×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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.)

Popular on Variety

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.

More Film

  • 'Surge' Review: Ben Whishaw Wigs Out

    'Surge': Film Review

    There’s mannered, there’s manic, and then there’s the malfunctioning pinball-machine delirium that Ben Whishaw brings to “Surge”: a blinking, buzzing, flashing clatter of hyper-accelerated impulses, chicken-fried synapses and staggered hypnic jerks that never culminate in sleep. You wouldn’t expect stillness from a film called “Surge,” and in that respect only does Whishaw zig where you [...]

  • SF Studios Joins Forces With REinvent

    Scandi Powerhouse SF Studios Teams With Rikke Ennis's REinvent For Int'l Sales (EXCLUSIVE)

    SF Studios, the Scandinavian production and distribution powerhouse, has struck an exclusive partnership with REinvent Studios, the banner launched by TrustNordisk’s former CEO Rikke Ennis. As part of the deal, REinvent will handle international sales for all SF Studios content, including films, TV series and catalogue titles. This new deal expands the existing relationship between [...]

  • VFX Studio Framestore Launches Suite of

    VFX, Animation Studio Framestore Launches Pre-Production Services Unit (EXCLUSIVE)

    Visual effects and animation studio Framestore, which won Oscars for “The Golden Compass,” “Gravity” and “Blade Runner 2049,” and whose recent work includes “Avengers: Endgame” and “Spider-Man: Far From Home” in movies, and “His Dark Materials” and “Watchmen” in TV, has launched FPS, which offers a suite of pre-production services. The move sees the company’s [...]

  • Tesla

    'Tesla': Film Review

    Inventor Nikolai Tesla is more popular today than when he died penniless in a New York hotel in 1943. Back then, he was the futurist who swore he could summon unlimited, clean, wireless electromagnetic energy from the earth — a neat idea, but surely coal and oil were fine. In the 21st century, as temperatures [...]

  • Amulet

    'Amulet': Film Review

    Actress Romola Garai makes a distinctive feature directorial debut with “Amulet,” even if this upscale horror drama is ultimately more impressive in the realm of style than substance. It’s some style, though: She hasn’t just created a stylish potboiler, but a densely textured piece that makes for a truly arresting viewing experience to a point. [...]

  • Alison Brie appears in Horse Girl

    'Horse Girl': Film Review

    A funny thing happens about a third of the way into “Horse Girl,” Jeff Baena’s fourth Sundance feature after “Life After Beth,” “Joshy” and “The Little Hours.” Or rather, a funny thing stops happening: the familiar, steady-heartbeat rhythms of the low-budget social awkwardness comedy become erratic, tachycardiac, as the initially endearing foibles of the film’s [...]

  • Save Yourselves!

    'Save Yourselves!': Film Review

    Brooklyn couple Su (Sunita Mani) and Jack (John Reynolds) have several plans to salvage their lives. Go vegetarian, plant a garden, make sourdough bread, and above all, quit the internet addiction that’s become their relationship’s third wheel, distracting them from make-outs and barging into their fights until Su yells, “Alexa stop!” To detox, the couple [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content