Lauren Bacall, hardly a top box office attraction in the 1940s or 1950s, but a major “Old Hollywood” star today, will have her Turner Classic Movies “Summer Under the Stars” day on Wed., Aug. 25.
Bacall is so prestigious nowadays that she even won an Honorary Oscar last year, a distinction hardly ever accorded to a woman. In fact, the vast majority of female movie stars of her era – and I’m referring to stars who were bigger and/or more prestigious than Bacall in her Hollywood heyday – have moved to the Great Beyond without the “career Oscar.” A handful may still be waiting for it on this planet, but chances are they won’t get it.
I’ve watched most of the Lauren Bacall vehicles to be presented on TCM tomorrow; the one exception is The Cobweb (1955).
Of the ones I’ve seen, I’d most recommend Key Largo (1948) – but not because of Bacall (or Humphrey Bogart, for that matter), for Edward G. Robinson and Claire Trevor are the ones who run away with John Huston’s noirish thriller. Robinson, as always, had me rooting for the sadistic villain, while Trevor, playing an aging, alcoholic gun moll, fully deserved her Best Supporting Actress Oscar win.
Between To Have and Have Not (1944) and its (more or less) remake, The Breaking Point (1950), I much prefer the latter, with John Garfield and (especially) Patricia Neal, while Dark Passage (1947) is by far the weakest among the four Bogart-Bacall flicks. And if you can figure out what actually takes place in Howard Hawks’ The Big Sleep (1946), please let me know.
Michael Curtiz’s Young Man with a Horn (1950) exudes a certain nostalgic mood (Ted McCord’s black and white cinematography, clarinets, Doris Day), but Curtiz’s Bright Leaf (1950) is a melodramatic mess about rival tobacco growers in which even Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal flounder. (As an aside: Curtiz was hardly Bacall’s favorite filmmaker.)
Richard Quine’s Sex and the Single Girl (1964) is proof positive that unfunny, infantile “risque” comedies existed long before Adam Sandler and the like came onto the scene, while Designing Woman (1957) was a major disappointment on all counts – I mean, Gregory Peck, Vincente Minnelli, an Oscar win for Best Original Screenplay and it totally sucks.
If I remember it correctly, in her autobiography, By Myself, Bacall says that her favorite line is found in Designing Woman. It goes something like this: “Open your eyes and go to sleep.”
Schedule (PT) and synopses from the TCM website:
3:00 AM Confidential Agent (1945)
A Spanish spy and an American heiress battle fascists in England. Cast: Charles Boyer, Lauren Bacall, Peter Lorre. Director: Herman Shumlin. Black and white. 118 min.
5:00 AM Dark Passage (1947)
A man falsely accused of his wife’s murder escapes to search for the real killer. Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Agnes Moorehead. Director: Delmer Daves. Black and white. 106 min.
7:00 AM Blood Alley (1955)
An American sailor breaks out of a Chinese jail and dodges Communist agents on the road to Hong Kong. Cast: John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, Paul Fix. Director: William A. Wellman. Color. 115 min.
9:00 AM Cobweb, The (1955)
Inmates and staff at a posh asylum clash over love and lunacy. Cast: Richard Widmark, Lauren Bacall, Gloria Grahame. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Color. 124 min.
11:30 AM Key Largo (1948)
A returning veteran tangles with a ruthless gangster during a hurricane. Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Lauren Bacall. Director: John Huston. Black and white. 101 min.
1:30 PM Designing Woman (1957)
A sportswriter and a fashion designer have a lot of adjusting to do when they marry in haste. Cast: Gregory Peck, Lauren Bacall, Dolores Gray. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Color. 118 min.
3:45 PM Private Screenings: Lauren Bacall (2005)
Lauren Bacall discusses her life and career with host Robert Osborne. Black and white. 50 min.
5:00 PM To Have And Have Not (1944)
A skipper-for-hire’s romance with a beautiful drifter is complicated by his growing involvement with the French resistance. Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Walter Brennan. Director: Howard Hawks. Black and white. 100 min.
7:00 PM Young Man With a Horn (1950)
A young trumpet player is torn between an honest singer and a manipulative heiress. Cast: Kirk Douglas, Doris Day, Lauren Bacall. Director: Michael Curtiz. Black and white. 112 min.
9:00 PM Bright Leaf (1950)
Two tobacco growers battle for control of the cigarette market. Cast: Gary Cooper, Lauren Bacall, Jack Carson. Director: Michael Curtiz. Black and white. 111 min.
11:00 PM Big Sleep, The (1946)
Private eye Philip Marlowe investigates a society girl’s involvement in the murder of a pornographer. Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Dorothy Malone. Director: Howard Hawks. Black and white. 114 min.
1:00 AM Sex And The Single Girl (1964)
A journalist sets out to expose a female sex expert but falls for her instead. Cast: Natalie Wood, Tony Curtis, Henry Fonda. Director: Richard Quine. Color. 114 min.
Turner Classic Movies website.
SEX AND THE SINGLE GIRL also boasts Fran Jeffries as “Gretchen” doing a song-and-dance — not as good as her memorable “Meglio Sta’ Sera” sequence in THE PINK PANTHER but still nice to see one of the few screen roles for this charismatic nightclub entertainer. Jeffries was married to director Richard Quine.