Bogart & Bacall: Screen Pairings Don’t Get Any Bigger & Better

Everyone is entitled to a favorite screen pairing – Taylor and Burton, Hepburn and Tracy, R2D2 and C3PO – but they simply don’t get any better than Bogart and Bacall.

Lauren Bacall – the surviving half of that duo for 57 years – has died at the age of 89. But her legacy as one of the great actresses has long been secured, both for the work she did with Humphrey Bogart – who she met, and soon married, via their first collaboration, “To Have and Have Not” – and what came after, not just in movies but on stage and television.

Still, any remembrance of Bacall has to begin with her roles opposite Bogart, a pairing so terrific and seemingly right that it tended to obscure the pesky details, like their 25-year age difference, or the fact he was still married when their by all accounts torrid affair began.

Bacall’s alluring looks – there was almost a feline quality to them – and distinctive voice obviously helped define and establish her stardom. Yet what made her so iconic was the nature of these characters – and the rat-a-tat, inordinately suggestive patter she and Bogart delivered with such seeming ease, managing to be by turns sexy, funny and dramatic.

Directed by Howard Hawks, “To Have and Have Not” set the standard – there are so many good lines it’s hard to know where to begin, although “You know how to whistle” is certainly the most famous. (A less celebrated but no-less-memorable sequence has Bacall’s character getting irritated when she thinks another woman is trying to seduce Bogart’s Harry, coyly batting her eyelashes at him.)

The movie’s success prompted the studio to adjust “The Big Sleep” – a crime drama where the whodunit mattered far less than the atmosphere – in order to accentuate and expand Bacall’s role. A key scene was added in which the two not-so-subtly flirt using horseracing terminology.

They were followed by the underappreciated “Dark Passage” (which features a kind of gimmick, inasmuch as you don’t see Bogart’s face until well into the movie); and “Key Largo,” with Bogart playing the reluctant war hero, Bacall as the widow of his fallen comrade and Edward G. Robinson – never better – as the sadistic mobster who holds them hostage.

All told, the two made four movies together in an astonishing five-year span. But those films play – and play and play – holding up extraordinarily well no matter how many times one views them.

Bogart died in 1957, and Bacall went on to other relationships (Frank Sinatra, Jason Robards) and roles. Two worth seeing – and thanks to cable, not hard to find –came in the 1970s: “The Shootist,” in what turned out to be John Wayne’s final screen role; and “Murder on the Orient Express,” a star-studded affair, with Albert Finney as detective Hercule Poirot.

Nevertheless, the Bogart-Bacall films are the ones that belong in the vault, the ones for the ages. In a 2011 Vanity Fair interview, Bacall acknowledged as much, saying with a note of resignation, “My obit is going to be full of Bogart, I’m sure.”

But that doesn’t diminish in any way the magic that the two created together. And no, Slim, that isn’t just whistling.

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  1. Thank you for sharing those details about the “To Have and Have Not” movie, you made me totally curious about this and I was looking for a further research on IMDB, I’m going to watch the movie by the way!

  2. 4tune8man says:

    He was the star. She was the co-star. Remember that.

  3. Seeya Tomara says:

    Only to say Bogart was the luckiest guy in the world when he found you. You will be missed Ms Bacall

  4. Chuck says:

    I can’t say how many times I have watched the “Big Sleep” and “Key Largo”. I love both of those movies. Totally bummed out now because of Ms. Bacall’s passing and the fact that my DVR just died. Major bummer indeed.

  5. Ruckweiler says:

    Enjoyed her as an actress aside from Bogart. She had a sexy playfulness that not many could carry off. May she RIP.

  6. Julian Josephson says:

    There is an early 1945 photo of Lauren Bacall on top of the Truman Piano in the Truman Lounge of the National Press Club in Washington, DC. In the photo, then-Vice-President Harry S. Truman is playing that upright piano.

  7. James says:

    Drudge is screaming with titles in caps; “END OF AN ERA” and “LAST OF THE GOLDEN AGE STARS” even after I told him Maureen O’Hara, older at 93, is still alive. Time magazine said “End of an era” when Paul Newman died.

  8. Kilburn Hall says:

    Let me just simply say. “Here’s looking at you kid.”
    Lauren Bacall 1924-2014.

  9. Earl P. Holt III says:

    Any mention of Bogart leaves less room to critique her singing…

  10. David Govett says:

    Why all the silly adulation of actors?
    My plumber provides a real service and is more important to me.

  11. What you missed is big. Bacall’s young age was a primary reason the pairing was special.

    Here came this sultry, vibrant, quick, sexual young woman who stood toe to toe with the crusty, aging, hardened, bear-like Bogart and took him down with just a single line and a look. (put your lips together glancing corner-eyed angular to camera with long fertile flowing hair and lips ready to give birth on the spot).

    The woman, the line and the look and the bear are what has imprinted the culture. There will never be another Bacall, but there may be other hardened, crusty bears like Bogart taken down by young sirens.

  12. She has joined her one and only, Humphrey Bogart. Together they will entertain those of us so lucky to achieve that milestone for eternity. Rest in peace you two, a bit of history from the good ole days.

  13. GregM says:

    She’s definitely getting ‘Farrah Fawcetted’ by Williams’ death.
    If you recall, the Angel had the misfortune of passing the same day as Michael Jackson.

  14. Kevin Mee says:

    She was my first Hollywood Crush. I even blogged about her on our website today.

  15. Jake Steele says:

    Classy lady, the actresses today will never compare to this fine lady…

  16. slcraignbc says:

    The casting-call for the latest production of the ongoing saga, “Exit, Stage Left”, came to an abrupt end with the appearance of the legendary “voice, face, bod & style” of film noir’s golden years.

    A name alone can not identify the depths of attraction evoked by the casual nods, twists & glances that filled scenes with grace, drama and comic relief that the scenes became and made the movie.

    Lauren Bacall, signed to; “Exit, Stage Left”

  17. viloniadrug says:

    You need to visit Robin Williams.

  18. Adrienne M says:

    I was in a Manhattan toy store years ago around Christmas, and Lauren Bacall was in there. I recognized her voice right away. As I strolled around trying to listen, all I could think of was how I wanted to ask her what it was like to know Bogart, I confess.

  19. RT says:

    I believe Olivia Dehavilland is still alive. RIP Lauren Bacall.

  20. wilbur says:

    Is Mister Ed still alive?

  21. Lily M says:

    Her work will live on thanks to the diverse talents of Hollywood- directors, writers, camera operators, lighting designers, costume designers, hair and make-up artists and so many others who are lesser known. The image was not the reality of the person. How well I remember all my encounters with her in East Hampton over the years. She was legendary in our little town. I drink a toast to all of you brilliant hard-working people who made the magic happen.

  22. Sue Kelley says:

    Bacall was the end of the Golden Era of film…..James Garner was the end of the Golden Era of television. Robin Williams was the end of the Golden Era of manic but gentle comedy. They will all be missed.

  23. Miguel525 says:

    Lauren Bacall had more cahones than any present-day Hollywood star, man or woman, just as so many of our ancestors had more class/honesty/human decency than modern Americans have.

  24. Tony Redunzo says:

    Llooked like a woman, sounded like a man. Way ahead of her time.

  25. PETER says:

    WRITTEN ON THE WIND is my favorite. She did a lot of films. And HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE!

  26. bang bang says:

    a great American artist loved her cameo on the Sopranos classic Bacal !

  27. PhillupSpace says:

    Wasn’t Robin Williams the single guest on Johnnie Carsons final show?

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