Here’s Looking At You: Bogart and Bacall, A True Hollywood Romance

“I never believed that I could love anyone again, for so many things have happened in my life to me that I was afraid to love. Now I’m afraid that you’ll become impatient and that I’ll lose you—but even if that happened, I wouldn’t stop loving you.”

Humphrey Bogart’s letter to Lauren Bacall

By Bianca Garner

If there’s one thing that Hollywood loves then it’s a good romantic fairy tale. If there’s another thing that Hollywood loves then it’s celebrity gossip. One of the greatest scandal’s that ever took place, actually ended with the fairy tale ending. The year was 1943, and Tinsel Town was a completely different place than it is today. Hollywood may have been different but its scandals were the same as the ones we have today. The scandal involved a well-established star falling in love with his co-star, who happened to be 25 years his junior. The Bogart/Bacall affair was a scandal that had everything that a Hollywood screenwriter would love but unlike most celebrity marriages, the marriage between Bogart and Bacall actually ended happily until Bogart’s death in 1957. 

They often say that ‘first impressions matter’ but this wasn’t the case with Bacall and Bogart. In fact, when she first saw him in a film during a trip out with a girlfriend, she thought that her friend “was crazy” for finding the actor attractive. She was only 19 years old when she arrived in Hollywood, and wasn’t too excited over the prospect of starring in a picture with Bogie (she confessed to this in an interview with ‘Vanity Fair’ in 2011). Bacall had been cast by Howard Hawks to star in “To Have and Have Not” (1944). As she wrote in her memoir (Be Myself), “There was no clap of thunder, no lightning bolt” when she first met Bogart in the flesh. 

However, the two actors soon became closer as filming began. Bogart even helped the young star relax during production, giving her helpful advice. She also learned to tuck her chin down to hide her shaking, meaning she had to look up at Bogart, which later developed into her ‘signature move’ known as “The Look”. They began developing a very jokey, friendly approach with each other, and some people observed that the young woman’s co-star became almost “giggly” whenever in her presence. 

“They often say that ‘first impressions matter’ but this wasn’t the case with Bacall and Bogart. In fact, when she first saw him in a film during a trip out with a girlfriend, she thought that her friend “was crazy” for finding the actor attractive.”

It was three weeks into the shoot when Bogart first made a ‘move’. The actor stopped by Bacall’s trailer to say goodnight. She was brushing her hair, and he was standing behind her: What happened next is best said by Bacall herself:

“Suddenly he leaned over, put his hand under my chin, and kissed me. It was impulsive—he was a bit shy—no lunging wolf tactics. He took a worn package of matches out of his pocket and asked me to put my phone number on the back. I did. I don’t know why I did, except it was kind of part of our game. Bogie was meticulous about not being too personal, was known for never fooling around with women at work or anywhere else. He was not that kind of man, and also he was married to a woman who was a notorious drinker and fighter. A tough lady who would hit you with an ashtray, lamp, anything, as soon as not.” 

Bacall will later reveal details about what happened next, “From then on I would get phone calls, occasionally at 3 a.m. My mother used to say, ‘Where do you think you’re going so early in the morning? That man, he’s a married man!’” Indeed, Bogart was a ‘married man’ but he wasn’t happy in his marriage to film star Mayo Method (his third wife). According to an article in ‘Vogue’ by Stephen Heyman, “They had a famously combative relationship, complicated by the fact that both of them were drunks. When angry, Methot liked to throw various domestic objects at her husband, especially phonograph records, which, she once told a reporter, made “such a satisfactory crash.””

Mayo wasn’t the only person that the couple had to be wary of. Director Howard Hawks was also trying to stir things up. Apparently, when he heard about their affair, he tried his best to put an end to it. He told Bacall that it was just a fling and that her love would dump her once filming had wrapped. He then took it a step further and threatened to ruin her career. Decades later, she would recall how, “[Hawks] used to say to Bogie, ‘You don’t have to get serious about this girl. Take her downtown to a hotel and get a room with her—that’s enough.’ That was not Bogie’s scene at all”. 

Filming wrapped on “To Have and Have Not” on May 10, 1944. Shortly afterwards, Bogart sent Bacall a note which read, “I know what was meant by ‘To say goodbye is to die a little’ — because when I walked away from you that last time and saw you standing there so darling I did die a little in my heart.” They still continued their affair but Bogart felt it was his ‘duty’ to remain married to Mayo. 

“During the ceremony, Bogart cried when they exchanged their vows and turned to her to say, “Hello Baby” (which was his nickname for Bacall). Bacall was reported to have said “Oh Goody” when the priest announced that they were now man and wife.”

It wasn’t until 1945 that Bogart and Bacall became public. The two of them had reunited for the film noir “The Big Sleep” and it was evident that the chemistry between the two of them had become even more electrifying. Things had reached boiling point with Mayo, and she had failed to kick her alcoholism and the stress of their marriage was causing Bogart to drink even more and it was beginning to impact his work. He made the decision to file for divorce on 10th May 1945, and 10 days later he married Bacall. 

Their wedding ceremony took place at the Ohio farm of one of Bogart’s friends (Louis Bromfield, a Pulitzer Prize–winning author). Bacall would later confess her emotions as she descended down the staircase to the ‘Wedding March’, ““My knees shook so, I was sure I’d fall down.”” When she saw Bogart in his plain gray flannel suit, she thought to herself that he looked “”so vulnerable and handsome””. During the ceremony, Bogart cried when they exchanged their vows and turned to her to say, “Hello Baby” (which was his nickname for Bacall). Bacall was reported to have said “Oh Goody” when the priest announced that they were now man and wife.

Bacall and Bogart would go on to have two children. Their first child, Stephen, was born in 1949. Their second child, a girl called Leslie, was born in 1952. The couple starred in two more films together, the excellent noir film “Dark Passage” (my personal favourite noir film) and the equally brilliant “Key Largo”. Of course, like all Hollywood romances, the Bogarts also faced challenges and there were rumors of mutual infidelity. However the couple remained together until Bogart’s death in 1957. Bacall would go on to have a brief engagement with Frank Sinatra, then she would go on to marry actor Jason Robards in 1961, though it seems she never really got over Bogie. Even her second spouse referred to her as “The Widow Bogart.”

“No one has ever written a romance better than we lived,” Bacall stated in her memoir. Bacall also said that all the odds were against her and Bogart, and people had anticipated that the marriage would end in tears. “When Bogie and I were married, the Hollywood gloom set shook their collective heads and moaned, ‘It won’t last.’ We knew better. What the catastrophe-anticipators didn’t consider was that the Bogarts were in love.” If we can take away anything from the romance between Bogart and Bacall, it’s that in reality love is messy and complicated, but everyone deserves a happy ending…Even film stars. 

Sources used:

https://www.countryliving.com/life/entertainment/a44357/humphrey-bogart-lauren-bacall-marriage/

https://www.biography.com/news/humphrey-bogart-lauren-bacall-relationship-marriage

https://www.vogue.com/article/lauren-bacall-and-humphrey-bogart-ohio-wedding

https://therake.com/stories/icons/together-kid-lauren-bacall-humphrey-bogart/

All photos from IMDB.

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