Lauren Bacall Dead at 89

Lauren Bacall at a South Fork benefit

Lauren Bacall, one of the sirens of Hollywood’s golden age and a Tony Award-winning actress for her work on Broadway, died Tuesday from what has been reported to be a massive stroke at home in New York at the age of 89.

She was a longtime resident of Amagansett, dating back to the 1960s, but sold her house in 1995, according to The New York Times. While here, she was known to shop at Iacono Farm to buy chicken and to stop for a hotdog in Manorville on the way home to New York City. Her famous voice was also used in radio and television advertisements for the Hampton Jitney. Guild Hall gave her a lifetime achievement award for performing arts in 1990. She continued to visit and support local arts institutions even in the years after she sold her house.

Ms. Bacall's film career spanned more than a half century, beginning with “To Have and Have Not” in 1944 and more recently included the film “The Walker,” which was shown at the Hamptons International Film Festival in 2007.

After a love affair that began on set during that first film with Humphrey Bogart, she married the actor and raised two children with him until he died in 1957. When they met on set, he was in his 40s and she was just 19. 

Along with igniting the romance, the film launched her career and several of her trademarks, including “the look," featuring her downcast face with eyes turned upward, some rather famous lines, and her hoarse, low-registered voice, encouraged by the film’s director Howard Hawkes by having the actress read aloud for long periods to tire her vocal chords. 

“You know you don’t have to act with me, Steve,” her character says to Bogart’s. “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.”

The two actors went on to star in several other films together including “The Big Sleep,” “Dark Passage,” and “Key Largo.” 

Other acclaimed films she starred in were “How to Marry a Millionaire,” “Written on the Wind,” “Designing Woman,” “Sex and the Single Girl,” “Murder on the Orient Express,” and “Pret a Porter.” 

Her Broadway credits include two Tony Award-winning performances in “Applause” and “Woman of the Year.” She received an honorary Oscar in 2009. The same year she played herself being robbed by one of the characters in the HBO television series “The Sopranos.”

She and Bogart were outspoken critics of the black-listing of those suspected of being Communist party members or sympathizers. They signed a petition protesting the committee’s activities against the film industry and visited Washington to publicly speak out against it. Later, however, Bogart recanted, after pressure from his studio, and Ms. Bacall followed suit.

After her first marriage, she was engaged to Frank Sinatra, but married Jason Robards in 1961. The couple divorced in 1969 after having one son together, Sam Robards.

Part one of her two-part autobiography “By Myself” won a National Book Award in 1985. In addition to her acting achievements, she had the distinction of being den mother to the Holmby Hills Rat Pack, a group that then consisted of Bogart, Sinatra, David Niven, Swifty Lazar, and Rex Harrison. The name became more famously associated with a later group, headed by Sinatra, who hung out in Las Vegas in the 1960s. That group included Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Dean Martin. 

Born in Brooklyn on Sept. 16, 1924, her given name was Betty Jean Perske. Her parents were William and Natalie Perske, who were Jewish immigrants from Poland and Romania. After her parents’ divorce, her mother changed her last name back to Bacal, part of her maiden name. Ms. Bacall kept the name but added the additional “L” because she once said it was easier to pronounce correctly. Howard Hawks, the director who discovered the actress and put her in “To Have and Have Not,” gave her the name Lauren, but friends still called her Betty.

She attended school in Tarrytown, N.Y., and Manhattan, graduating at 15. She worked as a model and usher before being discovered in an issue of Harper’s Bazaar. She is survived by her three children: Stephen Bogart, her daughter Leslie Bogart, and Mr. Robards, who is an actor, and six grandchildren.

Lauren Bacall leaned in for a chat with Sidney Lumet and Keren Saks at a benefit for Bay Street Theater at the old Waterside restaurant in Noyac after a concert by Julie Andrews in 1992.Jack Otter
Lauren Bacall with Vice President Harry S. Truman in 1945Harry S, Truman Library and Museum