Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

Jewish Hall of Fame: Lauren Bacall

This week’s inductee is the influential 89-year-old Academy Award-nominated actress

By: Caitlin Marceau

Published: July 9th, 2014 in Culture » Film » News

Since the dawn of time, Jewish people have contributed greatly to various fields, from sports to entertainment to politics to porn. With our Breakthrough Jew feature, we recognize those who are up and comers in these various industries, identifying those great innovators and leaders in the contemporary world who are making a mark on society that will last a lifetime.

With the Jewish Hall of Fame, we recognize the remarkable advancements members of our community have made on today’s society. These are people who have truly changed the world, and have earned the respect and praise of the members of today’s younger generation.

ShalomLife’s Jewish Hall of Fame is our ongoing tribute to the greatest Jews who have ever lived; be sure to catch us weekly with our latest inductees, and tweet us @ShalomLife wih your suggestions.

Check out last week’s inductee into the Hall of Fame here.

Hall of Fame Member: Betty Joan Perske/Lauren Bacall

Born: September 16th, 1924, in the Bronx, New York

While the golden age of Hollywood may be dead and gone, one of its most iconic female leads is still kicking and making waves. Betty Joan Perske, known to audiences as Lauren Bacall, was born on September 16th, 1924 in New York City to Jewish immigrant parents. Raised in the Bronx, she and her mother changed their last names to Bacall (her grandmother’s maiden name) after her father left the family when she was only six. Her father had been an alcoholic and after her parent’s divorce Bacall was raised by her mother, grandmother, and her Uncle Charlie.

During her years in high school Bacall began to learn the traditions of her Jewish faith, while becoming increasingly interested in the world of theater. She was fond of both Bette Davis and Leslie Howard, and even began working as an usher while still in school. Although she’d originally intended to become a dancer, but quickly fell in love with the cinema.

It wasn’t long before the cinema loved her back.

In 1942, Bacall won the title of “Miss Greenwich” and also acted in the off Broadway play January Two By Four. She also began her modeling career, landing on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar in 1943. If not for this picture the world may never have known the talents of Bacall, as it was Nancy, the wife of director Howard Hawks, who encouraged her husband to see Bacall and offer her a screen test which launched her acting career.


Mr. Hawks, although pleased with her screen test, disliked Bacall’s high pitched voice and name. So for several weeks Mrs.Hawks taught Bacall how to speak with a lower, more sultry, tone and Bacall officially made the switch from Betty Joan Perske to Lauren Bacall. However, she was never completely comfortable with this name change as it was done to help distance her from her Jewish heritage to make her more likable by audiences. She returned to Mr. Hawks and, thanks to his wife’s help, would soon become a star.

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