Just Like Bogey and Bacall

That’s Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, a Hollywood love story brought to you by the power of alliteration.

Last night I finished a crash course in Bogey and Bacall. In the last couple weeks, I’ve watched two of the four films that the couple made together:  The Big Sleep (1946) and To Have and Have Not (1944). Incidentally they were both directed by Howard Hawks, a legend of classic Hollywood.

Bogey and Bacall is an interesting love story because if it had happened to non-celebrities, it would probably just be creepy. For starters, Bacall was twenty-five years his junior, and he was married to another woman when they met on the set of To Have and Have Not. Oh, and Bacall was all of nineteen years old at the time. Yet something about their on-screen chemistry makes their romance seem only natural.

Maybe it’s the fact that Bacall’s physicality and behavior suggest maturity beyond her years. She certainly makes a case for husky-voiced women everywhere, and her characters in these movies can handle themselves. Would she want some immature, age-appropriate dude when she can have Humphrey freaking Bogart? Then again, her on-screen persona doesn’t necessarily equal who she was as a person. I can’t find this interview on the internet, so you’ll have to take my word for it. But I distinctly remember seeing an interview with Bacall, probably on TCM, where she talked about being startled by her first on-screen kiss with Bogey because she was so inexperienced.

Despite Bacall’s projected maturity, Bogey also makes them work by being not the most predatory of men. He embodies a different brand of wry masculinity, and his characters are often reluctant heroes. (See Rick Blaine in Casablanca, or Harry Morgan in To Have and Have Not, the plot of which bears a striking resemblance to Casablanca.) My favorite part of The Big Sleep are the repeated cracks about Bogart’s height, often from female characters.

I can’t say that either of these films blew my mind. If you’re looking for Bogart plus high-quality film, nothing beats Casablanca. But if you want to some Bogey and Bacall fireworks, I would recommend To Have and Have Not. Sometimes when Bogey smiles at her, you feel like you’re catching a glimpse of real-life emotion. Plus he wears an adorable captain’s hat for much of the film. (His character’s name is literally Captain Morgan.) And double-plus-bonus, he has a loveable drunken friend who the characters refer to as a “rummy.” If that’s not a sign of quality, I don’t know what is.

*Does the title of this post sound familiar? Click here at your peril.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Just Like Bogey and Bacall

  1. Mom

    You’re always educating me Courtney. I had no idea the age difference was that drastic. Can you imagine yourself at age 19 with a 44 year old? Yuck. Mom

    • No, I definitely can’t imagine that. But therein lies the difference between me and Lauren Bacall. (That’s the only difference, I’m sure.)

      There are other details in the popular version of their love story that create sympathy for them. For one, Bogart’s wife was apparently a raging drunk. Also the director Howard Hawks was angry that Bacall didn’t fall in love with him and had at least two on-set affairs to make her jealous. Compared to that crazy, Bogey probably looked pretty good.

  2. jc

    No doubt that today, their romance would be considered “creepy”. But, you have to consider the extreme differences in the culture and society today compared to the early 1940’s. You are very much a product of the times today, as they were during their time. Relationships with older men, and in some cases, much older men were not that unusual, nor were they in any way creepy. Young women of their time often considered themselves far too mature for young men their own age and sought after older, more mature and successful men. But it wasn’t only for financial security, as they were drawn to the older men because of their greater perceived knowledge, their more worldly experiences, and they generally felt safer and more protected in their company. Remember, it truly was a different world.

    • My goal in this post was certainly not to criticize Bogey and Bacall, but I can see how it could come off as apologist. I was trying to explore the different set of expectations we have for celebrities, particularly celebrity romance, and how on-screen personas can influence how we judge off-screen behavior.

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