Wednesday 13 August 2014

On Lauren Bacall

The death of the great Lauren Bacall aged 89 prompts two stories.

When she first met Humphrey Bogart on the set of To Have and Have Not (she was 19, he 45), Bogie strolled over and decided to have some fun, telling her to take off her glasses (she was very short-sighted). "Without your glasses you;re a swell-looki' kid" he said.

"Without my glasses you're not so bad." she sliced back. BANG!

The other story concerns an acquaintance of mine who found himself at a charity lunch in the 1980s, seated next to an American woman wearing a veil (perhaps to conceal some recent 'work'). He had no idea who she was and made the usual small talk. Struggling slightly, he asked her whether she was interested in the theatre at all, and whether she'd seen any shows in London. "My husband was an actor', s he said, but not giving anything away. They then chatted inconsequentially about this and that and only after lunch broke up did the penny belatedly drop. He told me he was glad he had no idea he was sitting next to an actress he admired above any other - he would have been completely tongue-tied. 'You don't wake up in the morning expecting to meet Lauren Bacall', he added, still starstruck, and who can blame him?

The Big Sleep is not only my favourite American film but possibly my favourite film tout court. We should all watch it today, savouring the first encounter between Bogart (as Marlowe) and Bacall) as General Sternwood's elder daughter). Just watch them - they both seem to be on heat.

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