Book Review: Lauren Bacall's autobiography 'Now'
People’s perceptions of me have always been thorns in both my sides … I am seen as the combination of roles I have played in movies,” Lauren Bacall says in NOW (Knopf, $23). This is, of course, one of the occupational hazards of movie stars, like divorce and not being able to get Michael Ovitz on the phone. In this book she talks about spells of feeling ”alone, very alone, and very vulnerable,” suspects that ”angst is a natural state with me,” and reflects on 25 years of solitary unconfinement: ”How odd it seems — is — to arrive at the realization that I have been living alone, traveling solo … since October of 1969.”
This book isn’t about Bogart (to whom Bacall was married from 1945 until 1957), but it is, above all, a tribute to him. It also pays tribute to some recently departed friends of Bacall’s by evoking them in all their complexity: Laurence Olivier, Leonard Bernstein, Slim Keith, John Huston. But Bogart is the book’s moral anchor: ”He taught me his philosophy of life. He taught me the rules of the Hollywood game. He taught me the usage and abusage of actors, called stars by the press, which couldn’t have cared less what happened to any of us … We were expendable — he taught me that, too. He taught me about standards and the price one must pay to keep those standards high.”
What inspired the book was Bacall’s discovery that she’s ”been dealing with people very much in the Bogart tradition.” They don’t make movies like To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, and Key Largo anymore, but you can still see them, and you can read this casual but bracing book as well. A-