Great Love Stories № 13 | Humphrey Bogart & Lauren Bacall
Monday 2nd July, 2012
by Joey Bailey
For some of the greatest love stories of all time, age is but a number — their love is so vivid, it disregards years and thrives only on the passion two people feel for each other.
The great romance of Humphrey Bogart & Lauren Bacall is one such story — instantly smitten with one another, many would have been concerned with the vast gap in their age, but Humphrey & Lauren (or Bogie & Baby, as they so fondly called one another) were besotted, and looked beyond the mere number that is their age, and instead, let love flourish through their mutual interests, their instant attraction to one another, and the sparks that flew whenever they were in a room together . . .
Humphrey Bogart was one of the manliest of actors — often cast as the ‘tough guy’, he had just been signed to the movie To Have and Have Not, and the director, Howard Hawks, was on the lookout for the perfect female lead to work opposite him.
One morning, while flicking through the latest Harper’s Bazaar, Howard’s wife noticed an absolutely stunning girl on the cover. With high cheekbones, soft auburn hair, and a tall athletic build, Mrs Hawks immediately showed the cover to her husband suggesting he call her in for a screen test. [Editor's Note -- it was Diana Vreeland, of last week's love story, who put Lauren Bacall on that cover of Harper's Bazaar, altering not only the course of Bacall's life and career, but impacting the history of American cinema]
At that time, Lauren had no yet changed her name and was known as Betty Bacall. She was a young, 19 year old girl working as a model, and had never dreamed of the possibility of Hollywood! Of course, Lauren was a natural at the screen test, and Humphrey even remarked, “I just saw your test. We’ll have a lot of fun together”. Howard Hawks decided ‘Betty Bacall’ simply would not do for a future silver screen star and insisted she change her name to Lauren.
Through out the movie, Humphrey took on the role of mentor and teacher, and the pair instantly formed an intimate bond. However, unfortunately at that time, Humphrey was involved in a loveless marriage to actress Mayo Methot. The pair began a very discreet affair, which was quite out of the norm for Humphrey — he was torn between loyalty to his wife, despite them being almost estranged, and the deep feelings he felt for his new love.
The affair continued for some months until finally, in February 1945, Humphrey & Mayo divorced. On May 21, 1946 on a farm in Pleasant Valley, Richland County, Ohio, Humphrey, aged 46, & Lauren, aged 20, were married. The farm belonged to Humphrey’s good friend, Pulitzer winning author, Louis Bromfield.
“In the bathroom I could hear the start of the Wedding March. Oh God, why hadn’t they waited? Later George told me Bogie looked up and said, ‘Where is she?’ George’s romantic reply: ‘Hold it! She’s in the can!’ I emerged — [the piano player] started again — and George and I started our descent. My knees shook so, I was sure I’d fall down the stairs. Bogie standing there looking so vulnerable and so handsome . . .
“When I reached Bogie, he took my hand — the enormous, beautiful white orchids I was holding were shaking themselves to pieces; as I stood there, there wasn’t a particle of me that wasn’t moving visibly…As I glanced at Bogie, I saw tears streaming down his face — his ‘I do’ was strong and clear, though. As Judge Shettler said, “I now pronounce you man and wife,’ Bogie and I turned toward each other — he leaned to kiss me — I shyly turned my cheek — all those eyes watching made me very self-conscious. He said, ‘Hello, Baby’. I hugged him and was reported to have said, “Oh, goody.’ Hard to believe, but maybe I did.”
“Everyone hugged and kissed everyone else and more tears were shed. Bogie said it was when he heard the beautiful words of the ceremony and realized what they meant — what they should mean — that he cried.”
In all, the pair acted in four big screen movies together, as well as countless television and radio series. They were one of the most successful acting couples in history. Settling down with their two children in Holmby Hills, Los Angeles, the pair seemed to live an idyllic, immensely private life.
It was on the New Year’s of 1956, while out to lunch at Romanoffs that Bogie, a heavy smoker for many years, began coughing terribly. He visited his doctor, and it was discovered that he had cancer of the oesophagus. Two short months later, he endured a nine and a half hour operation to remove his oesophagus and returned home in a wheelchair. Frail and weak, Humphrey would live out the rest of his days bedridden.
His adoring wife was constantly at his side, tending to his every need, and accommodating all visitors as best she could. On January 12, 1957, good friends Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn called to visit. Katharine recounted of their visit that, as they left, “He (Bogie) looked up at Spencer with the most rueful smile and said, ‘Goodbye Spence,’ and you could tell that he meant it. He’d always said, ‘Goodnight’ before. When we went downstairs, Spence looked at me and said, ‘Bogie’s going to die.’”
The next morning, Lauren went to pick their children up from Sunday school. Humphrey nodded as she left and nonchalantly said, “Good bye, kid”. Upon her return, Lauren found Humphrey in a coma — a coma he was never to wake from. The next morning, at 2:25am, Humphrey passed away and Lauren was left a widow at 32.
“I hope Bogie knew how much I loved him, how much he meant to me, how I highly valued him. I’ve had another life since then, but he was my first love. And you never forget your first love” — Lauren Bacall
At the funeral, Lauren placed a whistle in Humphrey’s coffin, cleverly referencing the famous line from their first film together; “You know how to whistle, don’t you? You just put your lips together and blow”.
While many would have been appalled at the difference in age, this couple knew that a true love — a great love — could not be ignored or disregarded purely because of a number.
* great love stories № 01 : grace kelly & prince rainer III of monaco
* great love stories № 02 : nacho figueras & delfina blaquier
* great love stories № 03 : shah jahan & mumtaz mahal
* great love stories № 04 : elizabeth taylor & richard burton
* great love stories № 05 : prince william & kate middleton
* great love stories № 06 : audrey hepburn & robert wolders
* great love stories № 07 : napoleon bonaparte & maria walewska
* great love stories № 08 : john f. kennedy jr. & carolyn bessette
* great love stories № 09 : paul newman & joanne woodward
* great love stories № 10 : ricky & ralph lauren
* great love stories № 11 : frank sinatra & ava gardner
* great love stories № 12 : diana & reed vreeland
[image sources & credits : awesome people hanging out together /// spoilers ///proof positive /// photography by jerry plucer sarna via lsd /// filmmovielove /// fanpix /// wunderbuzz /// doctor macro's /// zoë's knitting bag /// ironing board collective /// reel hollywood legends /// free info society /// hollywood past /// someone like you /// the danettes /// anna lee /// the lisa freemont pages /// art prints /// fanpix /// fanpop /// classic cinema images]
Joey Bailey Contributor, Australia
Inspired by film noir, F. Scott Fitzgerald novels & the thought of a summer spent in Paris, this high tea connoisseur enjoys photography & designing & making her own clothes. Joey has been buying fashion, wedding & interior design magazines since a wonderfully young age, and would spend hours browsing through their glossy pages making ‘inspirational’ scrapbooks. Never spotted without high heels, a sketchpad, a pop of pink lipstick & a strong coffee— Joey adores great love stories, chandeliers, crème brûlée, the French countryside & sequins & sparkles & her long time sweetheart— the love of her life whose kisses still give her butterflies …