Lauren Bacall (Actress) - The Big Sleep
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Updated: 11/12/09

Name: Lauren Bacall

Birth Name: Betty Joan Perske

Born: September 16, 1924, New York City, New York

Claim To Fame: She is best known for being a film noir leading lady in such films as The Big Sleep (1946) and Dark Passage (1947).

Family Life: Bacall has been married twice. She married Humphrey Bogart in 1945 and they remained married until his death from cancer in 1957. From 1961 to 1969, she was married to actor Jason Robards. She has two children with Bogart - son Stephen Humphrey Bogart (born 1949) and daughter Leslie Bogart (born 1952). Her marriage to Robards produced a son, Sam Robards (born 1961).

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Info: Bacall made her acting debut at the age of 17 on Broadway, as a walk-on in Johnny 2 X 4. While she was doing some part-time fashion modeling, she was spotted by director Howard Hawk's wife Nancy, who urged her husband to have Bacall take a screen test for To Have and Have Not. Hawks signed her up to a seven-year personal contract, brought her to Hollywood, gave her $100 a week, and began to manage her career.

Her performance in To Have and Have Not is considered one of the most powerful on-screen debuts in film history. Nervous about her screen test, Bacall minimized her quivering by pressing her chin against her chest and tilting her eyes upward to face the camera. This effect became known as 'The Look', Bacall's trademark.

After To Have and Have Not, Bacall was seen opposite Charles Boyer in the critically-panned Confidential Agent (1945). She then appeared with Bogart in the film noir The Big Sleep (1946), the thriller Dark Passage (1947), and John Huston's melodramatic suspense film Key Largo (1948). She was cast with Gary Cooper in the adventure tale Bright Leaf (1950).

She went on to earn favorable reviews for her leading performances in films like Young Man with a Horn (1950), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), and Written on the Wind (1956). Then, while struggling at home with Bogart's severe illness (cancer of the esophagus), Bacall starred with Gregory Peck in the slapstick comedy Designing Woman and gained rave reviews.

In the 1960s, Bacall turned to Broadway, starring on stage in Goodbye, Charlie (1959), Cactus Flower (1965), Applause (1970) and Woman of the Year (1981). The movies she shot during this time include Sex and the Single Girl (1964) with Henry Fonda, Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood, Harper (1966) with Paul Newman, Shelley Winters, Julie Harris, Robert Wagner and Janet Leigh, and Murder on the Orient Express (1974), with Ingrid Bergman, Albert Finney and Sean Connery.

Bacall has also appeared in The Fan (1981), Robert Altman's Health (1980) and Michael Winner's Appointment with Death (1988). In 1997, she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her role in The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996), her first nomination after a career span of more than fifty years.

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Trivia: Chosen by Empire magazine as one of the 100 Sexiest Stars in film history (#6). [1995]

Ranked #20 in the AFI's top 25 Actress Legends.

Ranked #11 in Empire (UK) magazine's The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time list. [October 1997]

Chosen by People magazine as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World. [1997]

Was staying in the same New York apartment building (The Dakota) as Beatle John Lennon when he was shot and later died on Dec. 8, 1980.

Was crowned Miss Greenwich Village in 1942.

Used her mother's maiden name of Bacal, but added an extra "L" when she entered the cinema.

Shortly after Humphrey Bogart's death, she announced her engagement to Frank Sinatra to the press. However, Sinatra quickly backed out.

Her screen personna was modeled after Howard Hawks's wife, Slim.

Is the cousin of Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres (as of 2007, the President of Israel). Both have the same original last name --Perske.

Those close to her call her by her real first name, Betty.

Still undiscovered, Bacall volunteered as a hostess at the New York chapter of the Stage Door Canteen, working Monday nights when theaters were closed.

Is an only child.

One of the initial "Rat Pack" with Humphrey Bogart, Frank Sinatra, Irving Paul Lazar (aka "Swifty" Lazar) and their close friends.

Won a Tony for her role as Margo Channing in the Broadway production of Applause, a musical based on the movie, All About Eve (1950). It was presented by Walter Matthau.

Starred, with her husband Humphrey Bogart, on the syndicated radio program Bold Venture (1951-1952). Her character's name was Sailor Duval.

Her autobiography, By Myself, won a National Book Award in 1980.

Her long-time friend, Katharine Hepburn, is the godmother of her son, Sam Robards.

Is mentioned along with late husband Humphrey Bogart in the 1980s song Key Largo ("We had it all, just like Bogie and Bacall").

Is portrayed by Kathryn Harrold in Bogie (1980).

Originally wanted to be a dancer.

Is half Romanian.

Made two movies with John Wayne, Blood Alley (1955) and The Shootist (1976).

Was 17 when she met and became a close friend of Gregory Peck. They remained close until his death.

According to her autobiography, "By Myself and Then Some," she was always very self-conscious about the size of her feet, which she describes as big even for a woman of her exceptional height.

When Howard Hawks discovered her, he gave her the choice to work with either Cary Grant or Humphrey Bogart. Bacall was very tempted to work with Grant, but Hawks ended up casting her with Bogart in To Have and Have Not (1944), and one of Hollywood's greatest romances was started.

Was a close friend of Dirk Bogarde. Bacall had visited him at his home in London the day before he died in May 1999.

At the funeral for her husband, Humphrey Bogart, she put a whistle in his coffin. It was a reference to the famous line she says to him in their first film together To Have and Have Not (1944): "You know how to whistle, don't you? You just put your lips together and blow.".

Campaigned for Harry S. Truman in the 1948 presidential election.

Quit smoking cigarettes in the mid-1980s.

Her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is at 1724 Vine Street.

One of the auditoriums in Tuckwood cineplex in Belgrade, Serbia bears her name.

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Where Are They Now: Even in her 80s, Bacall continues to be a presence in Hollywood. She appeared in the high-profile films Dogville (2003) and Birth (2004), and had a leading role in Paul Schrader's 2007 movie The Walker.

In 2006, Bacall introduced a film montage dedicated to the film noir genre at the 78th Annual Academy Awards. That same year, she appeared as herself on an episode of The Sopranos, during which she was punched and robbed by a masked Christopher Moltisanti.

Bacall was awarded the first Katharine Hepburn Medal in September 2006 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.

Currently, Bacall is the spokesperson for the Tuesday Morning discount chain, appearing in commercials waiting for the store to open at the beginning of one of their sales events. She is also producing a jewelry line with the company Weinman Brothers.

She has been selected by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to receive an Honorary Academy Award which will be presented at the Inaugural Governors Awards on November 14, 2009.

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