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Bogie And His “Slim”—Lauren Bacall & Humphrey Bogart

Assuming that fate is at heart a kind lady, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall will have been married at the home of Louis Bromfield in Ohio by the time you read this. For the way has been cleared by the Nevada divorce of Mayo Methot, the former Mrs. Bogart, and Bogie and Lauren can now take up their life as man and wife.

Seldom has there been such a storm of interest in a Hollywood romance as the public has shown in theirs. Recently when both were in New York, the only way they could go for a walk without being mobbed, according to Mrs. Bacall who was with Lauren, was to slip out the side door of the hotel at one or two in the morning and stroll up deserted Fifth Avenue to Central Park.



Accustomed as Bogart was to crowds and autograph seekers, this augmented and almost hysterical interest made him gun shy. He was jumpy, nervous and on the defensive. The situation had been made doubly uncomfortable because when he arrived in the city a few days ahead of Lauren he was put on the spot by a newspaper interviewer. He had made some off-the-record remarks which got into print. The interview had him referring to Lauren as “Baby.” It was “Baby” this and “Baby” that. I read the interview in the Los Angeles papers, and my first thought was, “This doesn’t sound like Bogie.” I had seen a lot of him and Lauren around Hollywood and I couldn’t remember ever having heard him call her “Baby.” So, just for the fun of it, and because I was leaving for New York and wanted a hotel reservation, I wired Bogie asking him to get me a room in his hotel, and I signed the wire “Baby Delehanty.”



He got me the room, but he didn’t think the baby stuff was funny. He felt that it gave people a wrong slant on his attitude toward Lauren, and that’s the way I felt too. It’s a hard thing to explain because there certainly is nothing wrong about calling the girl you love “Baby,” but it wasn’t accurate in his case, and even a small and seemingly unimportant inaccuracy can build up in people’s minds a whole series of erroneous impressions.

While I was in New York, seeing Bogart and Bacall frequently, my friends were constantly asking me what these two were like, how they behaved toward each other.

It was difficult to give the answer. It was difficult because there isn’t any single answer. They are like a couple of kids in love, they are like two movie stars who don’t like to think of themselves as movie stars, they are like two people who have the same hobbies, and they are like old friends.






They are like the characters they played in “To Have And Have Not” and, in another sense, they are a million miles away from those characters. They resemble Slim and Steve only in that they belong to each other and nothing else matters. You remember there was no plot to “To Have And Have Not.” It was a situation picture, with Slim and Steve predominating. That’s Bogart and Bacall: Two people who don’t have to rely on a plot to get along.

This is interesting in view of the fact that “To Have And Have Not” was the picture which brought Bogart and Bacall together; it was the picture which changed their lives, and it is the picture which would have turned out differently if Bogart and Bacall hadn’t injected into it their personal attitude toward each other.



This is what happened. Originally it was planned to use “the other woman” in this story to come between Slimand Steve and temporarily break them up. While the picture was being filmed this scheme underwent a change. Bogart and Bacall played their scenes in such a way that it became obvious they were to dominate the plot, so the plot was thrown out. The emphasis was put entirely on the two principals, the two principals who even then were subconsciously becoming he principals in each other’s lives.



Bogie has a lot of names for Bacall. The only one he doesn’t use is Lauren. “I hate ‘Lauren,’ ” he says. “I never did like it.” Most frequently he calls her Betty, and that’s what her close friends call her. Bogie also calls her. Jack, Mack, Pete or anything that comes into his head. His nicknames for her are usually those applied to men, not because Betty is masculine but because Bogie is male. During the filming of “To Have And Have Not” he called her Slim, and still does occasionally. The nickname depends on where they are and what they are doing and what mood he is in. In his jocular moments Betty may be “fish-face” or some such deliberately unflattering appellation.



Though mathematically there is more than twenty years difference in their ages you would never guess it from the way they act. Bogie has a light and playful side; Betty is what the astrologers call an “old soul.” A group of Bogie’s friends was discussing her age. Louis Bromfield, who was among them, stopped the discussion when he said, “she’s a hundred and one.” He didn’t mean that she was a smart aleck sophisticate but that she has maturity of mind and spirit, a quick understanding which enables her to adapt herself to any environment or any company.






Bogie says she is like a chameleon. She takes on the color of things around her. This trait showed up in an amusing way when she and he were filming “The Big Sleep,” their second picture. In this she plays a society girl and Bogie is his usual gangster type. They were doing a scene in a gambling joint where Betty was supposed to say in Park Avenue accents, “Spin the wheel. Want another play?” Just before this line she had been watching Bogie do his tough stuff. When her turn came she unconsciously dropped into his manner and came out with “Spin dat wheel. Wanna ’nother play?” They had to call time out while everyone on the set recovered from shock.

This flexibility is one of the chief reasons why Bogie and Betty get so well. She has adapted her life to his, not only to his friends but to his interests and hobbies. No ordinary girl could make the jump from Walgreen’s drugstore counter to sailing enthusiast without appearing to be putting on an act. But with Betty the change is spontaneous and natural.



When they were in New York Betty met many of Bogie’s old friends from the theatrical and newspaper world. She was plunged into what to most young career girls would have been a dazzling atmosphere, but Betty refused to be dazzled. She and Bogie lunched at “21” with people like Clifton Webb, George Kaufman and Moss Hart. He took her to the Artists and Writers Club, that celebrated and exclusive hangout for newspaper men next door to the New York Herald Tribune where she was taught to play he match game with old timers like Stanley Walker, one time managing editor of the Tribune, and drama critics Howard Barnes and John Chapman. She took it all in her stride, enjoying it and deliberately keeping herself in the background.



One of the big surprises which Bogie had during this visit to New York was Betty’s attitude toward the theater. Bogie wanted to see the hit plays. There wasn’t time for the others, but Betty kept insisting on seeing two which were definitely not in the hit class. Bogie protested. “Why do you want to waste time on that stuff?” he complained. Bogie soon found the reason. Two of Betty’s girl friends from school days were in the shows. She wanted to say hello to them. Betty is adaptable but no one can say she has “gone Hollywood.”



Bogie, as everyone knows, has a mania for sailing. He owns a cabin cruiser which he keeps at Balboa Island, and on weekends he races a small sailboat at the nearby Newport Beach Yacht Club. In the beginning Betty took to the water like a duck takes to land. The first time she took the wheel of the cruiser she ran down Bogie’s pet sailboat at its mooring in the crowded harbor. She was so excited that she threw the engine into reverse, tossed a line overboard and the line got snarled up in the propeller. A few weeks later she had not only mastered the cruiser but she sailed the sailboat in one of the regular yacht club races. She came in fourth, and though there were only four boats in the race Bogie thinks that was a pretty good showing. “At least they (meaning Betty and the boat) stayed on top of the water,” he says proudly.



This boat racing presents a special problem so far as Bogie and Betty are concerned. There are many Navy and Coast Guard sailors stationed in the Balboa district and it has been the custom for a number of them to pile into small boats on racing days and follow Bogie during the races. The sudden appearance of Betty created havoc in more ways than one. The sailor-audience not only doubled in numbers but they deserted Bogie, and the small and motley flotilla paddled around Betty, shouting encouragement. On one occasion this caused considerable embarrassment to her and no little amusement to the spectators. It happened that a sudden calm fell upon the waters. Betty’s boat was at a standstill, the sail drooping helplessly. Betty gave a couple of futile pulls at the rudder, then looking wildly at the sailors she shouted at the top of her voice, “Please get out of the way. Can’t you see I’m racing?”



Betty isn’t awed by Bogie’s so-called toughness. In fact she has her own sly way of kidding him about it. When he went off on a trip recently, Betty got hold of his sister, Mrs. Pat Rose, and together they redecorated his apartment as a Surprise. Betty chose the color which she knew Bogie liked. Then she bought new curtains and had the chairs re-covered.

When Bogie saw it he was delighted, except for one thing. Over the mantel was a large and beautiful painting of a chrysanthemum. Bogie gave this effete piece of decoration a sour look, gulped, but didn’t say anything. He didn’t want to hurt Betty’s feelings.

But what he doesn’t know—and probably won’t know until he reads it here—was that Betty deliberately selected that particular picture as a gag. As this goes to press she is still waiting for him to explode.



Though Betty doesn’t drink anything except an occasional glass of sherry she can mix drinks with the best of them. Bogie says she is a better bartender than a cook.

One time Betty offered to prove that she can cook too. She asked Bogie what he would like her to cook for him, and he said asparagus. She was stumped. There was no cook book handy so she went to a drugstore, phoned a friend and asked directions.

“It’s easy,” said the friend. “Put a pot of water on the stove. When it comes to a boil dump in the asparagus. Let it boil for twenty minutes. There’s absolutely nothing to it.”

Triumphantly Betty went to work. She put the water on the gas range, let it come to a boil, tossed in the asparagus—and turned the jet off.

Betty admits that whatever success she has had on the screen was tremendously influenced by Bogie.



“I was so nervous,” she told me, “when we started shooting ‘To Have And Have Not’ that I couldn’t keep from shaking. I was playing a scene with Bogie and I had to catch a box of matches he tossed me, and then light a cigarette. I kept dropping the matches, my hands trembled so. Bogie pretended to ignore it, which was just what I needed. All through the picture he was helpful and encouraging. He’s not like some actors. He’ll go out of his way to show you what to do, and,” she added, “he knows.”

It is characteristic of Bogie that he never does anything by halves. Simultaneously with the news from Las Vegas that Mayo’s divorce had gone through came a request from Chicago that he attend the “I Am An American Day” celebration. Turning to Lauren, with whom he was dining, he said, “Meet me in Chicago. I’ve got a job to do there. Then we’ll go on to Louis Bromfleld’s and get married. Might as well kill two birds with one stone.” That is how the marriage, which was originally planned for late June, was switched to an earlier date.

Here’s wishing a happy life together to two good scouts!

THE END

BY THORNTON DELEHANTY

 

It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE JULY 1945



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