Why not make today’s Style in Film article about the shirt, too? It seems that it’s the theme of the week on the blog. I’m in a Humphrey Bogart-movies phase, which led me to watch Key Largo (1948) again two evenings ago. It was the last time he and Lauren Bacall would appear on screen together, which makes it an enjoyable envoi, even though the film is not among the best classics in my opinion. Bogart and Bacall are probably my all time favourite Hollywood couple. In the book Bogie: A Celebration of the Life and Films of Humphrey Bogart, by Richard Schickel and George Perry, his scenes with Lauren Bacall are described as having an “unguarded quality”, something he had never done when playing opposite other women. That is very true. They were made for each other, on and off screen, and every time I watch them together it’s like having a privileged glimpse into their beautiful love story. “In my eleven years as his wife I knew the greatest happiness of my life. I have never known quite that quality of pure happiness since” – Lauren Bacall.
Bogart, as Frank McCloud, is an embittered army major, who visits a hotel in Key Largo, Florida, to meet Nora Temple (Lauren Bacall) and James Temple (Lionel Barrymore), the widow and father of his friend war buddy killed on the front. Edward G. Robinson plays fugitive gangster Johnny Rocco, who takes over the hotel together with his entourage and holds everybody hostage as the hurricane strikes. I won’t insist on the plot and I’ll get to the costumes, designed by Leah Rhodes (she had also dressed Lauren in The Big Sleep).
There is in fact just one outfit Lauren wears throughout the film, but it’s enough for me. In a full wool skirt with side pockets and white dress shirt, pieced together with a wide buckle belt, and espadrilles (the iconic flat shoes became popular in the United States when they were seen on Lauren Bacall in this movie), she channels the same restrained elegance and distinction that Bogart’s look exudes. And when a woman’s wardrobe matches the man’s in style, simplicity and refinement, then we should have a second look and take notice. Bacall and Bogart both had well established individual styles and together they became even more iconic. I like how coordinated their costumes are, they even both have the sleeves of their white shirts turned up and the first buttons unfastened. Audrey Hepburn would wear a very similar ensemble five years later, in Roman Holiday, but it doesn’t have the same attractiveness as Lauren’s. Audrey’s is very girlish, while Lauren wears it with a grown-up femininity and her character is underpinned by a natural sense of independence and self-confidence. I will always take the latter version.
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photos: 1-publicity still / 2,3-screen stills captured by me from the DVD available in Bogie And Bacall: The Signature Collection