Lauren Bacall was born Betty Joan Perske on September 16, 1924 in New York City. Her father, William, was a salesman and her mother, Natalie, was a secretary. Both of her parents were Jewish immigrants and divorced when Lauren was six years old.
Following the divorce, Lauren lived with her mother in New York City. At a young age, she started taking dancing lessons in hopes of becoming a star. When she was older, she took acting classes at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. In her free time, she helped to support herself and her mother by working as a theater usher and model. In 1942, she had her Broadway debut in the play "Johnny Two by Four".
Her career in movies started when Hollywood director Howard Hawks' wife, Slim, saw a picture of Lauren on the cover of Harper's Bazaar. Howard was impressed by her beauty and paid for her to come to California for a screen test. Hawks convinced her to use the name Lauren and cast her in his movie, "To Have and Have Not".
During filming, Lauren was reportedly nervous and would often press her chin against her chest and look up at the camera. The look became her trademark and was soon known as "The Bacall Look". She also started getting romantically involved with costar Humphrey Bogart even though he was married to Mayo Methot. The movie was released in 1944 to much fanfare and positive criticism.
On February 10, 1945, Bacall was at the National Press Club in Washington DC when her press agent, Charlie Enfield, asked her to sit on the piano. The piano was being played by Harry Truman, Vice President of the United States, and the resulting photographs caused a scandal. It did not, however, prevent her from continuing her movie career.
In 1945, she starred in the film "Confidential Agent" with Charles Boyer. The film was heavily criticized and did not have great commercial success either. Her next film was "The Big Sleep" in 1946, once again with Humphrey Bogart. This film was a major success and catapulted her to further stardom.
On May 21, 1945, Lauren married Humphrey Bogart. They were married in Mansfield, Ohio at a farm owned by Louis Bromfield. They would remain married until Bogart died from cancer in 1957. After that, she had a brief fling with Frank Sinatra before marrying Jason Robards in 1961. They divorced in 1969, largely due to his alcoholism. She had a total of three children, two with Bogart and one with Robards.
In 1947, she costarred with Bogart again in the film "Dark Passage". In the film, she becomes romantically involved with and protects Humphrey Bogart's character, who is an escaped prisoner. In 1948, she starred in "Key Largo", once again alongside Bogart. In the film, she plays a woman who is trapped in a hotel by gangsters.
In 1950, she starred with Gary Cooper in the film "Bright Leaf". That year, she also starred in "Young Man with a Horn" alongside Kirk Douglas and Doris Day. In 1953, she starred in "How to Marry a Millionaire" with Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable. In the film, she plays Schatze Page, a gold digger. In 1956, she starred in "Written on the Wind" with Rock Hudson, Dorothy Malone, and Robert Stack. In 1957, she starred with Gregory Peck in Vincente Minnelli's "Designing Woman".
In 1959, she starred in the Broadway play "Goodbye, Charlie". In 1964, she starred in the film "Sex and the Single Girl" with Henry Fonda and Natalie Wood. In 1965, she returned to Broadway to star in the play "Cactus Flower". In 1966, she starred in the film "Harper" with Paul Newman and Janet Leigh. In 1970, she starred in Broadway's "Applause" and earned a Tony Award for her performance. In 1974, she starred in the film "Murder on the Orient Express" and in 1981 she returned to Broadway for "Woman of the Year", earning another Tony Award.
In 1976, she starred with John Wayne in his last film, "The Shootist". During the 1980s, she made some small appearances in films like 1981's "The Fan" and 1988's "Appointment with Death". In 1996, she starred in "The Mirror Has Two Faces" and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, but lost to Juliette Binoche. In 2006, she was awarded the Katharine Hepburn Medal.