It was her first movie role, and what a memorable role it was. Lauren Bacall was the perfect partner for Humphrey Bogart in To Have And Have Not (1944). At the tender age of 19 she could crack wise with Bogie, measure up to his personality and was even “a little more insolent than he was”, as Howard Hawks, the film director, said. She was dubbed “The Look”, in tribute to the way she tilted down her chin and glanced up through the side sweep of blonde hair. It was the only way she could stop her voice shaking and her head trembling because of emotions. The two fell in love on the set of the film and the incredible thing is that the off-screen love story unfolds before our eyes.
Lauren Bacall was discovered by Howard Hawks’ wife, Nancy “Slim” Hawks, who had seen her on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar and told her husband that this was a star in the making. Hawks changed the heroine’s name in the film from Marie to Slim, after his wife. The houndstooth wool suit with peplum jacket and pencil skirt was inspired by a similar one Hawk’s glamorous wife liked to wear. Lauren wore it with a matching bag and a black beret in her hands. The suit is tailored to perfection and emphasises Bacall’s lean figure, just as all the other costumes do. It’s a timeless suit that’s never gone out of fashion.
Lauren insisted to keep her hair the way she liked it. “The wave…on the right side – starting to curve at the corner of my eyebrow and ending, sloping downward, at my cheekbone.”
In a simple striped dressing gown, with shoulder pads, in her famous seduction scene. “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.”
In a striped day dress. Bacall’s cool look influenced women who saw the film and the publicity photos in magazines. It was reported that “even the high school girls are trying to copy her striped hair, aidling walk and guttural wheezes”. Lauren Bacall became an instant icon of American style and sensuality. As I was watching the film for this blog post, I was thinking: this is the stuff stars were made of. She holds the screen in every scene she’s in.
She’s wearing a utility dress with striped insertions – maybe a reference to the dresses that Martinique and Cuban (the film is set in Martinique) women wore. The costumes were designed by Milo Anderson.
The midriff revealing black satin gown Bacall wears when she sings in the Café de France has a Latin American feel, with a hoop that links the top to the draped skirt. Like all her other costumes in the film, it has structured shoulders (it was the ’40s after all), and it is paired with a pair of black peep toe shoes. It was a show-stopper.
bibliography: Classic Hollywood Style, by Caroline Young
photos: film stills captured by me from the film edition available in the Bogie And Bacall: The Signature Collection / credit: Warner Brothers