Lauren Bacall, who passed away on Tuesday at age 89, left an incomparable legacy of film performances to savor, from To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep to The Shootist and Murder on the Orient Express to her Oscar-nominated performance in The Mirror Has Two Faces. But Bacall kept acting throughout her career, and the last twenty years or so produced an eclectic series of less heralded gems that are still well worth seeking out (or at least in one case we assume well worth seeking out).
Ernest & Celestine (2014)
Bacall's last screen credit is her voice work on the American redub of one of last year's nominees for Best Animated Feature. She joins luminaries like Forest Whitaker and Paul Giamatti, but hers is the voice that the trailer wisely puts front and center to sell the story. We probably won't have a voice that wise and worldly and cool with juuust a touch of smirking for quite a while.
Dogville (2003) / Manderlay (2005)
Bacall's presence in Lars Von Trier's nose-thumbing at America isn't exactly under-the-radar. That film made a decent-sized splash, what with it starring Nicole Kidman right after her Oscar and featuring a starry cast full of your Paul Bettanys and Patricia Clarksons. But far fewer people paid attention to Von Trier's follow-up, Manderlay, which continues his tour of American awfulness, this time with a stop at a slave plantation. Though Kidman and James Caan both opted not to return to their Dogville roles (they were replaced by Bryce Dallas Howard and Willen Dafoe), Bacall was one of only two Dogville cast members (along with Chloe Sevigny) to do both films, though she would play two distinct, if similarly named characters. Both are worth watching for Bacall's work as Ma Ginger and Mam, respectively, though Dogville is the only one worth watching when Bacall isn't onscreen.
Howl's Moving Castle (2004)
Another voice role in an American dub of a foreign animated film. This time, it was Studio Ghibli wisely snatching Bacall up for this Hayao Miyazaki fantasy. The trailer didn't have the good sense to feature Bacall's performance as the Witch of the Waste, though.
At some point in the '90s, Robert Altman just started casting everybody in his movies, whether as characters or in cameos as themselves. In his fashion-industry extravaganza, he cast Bacall as a character named "Slim Chrysler," a nod towards her character in To Have and Have Not.
All I Want for Christmas (1991)
I can't imagine there's all that much reason to see All I Want for Christmas, a forgotten holiday-themed, thickly sentimental offering from 1991. I suppose there's value in watching very-young versions of Thora Birch and Ethan Embry (then: Ethan Randall). But Lauren Bacall as their grandmother should at least warrant a curious peek.
Though Misery is largely a two-person show, with Kathy Bates tormenting poor bed-ridden James Caan, Bacall lends her gravitas to a few scenes as Caan's imperious New York City editor.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1995)
Okay, this one looks to be the treasure-hunt of the bunch. A 1995 (one year before her Mirror Has Two Faces Oscar run) television movie and adaptation of the beloved children's book about two kids who run away and hide in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It's not available on Netflix. It's not available on DVD at all. There are used VHS copies floating around the internet somewhere, though, and I desperately want to get my hands on one. As should you.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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