Betty on Betty

Looking around on my shelf I spy lyricist-playwright Betty Comden’s memoirs Off Stage. Let’s randomly leaf through and find an anecdote…

Ah! A good one.
Some background first.
Lauren Bacall, Betty Comden in 1983 speaking to director Arthur Laurents
Betty Comden and her husband Steven Kyle met movie stars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall (born Betty Joan Perske) through a series of parties in Hollywood in the 1940s. They became fast friends, attending each others’ children’s birthday parties, having dinner together, etc. The playwright beams about having “a very glamorous friend” in Bacall,  and  remembers being flattered by Bogart’s attention. Betty Comden recalls,
“Betty and Bogie were terrific together, but then came the time there was just Betty. Steve was not able to go out to California when Bogie died. I went and Adolph [Green] went. We had visited him at drink time in the den, where he sat gallantly receiving during his illness, Betty arranging the succession of friends' visits with grace and humor and letting us know when it was time to get… out. Back in New York we heard that he had stopped going down to the den and then that it was all over.

Betty was beautiful in black at the funeral, sitting with her two picture-book children, four and seven, facing the model of the Santana with bravery and seeming composure. Back at the house, upstairs in her dressing room, she let loose with a well-deserved volley of rage at the Florists' Association, which had angrily turned on her for asking the public to send contributions to the American Cancer Society instead of  to them. She was packing for a short trip she had been urged to take. I can see her selecting things abstractedly from her beautiful, orderly closets, filled with a rainbow of silk shirts and matching pants, a wall  of color the length of the room.”

Ms. Comden goes on to talk about Lauren Bacall’s loyalty and devotion to family and friends, how her friend read a poem at Mr. Kyle’s funeral, how she came with “enough Chinese food for an army for a week” when Betty Comden’s son died. The playwright notes that many widows of famous men are overshadowed by the legend, but that Bacall fought for her own place and recognition. The two Bettys worked together on the Broadway musical remake of All About Eve called Applause, for which they each won a Tony.


  1. Java, This is very interesting. Thanks for posting!!

  2. Hi Dawn,

    Betty Comden continues: “[Bacall] still has her unique beauty, tall and tawny, fashionably chic yet casual, her voice sounds as if she has just awakened from the big sleep, her long eyes still able to give ‘the Look.’ I heard her say in an interview once that the look happened because she was so nervous on her first picture, she trembled, but discovered if she held her head down and looked from below, it steadied her."


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