“She just kept a cool, amused manner, and the audiences liked it very much."- Howard Hawks on Lauren Bacall
Filming To Have and Have Not (Feb-May 1944) was a breeze, as the newcomer became more at ease while quickly falling in love with her married co-star, much to Hawks’ resentment. The film premiered Nov 1944 and was an immediate hit, with studio boss Jack Warner ordering a follow up. Nobody cared that the finished film had very little to do with the original novel.
Hawks was already toying with the idea of adapting Raymond Chandler’s detective novel, The Big Sleep, and since Raymond Chandler was unavailable, he turned again to William Faulkner for the structure. He also contacted first time novelist Leigh Brackett, who impressed him with a tough, hard-boiled prose, for the dialogue, beginning her career that lasted through Star War’s The Empire Strikes Back (1980).
When filming began (Oct 1944 - Jan 1945), Bogart was not yet divorced, making much of the filming tense and uncomfortable. Once on set, adapting Chandler to the personalities of Bogart and Bacall required help again from Jules Furthman with dialogue. Censorship battles meant more delays, and then preview audiences wanted more B&B. Six more days of shooting in Jan 1946 added three more scenes, but by this time Bogart had his divorce, and the couple were newlyweds.
Bogart and Bacall remained married until his death in 1957. Lauren has since won Broadway’s Tony for her stage work, and continues to make film appearances. Her other best films are Key Largo (also with Bogart 1948), Murder on the Orient Express (1973), The Shootist (John Wayne’s final film, 1976), and Misery (as James Caan’s book publisher, 1992). Most recently, in 2014 she was the voice of Evelyn on The Family Guy.
The real life stuff that dreams are made of starts with the March 1943 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, seen by Slim Keith, wife of Howard Hawks. Howard asked to get more on the intriguing face, but his secretary misunderstood and got the model a ticket to Hollywood for a screen test, leading to a personal seven year contract and a starring role and romance in her screen debut.
Once Howard could see her potential, he changed her name from Betty Jane Perske to Lauren Bacall, using part of her mother’s maiden name. He gave her exercises to lower her voice, and groomed her for three months, while considering how to about adapt Ernest Hemingway’s 1937 novel, To Have and Have Not as a Humphrey Bogart movie. Hawks often spoke that he tried bringing Hemingway to Hollywood, and told him that he could make a hit out of Ernest’s worst novel, To Have and Have Not “that piece of junk”. So Howard turned to another great American writer, and an even closer friend in William Faulkner, and working with Jules Furthman for the third time, Hawks set out to create a female character as insolent as Bogart, but less brittle than Marlene Dietrich, with Jules already having written 3 movies for Marlene.
By following the life and art of Howard Hawks one can capture the true essence of the Golden Age of Hollywood, as if slipping on special lenses that suddenly pull away the grain and glare to reveal an unforgettable time of Movie Magic.