Paul Greenberg

Bacall tried to keep up with Bogie, but she had to know she was the warm-up act, not the main event, and there were times when she clearly resented it. "I think I've damned well earned the right to be judged on my own," she once said, but wouldn't have had to say it if it were true. Hers was a derivative fame despite her claim to being a star in her own right

Even that trademark pose of hers, the downcast look, the soft purr, the seductive layer of toughness, she owed to one of her first scenes with Bogart: "My hand was shaking, my head was shaking, the cigarette was shaking, I was mortified. The harder I tried to stop, the more I shook. ... I realized that one way to hold my trembling head still was to keep it down, chin low, almost to my chest, and eyes up at Bogart. It worked and turned out to be the beginning of The Look." Her naturally low voice didn't hurt, either. It was effective, but you wouldn't confuse it with natural, while Bogart was ... Bogart.

Ah, yes, The Look. It didn't have to be spelled out, as in this more explicit age. It was a subtler and therefore sexier era. You might as well compare Rosemary Clooney's voice with Mick Jagger's barbaric yawp. Walt Whitman ("I sound my barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world") would have loved it -- right up to moment he actually had to listen to it.

Hard-boiled New Yorker or not, Lauren Bacall remained Betty Perske, the nice if always aspiring middle-class Jewish girl from New York. They had their political differences, Bogart and Bacall, but it made no difference. It only added another fillip to their romance, and its intensity. She was Madly for Adlai back in the cool Fifties while he, an older man, retained his conservative instincts. No matter. Love is what matters.

Tough but tender, and utterly devoted to him, she would see the stoical Bogart through his last, terminal bout with cancer. He would die at 57. And she would go on, a still familiar figure, contented, maybe, a proud mother of three, involved with her four grandchildren, still working now and then, but ... never as happy as she was with Bogart.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.