16 September 2009

Happy Birthday, Ms. Bacall

A few years ago, when she was nineteen, Lauren Bacall made one of the great -- and most scorching -- screen debuts of all time.

Howard Hawks saw her potential, and like the canny Svengali he was, groomed her carefully before lensing her. But what seems so effortless and so natural is, of course, the product of discipline and a kind of courage.

She told us that she had spent the majority of her life "quaking in fear". Hard to imagine, but true. At every step along the way, she had huge obstacles to overcome - of fear, shyness, self-confidence problems ... She was terrified to meet Diana Vreeland. She was terrified of modeling. She was terrified to meet Howard Hawks. She was terrified of what would happen to her after Bogie died. She was terrified to star in "Applause" on Broadway - the musical version of All About Eve (she ended up winning the first of two Tonys by the way). She is ruled by fear.
Her stage fright is debilitating (always has been) and she trembles uncontrollably. Her head shakes (she mentions becoming aware of it on her first day of shooting To Have and Have Not) ... her hand trembles ... it is beyond her control. The "tricks" she performs on herself, to just allow herself to be up there in front of people (head down, chin down, arm down ... ) - are extraordinary . . . Her "coping skills" (head down, chin down, look up while head is down so head doesn't shake, arm down, cross one arm over the other) - all of that stuff became her "look", her persona, what she was famous for.
No wonder Bogart, although famously anti-Semitic, fell for her.  Who wouldn't?

No comments:

Post a Comment