Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Over a distance of ground

So no sooner was I inundated by public grief over the suicide of one actor came news of the peaceful death of another:
"A gutsy broad who rode her life and its hardships with self-effacing dignity: “You just learn to cope with whatever you have to cope with. The world doesn’t owe you a damn thing,” she said."
What I remember about Betty Joan Perske - better known as Lauren Bacall - was that when I was a young man, living in the world when young men and young women had very little style and bearing (not that young people have ever had much of either, regardless of their times) she seemed the ideal combination of gutty, sensuous, and confident style and mature, intelligent bearing.

That was pretty much the sum of what she did on screen; in a sense she wasn't a "star" or an "actor" but a character actor whose character was so compelling that she became a star without really having to do more than act the same character in whatever part she was cast.

But, damn, was that character terrific. As that character she was the woman you wanted to fall for, the one you wanted to fall for you, the one who was so desireable, so terrific, that the two of you together would be more than you were as individuals.

And - not an altogether unimportant thing for a young man - Bacall's character introduced me to the idea that men and women could flirt intently and intelligently, that an adult relationship could be much more than just what they showed in "adult" films. Here's a great example, from The Big Sleep:

If that's not one of the sexist goddamn scenes ever filmed I can't think of many others.

I don't want to use this to get maudlin about Betty Joan's - Lauren's - death. I didn't know her or anyone who did. So far as I can tell she had a rich, full life and died full of years and honors, and I can't think of a better way to leave this world, and from what little I know it appears that she covered that distance of ground very well.

Her passing simply reminds me of the affection I will always have for the character she played, now preserved forever in silver salts and black to beguile, I hope, other young men as they venture into the unknown lands beyond their childhoods.


Lisa said...

That initial scene in "To Have or Have Not" -- Anybody got a light?" -- just smoldering.

Bacall seemed comfortable in her own skin. I don't see any young female stars in the U.S. today who exude that same sensuality. I understand the Hayes Code, but there was something wonderful about that directness with restraint.

Intelligent badinage is what's missing. (Well, and some other things, too ...)

Syrbal/Labrys said...

Also, her cool and collected toughness was not all for the silver screen. She had tough in real time, too.