My Afternoon with Bacall

As the Director of the New York Public Libraries I once had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with Lauren Bacall to pitch the NYPL Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center as the repository for her papers.  Accompanying Bob Taylor, then Chief of the Theatre Collection at LPA, we visited her at her home in The Dakota.  To this day, I am torn about which was more exciting—meeting Bacall or being in The Dakota!

Lauren Bacall and Harry Truman

Actress Lauren Bacall sits atop a piano while Vice President Harry S. Truman plays the piano at the National Press Club Canteen. They are at the canteen to entertain the servicemen. February 10, 1945.
Series: Photographs Relating to the Administration, Family, and Personal Life of Harry S. Truman, 1957-2004, NARA ID 198606.

Overlooking Central Park, we sat in her bookcase lined living room, discussing her career and family and her collection.  The bookcases were filled with leather bound volumes—one each for every play, movie, or performance of her life!  Each volume contained an annotated script, newspaper reviews, Playbill, etc.  Her collection was so well organized that it was an archivist/librarian’s dream!  Bob was eloquent in pitching LPA as the appropriate place for the collection given her attitudes about Los Angeles and how New York had become so important to her life.  I remember pitching the contribution to scholarship that the collection would bring to an already rich theatre collection—how future generations would benefit from her materials.

It was clear that sitting in the room enabled her to relive her life just by glancing around the room and how difficult it would be for her to be faced with empty shelves.   I pitched the gift of deed and later delivery of material at a time convenient for her and her children.  She was generous with her time, told wonderful stories in that husky Bacall voice, and promised to think it over.  Not sure what she decided nor who will get the collection.  Still hoping for NYPL!

As we were leaving, she pointed to a large trunk near the apartment door and said “That’s Bogie!”  She also had his papers!

5 thoughts on “My Afternoon with Bacall

  1. Lauren Bacall was first, last, and always a New Yorker who claimed that growing up in NY taught her one thing: the world doesn’t owe anyone anything. Bogart was descended from New York society of an earlier generation. Let’s hope that Bacall remembered her NY roots and those of her husband in her estate plans. Where else should those papers be? And they really must be somewhere.

  2. What a terrific moment! I hope she decided to heave her papers, and those of Humphrey, to SOMEONE. If she hadn’t made the decision, hopefully her children will donate them.

  3. On the Archives Email List, Ryan Hendrickson, Assistant Director for Manuscripts at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center located at Boston University, wrote the following:

    “Lauren Bacall donated her papers to the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University back in 2010, along with some Humphrey Bogart material. You can find a scope and content for the papers at our web site (”

  4. In May 1918 (WWI) , Humphrey DeForest BOGART, at age 18 years and 5 months applied for enrollment in the US Naval Reserve Force. He was living at 245 W 103rd Street, New York City at that time.

    The source document is at 1 Archives Drive, St Louis, MO.

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