Previously unpublished excerpts from a 1996 interview reveal some of the Hollywood legend’s inspirations, strategies and humor.
By Sandy Stert Benjamin, ReMIND magazine
It was a crisp October day in 1996, and Lauren Bacall was in Los Angeles to promote her 31st motion picture, The Mirror Has Two Faces. “I like the character,” she said, “because it represents so many women, and the way we deal with insecurities, fears, relationships and losses.”
Bacall then went on to recount some of her own personal experiences, and how she drew inspiration from her role-model mom. Here are some previously unpublished excerpts from our interview.
What do you think made you persevere and become the strong person you are?
Lauren Bacall: I suppose it was my mother. She was hypersensitive and fragile emotionally, yet she worked and took care of me because of the lack of a father in my life. [Bacall’s parents divorced when she was 5.] She adored me and never complained, and I thought, “My God! She is my example.” One had to be strong to do what she did.
You’ve played a mother onscreen – including Barbra Streisand’s mom in this film – plus, you have three children of your own. Has it been difficult balancing your career with your private life?
Lauren Bacall: I think you just do what needs to be done. Bogie [Bacall’s late husband, Humphrey Bogart] said to me years ago, “Do you realize what you do? You’re a wife, a mother, an actress, you’re running a house . . . that’s a lot!” But I don’t look at it that way, ’cause to me, you just do what’s necessary. Whether it’s cooking the meals, walking the dog, whatever it is, I accept all of the aspects of whatever life one chooses.
Are you surprised by the enormity of your career?
Lauren Bacall: I don’t think of it in those terms. I think of my career as being very up and down, filled with successes and failures. There were a lot of dry years when I wasn’t offered anything in pictures. But then came success onstage, which was probably one of the highest points of my life. So I don’t analyze it. I don’t break it down. In my second book [1994’s Now], I wrote about work because work is my ethic, and I believe in it very strongly. Had I just thought that movies were my only life and I never tried anything else, I would be done for.
During times when things may have seemed overwhelming, what helped you push through?
Lauren Bacall: My humor. I think that saved me. A life without humor is no life for me. I think humor is essential.
So much has been said about your beauty. One has to assume it’s played a part in some of the roles for which you were cast.
Lauren Bacall: I have never liked looking at myself. I’ve never enjoyed that sight! I wanted to look like Carole Lombard! [Laughs] I just hope that I can look as good as I can on any given day. I don’t look in the mirror unless I have to when going out.
Thinking back on your life, what are some of your favorite memories?
Lauren Bacall: I have thought, in wonderment from time to time, of the people that I cannot believe I have known. Had I not met Bogie and then met all of his friends – his contemporaries – I never would’ve known Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker, Louis Bromfield, all the journalists, sports figures. It’s truly amazing. And it’s all because this little kid from New York got on a train one day to go for a screen test.
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