The Shadows of Lauren Bacall

LaurenBacall-1940s-320Richard Brody at The New Yorker:

There’s no better evidence for the idea that watching a great actor means watching a great director at work than the career of Lauren Bacall, who, at the time that she was discovered by the director Howard Hawks, was hardly even an actress. She was a model whom Hawks’s wife, Slim Hawks, had spotted on a magazine cover. Howard Hawks claimed that Bacall, rather than her résumé, ended up in his office as a result of a misunderstanding. When he met her, he hated her high voice and told her to alter it to a throaty purr.

She was nineteen; he instructed her (so he said) to sass men, and, when she sassed Clark Gable, Hawks told his screenwriter Jules Furthman, “Do you suppose we could make a girl who is insolent, as insolent as Bogart, who insults people, who grins when she does it, and people like it?” They started writing, and, Hawks said, “I would try out the scenes on Bacall,” and here’s the thing—he added, “She was working all the time.” He got her to work even more, with a series of demanding lessons in accents. He maintained her natural, somewhat feline look—as Bacall wrote in her autobiography, “By Myself,” “Howard had chosen me for my thick eyebrows and crooked teeth and that’s the way they would stay.”

more here.