Movies

The essential Lauren Bacall: 6 must-see films from 'the girl with the look'

Aug. 13, 2014 at 11:17 AM ET

With her sultry beauty and penchant for high-fashion style, it's no wonder Lauren Bacall was known as the 'girl with the look.' She also was the girl with the amazing résumé. Bacall, who died Tuesday at 89, shot to stardom practically the second she hit the big screen, kicking off a career that spanned decades and made her an American legend. Have you caught Bacall in these classic films? If not, make some popcorn and get comfortable.

'To Have and Have Not' (1944)
Lauren Bacall was 19 years old and a fledgling model when Howard Hawks cast her opposite Humphrey Bogart for her screen debut. As the director explained to Bogart: "You are the most insolent man on the screen, and I'm going to make the girl a little more insolent than you are." Though she was 24 years younger than her leading man, Bacall brought poise, glamour, pluck and a sense of mystery to her performance as an American caught up in the French Resistance movement — and her chemistry with Bogart smoked.

Watch it forthe birth of a legendary Hollywood romance, plus Bacall's delivery of one of the best lines in movie history. "You know how to whistle, don't you?" she asks. "You just put your lips together and blow."

'The Big Sleep' (1946)
Hawks found the perfect follow-up for his newly minted romantic screen team in this Raymond Chandler mystery, with Bogart as scuffed-up private eye Philip Marlowe and Bacall as the spoiled socialite daughter of Marlowe's client. Here we get to see Bacall sing, gamble, look very cool in nightclub scenes, and duel with Bogart in one of the greatest verbal flirtations in the movies. "You've got a touch of class, but I don't know how far you can go," he remarks. Bacall comes right back with, "That depends on who's in the saddle." The horse-racing metaphors continue until the seduction is complete. 

Watch it for: Bogie and Bacall at their crackling best. (By the time the film was released, the two stars were married.)

'Key Largo' (1948)
In her fourth and final feature with Bogart, Bacall plays the widow of his war buddy, held hostage with Bogart and her father-in-law by exiled gangster Edward G. Robinson in a run-down Florida hotel. With a hurricane bearing down, Bogart just wants to wait out the gangsters — until Bacall brings out his inner white knight. Though bad girl Claire Trevor nabbed the Oscar as a drunken moll, Bacall simmers as the headstrong survivor. 

Watch it for: the category 5 emotional storm stirred up by a stellar cast. 

'How to Marry a Millionaire' (1953)
Bacall gets third billing behind blond beauties Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe, playing the eldest sister in a trio of models plotting to hook rich husbands. While Grable (who was actually a decade older than Bacall) and Monroe are sweet and seductive in this rom-com, Bacall plays it cool, tapping her strength and stillness to portray a savvy, stylish schemer.

Watch it for: glorious CinemaScope and Technicolor, lavish sets, a killer wardrobe, and Bacall showing rising star Monroe how it's done.

'The Shootist' (1976)
As the widowed owner of a boarding house where John Wayne's gunfighter spends his dying days, Bacall is tough enough to face the frontier unarmed, her moral center strong in a world where violence is a way of life. John Wayne's final film was an elegiac farewell to the old values of the classic western, and though Bacall had never before appeared in film of this kind, her spirit and stern glares are a fine match for Wayne's easy confidence. When she gives the Duke her blessing to go out the way he lived, it means something.

Watch it for: Bacall's gritty performance in a decidedly unglamorous role.

'Misery' (1990)
Sure, pretty much all anyone remembers from this adaptation of Stephen King's worst nightmare is the physical torment and twisted mind games between psychotic superfan Kathy Bates and injured author James Caan. Bacall had a small role in the margins, as Caan's literary agent, but wrung maximum mileage from her screen time, whether advising her star client or demanding action from the authorities.

Watch it for: Bacall's surefooted dynamism — even when the material doesn't demand it.

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