In Front of the Lens

In April 1943, still a teenager, Lauren Bacall set out for Hollywood to pursue her dreams of becoming an actress.

These experimental hair and make-up looks were for her first starring role as ‘Slim’ in the film ‘To Have and Have Not’. This role would not only begin her career but also introduce her to “the first and most electrifying love of her life”, Humphrey Bogart.

THE NAME – Born Betty Joan Perske her name went through various transformations before it became Lauren Bacall. Firstly, after her parents divorced she took her mother’s last name ‘Bacal’ which in later years she would add an extra ‘L’ to the end of to take away confusion over pronunciation and it was the decision of her Warner Bros. manager, Howard Hawkes, to adopt the name ‘Lauren’. He promptly spread the story that it was her grandmother’s name, and thus a star was born.


Behind the Lens

Lauren Bacall began her career in the days of the rigid Hollywood studio system. Major studios such as MGM, Paramount, Warner Bros. and others like them owned their actors and actresses and the stars had little say over what was done to them.

Lauren’s first meeting with the make-up team for this test was less than encouraging. Lauren said of the encounter, “Perc Westmore, the make-up artist, examined my face and said ”Ummhmm, we can pluck your eyebrows, shave your hairline and straighten your teeth.” I was terrified and upset.” Fortunately for Lauren, having quickly spoken to her manager, Howard Hawkes, he reassured her that he had chosen her for her thick eyebrows and crooked teeth and that’s the way they would stay.

-  Lauren Bacall, By Myself and Then Some (Autobiography).

The Bigger Picture

Related Capsules: Humphrey Bogart in the Navy, 1918

What happened next? – Lauren Bacall’s IMDb profile

About The Author

Avatar of Sophia
Assistant Curator

Sophia joined the Retronaut team as a researcher in 2014. After graduating from Liverpool in 2013 with a BA in Ancient History, she moved to London and now works at Bletchley Park as a volunteer archivist. From test shots of Lauren Bacall to space suits for dogs, working for Retronaut means that Sophia can keep exploring the moments where history, culture and photography collide.

6 Responses

  1. Brian Gonigal

    Those looked so much like police mug shots, I really had to look close to realize they’re actually Hollywood Make-up test photos.

  2. Richard Wills

    Well, test photos serve pretty much the same purpose as police mug shots.


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