It’s not been a particularly good week in Hollywood. To what now seems a suicide-by-hanging by Robin Williams, an especially tragic occurrence seeing the man gave laughter to so many, we need now add the death-albeit from a heart attack and at a much older age then Williams-of screen legend Lauren Bacall. Known for her iconic roles in “Key Largo,” “To Have and Have Not” and “The Dark Passage” (to name just a few of her films) as well as her legendary romance and marriage to Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall was a woman with unusual smoky good looks, a razor-like tongue and an oft-voiced liberal sensibility. But how many causal fans know that Lauren Bacall was a model well before she even arrived in Hollywood, in fact it was her landing the cover of Harper’s Bazaar that led to her movie career.
Born in 1924, Lauren Bacall (christened Betty Joan Perkse) was the sole daughter of William Perske and Natalie Weinstein-Bacall, a middle-class couple living and working in Brooklyn. Though her parents divorced, Lauren and her mom seemed to have weathered her father’s leaving well, simply moving in with her mother’s mom and uncle. Winning 1942’s “Miss Greenwich” title, Lauren (who was still Betty at this stage) considered becoming a dancer post high school but ended up enrolling in NYC’s American Academy of Dramatic Arts for acting instead. Unfortunately Lauren’s mother couldn’t afford her daughter attending the school for long and despite hating the size of her feet!-Bacall soon found herself modeling outfits in showrooms for potential buyers.
She somehow got out of that showroom modeling long enough to land the cover of Harper’s Bazaar. Howard Hawks’ wife saw Bacall on that cover, urged her famous director husband to give Bacall a screen test and from that Hawks gave the 19 year old Lauren Bacall (she had changed her name by this time) the role of Marie Browning in “To Have and Have Not.”
On that 1944 film Lauren met Bogart and the rest is Hollywood history.
Talent, looks and a little Harper’s Bazaar cover all mixed into the beginning of a great grand career of one of our most beloved actresses.
We’ve got models too. Check out issue # 8 of Von Gutenberg Magazine here: