Editor’s note: We were sad to hear of the passing of Lauren Bacall at the age of 89 today (Aug 12, 2014). She was a true Hollywood legend, a fresh-faced beauty who stole the notoriously cynical Humphrey Bogart’s heart.
Here is a fond remembrance of her first appearance on screen, from a blog post earlier this year. Rest in peace, Lauren. As Bogie himself, would say..”Here’s looking at you, kid.”
It’s a cold and windy day here in the northeast, so we thought that a good way to warm up would be to take a trip back to the Golden Age of Hollywood and look at the distinct fashions of a screen icon.
As Caroline Young writes in her book, “Classic Hollywood Style,” few actress made such a stunning impact in their first role as Lauren Bacall did in “To Have or Have Not,”
“When Lauren Bacall slinked pantherlike on to the screen in Howard Hawks’ “To Have or to Have Not,” a starlet had never made such an impact in her first role.
Bacall was hyped as “an American Dietrich,” a “tall Veronica Lake,” and “what most men expect their favorite girl to look like.” The actress, born Betty Joan Perske, was given the nickname ‘the Look,” in tribute to the way she tilted down her chin and glanced up through the side sweep of blonde hair.
Lauren Bacall was the perfect partner for Humphrey Bogart, as she could match him with toughness and wisecracks. They famously fell in love during the making of “To Have and Have Not,” and because the film was shot in sequence, the offscreen love story unfolds before our eyes.
Hawks told Bogart, “we are going to try an interesting thing. You are about the most insolent man on the screen and I’m going to make a man a little more insolent than you are.” Bacall dropped the biting one-liners, gave Bogart the brush off until the end, and slinked in tight fitting suits, shirts and dresses that highlighted her cat-like poise.
Bacall’s cool look particularly stuck a chord with the women who saw the film and the publicity photos in magazines. “Even the high school girls are trying to copy her striped hair, aidling walk and guttural wheezes,” reported one newspaper. “Corset departments report unmeetable demands for the up lifted, Bacall type of brassiere.”
“Classic Hollywood Style” explores iconic looks from the golden era of Hollywood, covering 35 films from the 1920s to the end of the 1960s. Caroline Young looks at the history and social context of the costumes through stories from the production, photos, interviews and original costume design sketches, and tips on how to ‘get the look’ today.
While we celebrate the glacial elegance of Grace Kelly and the skin-tight sexiness of Marilyn Monroe, behind every look on screen was the costume designer who shaped the image. In the golden age of Hollywood, designers like Edith Head, Adrian and Travis Banton became stars in their own right. Women queued up to see the latest Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo release to lust after the glamorous costumes the stars would wear on screen. Department stores shamelessly mass-produced copies of gowns, film magazines would preview the new looks and women ran up their own versions on their sewing machines. In the 1960s women lowered their hems and sported berets to look just like Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde. Even today, an article on the little black dress will inevitably make mention of Audrey Hepburn.
Every one of these films has perfectly captured a moment of fashion zeitgeist or has become an indelible image of cinema, whether it is Garbo in a trenchcoat in A Woman of Affairs, Joan Crawford’s shoulder pads in Mildred Pierce, Rita Hayworth’s strapless dress in Gilda, James Dean’s red windbreaker in Rebel Without a Cause or Steve McQueen’s ivy league style in The Thomas Crown Affair. Through archived records, studio press releases, behind the scenes memos, costume designer sketches and notes, censorship records and articles from magazines of the time, this is a behind-the-scenes look at the classic costumes of the silver screen.