Modern Matinees

B Is for Bacall

March 1–April 26, 2019

MoMA

To Have and Have Not. 1944. USA. Directed by Howard Hawks. Courtesy Warner Bros/Photofest

In 2016 Modern Matinees presented B Is for Bogart, so this tribute to Lauren Bacall (American, 1924–2014)—Humphrey Bogart’s partner in life and costar in four iconic films—is perhaps overdue. Bacall’s defining characteristics onscreen—strong, independent, smart, opinionated—mirrored her accomplishments in life as an actor, political activist, and author.

The Bronx native’s road to the movies began as a student at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and a fashion model. Tall, with a unique sultry look, Bacall was famously “discovered” on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar magazine in 1943 by Howard Hawks. Her screen debut the following year, in Hawks’s To Have and Have Not, propelled the novice to a six-decade screen career. Playing resolute women who held their own, spoke their minds, and guarded a tender heart in films like The Big Sleep (1946), Dark Passage (1947), and Key Largo (1948), she became an enduring film noir icon.

Bacall and Bogart married in 1945, beginning a personal partnership that also included political activism. Fiercely opposed to the House Un-American Activities Committee investigation of communist activity in Hollywood, the pair traveled to Washington, DC, with a group of Hollywood colleagues known as the Committee for the First Amendment to protest the proceedings.

Bacall never stopped evolving. Her long career was a varied, challenging collage of projects with everyone from Douglas Sirk and Vincente Minnelli to Barbra Streisand and Robert Altman, not to mention stints on Broadway and armfuls of awards and honors. But throughout, one thing remained constant: she could always be counted on to class up the joint.

Organized by Anne Morra, Associate Curator, Department of Film.

Support for the exhibition is provided by the Annual Film Fund. Leadership support for the Annual Film Fund is provided by the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation and Steven Tisch, with major contributions from Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder, Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP), Yuval Brisker Charitable Foundation, The Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston, Marlene Hess and James D. Zirin, Karen and Gary Winnick, and The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art.

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