Actress Lauren Bacall dies, aged 89

Lauren Bacall, the slinky, sultry-voiced actress who created on-screen magic with Humphrey Bogart in To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep and off-screen magic in one of Hollywood's most storied marriages, has died.

Bacall, whose long career brought two Tonys and a special Oscar, died in New York aged 89.

The managing partner of the Humphrey Bogart Estate, Robbert JF de Klerk, said that Bacall died at home, but declined to give further details. Bacall's son, Stephen Bogart, confirmed his mother's death to de Klerk.

She was among the last of the old-fashioned Hollywood stars and her legend, and the legend of "Bogie and Bacall" - the hard-boiled couple who could fight and make up with the best of them - started almost from the moment she appeared on screen.

Born Betty Joan Perske in New York on September 16, 1924, Bacall was the only child of a salesman and a secretary, Jewish immigrants who divorced when she was five.

She eventually took her mother's maiden name, Bacal, and modified it slightly when her acting career took off.

She was intoxicated by showbusiness at an early age - her first exposure to the theatre was watching John Gielgud in Hamlet.

"I remember bumping into people as I was leaving the theatre. I was really dazed," she later recalled.

She initially dreamed of being a dancer, but it was her modelling career that helped her blossom into a stage and screen legend.

Picture with Humphrey Bogart. Photo: Getty

Bacall electrified Hollywood in her 1944 screen debut in To Have and Have Not. In the film, leaving Bogart's hotel room, she murmurs: "You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow."

She was less than half Bogart's age, yet as wise and as jaded as him. Her sly glance, with chin down and eyes raised, added to her fame; she was nicknamed "The Look".

Bogart and Bacall married amid headlines in 1945, and they co-starred in three more films, The Big Sleep (1946), Dark Passage (1947) and Key Largo (1948). They had two children, son Stephen and a daughter, Leslie. Their marriage lasted until his death from throat cancer in 1957. Bacall placed a whistle in his coffin.

Portrait of American actress Lauren Bacall (born Betty Joan Perske), early 1940s. She was 19 years old at the time of the photographs. Photo: Getty

She appeared in movies for more than a half-century, but not until 1996 did she receive an Academy Award nomination - as supporting actress for her role as Barbra Streisand's mother in The Mirror Has Two Faces. Although a sentimental favourite, she lost to Juliette Binoche for her performance in The English Patient.

She finally got a statuette in November 2009 when she was presented with a special Oscar at the movie academy's new Governors Awards gala.

"The thought when I get home that I'm going to have a two-legged man in my room is so exciting," she quipped.

Bacall was always a star. With her lanky figure and flowing blonde hair, she was seemingly born for silk dresses. On television talk shows, she exhibited a persona that paralleled her screen appearances: she was frank, even blunt, with an undertone of sardonic humour, all of which she demonstrated in her best-selling 1979 autobiography, By Myself, which beat out works by William Saroyan among others for the National Book Award.

She published an updated version in 2005, By Myself and Then Some, noting that as she ages, "I don't feel that different. But I sure as hell am."

She married actor Jason Robards and had one child with him during an eight-year marriage between 1961 and 1969.

When her movie career faded, she returned to the theatre. She starred in the hit comedy Cactus Flower and stepped lively in Applause, a musical version of the classic movie All About Eve that brought her first Tony in 1970.

She got the second Tony in 1981 for Woman of the Year, based on a film that starred her idol, Katharine Hepburn. She enjoyed another triumph in London with Sweet Bird of Youth in 1985.

When the American Film Institute compiled its list of screen legends in 1999, Bacall ranked No. 20 on the roster of 25 actresses. Bogart topped the list of actors.

Hollywood screen goddess Lauren Bacall has died, aged 89. Photo: AAP

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