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Lauren Bacall: Just Aces

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Publicity photo of Lauren Bacall.
The Sultry, Seductive Siren — Who Also Happened To Be One Of The Best Motivators Of A Whistle — Is Remembered During The Time She And Bogey Fell For Each Other By Songster Hoagy Carmichael


By David Fantle and Tom Johnson
Special for Modern Times Magazine

Sept. 8, 2014 — One of the most enduring screen sirens of all time, Lauren Bacall passed away Aug. 12, at the age of 89. Wife of Humphrey Bogart and “den mother” to the original rat pack of friends that gathered around the famous couple, “Betty,” as her friends called her, had a memorable career on screen (To Have and Have Not, Key Largo, How to Marry a Millionaire) and stage (Applause, Woman of the Year) and authored a candidly self-critical autobiography (By Myself) that is still held – and rarely matched – as a confessional standard for the form in Tinseltown.

We never had the pleasure of meeting Bacall. But in 1980, we interviewed songwriter Hoagy Carmichael at his home in La Costa, Calif. Hoagy starred as the piano-playing "Cricket" in To Have and Have Not(1944) with Bogart and Bacall and told us his memory of their burgeoning romance (Bogart and Bacall met on the film and fast fell in love.)

“I didn't know that Bogey was falling in love with Betty at the time,” Hoagy told us. “I had known Betty before he knew her, so when we were making the picture I would go into her dressing room and we'd chat and talk and sometimes. I'd get a little intimate with her. Well, Bogey was sitting in the corner of the dressing room one day when I bounded in and patted Betty affectionately on the behind. Did Bogart's expression ever change! His chin about dropped to the floor.”

A footnote to the To Have and Have Not saga is that Hoagy suggested to the director Howard Hawks that a kid singer named Andy Williams be allowed to dub Bacall’s vocal to the song “How Little We Know” which was written by Hoagy and Johnny Mercer.

“Andy had worked with his brothers on my radio show,” Hoagy told us, “but Hawks was a stickler and wouldn’t allow Bacall to be dubbed. That is Betty’s voice you hear in the film although because Andy laid down a few vocal tracks of the song that weren’t ultimately used, an urban legend has grown that it is Andy Williams’ voice you hear in the film.”

Starting Sept. 15, TCM will air a two-day marathon tribute to Lauren Bacall that will feature all four of her screen pairings with Humphrey Bogart, including To Have and Have Not.You can judge for yourself how effective a chanteuse Bacall is in the movie. To our eyes and ears, she’s just aces!

David Fantle & Tom Johnson have interviewed more than 250 celebrities, mostly from “Hollywood’s Golden Age. They are co-authors of the 2004 book, Reel to Real: 25 years of celebrity profiles from vaudeville to movies to TV. Reach them at
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