Although she was a screen legend, Lauren Bacall never won an Oscar. She did receive an honorary award from the Academy in 2010, but the actress never won one outright. On Broadway ,she faired better as the actress captured two Tonys and played in various other shows. Bacall’s brash, no nonsense personality often carried over into her roles. Her eyes were penetrating lazars, and they served her well in film. On stage, it was her presence, her energy, and her strength that made her a star.
Her First Tony
Applause (1970), the musical stage adaptation of the 1950 movie All About Eve, which starred Betty Davis, and of Mary Orr’s 1946 short story The Wisdom of Eve, enjoyed a two-year run on Broadway (896 performances). With a book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, lyrics by Lee Adams, and music by Charles Strouse, Applause not only gave Bacall her initial Tony, but it also won the Tony for Best Musical. Len Cariou played opposite her as Bill Sampson.
Bacall in Applause
The musical opened at The Palace Theatre on March 30, 1970. Bacall, who was perfect as the aging actress Margo Channing, played the role into 1971, leaving the show after her contract was up. However, she later reprised her role for the special television adaptation that aired on CBS on March 19, 1973. For the TV broadcast, Larry Hagman replaced Cariou.
Bacall’s second Tony was for Woman of the Year
The actress returned to Broadway to star in the adaptation of the Katherine Hepburn film Woman of the Year. Once again, Bacall appeared at The Palace Theatre. The show opened on March 29, 1981, and ran for 770 performances. The score by John Kander and Fred Ebb and the book by Peter Stone also won Tonys. Bacall played Tess Harding, a popular TV personality. Harry Guardino played the role Sam Craig, which was originally created by Spencer Tracy in the film. Once again, Bacall found a role in a great musical that fit her well. In Woman of the Year, Bacall portrayed a sometimes confident, often conflicted modern woman who is trying to have it all without losing it all.
On December 8, 1965, Bacall opened in what was her first Broadway hit. It was the Abe Burrows written and directed farce, Cactus Flower. The show ran for 1,234 performances. She created the role of Stephanie, which would later be played in the film by Ingrid Bergman. Bacall was last on Broadway in Noel Coward’s Waiting in the Wings, which opened on December 16, 1999, and closed on May 28, 2000. The comedy focuses on two former actresses who battle against one another while spending their later year in a retirement home. Rosemary Harris played opposite Bacall.
Dies at New York City
Lauren Bacall, who was born on September 16, 1924, died at the age of 89 on August 12, 2014, in New York City. She left behind a legacy that included film, TV, and stage roles. Her Broadway performances were filled with brash energy, spirited vocal renditions, and strong, uncompromising character interpretations. Although often remembered for her film work, she was a true Broadway gem and charismatic performer who made The Great White Way a little brighter. Rest in peace, Lauren Bacall.