Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Features

Lauren Bacall will always be in the shadow of Humphrey Bogart

By Deborah Coughlin

Lisa Simpson is lying in bed, late at night, worrying about whether she needs to smoke to be as good as the other ballerinas, but she's sure that smoking is for losers.

Suddenly, the smoking ghosts of Simone De Beauvoir, Margaret Mead, Queen Elizabeth I and Lauren Bacall appear and fly around her head. "My feminist heroes," she cries as her idols call on her to "puff with us, puff with us, puff with us".

Lauren Bacall has been on many little girls', and big girls', feminist hero lists.

She is the type of woman many women want to be: alluring yet strong.

She struck a balance that many of us find torturous. She appeared to be at ease with herself and unapologetic for it. Most actresses are either beautiful or a "character". Bacall was both.

The obituaries are calling Bacall a feminist, but a kind of pre-feminist feminist – "a conundrum, a proto-feminist forever linked to the man she loved", said the Sydney Morning Herald. But was it her culture or herself that made her a conundrum? Was Lauren Bacall a feminist?

A liberal, a strong woman and a leader in her field. Bacall was all of these things, but she wasn't a pioneering campaigner for women. And, while she had some nice one-liners, they were never as man-bashing as Mae West's, or as cutting as Dorothy Parker's.

Bacall was subtler. she made us feel like she was like one of us.

If her peer Marilyn Monroe had lived as long, would she have been retrospectively crowned a feminist?

Even though Marilyn and Lauren were both talented comedians, the blonde bombshell with the cutesy voice was never to be given the same level of respect.

They all suffered from a lack of critical acclaim, unlike their male peers. Lauren, who was married two Oscar-winners, didn't get near her own statuette until just five years ago, when she received an honorary award.

In 1994, she said that she put Humphrey Bogart's career first. "You can't blame him for wanting that," explaining that he lost his first two wives to their careers.

She lived alone for a long time, but is known for the great loves of her life. The culture did this to her – and she knew it.

We've got difficult, yet witty women; unapologetic, loved for their strength. None of them will be expected to forego their success for that of the bloke in their life – and none of them will have to worry about having obituaries that talk about anyone else.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph