Lauren Bacall, the Hollywood legend with the voice of velvet and still regarded as one of the most beautiful women in movie history, sadly passed away today. Born Betty Joan Perske, she made her debut in Howard Hawks’ To Have And Have Not, where, at the age of 19, she met Humphrey Bogart, who would become her husband and were married for 11 years until his passing.
Not the most prolific list of films to her credit (she only made about 50) what she did appear in, she added class and style. In her later years, she would make cameo appearances, like her stand-out role as James Caan’s agent in Misery, yet she always brought an air of movie legend to everything she did.
Reaching the age of 89, she will always be remembered as the woman who tamed Bogart and for that voice which could melt ice. In tribute, here’s my top ten of Lauren Bacall’s films. Rest in Peace, Ms. Bacall.
10. Murder On The Orient Express (1974)
An all-star spectacular, led by Albert Finney as Poirot, in a classy adaptation of Agatha Christie’s most famous books, Bacall enjoys a bit of scene chewing as socialite Mrs. Hubbard, in Sidney Lumet’s delicious film version that also included Sean Connery, Ingrid Bergman (who won an Oscar) and a host of others.
9. Written On The Wind (1956)
One of Douglas Sirk’s melodramatic screen soap operas has Bacall as the woman in the middle of a love triangle between Rock Hudson and Robert Stack as best friends fighting for her attention. Filled with heavy orchestrations and gloriouslyover-the-top performances, this is now regarded as one of the director’s finest.
8. Dark Passage (1947)
The third of four films Bacall did with her husband, Humphrey Bogart. Bogart plays an escaped convict accused of murdering his wife, who needs to prove his innocence but because of his familiar face, has plastic surgery in order to disguise himself. Bacall plays the young artist who helps him. Interesting in the fact that you never see Bogart fully until half way through the movie.
7. Dogville (2003)
Lars Von Trier’s experimental feature in which the whole film, shot on a sound stage, has buildings with no walls but lines on the floor. Nicole Kidman stars as a woman who finds refuge in a small town from the mob, though she carries a dark secret with her. An impressive ensemble cast, including Bacall, play out this clever if not wholly successful film, with aplomb.
6. The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996)
Not known for playing comedy, Bacall takes on the role of Barbra Streisand’s mother and scores a big hit in this rom com which also stars Jeff Bridges. So much so, it earned her an Oscar nomination in this quirky tale of aging college professors who fall in love. Streisand also directs but it is Bacall who steals the film.
5. How To Marry A Millionaire (1953)
Classic but dated sex comedy with Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable and Bacall as three New York models, living together, who are bored with cheap men and so decide to bag themselves millionaires, except they don;t expect love to get in the way. The scenes between Bacall and William Powell are the ones that work wonders.
4. The Shootist (1976)
Poignant western which see John Wayne as a former gunfighter who has two months to live and wants to die with dignity, takes a room in Bacall’s boarding house, only to start a series of events that shake the town. The final film for Wayne is a classy affair with a strong cast, great performances and solid direction from Don Siegel.
3. Key Largo (1948)
Tense thriller and the final film to star Bogart and Bacall. Bogart plays a man visiting the hotel of a late friend, run by Bacall but soon the place becomes the safe haven from Edward G. Robinson’s mobster, who is hiding from an oncoming hurricane. John Huston’s tough drama builds to a superb finale, which actually was supposed to be the finale for To Have Or Have Not.
2. The Big Sleep (1946)
Steamy Philip Marlowe thriller has Bogart as the private eye hired to look into the family of a general, only do find himself in a complex world of intrigue, blackmail and murder. Bacall plays the General’s daughter and a woman who may or may not be trusted. They don’t make them like this anymore.
1. To Have And Have Not (1944)
The film that started it all for Bacall, as Bogart plays a man forced to work for the resistance during World War II, transporting fugitive, while at the same time juggling an affair with resistance sympathizer Bacall and a night club singer, A virtual clone to Casablanca, it does include one of the most memorable lines in movie history: “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.”