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Biography

Stage and screen actress. Born Betty Joan Perske, on September 16, 1924, in the Bronx, New York, to salesman William Perske and his secretary wife, Natalie. Her parents divorced when she was five. Best known for her marriage to screen legend Humphrey Bogart, and their movie roles together.

After Bacall graduated from Julia Richman High School in New York, she attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She began a modeling career as well as landing several small off-Broadway roles. When Bacall appeared on a magazine cover in 1943, she was noticed by film director Howard Hawks, who put her under contract. For her first film, she was cast opposite Humphrey Bogart in To Have and Have Not (1944).

Studio publicists dubbed her “The Look” after the sultry, come-hither way she glanced upward at the camera. In reality, Bacall says that “The Look” was born out of nervousness, but that sexy glance and her throaty voice helped make her an instant star despite her tender age of 19, earning her a nod as the most sensational newcomer of 1944.

During the making of To Have and Have Not, Bacall and Bogart fell in love and were married in 1945. The pair co-starred in three more films: The Big Sleep (1946), Dark Passage (1947), and Key Largo (1948). She appeared on her own in such films as Young Man with a Horn (1950) and the immensely popular How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) with Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe. But in the mid-1950s, she spent much of her time devoted to raising their son Stephen Humphrey (born 1949) and daughter Leslie Howard (born 1952), and helping Bogart battle throat cancer, which eventually killed him on January 14, 1957.

Bacall and Bogart hosted numerous parties at their Holmby Hills mansion in the late 1940s and early 1950s. She called the regulars the “Holmby Hills Rat Pack,” a nickname which later became indelibly associated with several of the revelers, including Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford and Sammy Davis, Jr.

After Bogart’s death, Bacall resumed making films, including Designing Women (1957) and The Gift of Love (1958). She moved back to New York City and married actor Jason Robards, Jr. in 1961. The couple had one son, Sam, and divorced in 1969. Bacall appeared in several Broadway plays before returning to film in Shock Treatment (1964) and Sex and the Single Girl (1964) with Henry Fonda and Tony Curtis. After this came Harper (1966) with Paul Newman and Julie Harris.

In 1970, she starred on Broadway in Applause, a musical adaptation of the film All About Eve, which won Bacall a Tony Award and New York Drama Critics Award. She co-starred with John Wayne in The Shootist (1976), which was Wayne’s last film before he died in 1979. In the 1980s and 1990s she appeared in several films and on Broadway, including a Tony-award winning performance in Woman of the Year (1981). She received a Best Actress Golden Globe Award and was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award in Barbra Streisand’s The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996), playing Streisand’s self-absorbed mother, and in 1998, portrayed a well-known heiress in the television mini-series Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke.

Considered one of the twentieth century’s greatest screen stars, Bacall is ranked number twenty in the American Film Institute’s top 25 Actress Legends, and was awarded the Cecil B. DeMille Award for Career Achievement in 1992.

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