Lauren Bacall, the tough-talking femme fatale who taught Humphrey Bogart how to whistle, died on Tuesday at the age of 89, according to a statement from Bogart’s estate.
“With deep sorrow, yet with great gratitude for her amazing life, we confirm the passing of Lauren Bacall,” read the brief but classy line, posted to Twitter with a picture of Bacall accepting an honorary Oscar in 2009.
The Bronx-born actress had had a long and luminous career in the movies and on stage and a string of high-profile marriages (to Humphrey Bogart and Jason Robards) to boot.
“You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve?” One of cinema’s most famous lines was mouthed by the sulky actress and former Ms. Greenwich Village in 1949’s “To have and to have not,” in which she appeared alongside Humphrey Bogart, who was about twenty years her senior. Their on-screen chemistry heralded more things to come, as the two became an item and Bacall the toast of the town. Their ensuing twelve-year marriage made “Bogie and Bacall” one of the original Hollywood power couples.
Born Betty Jean Perske in September 1924, Bacall grew up as the only child of a Romanian-Jewish mother and Polish-Jewish father in the Bronx. In 1944, Howard Hawks came across one of her modeling shoots in Harper’s Bazaar and had her contracted to Warner Brothers. After a successful screen test, the celebrated director told her he intended to cast her alongside Bogart or Cary Grant. “I thought Cary Grant, great. Humphrey Bogart‚ yuck,” she would later recall.
She made her reputation on her smoky voice and sultry stare and upped the ante for women actors by appearing in several thrillers in the forties, eventually going on to appear in musicals, melodramas and art-house controversies. She won Tony awards for her work on the Broadway stage and an honorary Oscar for her life’s work on screen. Suspected cause of death is a massive stroke.