1944 ➤ “Go to work, Slim” — Lauren Bacall offers a musical treat for Valentine’s Day

❚LAUREN BACALL WAS 19 AND GORGEOUS when she was introduced to tough guy Humphrey Bogart on the set of the war movie Passage to Marseille in 1944. Within the year she was making her Hollywood debut opposite the star in the much under-rated gem, To Have and Have Not. This too was a war movie and it made an overnight star of Bacall. It also brought her love, even though Bogie was 45. Within another year he was divorced and remarried to Bacall. They were separated only by Bogie’s early death in 1957.

Fashion editor Diana Vreeland had discovered Bacall’s photogenic qualities and turned her into one of the hot models in Harper’s Bazaar. Today Bacall still exudes the sensuality we see in her first screen role of Marie “Slim” Browning, the sassy adventuress who sings in the bar where Bogart as Harry “Steve” Morgan hangs out. Her opening line in that silky voice “Does anyone here have a match?” set the screen ablaze. But it was the song in the video clip above, How Little We Know, that announced a star is born. As a Hollywood epithet, Bacall became simply “The Look”.

Bogart, Bacall, To have and Have NotMade during the second world war and wonderfully crafted by director Howard Hawks, this loose adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s novel is a sensitive morality tale. It centres on Morgan as a hard-boiled American with a past he seeks to forget by captaining a sports-fishing boat on the Caribbean island of Martinique. For the duration of the war this overseas region of France, and an integral part of the Republic, is under Vichy control.

The couple’s real-life romance is electric, and caught on-screen for all to see. It is beautifully nuanced in the playful pet names the pair adopt for each other, when “Slim” as a resistance sympathiser persuades “Steve” to compromise his neutrality and help transport a fugitive on the run from the Nazis.

♫ Maybe you’re meant to be mine.
Maybe I’m only meant to stay in your arms a while
(As others have done) ♫

The clip above has the fine pianist Hoagy Carmichael as Cricket accompanying “Slim” as she sizzles her way through How Little We Know. The film’s music contributes toward a piece of pure entertainment which grows with every viewing. It contains some of the best lines of its day — almost in the Casablanca league — including these:

➢ You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve?

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