palmer House. (What a beautiful—and delightful—girl Lauren Bacall is!—even more attractive in the flesh than on screen.)

-from Journals 1952-2000, by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (The Penguin Press, 2007)

Rosemary Clooney, singer

…Betty Bacall? I love her. She’s one of the most straight-ahead ladies I’ve ever known in my whole life. A very honest woman. I’ve found–and once again I find myself generalizing, which is not my habit but in this case does seemed to hold true–that really beautiful women don’t have any hang-ups about being perfectly straightforward. The deviousness seems to come when a woman doesn’t really feel all that beautiful… (Hollywood, mid-1950s)

-from This For Remembrance: The Autobiography of an Irish-American Singer, by Rosemary Clooney with Raymond Strait (Playboy Press, 1977)

“Good broad”
Janet Leigh, actor

Tony [husband Curtis] started Kings Go Forth…in the great company of Frank Sinatra…

Frank had an aptitude for assembling assorted people and incubating and hatching friendships. He was then dating Lauren Bacall, known to chums as Betty. The word “broad” when applied to a female began as a derogatory description. Tain’t necessarily so! “She was a good broad” could connote the most complimentary attributes. Which is exactly why I thought Betty to be a good broad. A no-nonsense, unpretentious, witty, caring woman whom I liked a lot. (Hollywood, 1958)

-from There Really Was A Hollywood: An Autobiography, by Janet Leigh (Doubleday, 1984)

“Mrs. Bogart”
Lorna Luft, singer, actor and daughter of Judy Garland

Most of the times, I played with Leslie Bogart. She’s my oldest friend…Leslie lived two doors down, and we were always running back and forth to each other’s houses. Our parents were friends, too, and that made it easier. The [Humphrey] Bogarts had a pool, and Leslie and I would go swimming there….I can still picture Betty Bacall, Leslie’s mom, in her white bathing cap. In those days I still called her Mrs. Bogart….It was great fun going swimming, though I was intimidated by Leslie’s parents. Leslie’s mom was nice to me, but she wasn’t the kind of woman you’d want to make mad at you…. (Bel Air, Ca., late 1950s)

-from Me and My Shadows: A Family Memoir, by Lorna Luft (Pocket Books, 1998)

Flubbed line
Frank Rich, drama critic

One Saturday afternoon before Thanksgiving I arrived for work [taking tickets at the National Theatre] and discovered that a movie star, Lauren Bacall, who was in the middle of a tryout for a comedy called Cactus Flower, was rehearsing a scene right on the mezzanine floor outside the manager’s office with another actor and with her director, Abe Burrows…As I stopped in my tracks to watch, the actress flubbed a line and muttered to herself “Oh shit!” Burrows took the pause to explain a point to the actor, who was holding a script; he had not been in this scene when I had stood for the play earlier in the week. In that moment, Bacall’s eyes wandered across the foyer and she acknowledged me by flashing a conspiratorial smile and a wink, as if to say, Hey, kid, you can stay and look if you want to, I don’t mind. So I sat down on a ledge by the window and watched…. (Washington, D.C., mid-1960s)

-from Ghost Light: A Memoir, by Frank Rich (Random House, 2000)

Tough candor
Barbara Walters, broadcast journalist

…I continued to interview people in the arts [for NBC’s Today]…Lauren Bacall. (I particularly loved Bacall’s tough candor. When I asked her about Frank Sinatra, who had proposed to her some years after the death of her husband, Humphrey Bogart, only to dump her after their engagement was leaked to the press, she pointed to the floor and snapped, “Frank is as dead and dry as this floor.” Remember that phrase, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”? Bacall was living proof. … (c. 1970)

-from Audition: A Memoir, by Barbara Walters (Alfred A. Knopf, 2008)

Definitely in charge
Barbara Eden, actor

Lauren Bacall was another formidable Hollywood diva with whom I crossed paths when she was starring in Applause onstage in Los Angeles. My agent arranged for me to meet Lauren, as she was scheduled to take a break from the production and I was slated to replace her.

We met at the theater between shows and she looked me over briefly, with hardly a smile or a flash of warmth. I had expected to be fascinated and beguiled by her, but when I left her dressing room I was just saddled with the impression that she was large, commanding, and definitely in charge. I had no clue as to her impression of me, but guessed that it wasn’t remotely positive.

-from Jeannie Out of the Bottle, by Barbara Eden with Wendy Leigh (Crown Archetype, 2011)

Sexy and charming
Larry Hagman, actor

I was thrilled to get a chance to work with her. My God, when she was nineteen and going with Bogie [Humphrey Bogart], she was gorgeous, and years later she still had the looks, voice, and presence of a great star. Her aura was intimidating. Applause was one of the most daunting roles I’d undertaken, and the greatest task was Betty Bacall herself.

…I was warned by producers that she didn’t like to be touched. I have no idea if that was true or if she even knew this was said about her. But when it was finally time for our proper introduction, I was extremely nervous. I was led into a room where she was seated in the center like royalty. I understand why everyone was in such awe of her. She was an imposing figure. “Larry,” she said, gracefully extending her hand. “How nice to meet you.”

Rather than lightly take her hand, the equivalent of an air kiss, I ran my tongue from her wrist to her elbow, an impulsive, immature piece of behavior that to this day I can’t explain. But I did it and afterward I waited for something horrible to happen. I vaguely recall her laughing tensely and then I got the hell out of there.

She was a sexy and charming woman. As we taped, she was friendly and gracious. I would wait for my cue and each day, as I walked from our place in Kensington to the rehearsal hall in Soho, I’d think, I’m out of my league. What am I doing here? I was so uptight about working with her that I lost a pound a day during the shoot. (London, 1973)

-from Hello Darlin’: Tall (and Absolutely True) Tales About My Life, by Larry Hagman with Todd Gold (Simon & Schuster, 2001)

Curtain call rescue

Derek Jacobi, actor

…I have…seen a curtain call rescue a show…at the first night of Applause in London with Lauren Bacall. While the applause at the end was passable, the show wasn’t enough to make you stand on your seat. But then, in the space of a second, Bacall changed dresses three times as the curtain lowered and raised, and each time the applause went up and up. She had someone behind the curtain ready to slip her into her new outfit. Finally everyone left thinking they’d had a wonderful night. (1973)

-from As Luck Would Have It, by Derek Jacobi, as told to Gerry O’Connor (HarperCollins, 2013)

“Hang on to your boys”
Margaret Trudeau, wife of Canadian prime minister

…I had a thoroughly wonderful meal at Maxim’s and partied all night. The guest I remember most vividly is Lauren Bacall. She came right up to me and asked: “How are Justin, Sacha and Micha?”

I was astounded. “How on earth do you know my boys?” I demanded.

Her answer has stayed with me ever since: “I’ve followed your adventures. You’re very brave and I wish you the very best. You simply must hang on to your little boys.” (Paris, 1978)

-from Consequences, by Margaret Trudeau (McClelland and Stewart, 1982)

Her other side

Hugh Downs, broadcaster

…I profiled…Lauren Bacall [on NBC’s 20/20], who revealed a different sort of person on camera. Her fabled toughness and savvy were made all the more endearing by her sensitivity and vulnerability. We rarely witnessed those qualities on the cinema screen, but they blossomed on the more intimate small screen. (New York, 1978)

-from On Camera: My 10,000 Hours on Television, by Hugh Downs (G.P. Putnam’s, 1986)

Star in my childhood sky
Dubravka Ugresic, novelist and essayist

I happened to be at a party recently where I shook hands with Lauren Bacall. For Lauren Bacall I was just a silent, anonymous hand. For me her handshake meant far more, among other things the symbolic closing of a cultural circle.

That is, Lauren Bacall could not have known that I came from Yugoslavia and that the culture of my childhood consisted of Greek myths, Partisan tales and–Hollywood films. In the fifties Hollywood films compensated abundantly for the shortage of children’s books. Yugoslavia was a country impoverished by war and it seems to have been more expensive to print children’s books than to import Hollywood films. As a result, instead of Peter Pan and Winnie the Pooh, other stars shone in the sky of my childhood. Among them Lauren Bacall. (New York, early 1990s)

-from Have A Nice Day: From the Balkan War to the American Dream, by Dubravka Ugresic (Viking, 1994)

On writing about Bogey
Bo Derek, actor and horsewoman

I had the pleasure of meeting Lauren Bacall at an April 2001 tribute to sweet Dudley Moore at Carnegie Hall in New York City. I’ve always been an admirer of hers, like everybody else in the world. But it was her marriage to Humphrey Bogart, twenty-four years her senior, that naturally has always intrigued me. After the event, there was a dinner at the Essex House hotel. I hung tight to Lauren until we were led to our tables. Then I maneuvered my way into the seat next to her before anyone else could. I told her how much I had enjoyed reading her autobiography By Myself, and especially how comforting I had found her account of Bogey’s death in 1957 and the fact that she wasn’t afraid to reveal the gory details. Somewhat to my surprise, she told me that it felt good to write about that period of her life.

-from Riding Lessons: Everything That Matters in Life I Learned from Horses, by Bo Derek with Mark Seal (Regan Books/HarperCollins, 2002)

Lilli Palmer, actor

One night, just as it was getting light, I found myself sitting on somebody’s sofa in somebody’s house next to Lauren Bacall. The Bogarts had towed us away from another party to this one, whose hosts were strangers to us.

“Do you really enjoy this?” I asked her.

Betty Bacall looked at me in amazement. “Well…I don’t really know. Maybe not. But Bogey does.”

We looked at our respective husbands [Rex Harrison and Humphrey Bogart], who, fondling their umpteenth scotches, were having a wonderful time. I suddenly felt the urge to get up immediately and drive home… (Beverly Hills, Ca., mid-1940s)

-from Change Lobsters–and Dance: An Autobiography, by Lilli Palmer (Macmillan, 1975)

Digging my music
Miriam Makeba, singer and wife of Stokely Carmichael

…I have moved uptown, from the Vanguard in the Village to the Blue Angel Club on East Fifty-second Street…this East Side “saloon for sophisticates,”…with its chic decor, low ceilings, and tiny tables, I look down and there is Lauren Bacall, really getting into my music…. (New York, 1960)

-from Makeba: My Story, by Miriam Makeba with James Hall (New American Library, 1987

Complimentary hug
Twiggy, model

…I’m running downstairs to Tommy’s [Tune’s] dressing room so utterly high. I just want to hug him and say ‘we did it, we did it’. I have taken my tail coat off and my hat but I still have my tap shoes on and I’ve just reached the bottom of the stairs when this tall woman is picking me up and hugging me. ‘You were wonderful. You were wonderful [in My One and Only].’ It was Lauren Bacall. The whirlwind of success had begun. (New York, 1983)

-from Twiggy in Black and White, by Twiggy Lawson with Penelope Dening (Simon & Schuster, 1997)

Holding court
Paula Barbieri, model and girlfriend of O.J. Simpson

The highlight of our Christmas season in New York was a black-tie party thrown by Liza Minnelli….

Liza Minnelli’s apartment was like a gallery: large rooms with lots of windows, dramatic lighting, fabulous art on the walls….

Lauren Bacall was holding court in a black pantsuit. I was fascinated just standing near her, listening to that deep, sexy voice I’d heard so often on the screen…. (1992)

-from The Other Woman: My Years with O.J. Simpson, A Story of Love, Trust, and Betrayal, by Paula Barbieri (Little Brown, 1997)

Kurt Warner, football player

…to New York to appear on The Late Show with David Letterman…

…Lauren Bacall was one of the guests, and I got to meet her briefly before the taping. She said, “I’m a big fan,” and that was really cool, to have a legend like that even know who I was. Brenda was convinced she was flirting with me, which would have been really flattering, but I think that’s just my wife’s vivid imagination at work. (1999)

-from All Things Possible: My Story of Faith, Football, and the Miracle Season, by Kurt Warner with Michael Silver (HarperSan Francisco/Zondervan, 2000)

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