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September 16: Lauren Bacall

September 16, 2011

Actress Lauren Bacall (Betty Joan Perske) was born in New York to immigrant parents on this date in 1924. She worked as a fashion model and set out to be an actress at a young age, and was brought out to Hollywood in 1941 by Howard Hawkes and his wife Nancy, who renamed her, cultivated her, and got her to retrain her voice to achieve its famously husky and low-pitched sexiness. Bacall’s best-known films co-starred Humphrey Bogart, twenty-five years her senior, who became her husband: To Have and Have Not, Key Largo, The Big Sleep, and Dark Passage. Other hits in which she starred or co-starred include How To Marry a Millionaire, Young Man with a Horn, and The Mirror Has Two Faces. Bacall was a strong opponent of McCarthyism (through Hollywood’s Committee for the First Amendment) and an avid campaigner for Adlai Stevenson in 1952 and for Robert Kennedy in 1964 — yet she and Bogart (who died in 1957) allowed their publicists to distance them from the Hollywood Ten and left-wing circles in order to preserve themselves from the blacklist. In 2009, Bacall received an honorary Academy Award; three years earlier, she was awarded Bryn Mawr’s first Katharine Hepburn Medal, which recognizes “women whose lives, work and contributions embody [Hepburn’s] intelligence, drive and independence . . .”

“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.” —Lauren Bacall

Watch the Turner Classic Movies tribute to Lauren Bacall: