On February 10, 1945, Lauren Bacall sat on top of a piano while none other than the president of the United States, Harry Truman, knocked out a tune. The audience of about 800 servicemen gathered at the National Press Club Canteen hooted and hollered, while the press shot photos and the president smiled. It would become, as The Kansas City Star‘s Steve Kraske called it, “one of the most iconic political photographs of all time.”
For Lauren Bacall, who died this week at the age of 89 (read more in this Inquisitr article), it was just one moment in a decades-long life of political and social activism alongside her long acting career.
A lifelong Democrat, Bacall often hobnobbed with the political elite, including Robert F. Kennedy, Adlai Stevenson, and her own cousin, Israeli leader Shimon Peres, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Born Betty Joan Perske to a Jewish family in New York, and eventually taking her mother’s last name “Bacal” when her father abandoned the family, Lauren understood the importance of standing up for women and minorities. For her, that meant aligning herself with the Democratic Party.
Though she considered herself more of a “reformer” than a supporter of the old-line Democratic political machine at the time, according to The Daily Beast, she nevertheless threw her hat in with mainstream Democrats of the day. Alongside her husband and acting partner Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall campaigned for Democrat nominees, including twice for Robert F. Kennedy.
Bogey and Bacall traveled to Washington, D.C., in 1947 as part of the Committee for the First Amendment, according to The Worcester Telegram, to protest Joe McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee’s hunt for suspected Communists, particularly in the entertainment industry. Lauren and Bogey went there in support of the Hollywood Ten — a group of writers blacklisted for allegedly being Communists.
Unfortunately, that trip did more damage to her career than good, and eventually, she had to distance herself from it. In a photo that ran in Photoplay magazine, Bogey tried to distance himself and Lauren from the notion that they supported Communists, saying, “We’re about as in favor of Communism as J. Edgar Hoover.” Decades later, Lauren admitted that her trip was likely in vain, saying:
“It helped those of us at the time who wanted to fight for what we thought was right and against what we knew was wrong. And we made a noise — in Hollywood, a community which should be courageous but which is surprisingly timid and easily intimidated.”
After Bogey’s death, Lauren continued to support Democrats, up to and including her support for the Clinton/Gore campaigns. In 2005, she told Larry King that she was “an L-word; a Liberal.”
“Being a liberal is the best thing on earth you can be. You are welcoming to everybody when you’re a liberal. You do not have a small mind.”
What is your opinion of actors and entertainers like Lauren Bacall or Tim Robbins or Barbara Streisand mixing politics with their entertainment careers? Let us know what you think in the Comments.