Bacall's Big Debut in To Have and Have Not

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To Have and Have Not introduced the cinema world to a new on-screen pair – Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Director Howard Hawks told Bogie, “You are about the most insolent man on the screen, and I’m going to make the girl a little more insolent than you are.”

The trick worked and audiences responded by making the film – and the pair – a box office success.

1. It started with a dare.

As the legend goes, director Howard Hawks told Ernest Hemingway (while fishing, of course) that he could make a movie out of his worst novel. Apparently, even the author didn’t think that was possible – perhaps because Howard Hughes had already purchased the rights for $10 thousand without adapting it. Hawks, in turn, bought them for $97 thousand and sold it to Warner Brothers for $108 thousand. In the end, Hawk’s adaption is a total deviation from its source material, but it still made quite a bang on the screen.

2. It was Bacall’s debut.

Betty Bacall (originally Bacal, pronounced “ba-kal”) began her career modeling. After she graced the cover of Harper’s Bazaar in January 1943, director Howard Hawk’s wife, Nancy took notice and later recalled that she had “a bit of panther about her.” Hawks paid for Bacall to travel to Hollywood and eventually, the nineteen-year old was cast. By then, her name became Lauren – Hawks’ idea – since Hollywood already had famous Bettes, including Davis, Grable, and Hutton. She got one additional name thanks to Warner Brothers’ publicity department: “The Look.”

3. Bacall’s character was based on a real person.

Hawks wife Nancy’s nickname was “Slim”, which is also the name of Bacall’s character. The two share more than just that though. The look, mannerisms, and even dialogue were taken from the real Slim, so much so that co-screenwriter Jules Furthman even suggested that she should get a screen credit for it. It also important to mention that when Bacall first came to Hollywood Howard and Nancy were both responsible for crafting her on-screen persona. The director taught her how to lower the pitch of her voice while his wife passed on her advice on fashion and mannerisms.

4. Bacall did her own singing.

However, the reigning legend is that she was dubbed. In actuality, she almost was, and singers such as Lillian Randolph, Dolores Hope, and Andy Williams were tested to see if their voice could sound like Bacall’s. However, when filming the scene, Lauren’s actual voice was strong enough, and Hawks used it in the final film.