Dear Readers this post is part of the Lauren Bacall Blogathon hosted by Crystal of In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. Be sure to visit her blog and see all the other great entries as we bloggers celebrate the late great lady!
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The thing I loved most about Lauren Bacall was her voice.
It was smart, sexy, and empowered.
It was one-of-a-kind:
And we can thank director Howard Hawkes for Bacall’s legendary voice. Her natural voice is high! She trained her voice, speaking lower than her natural register:
It was Hawkes’ advice to keep my voice low … So I practiced by reading The Robe aloud in my car… It gives people the impression that I’m formidable, when I’m really quite vulnerable. — Bacall (Humphrey 151).
But doing this for a prolonged period is very dangerous, one can develop a tension-fatigue syndrome called Muscle Tension Dysphonia, commonly referred to as Bogart-Bacall Syndrome. Yes, this is a diagnosable vocal disorder.
Several years back I de-legitimized my singing voice and sung at the bottom of my vocal range three hours a day, I developed BBS. The plus side I sang like Janis Joplin for eight months, the bad side, I developed severe throat pain and had to re-train my voice to my natural level.-Summer Reeves (your trusty blogger)
Bogart-Bacall Syndrome is named for both Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, both actors lowered their voices outside their natural range. The gravelly sound hear is vocal fatigue. Lowering your voice for a prolonged period, eventually causes permanent vocal damage.
But damaged or not, she had one heck of a voice!
Lauren Bacall in Commercial Work
I figured most participants would focus on her important cinematic work, but she did other work, too.
For example, she was the spokeswoman for High Point Coffee, here is one of her many commercials for that brand:
Here is the gorgeous lady herself selling cars for Ford!
Her voice is so distinct that we can recognize her sight unseen:
Here is a clip of Lauren advertising Fancy Feast Cat Food! I don’t own cats, but if I had a cat, I am certain this imaginary cat likes Lauren Bacall, and this imaginary cat eats nothing but Fancy Feast!
But even Lauren Bacall, could not make me eat at Arby’s! Sorry, I am not too sure about her taste in sandwiches. Movies, yes, sandwiches, no.
Lauren Bacall in Voice Over
Her legendary voice gave life to animated characters, too.
Here she is as the Witch of the Waste in Miyazaki Hayao’s animated film Howl’s Moving Castle. This film is about a young girl Sophie, who is cursed by a jealous witch and must live as a 90-year old woman. The stellar cast includes Jean Simmons, Blythe Danner, Emily Mortimer, Christian Bale, Josh Hutcherson and Billy Crystal. It is a surreal and romantic fairytale about magic, falling stars, Steampunk machinery, and love.
Here is the trailer for the animated feature Ernest & Celestine, Lauren Bacall’s last feature film, it looks absolutely charming.
Here is a clip from Season 12 of Family Guy “Mom’s the Word”, here Bacall plays Evelyn, Peter’s mother’s friend. Later in the episode Evelyn seduces Peter! Sadly, this is her last acting job.
She also provided vocal talent for Madeline: Lost in Paris, and Scooby-Doo and the Goblin King.
Lauren Bacall a Singer
According to an article about singer Andy Williams in the LA Times:
Bacall’s singing voice, Williams wrote, ‘wasn’t quite good enough for a number she had to do in the film. … because she had a low, husky voice, none of the singers he auditioned had the sound he was looking for. … [a] sixteen-year-old boy [Williams] whose voice had only recently changed was the perfect match for Bacall. …Bacall admitted that I dubbed the song [‘How Little We Know’] for her but said that they wanted to use her own voice saying part of the lyric … and because my voice didn’t match her speaking voice well enough, in the end they decided to use her recording, not mine, as originally planned. … I’m not sure what the truth of it was, but I’m not going to argue about it with the formidable Ms. Bacall!’
I am inclined to think this is Andy Williams’ blended with Bacall’s voice, here is why, Andy Williams voice is as distinct as Lauren Bacall’s. Andy Williams sings through his nose, (he sounds like his nose is stuffed when he sings). In this clip, the voice is very nasal, but you can hear a distinct shift between the two voices:
Here is Andy Williams singing “Stay Just a Little While” on his first studio album. This was recorded in 1956, 12 years after To Have and Have Not was filmed. His voice is mature, but you’ll notice he slightly sounds like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Notice the tone of his voice:
But if you aren’t a hardcore Rankin & Bass Christmas Special nut like I am, my Rudolph reference may be lost upon you. So here is Rudolph singing “Fame and Fortune” with his buddy Hermey. Notice how Rudolph sings likes he is holding his nose, he and Andy Williams share that quality.
Now back to Lauren Bacall, she did sing in the Broadway Musical Applause. Here you can tell it is her voice. Notice how she does not sound like she is holding her nose. The television special is available on DVD, here is a clip from the show. She won a Tony Award for her performance:
I am not suggesting that Bacall is taking credit for Williams’ performance, I think the studio mixed both their voices and told her it was her.
Lauren Bacall Animated
Lauren Bacall is in two Merrie Melodies cartoons, with her image (not her voice) in Slick Hare and Bacall to Arms!
Here is a clip from Bacall to Arms:
Be sure to visit Crystal of In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and check out the other great entries.
Until next time, dearies!
Humphrey, Judith. Taking the Stage: How Women Can Speak Up, Stand Out, and Succeed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2014. Print
Karpf, Anne. The Human Voice: The Story of a Remarkable Talent. London: Bloomsbury, 2006. Print.