Lauren Bacall: five things you didn't know about the late star

Aug 13, 2014

Hollywood actress Lauren Bacall dies at the age of 89 following a long career on the stage and screen

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Lauren Bacall, a star of Hollywood's golden age, passed away after a major stroke yesterday at the age of 89. Born Betty Joan Perske in Brooklyn, she made her screen debut in 1944 at the age of 19 in To Have and Have Not, starring opposite her future husband Humphrey Bogart, who was 25 years her senior. Her career on stage and screen lasted seven decades and included action movies with John Wayne and comedy with Marilyn Monroe. Her Broadway musical Cactus Flower was sold out for two years in the 1960s at the Royale Theatre, where she once worked as an usher. Five years ago she was awarded an honorary Academy Award for what was described as "her central place in the golden age of motion pictures".  Here are five lesser-known facts about the star of the silver screen:

She heard John Lennon being shot

Bacall lived in The Dakota, the New York apartment building where Beatles musician John Lennon was shot on 8 December 1980. In 2005, she told the Larry King show that she had met Lennon around the building and "liked him a lot". She heard the gunshot that killed him but said she assumed it was a car backfiring. It was only when she watched the 11 o'clock news that she found out he had been shot.

She has a vocal disorder named after her

Bacall's deep, husky voice was so famous that she even had a vocal disorder named after her. "Bogart-Bacall Syndrome" is caused by vocal cord overuse and most often affects singers or people who regularly speak outside their normal vocal range. Bacall purposefully lowered the register of her voice at the suggestion of director Howard Hawks. It was Hawks' wife Nancy who first noticed a picture of Bacall in Harper's Bazaar and suggested a screen test, which catapulted her onto the silver screen. Hawks signed Bacall to a contract and changed her name from Betty to Lauren.

She was cousin to Shimon Peres

Bacall and former Israeli President Shimon Peres are first cousins, according to the Jewish Journal. Peres, who also served twice as Israel's prime minister, stepped down as president last month after seven years in the role. Their fathers were Polish brothers, but Bacall's father left when she was young so she took her mother's maiden name and did not have contact with the Perske side of the family. However, Peres later invited Bacall to Israel, and the two finally met.

She had 'big feet'

According to her autobiography, By Myself and Then Some, Bacall was very self-conscious about the size of her feet. She insisted they were big even for her 5ft 8in frame, describing herself as "this flat-chested, big-footed, lanky thing".

She nearly married Frank Sinatra

After Bogart died, Bacall began dating Frank Sinatra. He proposed to her and she accepted, but after the news of their engagement emerged in the press, he disappeared from her life. Looking back years later, Bacall said he "behaved like a shit" and the break-up changed her life. "I had to leave town, leave California. I sold my house, went back to New York and briefly to Broadway," she told The Guardian. Sinatra apologised many years later. 

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