The “Femme Fatale” segment on NoirWhale.com is designed to highlight the life and merits of exceptional film noir actresses. These women are the embodiment of the femme fatale archetype, and propel possibly the most recognizable and integral theme in the noir genre.
“I wish Frank Sinatra would just shut up and sing.”
Lauren Bacall was born to be a film noir femme fatale actress. Her trademark husky voice and sultry looks ignited the stage and screen of yesteryear, earning her high praise in every circle of film and high art. Born Betty Joan Perske in 1924, she first made a splash in the industry co-starring opposite Humphrey Bogart in To Have and Have Not (1944). She was so well received that she continued in the noir genre for many years, starring in such films as: The Big Sleep (1946), Dark Passage (1947), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) with Marilyn Monroe, and Designing Woman (1957) with Gregory Peck. Here is a wonderful anecdote from LaurenBacall.com:
“During screen tests for To Have and Have Not (1944), Bacall was nervous. To minimize her quivering, she pressed her chin against her chest and to face the camera, tilted her eyes upward. This effect became known as “The Look”, Bacall’s trademark.”
It was during the filming of To Have and Have Not that Lauren began her relationship with Bogie, who was then still married to Mayo Methot. (Torrid affairs and femme fatales are inseparable). In the end Humphrey married Lauren at Malabar Farm in Ohio. She was 20, he was 45. They became bosom friends of Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy during the filming of African Queen (1951). Before Bogie died from esophageal cancer in 1957, he and Lauren had two children together: Stephen and Leslie. Shortly after Bogart’s death, Lauren had a relationship with Frank Sinatra (which he ended after a scandal), and Lauren has written two autobiographies: Lauren Bacall By Myself (1978) and Now (1994).
In 1999, Bacall was ranked #20 of the 25 actresses on the 100 Years 100 Stars list by the American Film Institute. In 2009, she was selected by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to receive an Academy Honorary Award “in recognition of her central place in the Golden Age of motion pictures.”
Lauren Bacall has set the standard in the noir industry for the femme fatale archetype. Its invention is as much credited to her as it is to Dashiell Hammett.
“I think your whole life shows in your face and you should be proud of that.”
She’s the priceless centerpiece of the film noir genre, and as of March 10th 2012 she’s still alive.