Barely two weeks into the new year of 1957, on January 14th, Lauren Bacall lost the love of her life, husband Humphrey Bogart, to esophageal cancer. She had recently completed Designing Woman, directed by Vincente Minnelli and co-starring her good friend Gregory Peck. Bogie and Bacall’s son, Steven Humphrey, had just turned eight on January 6th. Leslie, their four-year-old daughter, would celebrate her fifth birthday on August 23rd. At Bogie’s funeral, Lauren placed a silver whistle in his casket as a memento of their first film together, the classic To Have and Have Not. “You know how to whistle, don’t you?” she had purred to sailor “Steve”. “You just put your lips together and blow.”
Widowed and a single parent at 32, Bacall squared her slim shoulders and kept going. She committed to filming The Gift of Love with Robert Stack and director Jean Negulesco. She dazzled on the red carpet for Designing Woman‘s New York premiere on May 16th. She entered into a brief rebound relationship with Frank Sinatra, who called everything off when their engagement became a gossip column item. Surely she felt older than 33 when her birthday came around on September 16th.
Both 1957 and 1958 were difficult years for Bacall, but better times were coming for the former Betty Perske. In 1959 she would reinvent herself as an acclaimed Broadway actress in New York and in 1961 she would marry again, to actor Jason Robards. “I put my career in second place throughout both my marriages and it suffered,” Lauren revealed. “I don’t regret it. You make choices. If you want a good marriage, you must pay attention to that. If you want to be independent, go ahead. You can’t have it all.”
To a classy lady, who was born to Eastern European immigrants and then made it to the very-big time, “Here’s looking at you, kid.”