Lauren Bacall’s story is a reminder to appreciate what you have while you have it. Life can take anything away in an instant.
If you’re unfamiliar with Bacall, let me offer you a brief introduction. Bacall was a movie star in the Golden Age of Hollywood. As a young and aspiring actor, Bacall, like so many other young and aspiring actors, was hustling around the Broadway district. Between her odd jobs at clothing stores and theaters, Bacall would network herself at actor hotspots.
Making friends and small strides in the acting field, Bacall spent a majority of her time in financial employment rather than gainful. One of her gigs was modeling clothes for Harper Bazaars. Ironically, this would become her smartest career move. Tokened ‘The Dress’ years later, Howard Hawk’s wife was actually who first discovered Bacall.
Paying for her ride out to California, Hawks gave Bacall a screen test, acting lessons, and took her under his wing. Although Hawks was hoping for more, or something different, than an instant star when he originally took her on. His labor was evident when Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, and To Have And Have Not broke box office records every which way.
On the set of To Have And Have Not, Bogie and Bacall’s onscreen chemistry sparked a real-life whirlwind. The details of which I’ll leave as privy to the memoir. But the outcome was Bacall’s and Bogie’s greatest loves of their lives. They were married for over ten years, had two kids, and grew both of their careers when Bogie succumb to lung cancer.
As a young widow, Bacall not only had to learn to be independent, but dependable for her kids. Struggling with grief, employment, and single parenthood, Bacall jumped around the world with her kids trying to rediscover her own footing.
There was time spent in London and in Spain and there were moments with old friends turned new flings. As the world kept turning, Bacall looked back towards the stage. Where she not only found her next career move but her next home. Returning to New York City with her two kids, Bacall set-up the next portion of her life.
Sadly, it was never smooth sailing. She fell in love with another stage actor, Jason Robards. He was not only a serial monogamist and procreator, but also an alcoholic. The years of Bacall’s life with Robards were uneasy. Not only was she trying to rebuild her stage career, raise her two children with Humphrey, her new son with Jason, support her new husband as best she could, she also had to create a space for Jason’s other children as well. Five kids under one roof in New York City with two theater performers’ incomes must not have been easy.
When she finally divorced Jason, America was chaotic. JFK had been assassinated a few years prior, RFK was killed just one year ago, and the space race was nearing completion. It was evident that America was in the thicket of transition. But no one could predict where that transition would lead.
The outcome of which I’ll also leave as motivation to pick up the memoir that is so aptly named. If you’re taking too many things for granted, including life itself, then this memoir may be just the book for you. It may also be a reminder of how long life can be and how long love can last.