“Miss Bacall Did Her Own Singing…”
The scene is a bar room in French Martinique, a hot and noisy club setting where a piano player called Cricket (Hoagy Carmichael ) is playing for a gorgeous teenage singer, Slim.
Slim was Lauren Bacall in her first movie role, and what a star turn she gave, singing one of Carmichael’s most memorable songs, How Little We Know.
Her vocal training was coming along, but no-one knew if she would sound good enough for her singing voice to be used… To find a singer whose voice would match up plausibly with Bacall’s husky tones was not easy, and quite a few were tried. Hoagy Carmichael
Director Howard Hawks’ first choice was teenager Andy Williams, who got as far as recording a version for the soundtrack. But Bacall sang beautifully to a dead mike in rehearsals, and Hawks let her run with it on camera.
Johnny Mercer’s song lines are immaculate, and with Lauren Bacall, gorgeous and exotic bringing them to life the scene is hugely memorable. The lyrics, about the uncertainty of love have a wider impact in the context of the tensions of the The War.
Who knows why an April breeze never remains
Why stars in the trees hide when it rains
Love comes along, casting a spell
Will it sing you a song
Will it say a farewell
Who can tell
Lauren Bacall – How Little We Know
Lauren Bacall and Hoagy Carmichael – Am I Blue
Another duet with Hoagy, an example of how Howard Hawks took advantage of the screen chemistry between Lauren and her leading man, the very married Humphrey Bogart. In the original script Slim wasn’t the lead female role in the movie, but after a few extra scenes and show-stopping lines a star was born.
Lauren Bacall – And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine
Howard Hawks once again giving Lauren a superb role in The Big Sleep, based on the Raymond Chandler best seller. This time she was singing a big hit of the day, made famous by Anita O’Day and the Stan Kenton Orchestra. In this scene Vivian Sternwood is singing at a private gambling casino run by mobster Eddie Mars. Once again she’s flirting with Bogart, during the song, with a lovely, perfectly choreographed play of looks that mixes with the lyrics of the song.
There’s an irony in the song choice, an uptempo number with downbeat lyrics. She’s no ‘sob sob sister’ – she’s as tough as they come.
Lauren Bacall – But Alive!
Lauren Bacall’s Broadway debut was a smash – A Tony Award-winning 1970 adaptation of the Hollywood classic All About Eve. Lauren thrives as Margot Channing, and the play, subtly influenced by the Stonewall riots, with openly homosexual minor characters and this scene, which takes place in a gay bar. Unlike All About Eve, this production is very much about Margo.
“I wanted the audience to fall in love with Margo at the beginning of the show because from then on her character had to be bitchy and suspicious. I knew I only had fifteen minutes for the audience to fall in love with who she was. I thought how can I get that to happen? In the script her hairdresser, who was gay, takes her to a Village disco and I had fifteen boys throw Bacall around. She looked wonderful!” Ron Field – Applause director/choeographer
Lauren Bacall and Michael Biehn – I Need Hearts Not Diamonds
Improbably, this is from 1981 Slasher Musical The Fan – and the biggest horror is that someone put Lauren Bacall up to this. Yep, it’s a camp hoot at times, blaring trumpets and sequins everywhere but the movie is a creepy examination of a celebrity stalker, and after John Hinkley Jr. and Mark Chapman the joke’s worn a little thin.
Lauren Bacall – Bernstein at 70
From 1988, and a stunning appearance at Leonard Bernstein’s 70th birthday gala at Tanglewood, serenading him with The Saga of Lenny.
The Saga of Jenny was an old Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin song, re-written topically by Stephen Sondheim’s to poke fun at the legendary composer’s extravagant personal and professional behavior.
Crosby, Bogart and Bacall – Bold Fisherman
Finally a radio clip from way back. Bing Crosby’s Chesterfield Show, aired on February 13th, 1952 and perfectly captures the chemistry between Bogie and Bacall, and also just what a star Bing Crosby back in the day.
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