By Nancy T. Lu
Forty-four years after she first found stardom in the motion picture, “To Have and Have Not,” American actress Lauren Bacall expressed during a visit to Taipei in 1988 her decision to remain in the acting profession. But if an aspiring actress should approach her for advice then, she would have this to say: “Go to another profession.”
After stunning her listeners with the remark, the then 64-year-old Bacall proceeded to explain herself: “Acting is a great profession but it is a hard one. Seek it if you want a life of rejection. You have to be prepared for this. All your life you will have to audition constantly.”
The blonde Hollywood celebrity with catlike green eyes, who was invited along with Glenn Ford to grace the 25th Golden Horse Awards in Taipei, said that she did not have any secret to share regarding survival in the competitive acting profession. She went on to put it briefly, “Keep working. Keep trying and keep hoping to get a job even if there are not too many openings.”
Many people get to the point of fantasizing about making it in another field. Asked if she ever imagined herself in another profession, Bacall confessed: “I would like to come back as Fred Astaire’s partner.” Out burst her throaty laughter.
The actress who belonged to the golden age of motion pictures originally wanted to be a dancer. In fact, she trained in different kinds of dancing for 13 years. But in the end, Bacall decided that she was not as good in dancing as she wanted to be.
The two persons who influenced the screen and stage actress the most were her mother and her first husband, Humphrey Bogart. She said: “Both have influenced me in the way I feel and the way I live.”
She pointed out that her mother and her first husband, who was 25 years older than her, were contemporaries. Both, she stressed, were “strong characters.” She felt that she had something in common with them.
Bacall elaborated that having character was important. She went on: “Character has to do with how you conduct yourself and how you relate to others. It has something to do with what your standards are.”
Bacall with her air of self-confidence was identified with acting roles with character. She lamented though that the acting parts for women tended to be “mindless.” According to her, film makers didn’t seem to realize that the adult world existed. In addition, the trend seemed to indicate that life was over after the age of 25.
After her first motion picture directed by Howard Hoggs, Bacall appeared in films like “The Big Sleep,” “Key Largo,” “Written on the Wind,” “Sex and the Single Girl,” “Cobwebs” and “The Shootist.”
Bacall kept copies of some of her movies. Others were not readily available. She said that she did not bother to look at her old films. As she emphatically put it, “You just have to keep looking to the future or you will have no future at all.”
Bacall found the coloring of the black-and-white movies “disgusting.” In her opinion, it showed “the mediocrity and cheapness” of people in the movie business. Such practice ruined the movies, she commented. It reflected a lack of respect for films, she added.
Making “To Have and Have Not” proved one of Bacall’s most unforgettable experiences. “It changed my whole life,” she said. But the former model also enjoyed making motion pictures like “Murder on the Orient Express.” She tried to be happy making each film.
Which was her most difficult project? “Living has been the most difficult,” replied the entertainment personality who went through many struggles in her life.
Bacall did stage plays for a while. “Applause” was a most memorable stage production for it was her first musical. However, she went back to making movies. In 1988, she was seen in “Bogart.” This was a television production about her late husband as an actor.
Bacall became Bogart’s fourth wife in 1945. She was widowed in 1957. She remarried a few years later but the marriage to Jason Robards ended in divorce.
Aside from acting, Bacall also wrote. A 1978 autobiography titled “By Myself” was translated into Japanese. She also published “Now” in 1994 and “By Myself and Then Some” in 2005.
Bacall, one of Hollywood’s legends, suffered a stroke and passed away in New York last August 12. She was 89. Her art collection, including works by Henry Moore, Joan Miro and Pablo Picasso which were kept in her homes in Los Angeles, New York and Long Island, as well as her jewelry and furniture will go on auction next month and in March next year. She was also a collector of African art. Her fortune will be divided among her three children.