Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Lauren Bacall on Katharine Hepburn

Katharine Hepburn and Lauren Bacall, or Katie and Betty as they called one another, met on the set of The African Queen. They became so close that Hepburn was the godmother of Bacall's third child, Sam (with Jason Robards).
Why do you want me? For heaven's sake, I'm no good at paying attention to children (355).
The following excerpts are all taken from Lauren Bacall's autobiography, By Myself, and Then Some; 1978, 2005.

Bacall, John Huston, Bogie, and Hepburn on the set of The African Queen
Our friendship would happen slowly. But very surely. And it would become one of the most affection, influential, and treasured friendships of my life and for always (208).
Katie is a private, private person whose standards of behavior are very high, and she must have felt alone a good deal of the time...she was an actress - a fine one, a successful one, a big, big, star on stage and screen - but the rest was a mystery. Until we became friends, that location must have been lonely for her, despite her happy nature and essential optimism (210).
As we headed for Ponthierville, we passed  bamboo forest. Katie said, 'Stop the car, I've always wanted to sit in the middle of a bamboo forest.' I thought Bogie was going to explode. Here was everyone trying to get out of there, and Katie wanted to sit in the middle of a bamboo forest. But the car stopped and out she got - as did I. 'What the hell, while I'm here I might s well see what a bamboo forest is like - I may never get another chance.' It was very still and very beautiful (211).
So many of the crew were confined to bed...even Katie...never complained and never missed a day's work. She had opinions, voiced them, and stuck to them (212).
One night she had Spencer Tracy, James Cagney, Bogie, and me for dinner...Katie and I sat spellbound. That is the only time I can remember that we both shut up.
It was an unforgettable night. Katie and I sat on the floor - at their feet of course. I remember thinking Katie was like a little girl - so thrilled to be in the company of these men, to know them. She hung on their words with a look of wonder and unending pleasure on that great face (216-17)
At last, my very first nomination [the Tony Awards, 1970 for Applause] for anything, anywhere. Katie was nominated too, for Coco. Of course I wanted to win, but Katie - my friend, one of the woman I admired above all others, set apart, and such a wonderful actress. I adored Katie so - it was ridiculous, actors in competition for a prize...Katie and I joked about it. She wouldn't go to the award presentation, she'd never gone to any function like that. Laughingly she said, 'If I win, you'll accept it for me, won't you?' And how I would! I was sure she would get it. Why couldn't we both get it?(414).
She watercolored a self-portrait for me - delivered the day after I won the Tony... As I read her praise of me, written more than 30 years ago, I am filled with nostalgia and great love for this amazing woman and am stunned by her flattery. For better or worse, here it is in her own words:
From Bacall's autobiography
My own dear friend
All that pure simplicity,
unguarded modesty and
Boyish courage
poured into a frame of leonine splendor
And none could be more pleased than I -
Your smeared* friend, [referring to the edge of the printing]
Auntie Kate
April 19th 1970
I blushed when I first read it. I blush now. So flattering - so sweet - that she thought so highly of me. She could never say it, any more than I could, but she could write it - as I could. Being accepted as a true friend, despite the difference in our ages - with our bond growing stronger through Bogie's illness and death. Then the following years of closeness as we travelled for work and life in general until Spencer's death, and being able to talk about our lives on a personal level. Typical Kate - is it any wonder I adored her and told her that 10 minutes of her would be worth 24 hours of anyone else? (486-87)
Until the day she died, I never thought of Kate without thinking of Spence and Bogie. After all, our friendship really began and solidified during the making of African Queen in 1951. To think that Kate's and my friendship endured for more than 50 years is some kind of record. And it created a special bond between us - me without Bogie, followed by her without Spence. Those years of memories of four of us -then three of us - then two of us. Now, only one (488).
The very last time I saw her, I walked right over to her in her chair in the living room, sat next to her, kissed her.
That day, when I was about to leave, she said: "Please stay." After I had stayed for a half hour longer, I leant over and kissed her cheeks many times, after which she looked at me and whispered: "Thank you." So touching - so sweet. I wondered how much she knew. It mattered not. She knew something (490).
She was 96 years old...she was Miss Hepburn - Aunt Kat - Katie - Kate - Kathy (to Spencer Tracy). She was all of those depending on your relationship. And she was always Katharine. With an 'A'.
She was loyal - demanding - pure and purely demanding - open - reserved - formally informal - proud - intimidating - exasperating - funny - touching. She was a worker - a riser above everything - passionate in her likes and dislikes - saying what she thought but keeping herself to herself - loving - sentimental - a lover of beauty - of nature. She was there for those who needed her - really needed her and were in need. She was especially, wonderfully, uniquely, one of a kind (485).
Arriving in London after filming in Africa
This is the second of two posts for the 2nd Annual Great Katharine Hepburn Blogathon. Be sure and read all of the other "divine" entries!
All images found via Pinterest

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