Me becoming enraptured with Lauren Bacall was very much tied to me falling in love with film while in college.
I remember seeing her first in To Have and Have Not on VHS which I sought out primarily because it was a Howard Hawks film (he being a then-and-now favorite). I was stunned at how perfect it was and how utterly unique she was. I’m still surprised that movie is not more revered. (And remember - she’s 19 in that film!) Soon thereafter I programmed it at the University of Chicago’s Law School Films. I remember we couldn’t show it in the Law School itself (because the UofC Law School administration hated us and always hijacked the theater with little warning). We had to rent the Oriental Institute instead, but the movie still played fantastically.
Then The Big Sleep of course - we put the above image on the cover of one of our LSF calendars. Years later I would see the original “tamer” version of the movie at the Film Forum in New York - the cut where they realized her character was written too meek and had to be made strong and infinitely alluring because that is what she did.
Later as I got into Douglas Sirk, and loved her in Written on the Wind, still probably my favorite Sirk film. It showed how age just made her better. People call that film a melodrama, but I think that does it a bit of a disservice. It’s just good storytelling. We showed that too, naturally.
I cannot think of a more alluring movie star, a woman who dominated or at least stood toe-to-toe with every man she bothered to talk to. There will never be another like her.