Pauline Kael on Lauren Bacall

Today is Lauren Bacall's birthday (born Betty Joan Perske on September 16, 1924). I submit a little of Pauline Kael's description of Ms. Bacall in the film To Have and Have Not (1944) from Ms. Kael's book 5001 Nights At The Movies.

"... a beautiful big cat of a girl named Lauren Bacall slouched across the screen for the first time and managed to make the question 'anybody got a match?' sound like the most insolent and insinuating of demands....

"The refreshingly, daringly sexy Bacall burst through the conventions of the era. A writer said of her that her 'husky underslung voice, which is ideal for the double entendre, makes even her simplest remarks sound like jungle mating cries.' 

"Hoagy Carmichael provides the music and accompaniment for Bacall's facial exercises; the singing voice is that of Andy Williams, and it never sounded sexier than when coming out of [Bacall]."



  1. That's a fantastic quote. When it comes to Ms. Kael, there's no middle ground for me. I either find her brilliant or she pisses me off! I wish there were still mainstream critics like that.

  2. I love this post. I'm a big fan of Lauren Bacall. I've always adored her. What a stunning voice she's got.

  3. KC,
    I've heard that Pauline Kael was one of those bold, opinionated columnists, but I've only just picked up one of her books so I don't know her writing very well.

    I look forward to reading the rest of it.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Keith,

    I love her voice. Once, I had a cold which made my voice much deeper, so I began practicing the "You know how to whistle don't you, Steve?" lines.

    I wanted a sound like hers. Of course, I didn't want to have to smoke to get there like she did, so I became content with my chipmunk voice.

  5. I enjoyed reading PK every week in the New Yorker, but at some point I quit relying on her reviews wrt what I might personally enjoy watching. It seemed to me that, more and more, off-center, slightly wiggy films appealed to her, as if she had seen a few movies too many in her life.

  6. joemb18b,

    Wow! That doesn't sound good. But I guess after so many films you start to despise mainstream, lockstep movies.

    Interesting perspective. Thanks. :)


Thanks for your contribution to Java's Journey.


About Java

"Java's Journey: A really fun, informative well-written blog that explores all of the things - and I mean all - I love about classic films."-- Flick Chick of A Person In The Dark Email:


Blog Archive

Writer's Block Doesn't Stand a Chance