This week cer­tain­ly is off to a pret­ty bad start. First, we lost the great Robin Williams, who trag­i­cal­ly took his own life after suc­cumb­ing to depres­sion. Now we’ve lost Lau­ren Bacall, one of the finest tal­ents of the last cen­tu­ry and a stal­wart progressive.

With deep sor­row for the mag­ni­tude of our loss, yet with great grat­i­tude for her amaz­ing life, we con­firm the pass­ing of Lau­ren Bacall,” announced the estate of Humphrey Bog­a­rt, which is run by Bog­a­rt and Bacal­l’s son Stephen. 

The cause of death is said to be stroke. 

Bacall, eighty-nine, was a life­long New York­er who starred in many films now regard­ed as clas­sics. She was born Bet­ty Joan Perske on Sep­tem­ber 14th, 1924, in the Bronx, and began act­ing on stage at a young age.

Intro­duced to cin­e­ma by Howard and Nan­cy Hawks, she adopt­ed the stage name Lau­ren Bacall and rose to fame with her role along­side Bog­a­rt in To Have and Have Not, a wartime film that was released in 1944 and loose­ly based on the nov­el by Ernest Hem­ing­way. Bacall and Bog­a­rt lat­er fell in love and mar­ried; it was Bacal­l’s first mar­riage and Bog­a­rt’s fourth. They remained togeth­er until his death in 1957.

Bacall went on to appear in sev­er­al films noir, includ­ing The Big Sleep, Dark Pas­sage, and Key Largo. In the 1950s, she starred in Young Man with a Horn, How to Mar­ry a Mil­lion­aire (with Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe), and Writ­ten on the Wind. She devel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion for being choosy and turn­ing down roles she did­n’t find interesting.

Begin­ning in the 1960s, she had few­er film appear­ances and more parts in stage pro­duc­tions on Broad­way. She won two Tony Awards for her parts in Applause (1970) and Woman of the Year (1981). She did, how­ev­er, par­tic­i­pate in the films Sex and the Sin­gle Girl, Harp­er, and Mur­der on the Ori­ent Express dur­ing these years, shar­ing the screen with the likes of Hen­ry Fon­da, Paul New­man, and Ingrid Bergman. She even col­lab­o­rat­ed with John Wayne for his final film, The Shootist.

Bacall was polit­i­cal­ly active through­out her life. In the 1950s, she cam­paigned for Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Adlai Steven­son; in the 1960s, she sup­port­ed Robert Kennedy’s Sen­ate cam­paign. She was also a fierce oppo­nent of the pol­i­tics of dis­graced Repub­li­can Joseph McCarthy. In 2005, she gave a mem­o­rable inter­view to CNN’s Lar­ry King in which she proud­ly iden­ti­fied as a lib­er­al, remark­ing, “Being a lib­er­al is the best thing on earth you can be. You are wel­com­ing to every­one when you’re a lib­er­al. You do not have a small mind.”

As men­tioned, Bacal­l’s death comes just as peo­ple the world over are strug­gling to process Robin Williams’ sud­den death.

“What a ter­ri­ble loss for us all,” Bar­bara Streisand said in a state­ment mourn­ing Bacall. “First Robin, who was a genius, and now Lau­ren. It was my priv­i­lege to have known her, to have act­ed with her, and to have direct­ed her (in 1996’s The Mir­ror Has Two Faces). And most of all, to have had her as a wise and lov­ing friend. She was an orig­i­nal. Even with all those great films… she will be missed.”

“Lau­ren Bacal­l’s life is a life to be cel­e­brat­ed,” agreed come­di­an and showrun­ner Seth Mac­Far­lane, who also worked with Bacall.

“I am told her last per­for­mance was on ‘Fam­i­ly Guy.’ For that, we are for­ev­er hon­ored and priv­i­leged. Thank you, Lau­ren, for teach­ing us all how to whistle.”

Bacal­l’s body of work was rec­og­nized sev­er­al years ago by the Acad­e­my of Motion Pic­ture Arts and Sci­ences, which bestowed upon her an hon­orary Oscar at the 2009 Gov­er­nors Awards. (Video of Bacal­l’s accep­tance speech is on YouTube).

Lau­ren Bacall was one of the few remain­ing tal­ents left from the gold­en age of film. Now she’s gone. She will be great­ly missed. We at NPI extend our deep­est con­do­lences to her fam­i­ly and close friends.


About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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One reply on “Lauren Bacall: 1924–2014”

  1. Lau­ren was one of the greats. Big loss for cin­e­ma. I’m tempt­ed to watch To Have And Have Not in hon­or of Lauren. 

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