Despite the huge age gap between them, Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart’s undeniable sexual chemistry on the silver screens ended up turning into a short-lived love story.
Legendary silver screen star Lauren Bacall started her career at the age of 19, appearing on Haper’s Bazaar cover as a model. She arrived in Hollywood when she was 20 and soon was cast for the film “To Have and Have Not.”
The film’s director, Howard Hawks, was still deciding which actor he’d choose to co-star alongside Bacall. He was choosing between Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart.
The actress expressed her desire to share the set with Grant, but Hawks opted for Bogart. The director introduced the two, and as Bacall shared, their first encounter had “no clap of thunder, no lightning bolt.”
Despite the first impression, the then-married 45-year-old actor fell for Lauren Bacall. The young actress had no filming experience whatsoever, and as she shared in her memoir, she was so terrified of being in front of the cameras that she was ready for a straightjacket:
“My hand was shaking. My head was shaking. The cigarette was shaking. I was mortified. The harder I tried to stop, the more I shook. What must Howard be thinking?”
Eventually, she dealt with her nervousness and turned it around. She realized a way to keep her head from trembling — keep it down, chin low and eyes up. The move worked so well that it became the actress’ trademark called “The Look.”
HOW IT ALL STARTED
Bogart was willing to help Bacall to get more comfortable in front of the cameras. They slowly warmed to each other, and a few weeks into the movie, he entered her trailer to say goodnight. They kissed, and he asked for her number. Their undeniable chemistry turned into a real-life romance from that day.
The love affair had to be kept secret because Bogart was still a married man. His then-wife, Mayo Methot, was married to Bogart since 1938. She was his third wife. Their relationship was troubled, and they were known as “the battling Bogarts."
Their altercations came to the point that in 1942, Methot had become so violently enraged she stabbed Bogart. Bacall and Bogart had to find ways to keep their affair as secretive as possible.
They arranged meetings in cars parked in dark streets, during the breaks while shooting, and in a golf club they knew. They also started to call each other by their characters’ names in the film, “Slim” and “Steve.”
The production of “To Have and Have Not” came to an end, but the lovebirds would soon be reunited in another film, “The Big Sleep,” in 1944.
They reunited for the film, and their chemistry was stronger than ever. Film historian Leonard Maltin observed how obvious the Bacall-Bogart affair was:
“It’s quite possible that we are eyewitnesses to an actor or actress falling in love, and while good actors make us believe that all the time, there has to be some extra kick when it’s real.”
WHEN ART IMITATES LIFE
Despite the explicit connection between the two, Bogart still wanted to give his marriage a shot. Methot had promised her husband she’d stop drinking.
It wouldn’t last too long, however, and soon the actor left his wife. It was a tough decision for him, but in 1945 he filed for divorce. Eleven days later, “Slim” and “Steve” tied the knot on a friend’s farm in Ohio.
In 1949, they welcomed Stephen and, three years later, daughter Leslie. However, most people in Hollywood at the time didn't believe that the Bacall-Bogart spark would make it into real life. The couple proved them all wrong and lived 11 happy together.
FAMILY COMES FIRST
When their children were young, Bacall put her career on hold to stay home with the kids. She was described as an “old-fashioned man” by her, Bogart wanted his wife to prioritize their family and quit her acting career.
And so she did. She sacrificed not only her career but other things in her life to put her marriage and family first. Bacall, however, never regretted the decision:
“Thank God I did put our marriage first, because it didn't last too long."
She was referring to Bogart’s battle with cancer — he passed away in 1957, leaving behind a 32-year-old widow and two children.
After Bogart's death, the young widow avoided talking about her late husband. In his memoir “Bogart: In Search of My Father,” their first son, Stephen, wrote that being in the shadow of a Hollywood legend takes its toll.
A NAME FOR HERSELF
The ambitious actress rebuilt her career in the ‘60s, followed by two Tony Awards for her roles in the Broadway musicals “Applause” in 1970 and “Woman of the Year,” in 1981.
She went on to make 50 films, but the actress downplayed her career after “Key Lago.” The late actress felt that she never recovered completely.
Among the extended film list, Bacall made appearances in renowned films such as “Murder on the Orient Express (1974),” Robert Altman's 1994 “Prêt-à-Porter,” and “The Shootist (1976).”
After the rumors of a romance with her friend Frank Sinatra — rumors had it that it started during Bogart’s illness — she married fellow actor Jason Robards, with whom she had her third child, Sam. Robards’ alcoholism ended their matrimony in the 1970s.
In her memoir, “By Myself,” the actress spoke candidly about both marriages and her frustration and fatigue to always being asked about Bogart. Both former husbands have their importance to her, and the Bogart-centrism hurt not only her but her son Sam too.
Both Robards and Bogart were exceptional and extremely talented actors. Bogart won an Oscar for his role in “The African Queen” in 1951 and was nominated for his roles in “Casablanca” (1942) and “The Caine Mutiny” (1954).
Robards won his Oscars two years a roll as Best Supporting Actor for “All the President’s Men” (1976) and “Julia” (1977).