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Modern Matinees: B is for Bacall

March 01, 2019 – April 26, 2019

The Museum of Modern Art

In 2016 Modern Matinees presented B Is for Bogart, so this tribute to Lauren Bacall (American, 1924–2014)—Humphrey Bogart’s partner in life and costar in four iconic films—is perhaps overdue. Bacall’s defining characteristics onscreen—strong, independent, smart, opinionated—mirrored her accomplishments in life as an actor, political activist, and author.

The Bronx native’s road to the movies began as a student at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and a fashion model. Tall, with a unique sultry look, Bacall was famously “discovered” on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar magazine in 1943 by Howard Hawks. Her screen debut the following year, in Hawks’s To Have and Have Not, propelled the novice to a six-decade screen career. Playing resolute women who held their own, spoke their minds, and guarded a tender heart in films like The Big Sleep (1946), Dark Passage (1947), and Key Largo (1948), she became an enduring film noir icon.

Bacall and Bogart married in 1945, beginning a personal partnership that also included political activism. Fiercely opposed to the House Un-American Activities Committee investigation of communist activity in Hollywood, the pair traveled to Washington, DC, with a group of Hollywood colleagues known as the Committee for the First Amendment to protest the proceedings.

Bacall never stopped evolving. Her long career was a varied, challenging collage of projects with everyone from Barbra Streisand to Vincente Minnelli, Robert Altman, and Lars von Trier, not to mention stints on Broadway and armfuls of awards and honors. But throughout, one thing remained constant: she could always be counted on to class up the joint.

Organized by Anne Morra, Associate Curator, Department of Film.

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Dark Passage. 1947. USA. Directed by Delmer Daves. Courtesy Warner Bros/Photofest

Birth. 2004. United Kingdom, France, Germany, USA. Directed by Jonathan Glazer. Courtesy New Line/Photofest

Dark Passage. 1947. USA. Directed by Delmer Daves. Courtesy Warner Bros/Photofest

Designing Woman. 1955. USA. Directed by Vincente Minelli. Courtesy MGM/Photofest

Harper. 1966. USA. Directed by Jack Smight. Courtesy Warner Bros/Photofest

How to Marry a Millionaire. 1953. USA. Directed by Jean Negulesco. Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox /Photofest

Key Largo. 1948. USA. Directed by John Huston. Courtesy Warner Bros/Photofest

Manderlay. 2005. Denmark/Sweden/Netherlands/France/Germany/USA. Directed by Lars von Trier. Courtesy IFC Films/Photofest

Ready to Wear. 1994. USA. Directed by Robert Altman. Courtesy Miramax Films/Photofest

Sex and the Single Girl. 1964. USA. Directed by Richard Quine. Courtesy Warner Bros /Photofest

The Big Sleep. 1946. USA. Directed by Howard Hawks. Courtesy Warner Bros/Photofest

The Cobweb. 1955. USA. Directed by Vincente Minnelli. Courtesy MGM/Photofest

The Mirror Has Two Faces. 1996. USA. Directed by Barbra Streisand. Courtesy TriStar Pictures/Photofest

To Have and Have Not. 1944. USA. Directed by Howard Hawks. Courtesy Warner Bros/Photofest

Woman’s World. 1954. USA. Directed by Jean Negulesco. Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox/Photofest

Written on the Wind. 1956. USA. Directed by Douglas Sirk. Courtesy Universal Pictures/Photofest

Young Man with a Horn. 1950. USA. Directed by Michael Curtiz. Courtesy Warner Bros/Photofest