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Bacall On Bogart

Bacall On Bogart(1988)

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teaser Bacall On Bogart (1988)

The fairy tale goes something like this: young actress comes to Hollywood where she meets an older, charismatic leading man while making her first film. The movie is, of course, a hit, and the chemistry that exists on-screen continues off the set as the newcomer and the star fall for each other in real life, marry and raise a family. It's a romantic tale only the likes of Hollywood would dare sell, except that this one is real. And no one can tell it better than the original newcomer herself - Lauren Bacall.

In Bacall on Bogart (1988), Lauren Bacall gives personal insight into the life and career of her husband Humphrey Bogart. For the aspiring actress, the story began in 1944, when, fresh from the pages of Harper's Bazaar, she landed a part in director Howard Hawks' production of To Have and Have Not. For a Hollywood neophyte, the candidates for leading man were overwhelming - Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart. Ironically, Bacall was wowed by the idea of Cary Grant! Bogart, on the other hand, rated merely a so-so. She thought he was a good actor, but that was it. Nonetheless, Bogart was cast in the role. And Hawks introduced the actors on the set of Passage to Marseille (1944). It was a NOT a case of love at first sight as Bacall reports there were no fireworks at all on their first meeting.

But that changed pretty quickly. Bacall remembers being so nervous that she couldn't stop shaking during her first scene in To Have and Have Not and how patient Bogart was with her. He "believed in actors," says Bacall. "And believed in actors working together." And work together they did. No one who watches the famous "you know how to whistle" scene in To Have and Have Not could doubt Bogart and Bacall's sexy rapport. In fact, the film's script was changed to play up the romance between Bogart and Bacall's characters once the actors' off-screen romance became glaringly obvious.

The next year, during the making of their second film together, The Big Sleep (1946), Bogart and Bacall's on-screen relationship bloomed into a permanent one. The couple was married on May 21, 1945. Bacall was 20. Bogart was 45. A few years later, a son was born, and named Steve after Bogart's character in To Have and Have Not. And Humphrey Bogart became a father for the first time at age 49. A daughter, Leslie, would soon follow (she was named after Bogart's friend and early supporter, Leslie Howard, who died in 1943 when his plane was shot down by German forces).

Bogart and Howard had first appeared together on Broadway in The Petrified Forest. At the time, Bogart's experience was limited to several plays and bit parts in films. His role as tough guy Duke Mantee on stage in The Petrified Forest was a breakthrough role for the actor. But when it came time for a cinematic adaptation, Warner Bros. thought perhaps resident bad guy Edward G. Robinson would be better for the part. It was at Howard's insistence that Bogart made the jump to the big screen as Duke Mantee. And Bogart never looked back from there. As Bacall points out in Bacall on Bogart, it was the "first step toward the development of the Bogart character."

Bacall on Bogart features clips from many of Bogart's films, from hits like Casablanca (1942), The Maltese Falcon (1941) and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre(1948) to lesser known titles like Bullets or Ballots (1936) and Big City Blues (1932). It also includes candid footage of an off-screen Bogart, including a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Beat the Devil (1953) and home movies of Bogie on his boat The Santana where he "just drank and griped" during the difficult production. There's also a clip from the 1951 Academy Awards ceremony with Bogart receiving his first and only Oscar for The African Queen (1951).

The documentary includes interviews with famous names like Ingrid Bergman, Katharine Hepburn and John Huston. But perhaps the most interesting words come from Bacall herself. She talks about the difference between the Bogie persona and the man to whom she was married. "Off screen he bore little resemblance to the parts he played. He was a gent." And Bacall reflects on her relationship with Bogart, saying, "he changed me. He was my teacher, my husband, my friend. In his life and his work, Bogie was integrity, truth and courage. He taught me how to live. That it was okay to trust. He taught me how to keep going no matter what."

Bogart died on January 14, 1957. He'd been planning to do a fifth film with Bacall called Melville Godwin USA. But it was not to be. Still, as John Huston said, "he's a much bigger star today than when he was alive. He's become what amounts to a cult figure."

Host: Lauren Bacall
Director: David Heeley

by Stephanie Thames

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