Lauren Bacall was born Betty Joan Perske in New York City. Her father was as a salesman and her mother a secretary; they divorced when she Lauren was five. Lauren originally wanted to be a dancer, but later, she became enthralled with acting. She had studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York after high school, which enabled her to get her feet wet in some off-Broadway productions.
After leaving school, Lauren entered modelling and, because of her beauty, appeared on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar, one of the most popular magazines in the US. The wife of director Howard Hawks spotted the picture in the publication and arranged with her husband to have Lauren take a screen test.
It has been said that she was initially dismissed by Howard Hawks because she had a high nasal voice, but she spent two weeks developing her voice and, when she came back to visit Hawks two weeks later, she had a deep husky voice.
As a result, she was given the part of Marie Browning in Ernest Hemingway's To Have and Have Not (1944), a thriller opposite the great Humphrey Bogart, when she was just 19 years old. This not only set the tone for a fabulous career but also one of Hollywood's greatest love stories (she married Bogart in 1945). It was also the first of several Bogie-Bacall films.
After 1945's Confidential Agent (1945), Lauren received second billing in The Big Sleep (1946) with Bogart. The mystery, in the role of Vivian Sternwood Rutledge, was a resounding success. Although she was making one film a year, each production was eagerly awaited by the public. In 1947, again with her husband, Lauren starred in the thriller Dark Passage (1947) and Key Largo (1948). In 1953, Lauren appeared in her first comedy as Schatze Page in How to Marry a Millionaire.
After filming Designing Woman (1957), Humphrey Bogart died on January 14 from throat cancer. At the funeral for her husband, Humphrey Bogart, she put a whistle in his coffin. It was a reference to the famous line she says to him in their first film together Ernest Hemingway's To Have and Have Not (1944): "You know how to whistle, don't you? You just put your lips together and blow."
Devastated at being a widow, Lauren returned to the silver screen with The Gift of Love (1958) opposite Robert Stack. Lauren then moved back to New York City and appeared in several Broadway plays to huge critical acclaim.
Away from the big screen for five years, she returned in 1964 to appear in Shock Treatment and Sex and the Single Girl. In 1966, Lauren starred in The Moving Target (1966) with Paul Newman and Julie Harris. Alternating her time between films and the stage, Lauren returned in 1974's Murder on the Orient Express (1974).
In 1981, Lauren played an actress being stalked by a crazed admirer in The Fan (1981). After that production, Lauren was away from films again, this time for seven years. In the interim, she again appeared on the stages of Broadway. When she returned, it was for the filming of 1988's Mr. North (1988). After Misery (1990), in 1990, and several made for television films, Lauren appeared in 1996's My Fellow Americans (1996).