In praise of: Lauren Bacall

One of the most original and beguiling actresses of her generation

 Lauren Bacall: cleverness informed every disgraceful anecdote and every barbed aside on long-deceased legends

Lauren Bacall: cleverness informed every disgraceful anecdote and every barbed aside on long-deceased legends

Sat, Aug 16, 2014, 01:00

Coming a day after the more surprising death of Robin Williams, Lauren Bacall’s passing at 89 did not get the coverage it deserved. Moreover, too many obituaries felt the need to focus on her famous marriage to Humphrey Bogart.

Let us offer a corrective. Ms Bacall was among the most original and beguiling actresses of her generation. She utilised her experience as a fashion model to hone a feline walk that caused everything else in the frame to wither. Her husky voice found unique rhythms in the most ordinary lines. But, most importantly – unlike too many of the cosier female stars that followed her in the 1950s – Ms Bacall allowed her characters to radiate wit and intelligence.

In later years, as she climbed aboard the chat-show circuit, that cleverness informed every disgraceful anecdote and every barbed aside on long-deceased legends. While her contemporaries retired to distant mansions, she continued to do good work on film and television.

As recently as 2007, Paul Schrader made terrific use of her in his sombre social satire The Walker. She seemed as sharp and as charismatic as ever. We just don’t get actors with that degree of presence any more. We must “identify” with them. We can’t avoid paparazzi shots of them buying milk in tracksuits.

You never saw Lauren Bacall in the 7-11. Good for her.