I don’t know about you, but I’m really tired of actors I love who are dying.

I know, it’s all about me. But I had to say that. Can someone post a very big billboard-sized ad in Variety or The Hollywood Reporter with a list of actors, writers, directors and (occasionally) producers WHO ARE NOT ALLOWED TO DIE!

(And a list of some who are, just to keep balance. I nominate Vin Diesel and The Rock)

Enough already.

Lauren Bacall.

What can I say about her?

She taught me how to whistle (it’s a ‘To Have and Have Not’ reference)

She made movies that I watched because she was in them and discovered Humphrey Bogart along the way (how’s that for a swerve? Most people I talk to, it’s normally the other way around).

And if I hadn’t discovered Humphrey Bogart I may not have discovered ‘Casablanca’ or Ingrid Bergman, who was my second serious film star crush. Really! And I’m not even that old.

Okay. Maybe almost that old. And Ingrid Bergman was quickly replaced on my bedroom wall by Kim Novak. And then Kim Novak to Linda Blair (the ‘Savage Streets’ version — you thought I meant ‘The Exorcist’? Ew. P-lease!)

(Although in Exorcist 2… )

The point is, it all began with Lauren Bacall. She might not be considered the original femme fatale, but she should be. When we think of the bad girl in film noir, the woman we’re never quite sure whose side she’s on but she’s too devastating to resist, the sashaying epitomy of angel-or-devil, it’s Lauren Bacall that many of us picture.

And there’s a reason for that.

Ms. Bacall was beyond sex, beyond mystery. She was the original unattainable (talking) movie star.
And for some reason Melanie Griffith from ‘Working Girl’ just jumped into my head purring “I’ve got a head for business and a body for sin” which – strangely – pretty perfectly describes my adolescent memories of Lauren Bacall.

Adolescent! Who am I kidding?

Ms. Bacall defined class. She was the epitomy of sensual. She was, I believe, a lamentably underrated actress despite the fact that her line “You know how to whistle don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow” is one of the most oft-quoted pieces of dialogue ever… er… quoted.

Lauren Bacall was, is, and will always remain, an icon. It might sound crass to mention this (it isn’t, trust me) but without Lauren Bacall there would be no Jessica Rabbit. You think I’m being facetious mentioning Jessica Rabbit and Lauren Bacall in the same sentence? I’m not. Jessica Rabbit is the ultimate animated femme fatale, so who better to model her upon than the femme fatale who defined the true meaning of that description?

And PS. Kathleen Turner, who voiced Jessica Rabbit? A wonderful actress who I’m also a major league fan of, but who do you think her performance in ‘Body Heat’ was based on? That’s right. And after ‘Body Heat’, Kathleen Turner’s physical and vocal similarities to Lauren Bacall translated her into a whole slew of films Bacall would have been perfect for if she had just been born a generation or two later.

Lauren Bacall started everything.

I guess I should admit – for die-hard ‘Movie Ramblingsers’ (hey, I just turned us into a social group!) – that Ms. Bacall didn’t make horror films. The closest she came was playing James Caan’s agent in ‘Misery’ and appearing in ‘The Fan’ and ‘Murder on the Orient Express’.

I should also mention that in her later years she did quite a bit of voice-over work for animated features and (I know, this is tenuous, but still… ) she ‘played’ witches at least twice: in the English language adaptation of Howl’s Moving Castle and a film with Scooby Doo in it. No. Not even the live-action one.

Lauren Bacall’s career spanned very nearly three-quarters of a century. Maybe her finest work, as an actress, were the early film noirs she made with Bogart but whatever she did she was never less than electric and there were scatterings of true classic greatness even in her later work.

Ms Bacall not only defined a genre archetype in the most perfect way, they made a mould of her that will never be broken. She conducted herself on-screen and off with a dignity, assurance and true beauty we rarely see anymore. Take a look at the documentary she presents on the ‘Casablanca’ blu-ray and you’ll see what I mean. Lauren Bacall was the definition of a Hollywood legend and I’ll place a bet in Rick’s Cafe that says I’m not the only one who’s going to miss her.

About The Author

Ian White is an author, screenwriter and journalist. His book ‘Witchcraft and Black Magic in British Cult Cinema’ was recently published by Hemlock and he is a regular contributor to ‘Paranormal Underground’ and ‘Starburst’ magazines. He’s currently writing a new book and screenplay and his embarrassingly out-of-date website can be found at http://ianwhitelondon.wix.com/ian-white