Local Focus: Memories of Lauren Bacall in Newport Beach

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Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall aboard their boat, Santana, in Newport Harbor
Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall aboard their boat, Santana, in Newport Harbor

“You don’t have to say anything, and you don’t have to do anything. Not a thing. Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.”

That memorable moment of dialogue from the 1944 film “To Have and Have Not” was said by a young Lauren Bacall to Humphrey Bogart (whom she married in 1945).

Bacall, who co-starred with Bogart in several films including “The Big Sleep,” “Dark Passage” and “Key Largo,” died this week in New York at age 89, although at one time she and Bogart were frequent visitors to Newport Beach.

According to the Associated Press, Bacall, whose long career brought her two Tony Awards and a special Oscar, was among the last of the old-fashioned Hollywood stars whose 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 in “To Have and Have Not.”

While reaching material for my 2006 book, “Newport Beach Centennial: Celebrating a Century,” I uncovered several articles that talked about the many hours Bogart and Bacall spent in Newport Harbor, and cruising the Southern California coastline, aboard their boat, Santana.

According to an interview with Bacall published in the Los Angeles Times in 1996, when Bogie and Bacall first met (on the set of “To Have and Have Not”), Bogart was in the Coast Guard and his patrol boat would come ashore at Balboa, where the couple often would steal time for a rendezvous.

One famous anecdote mentioned in the article, and in her autobiography, had her driving in the rain at 4 a.m. down Coast Highway from Hollywood to pick up Bogart, who had decided to walk up from Newport, with a  large flower protruding from his lapel.

Another memory Bacall had of Newport Beach was the Flight of the Snowbirds.

“All the little kids once a year would sail these little boats, these little snowbirds, with one little sail. That was fabulous,” she told the L.A. Times. “I thought: ‘God, a child can grow up doing things like that?’”

After Bogart died in 1957, Bacall’s visit to Newport were less frequent, although she continued to act in films and on stage. She won a Tony Award for “Applause” in 1970, and another in 1981 for “Woman of the Year.” Her 1979 autobiography, “By Myself,” won the National Book Award.

According to the Associated Press, 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.

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