Tuesday, August 12, 2014

“It depends on who’s in the saddle”

This is not only my favorite scene from the movie The Big Sleep, but simply one of my favorite scenes from any movie. The double entendres flow faster than the drinks from the bar. Perhaps it’s because the source material was a novel by the great Raymond Chandler or maybe because the film’s screenplay was written by no less than William Faulkner. But I can’t think of anyone who could have played it better than Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart.
Bacall was 20-years-old when the scene was filmed, Bogart 45. And their chemistry was obvious. They began an affair when she, at the age of 17, made her first film with Bogie To Have and Have Not; were married right around the time of the release of The Big Sleep; and remained married until Bogie’s death from cancer in 1957.

I’m not sure why Bacall, who died today from a stroke at the age of 89, never received the credit due her as an actress. Perhaps it was because he made it seem so natural. "Was she acting or just being Lauren Bacall?" She received only one Oscar nomination, for supporting actress in the now mostly forgotten The Mirror Has Two Faces. Many observers, myself included, considered her a cinch to win the Oscar that year, not only because her performance warranted it, because it could have also been considered a lifetime achievement award. However, she was upset by Juliet Binoche (The English Patient). In my opinion, she could have also been nominated for her performance in The Shootist.

She did receive accolades from her peers, however. So the story goes, Bette Davis, who played Margo Channing memorably in the film All About Eve, went to see Bacall in the same role in the Broadway version of the film, Applause, and told Bacall "You know you’re the only one who can play this role."

Her acting abilities did earn her a pair of Tony Awards, for the aforementioned Applause (1970) and Woman of the Year (1981).

Not only that, she inspired millions of men to whistle.

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