Tuesday, 7 August 2012

The love of the century: Bogie and Bacall

Hello, there, my pals and gals! So, when I was writing that piece on Betty Bacall (one of my favorite actresses - underrated!), I found I couldn't dwell too much on her romance with Bogie. First, because she's lived a long life, thankfully, so there was already so much to be said, and then because Betty herself doesn't like it if we make her entire life about Bogie. It was the best experience of her life, she admits, but to ignore everything else she is and does is just disrespectful. 
But, because I love their story so much (it's probably my favorite love story in Hollywood ever), I wanted to make a post about it. Not about their marriage, their children, the part everyone knows about, but I wanted to discuss the difficulties they went through before tying the knot. To think that she was almost my age when all this happened is mind-blowing. I can't imagine loving a man this much and going through all this for him at this stage of my life. I think I secretly hope it will happen to me too. :)
Here we go!

1943, Warner Bros. Studios. Howard Haws watches attentively while his newly-made star films a scene with arguably the biggest silver screen legend of all time. “You know you don’t have to act with me, Steve. You don’t have to say anything and you don’t have to do anything. Not a thing.” She said, her husky voice making the ground shake around them. “Or maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and” she tucked her nervousness and inexperience even deeper “blow.” As she walked away, he obeyed. Putting his lips together and blowing, he made a high-pitched whistling sound. 

And there started one of the most beautiful love stories in the history of Hollywood. And what a difficult  love to have. 

Humphrey DeForrest Bogart was born on Christmas Day 1899. Betty Joan Perske was born 25 years later, on September 16th 1924. She was from a proud, orthodox Jewish family. He was a less than prolific Christian Catholic. The pair first met in 1943, before filming of To Have and Have Not (1944) started. Bogart, a three-time married man, facing drinking problems and a broken home. Bacall, a 19-year-old teenager, overwhelmed at the speed in which her silver screen dreams came true. The spark between the two took almost no time at all to show its beautiful face. Three weeks into filming, as Betty herself declares on her autobiographical bestseller By Myself (1978), they were madly in love. From a first kiss in one of their dressing rooms, to a burning romance, weaved by heartfelt love letters and secret encounters almost every day. Bacall tells that after filming, the twosome would drive into a shady street a few blocks from the studio, where one would enter the other's car, and they would spend hours holding hands, talking, kissing and soaking up each other's presence before they finally had to part. Bogie's boat was also a rather convenient meeting spot: They would sneak out of the marina, just the two of them, and sail out into the sunshine. Betty's sea sickness, so she says, was only cured by Bogie's cuddles.

Betty's mother, obviously, had reservations about the affair. A 45-year-old man who had been married three times before, who had daily doses of whiskey and cigars. What would he teach his daughter? What sorts of toxic habits would he bring into her wholesome Jewish teenager's life? With him, she'd have a life of parties, drinking and - gasp! - sex. Or so she thought. As it turned out, Mr. Bogart treated her daughter with nothing but the utmost respect. She drank very little, partied almost nothing, and certainly waited more than one would expect to lose her virginity. What happened was the contrary of what Natalie Bacall feared: Bogie lived a healthier, calmer life from the day he met Betty. She brought back to him values he had been missing. 

When Bogart's wife, Mayo Methot, discovered about the affair, her drinking problems peaked and she became ill and unstable. Bogart saw himself obligated to find appropriate housing, rehabilitation and medication for her problems. "I wouldn't abandon a dog, Baby" he used to say "I can't abandon a human being." Their relationship came to a temporary end. By then, the twosome was filming The Big Sleep. The broken-hearted twenty-year-old couldn't hold back the tears when she saw her lost lover. Bogie also comforted himself somewhat substantially in liquor in order to survive those difficult times. He and Mayo would have drunken fights that more often than not became physical - an incident with a kitchen knife is rumored to have happened - and their physical and mental health quickly deteriorated. Sometimes more than one night a week, Bogie, hurt and under the influence of more whiskey than anyone should handle, would seek comfort on the husky voice of his dearly beloved. He would call her, and there would be talk and tears - those mostly from Bacall's end - all night. Or at least until Methot found out and furiously screamed nearly anti-Semitic profanities into the phone. They were clearly meant to be together, but there was so much more that needed to be done. And Bogie wanted to do it right. They resumed their relationship - who believed that they ended it in the first place? - but he was clear that he could not marry her just yet. However, he was showing signs of wanting her, needing her, depending on her more every day. Betty remembers in her memoir, that one day he called her at two in the morning, saying he wished to see her. Betty drove to where he was calling from and asked happened. He said he just had an uncontrollable need to see his Baby. 

On Christmas Eve, 1944, Bogie and Bacall were apart. She spent Hanukkah with her mother. He left a gold watch in her front step before she woke up in the morning and went home with a mission: To convince his wife to get a divorce, and get it over with. He succeeded. After the holidays, he permanently moved out of his house and was ready to wait for the divorce procedures to be through, so that he and Bacall could get married. While Mayo was in Reno, getting her arrangements for the divorce, Bogie and Betty were finally able to make their relationship public. They went out for dinner, for drinks, for boat rides. Bogie was exulting to show the world his Baby. The verdict among his friends was that the three predecessors fell short of wife-to-be number 4. She enchanted them all. In the month of April, the pair went to New York City, so that Bogie could meet the Bacall clan. They stayed in separate rooms in a hotel, as a sign of respect from Bogart. Their happiness was enviable. On May 21st, 1945, Bogie and Bacall got married. The preacher called them Humphrey and Betty Joan in the living room of writer Louis Bromfield's ranch in Ohio. As Bogie slid the wedding ring onto Betty's shaky finger, a tear fell through his cheek. He knew that his worries would be over now. He had the woman he always wanted to love, to cherish, to prove every day that they were born to be together. After the wedding ceremony, the two had a moment in private. "I will love you for the rest of my life, Baby." And that was one promise he was glad to keep.

So long, Marcela

P.S. You'll notice I'm making a few subtle changes in my blog's layout. It's a part of a makeover plan I have scheduled for my two-month anniversary! :)


  1. Im in love with the relationship between Bogie and Bacall that is probably why 'To Have and to Have Not' is my favourite film noir. Have you read Lauren's autobiography 'By Myself'? There are some amazing insights into their first meeting and courtship. It really shows Bogie as being more romantic and sensitive than his screen image.

    1. I have, it's my favorite autobiography ever! Betty is an amazing writer, and a few parts really made me teary-eyed! I love how she puts his letters almost verbatim. When I read about his death I literally closed the book, sat back on my chair and had a long, long cry.

  2. Its my favourite as well!! I couldn't read that part, I skipped over it. However, I saw a couple of documenteries about their relationship and I could really see the sadness Lauren/Betty felt about his death. It is one of the only stories of true love to come out of Hollywood. Also, thanks for the blog follow!!

    1. You're welcome dear, I should've done it sooner!