Five Favorite Performances from Lauren Bacall

Tomorrow, September 16th, would have been the 94th birthday of Lauren Bacall, one of classic Hollywood's most iconic stars and one of my personal heroes. I've been in awe of this tremendous woman from the moment I first saw her and it seems like the more I know her and see her films, the more magnificent she becomes. As a small tribute to Bacall, I thought it might be nice to put together a list of my five favorite performances of hers. Now, just to clarify: this isn't a ranking of Bacall's best performances, nor her best films. These are strictly my personal favorite performances from her, so it's completely subjective.

5. Written on the Wind (1956)
Between Robert Stack's tortured alcoholic, Dorothy Malone's scheming nymphomaniac, and Rock Hudson's brilliant, underrated turn as Stack's put-upon best friend, it would be easy to forget the rather quiet role of Lucy, the woman Stack and Hudson both love. Luckily, though, that role is brought to life by Bacall, whose mere presence all but guarantees your eyes will be glued to her. If we're being honest, Lucy is the film's least interesting character, but Bacall never makes you doubt for a second why Hudson and Stack are so crazy about her. She also delivers one of the movie's best lines as she archly tells Malone, "Pardon me if I seem to be brushing you out of my hair."

4. Dark Passage (1947)
I've always had a soft spot for this weird, convoluted noir, and the main reason is obvious: Bogie and Bacall. Together, they sell the improbable script and give Dark Passage its romantic atmosphere, which is saying a lot when you consider how the camera takes on Bogart's point-of-view for the first half and then renders him heavily bandaged and speechless for a few more scenes as his character recovers from plastic surgery. While Dark Passage is hardly a great film, it is entirely unique and Mr. and Mrs. Bogart are superb, with the camera all but swooning whenever Bacall appears on the screen. And rightly so!

3. Designing Woman (1957)
Vincente Minnelli's daffy romantic comedy brings us one of Bacall's loosest, silliest performances, which is incredible since Bogart was dying at the time and life couldn't be worse for the actress. As fashion designer Marilla Brown, Bacall is fierce, witty, hilarious, and, of course, very stylish, and her chemistry with good friend Gregory Peck is just delightful. (You can read my full review of Designing Woman here.)

2. How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)
In this writer's opinion, Schatze Page is easily Bacall's funniest performance, thanks to her deliciously dry delivery and Nunnally Johnson's sparkling script. Haughty, cynical, and clever, Schatze decides to trade romance for the security of a millionaire husband, but Bacall lets you see beneath her character's prickly exterior just enough to make you understand that Schatze is motivated more by a fear of being hurt rather than money. In a movie filled with scene-stealers like Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, and William Powell, Bacall's comedic prowess is a revelation. (You can check out my review of this film here.)

1. To Have and Have Not (1944)
With the release of To Have and Have Not, Betty Perske became Lauren Bacall, the world's newest, sultriest overnight sensation. Can you imagine how gobsmacked audiences were when she first appeared in Bogart's doorway asking for a light? Her scenes with Bogie are funny, sensual, and, above all else, electrifying. Whether she is crooning with Hoagy Carmichael, batting her lashes in mock naivete, or asking Walter Brennan if he was ever stung by a dead bee, Bacall is a marvel. Simply one of the greatest film debuts ever.


I'm happy to say this is my contribution to the Second Lauren Bacall Blogathon, hosted by In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. Check out the other tributes to this remarkable woman here.


  1. So many terrific performances and films listed here. Glad to see some more love for Dark Passage, that is such an underrated gem. The only film listed here that I still need to see is Designing Women, I can't wait to finally check that one out. My all time favourite Lauren Bacall performance is To Have And Have Not, what a strong and unforgettable debut!

    Lauren Bacall was such a cool and strong screen presence.

    1. Yes, she was! Dark Passage isn't perfect, but it is fascinating nonetheless. And you'll love Designing Woman! That's also an underrated gem.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. I too am strangely drawn to Dark Passage. It's been a long time since I watched Written on the Wind. It's time for a re-watch, especially since I just saw Tarnished Angels which reunited most of the main players from WotW excepting Bacall.

    1. It had been a long time since I had watched Written on the Wind. While it's not my favorite Sirk film, the character of Mitch (and Rock Hudson's performance), the use of colors, and the cinematography never fail to fascinate me. Absolutely stunning.

      I haven't seen The Tarnished Angels yet, but I have it all ready to go on my DVR before my and Crystal's Rock blogathon!

      Thanks for reading!

  3. I have never wondered how my TOP 5 would be. But I agree with many of your choices. Bacall was great in How to marry a millionaire - her best comedy role - and in To have and have not - as Maddy wrote in her blog, it's an impressive performance for a newcomer.
    Great post! Kisses!

    1. Thanks, Le! Since I haven't seen her full filmography, it did seem a bit unfair to list my five favorites. I even kept moving #3-5 around before publishing because I couldn't make up my mind. I'm sure if you asked me what my five are next year, it wouldn't be the same.

  4. Hi Michaela! Hope all ok with you - love you to join me for this.. from Gill at Realweegiemidget Reviews


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