Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bogie & Bacall

Movie legend Lauren Bacall has died at 89. To say she peaked early would be an understatement. What's striking about Bacall is that her legend was based entirely on three classic films from the 1940s which she made with Bogart. For decades, she coasted on those early achievements. She will always be remembered for the first impression she made in her very first film. Everything was anticlimactic after that.  

Although she made some other films over the years, did Broadway, and the talk-show circuit, that's almost all forgettable and forgotten. She gave a good performance in The Shootist, with John Wayne, but many actresses could have played that part just as well. If you didn't know it was Lauren Bacall, you wouldn't pay that much attention.

Although reviewers talk about her sultry voice and sultry looks, her voice deteriorated from sultry to brassy, and she didn't try to hang onto her looks.  

Reviewing Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Roger Ebert said:

There is a kind of movie that consists of watching two people together on the screen. The plot is immaterial. What matters is the "chemistry," a term that once referred to a science but now refers to the heat we sense, or think we sense, between two movie stars. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have it, or I think they have it, in "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," and because they do, the movie works. If they did not, there'd be nothing to work with. 
What makes the movie work is that Pitt and Jolie have fun together on the screen, and they're able to find a rhythm that allows them to be understated and amused even during the most alarming developments. There are many ways that John and Jane Smith could have been played awkwardly, or out of synch, but the actors understand the material and hold themselves at just the right distance from it; we understand this is not really an action picture, but a movie star romance in which the action picture serves as a location.
Bacall never had the starpower to make it on her own. People enjoy watching her with Bogart. They click. 
Audiences enjoy watching screen couples who obviously enjoy each other. There's an element of common grace to this. They may not be admirable people in real life, but they project a certain ideal. God made men and women for each other.

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