Jess Cagle
December 17, 2007 12:00 PM

Lauren Bacall has been a star for more than six decades: first as a ravishing ’40s ingenue—a brainy beauty with a purring voice and captivating eyes. Then she became Hollywood royalty as Mrs. Humphrey Bogart, marrying a man 25 years her senior. By 32, she was a widow and single mom. And at 83, the six-time grandmother is still sharp, still grand and still busy—her new movie, The Walker, opens this month, and she’s now launching an eponymous line of fine jewelry. Armed with her crackling wit, she took time to reflect on life in the limelight.


“Chemistry—you can’t beat chemistry,” says Bacall (with Humphrey Bogart in a publicity pic for her first movie, 1944’s To Have and Have Not). They fell in love on-set—but Bogart was married. “I was miserable,” she says. After he divorced in ’45, Bogie and Bacall wed. They would make three more movies together.


Her trademark sultry gaze originated in To Have and Have Not. “I was so nervous,” says Bacall (in a 1946 photo). “I remember trying to hold my head still because I was shaking. When the movie was released, it became ‘The Look.'”


Bacall starred with Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable in the 1953 romantic comedy. “A sweet woman—just sad,” she says of Monroe. “She’d come into my dressing room and say, ‘I really just want to be in ‘Frisco with Joe [DiMaggio] eating spaghetti.'” Bacall rolls her eyes and deadpans, “What an exciting thought.”


Bogie and Bacall had two kids, son Steve and daughter Leslie, shown here in 1954. Less than three years later, Bogie would die from cancer. After his death, “I didn’t know what the hell I was doing,” says Bacall. “If I hadn’t had those two little children, I don’t know what I would’ve done.” Steve, now 58, is an author and producer; Leslie, 55, is a yoga teacher.


Bacall and Sinatra (in 1957 in Hollywood) dated after Bogie died, even discussed marriage, but “he felt trapped,” Bacall wrote in her 1978 autobiography By Myself. When the press reported their impending engagement, Sinatra blamed her for leaking the story and abruptly ended the affair. “To be rejected is hell,” she wrote. “He behaved like a complete s—.” In the late ’50s, Bacall left Hollywood for New York, where she found a new career working on Broadway, winning Tony Awards for 1970’s Applause and 1981’s Woman of the Year. “The theater,” she says, “has been fantastic to me.”


When they married in 1961, Bacall was pregnant with their son Sam. She worried about Robards’ drinking from the beginning, but “I was trying to have a life—what can I tell you?” The marriage ended in ’69. Left: Bacall with Sam and his puppy in 1965. Sam, 46, now an actor, appears on Gossip Girl.


In The Walker, a thriller costarring Woody Harrelson, Bacall plays Natalie Van Miter, a wealthy Washington, D.C., dowager. “Natalie was my mother’s name. That’s a nice coincidence,” she says. “I liked the Washington aura—which is so loathsome right now. And I liked the part. She’s seen it all before.”

You May Like