Lauren Bacall ended her 1978 autobiography by asking, “Why didn’t I fall prey to the obvious pitfalls of life – booze, drugs, withdrawal?”
Her answer: “I would say that being loved unselfishly by two people had a hell of a lot to do with it.”
The first was her nurturing, encouraging divorced mother. “Together with the strength of our family and my own character, my ability to laugh at myself – all that is what made it possible for me to deal with Bogie, a man with three marriages in his past and 25 years on me.”
Humphrey Bogart, she wrote in “Lauren Bacall By Myself,” loved her, never suppressed her and helped her to keep her values straight and remember the quality of life and proper attitude toward work.
“To be good was more important than to be rich. To be kind was more important than owning a house or a car. To respect one’s work and to do it well, to risk something in life, was more important than being a star. To never sell your soul – to have self-esteem – to be true – was most important of all.”
On March 24, 1997, Lauren Bacall’s name was on plenty of Oscar ballots in office pools and at parties. She was considered a lock for her supporting role in “The Mirror Has Two Faces.” She had done the Barbara Walters interview, she was seated on the aisle for easy access to the stage and she was long overdue although remarkably this was just her first nomination.
But the ceremony didn’t go according to pundits’ plan. Juliette Binoche was named the winner of the Academy Award in that category, picking up one of nine Oscars for “The English Patient.” Even Binoche was surprised and you had to sympathize with Bacall who then had to sit through the balance of the ceremony and know she would go home empty-handed.
The actress eventually received an Honorary Oscar (above photo) but not during the telecast.
She, Roger Corman and Gordon Willis were saluted during the Governors Awards in November 2009 in the grand ballroom at Hollywood and Highland Center. Producer John Calley, absent due to health reasons, was given the Irving J. Thalberg Memorial Award.
An estimated 600 guests drank champagne, dined on filet mignon and watched as each honoree was celebrated with tributes, toasts and a generous montage of film clips, leisurely elements not possible in previous years when special Oscar presentations were built into the already crowded broadcast. This was the first time the honors were shifted to a separate event.
Bacall has died at age 89, another tether to Hollywood’s golden age gone.
Photos: Courtesy of The Margaret Herrick Library and Todd Wawrychuk / A.M.P.A.S.