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By Myself and Then Some
Written by Lauren Bacall   

Book Review By James Colt Harrison

Bacall was in Hollywood during the Golden Era of the forties. In her book By Myself...and Then Some, (recently updated) it's clear she knew everyone. All Hollywood loved her, and she was privy to many inside stories. She tells just enough in this book to whet our appetites. She honestly regales us with the saga of her romance with Frank Sinatra after Bogie died and her ill-fated second marriage to actor Jason Robards, Jr. Bacall starred in To Have and Have Not with Humphrey Bogart and many other films.

INTRODUCTION  

Is it unprofessional to say I have been in love with Lauren Bacall since I was six years old? What an impression she made on me when she burst on the movie screen at age 19 (oh, such a mature woman!) in To Have and Have Not with Humphrey Bogart.

Bacall was in Hollywood during the Golden Era of the forties. In her book By Myself...and Then Some, (recently updated) it's clear she knew everyone. All Hollywood loved her, and she was privy to many inside stories. She tells just enough in this book to whet our appetites.

Nobody had ever seen an actress like this smoldering, insolent girl. She had the temerity to sass Bogart - imagine, the rough, tough Bogart! She got away with it and caused a sensation. She certainly caused my little six year-old heart to skip a beat. I didn't know why, of course, until later when my mother explained that it was called "sex appeal." Why, that was the best thing I had ever heard, next to knowing that chocolate bars came with almonds.

CONTENT

By Myself...and Then Some is Lauren Bacall's original 1978 autobiography updated to include the past 25 years of her life. If you didn't read it 25 years ago, then it will be all new to you. And what a fascinating read it is.

Born in New York, Betty Perske schlepped around Broadway in hopes of becoming an actress. To support herself, she took an occasional modeling job. One job landed her on the cover of Harper's Bazaar. Fate stepped in and she was seen by Slim Hawks, the wife of movie director Howard Hawks.

Within a month Betty was on her way to Hollywood with a contract. "Betty Perske" wouldn't do for a screen name, so Hawks took her family name of Bacal (one "l") and combined it with Lauren and voila! Lauren Bacall was born. She was so young, only 18, and was completely in awe of all the things that happened to her. Her naiveté comes across in the pages of the book and her wide-eyed enthusiasm is sweetly conveyed.

Casting her in To Have and Have Not with Humphrey Bogart, Hawks groomed the untried and raw talent that Bacall possessed. She herself admits in her book that she didn't know what she was doing. Hawks' tutoring launched her on the wild ride of love and stardom that came with her association with "Bogie."

What's refreshing about Bacall's book is that she is harder on herself than anyone. She admits her mistakes, many coming from her complete inexperience with acting, life and men. She's so honest in her appraisal of her life that it is delightful. She doesn't only tell the good things. Her years with Bogart were wonderful, but when he died she was lost both personally and professionally. She had a tough time, and Bacall never holds back her feelings in her autobiography. She lays it all out for everyone to see, but doesn't do it to get sympathy. Unlike many actresses, she seems to have no ability to lie.

The book points out her triumphs and flops. Her favorite film was the comedy Designing Women with Gregory Peck while Bogart was ill with cancer. Before that, she was resurrected with How to Marry a Millionaire with Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable. Her films after Bogie were a mixed bag.

Broadway came to her rescue with Cactus Flower and Applause for which she won a Tony Award. She's happiest when she is working and is aware that actresses of a certain age have a difficult time being cast. She has always worked, admits to being grateful for getting parts, and will carry on.

Surprisingly, for someone who has been rumored to have a hard-boiled personality, she is a complete pushover when it comes to her relatives and especially her children. She is more homebody than temptress, more Mary Poppins than one would think. Best of all, she doesn't pull punches, tells the truth, makes us laugh and cry, and makes us love her all the more.

DATA ABOUT THE BOOK

  • By Myself...and Then Some
  • Harper Entertainment, HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., New York.
  • ISBN 0-06-075535-0. © 1978 and © 2005.
  • 506 pages, $26.95
  • Book cover: Jacket design by Susan Sanguily
  • Front jacket and author photographs by Marc Hom
 



                       

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