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A MODEST START
Born Betty Joan Perske to Jewish parents in New York City in 1924, Bacall – who passed away at age 89 on Aug. 12 at her New York City home – parlayed her sultry good looks into a modeling career. Bacall's early ambitions also led to acting lessons as a teenager at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, where her classmate was Kirk Douglas.
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HER BIG BREAK
Legendary Harper's Bazaar editor Diana Vreeland put the 19-year-old model on the March 1943 cover of the popular fashion magazine, and a star was born. Her photos caught the eye of director Howard Hawks's wife, and Bacall later recalled, it was "the twist of fate that changed my life forever."
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The young beauty left modeling for a career in Hollywood where, under the tutelage of director Hawks and his wife, she adopted her trademark elegance, grace and sexy voice. Hawks cast the nervous starlet opposite Humphrey Bogart in To Have and Have Not, and during their first scene together, "I realized that one way to hold my trembling head still was to keep it down, chin low, almost to my chest, and eyes up at Bogart," Bacall said. "The Look" would later be known as Bacall's trademark.
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In 1945, Life magazine published a photo of Bacall baring her legs while draped atop a piano as Vice President Harry Truman played. The staged shot became an instant sensation in the post-war era. (Bess Truman, however, was reportedly furious.) Remaining politically minded throughout her life, Bacall later campaigned for Democratic candidates Adlai Stevenson in the 1952 Presidential election and Robert Kennedy in the 1964 U.S. Senate race.
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THE LOVE OF HER LIFE
Bacall and Bogart, who was 25 years her senior and already married, fell in love on set. "I was miserable," she recalled. But he divorced his wife in 1945 and the two wed. They went on to make three more movies together in the 1940s: The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, and Key Largo.
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A MOVIE WITH MARILYN
Bacall costarred with Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable in the now classic 1953 romantic comedy, How to Marry a Millionaire. "A sweet woman – just sad," she said 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's winning streak of movies continued with Designing Women, costarring Gregory Peck, in 1957.
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The actress had two children with Bogart, son Steve and daughter Leslie. After Bogie's death from cancer in 1957, Bacall was devastated. "If I hadn't had those two little children, I don't know what I would've done."
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GETTING SERIOUS WITH SINATRA
The comely widow had a relationship with Frank Sinatra in 1957 and discussed marriage, but "he felt trapped," she recalled. When the press got wind of their impending engagement, Sinatra blamed her for leaking the story and abruptly ended the affair. "To be rejected is hell. He behaved like a complete s–."
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BACK TO THE ALTAR
Bacall was pregnant when she and actor Jason Robards wed in 1961; their son, Sam, was born later that year. The actor's heavy drinking made Bacall unhappy, but "I was trying to have a life – what can I tell you?" she said. They split in 1969. Though her career also stalled slightly in the '60s, roles included Sex and the Single Girl in 1964 and Harper in 1966.
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Eager for a fresh start, Bacall left Hollywood and headed to New York, where she began a new career on stage. Despite her raspy singing voice, the actress won Tony Awards for the musicals Applause (1970) and Woman of the Year (1981). "The theater," she said, "has been fantastic to me."
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Her frank 1978 memoir, Lauren Bacall: By Myself, won a National Book Award, and almost 30 years later, the actress added new material and the book was reissued. She also authored a 1994 memoir, titled Now.
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A RETURN TO MOVIES
She wasn't done with Hollywood yet. In 1996, Bacall made her film comeback in The Mirror Has Two Faces, opposite Barbra Streisand and Jeff Bridges. Said Streisand, who also directed the film: "Lauren's special beauty is the reflection of her elegance, her intelligence and her invigorating will."
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The actress won both a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award for best supporting actress for her performance in The Mirror Has Two Faces, the first movie wins in her career.
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A PRESIDENTIAL HONOR
In 1997, Bacall was awarded the Kennedy Center Honors. She shared the special night with son Sam Robards, who is also an actor (daughter Leslie Bogart is a yoga teacher and son Stephen Bogart is a producer and actor).
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Working late into her career (she reunited with former classmate Kirk Douglas in 1999's Diamonds), Bacall appeared in Lars von Trier's Dogville, appeared opposite Nicole Kidman in 2004's Birth and also found another creative avenue: voicing characters in animated features like Scooby-Doo and the Goblin King in 2008.
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FINALLY, AN OSCAR
Though she was previously nominated for an Oscar for The Mirror Has Two Faces, in 2010 the 86-year-old actress was rewarded with a Life Achievement Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts amp Sciences. The star continued to work in TV and film before her death at age 89 in 2014.