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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 September, 2004, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Lauren Bacall: Hollywood's Baby turns 80
Sixty years after Lauren Bacall burst onto screens with her smouldering good looks and husky voice, the movie icon is celebrating her 80th birthday.

Nicole Kidman and Lauren Bacall
Lauren Bacall said Nicole Kidman was a "beginner", not a legend
The film business is one in which status is often enhanced with age.

Bacall recently hit the headlines for saying her current co-star Nicole Kidman could not be a "legend" because she was too young.

Most now think of Bacall, still as straight-talking as she was when she stunned audiences and critics alike in the 1940s, as one of the last remaining legends of that silver screen era.

She was regarded as more of a star than a legend when she first appeared in roles opposite Humphrey Bogart in To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep and Key Largo.

But most of her legendary status stems from those films and that era, in a career that has subsequently dwindled to scores of supporting roles and mediocre movies punctuated by occasional glimpses of former glories.

Lauren Bacall with Humphrey Bogart
Bacall was 20 when she married Humphrey Bogart. He was 45.
She gave the Rat Pack their name
Bacall was in the Dakota Building, New York, when John Lennon was shot
She is a cousin of former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres
Bogart-Bacall syndrome has been coined for actors with a low voice, resulting in muscle tension dysphonia
After her first film, To Have and Have Not, writer Moss Hart told her: "You realise, of course, from here you have nowhere to go but down."

Bacall herself has recently said she never watches her old films.

"I can't bear to see myself looking young," she told a reporter. "It is a form of torture to be reminded of what used to be now I'm a wrinkly old woman."

Bacall was born Betty Joan Perske in New York on 16 September 1924 to parents who were Polish-French on one side and German-Romanian on the other.

After being forced to abandon her studies at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts - where she dated Kirk Douglas - after one year, she became a theatre usher and model.

Her big break came in 1942 after appearing on the cover of Harper's Bazaar - and being spotted by Slim Hawks, wife of producer-director Howard Hawks, who immediately called up Bacall for a screen test.

Legend has it that Howard Hawks gave her the name Lauren, taught her what to wear, told her to copy his wife's voice and as good as defined the persona that would come to define her.

Lauren Bacall with Humphrey Bogart
Bogart and Bacall had two children, Leslie and Stephen
Bacall's character in Hawks' To Have and Have Not, was even called Slim - as was her role in Robert Altman's Pret-a-Porter 50 years later.

When Hawks teamed her up with Bogart on their first movie, he is reputed to have told the older star: "We are going to try an interesting thing.

"You are about the most insolent man on the screen and I'm going to make a little girl more insolent than you are."

It worked and Bacall - nicknamed The Look and Baby - is likely to be remembered for her sexually-charged line to Bogart: "You do know how to whistle don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow."

Bogie and Bacall were a hit double act on and off screen, marrying in 1945 and starring in three more films together from 1945-8.

Bacall remained a leading lady throughout the 1950s, starring with Kirk Douglas in Young Man with a Horn, Marilyn Monroe in How to Marry a Millionaire and Rock Hudson in Written on the Wind.

She also looked after Bogart until he died of cancer in 1957 - and never fully returned to the Hollywood limelight.

Lauren Bacall and Kirk Douglas
Ex-lovers Bacall and Kirk Douglas also starred in 1999's Diamonds
Taking to the Broadway stage in 1960, she starred in hit play Cactus Flower later that decade.

She picked up two Tony awards - Broadway's version of the Oscars - for Applause in 1970 and Woman of the Year in 1981.

In her personal life, she was briefly engaged to Frank Sinatra but remarried to actor Jason Robards Jr in 1961, a union that lasted eight years.

Back on screen, memorable film roles became few and far between, starring in 1974's Murder on the Orient Express, as an actress with a stalker in 1981's The Fan and in the 1990 adaptation of Stephen King's Misery.

She earned her first Oscar nomination as Barbra Streisand's mother in 1996's The Mirror Has Two Faces - but was visibly shocked upon losing out to Juliette Binoche for The English Patient.

Since then, she has teamed up with Kidman for two films - Dogville and Birth - and Danish auteur director Lars von Trier for Dogville and the forthcoming Manderlay.

Although the 1940s and 50s were her heyday, the image of the smouldering star is burnt into the memories of many film-lovers - who feel she has done enough to be called a legend.

Nicole Kidman v Lauren Bacall
09 Sep 04  |  Entertainment
Bacall slates Kidman 'legend' tag
08 Sep 04  |  Entertainment
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09 Sep 04  |  Entertainment
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