Lauren Bacall, By Myself
“At the age of twenty I had grabbed at the sky and had touched some stars. And who but a twenty-year old would think you could keep it?”
Lauren Bacall, By Myself
Which legendary actress, who first made a name for herself in film noir, once ran into Kathleen Turner at a party and quipped, “Oh, you’re the young me.”
HINT: The actress who made this comment to Kathleen Turner was, in the mid-1940s, the "young" Slim Keith (then Slim Hawks).
The answer is after the JUMP.
"The Internet has not only turned the used-book business inside out; it has flipped it on its head and spun it around once or twice."
--Keith Waters, via the New York Times
Ask any rare book dealer. The Internet has had an extraordinary impact on the occupation. There are certainly negatives, but there is also an upside. It has made it possible to decipher the meaning of otherwise inscrutable inscriptions in books. Consider this copy of By Myself that is signed by its author, the actress Lauren Bacall. The inscription is on the flyleaf and reads, "For Georgann--Much love in 'health'--Betty, St. Pete's Beach."
Who was Betty? Who was Georgann? Why did Betty reference Georgann's health? Is St. Pete's Beach a clue?
To the uninformed, it is not even clear that this is an authorial inscription. Many authors sign books on the title page and cross through their typed names to indicate a signed copy. The flyleaf, by contrast, is typically a location in which one might find a third party gift inscription unrelated to production of the book. To conclude this copy might be signed by Bacall, one is required to know that her familiar name was "Betty." [See "Elizabeth and Her Court."]
Then it was necessary to confirm the authenticity of the signature. That meant comparing the inscription to other examples of Bacall's handwriting. Nick Harvill Libraries maintains an archive with scans of authorial signatures that pass through our store. The inscription matched. [Even if there had not been an example in the NHL archive, there are many online.]
The next step was to determine the meaning of the inscription and the identity of the recipient. This required less than ten minutes. Georgann is an uncommon name, particularly that spelling variation. An Internet search of "Lauren Bacall" and "Georgann" revealed that there is an actress named Georgann Johnson. Johnson was one of the players in the Robert Altman ensemble film HealtH in which Bacall starred. The movie was made in 1979, the same year By Myself was released. Moreover, it was filmed entirely on location at the Don CeSar Hotel, located in St. Petersburg Beach, the same city Bacall references in her inscription.
Bacall's words then became clear. The word "health" in quotations is obviously a reference to the movie they were filming together, HealtH.
Mystery solved. Next case, please.
The image of Lauren Bacall with her husband Jason Robards and their son Sam Robards is from By Myself.