I added this in the week following Bacall's death in August - I finally wanted to learn more about this last actress of the Golden Era, a woman who seemed relatable and fun - judging by the interviews, quotations, snippets from TV shows she seemed to be one strong and humorous lady. The book consists of two parts - the first one, written in late seventies, and the second one, written over a quarter of a century later.
The first part - the majority of the book, luckily - is fast-paced, constructed like a good biopic - never a dull moment, following from one moment of interest of another. I honestly expected a narrative slump after her marriage to Bogart (her description of their courtship and marriage is by far the best part of the book), but the lady still delivered: Hollywood blacklisting, life on the set of The African Queen
, etc. The book is written in an authentic voice, with strange, sometimes torn sentences; Bacall has a penchant for one-liners and makes amusing comments on people:
A writer named Truman Capote had been hired to work on the script. Bogie’s observation about him was, ‘At first you can’t believe him, he’s so odd, and then you want to carry him around with you always.
All in all, I really enjoyed the first part. She comes across as fragile and imperfect at times, prone to repeating the same errors, but first of all, a survivor, and a wonderfully commonsensical person:
My friends in the musical world had told me the toughness of what lay ahead. Jerry Robbins had said, ‘You’ll have to stay out of crowded, noisy rooms. Save your energy for the show. Find a nice guy and keep house, with quiet evenings for two.’ Clearly the best way to get through any show – or any life, for that matter.
The second part - ...and Then Some
- I largely skimmed. It mostly consists of a string of eulogies for dead friends and coworkers, and a list of plays and movies she worked in. This part, with all due respect, was rather rambling than chatty - with musings on 'the heartstopping beauty of Paris', the excellent quality of the New York's 'fresh and delicious takeout', and, of course, politics. I liked the descriptions of her work relationship with Barbra Streisand (whom she praises for her professionalism, but adds: 'Her best side is her left side. That happens to be my best side as well. Guess who won?', and everything she wrote about John Gielgud.