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Social Media Moxy: Lauren Bacall's Legacy

Lauren Bacall hated being called a Hollywood “legend,” quipping that the label “legend” should be reserved for dead people.  Well, Ms. Bacall, you may have passed, but your legacy lives on in social media.  Let’s call it a living legacy of sorts, one that inspires and excites.

Thanks to technology, women will continue to be motivated by the style and aplomb with which Bacall wore her many life roles, spanning seven decades—from ambitious, resourceful New York teenager, part-time model, serious acting student, to leading Hollywood femme fatale, wife to Humphrey Bogart, stage actress, advertising icon—achieving screen immortality before she was 21.  And, she raised 3 children, essentially on her own, in New York City.  

Part of the Golden Age studio dream machine—Bronx Jewish girl raised by struggling divorced mom, part-time model, wows Hollywood, nabs first role opposite leading man Humphrey Bogart— Lauren Bacall took Hollywood by storm in her first film To Have And To Have Not.  Among all the tributes pouring into social media channels, my NetBase analysis shows that many attribute her “whistle” lines in the film as her greatest: “You know how to whistle, don't you Steve?” Still others continue to be intrigued by the film noir genre of Bacall and Bogie’s roles in films like The Big Sleep.

A global personality, as the NetBase comparative analysis below shows, passion intensity for Bacall predictably peaked this week in both English and French social media.




But, in spite of her elusive sophisticate on screen character, or perhaps because of it, it is Lauren Bacall the person who continues to resonate and intrigue both cinema devotees and general audiences in social media. Analysis of social media commentary by aficionados of classic films can provide useful data for story concepts, as it provides unbiased, undiluted, even primal intuitive insights into the psyche of a potential audience at any point in time.  Brand marketers and advertisers, too, can benefit from studying film sentiment in social media.

For instance, one useful lens through which to study social sentiment in French is by source, as illustrated in the chart below, segmented by French blogs for our Lauren Bacall topic:




Ethnographic “deep dive” research provides useful comparative analysis by culture when contrast in other languages, as shown in the English source segmentation chart below:



Apart from her film, stage and musical theater careers, Bacall appeared in branding and advertising campaigns.  Her potential future digitized “role” as a marketing spokeswoman continues to be debated by ad experts as they discuss the trend in reviving Hollywood icons.   In many ways, Bacall defies stultifying marketing pigeonholing, having bridged generations and cultures to maintain a certain character relevance reserved for only a few personalities.

Critically labeled “sassy and sexy” by many, Lauren Bacall was an original— #entrepreneurial, #unapologetic, #bossy woman, and staunch political and social activist to boot. A truly modern woman before her time, Bacall had impeccable focus, drive, smarts, independence and chutzpah:  “Imagination is the highest kite one can fly.”

Here are a few of Bacall’s memorable moments in film:

Her humor in Designing Women“We never argue anymore. And when we do, it never lasts more than a week or two.”

On commitment, in Key Largo:

“Your head said one way, but your whole life said another.”

“Maybe it is a rotten world. But a cause isn’t lost if someone’s willing to go on fighting.”

I particularly love this 1994 interview by Charlie Rose, where Bacall’s wit, intuition, values and intelligence shine through.  She also candidly shares her wisdom and humor on relationships, self-image, communication style, aesthetic, cinema, political perspectives, human nature on being alone, on being adored and more.  Endearing and enduring.

A native New Yorker above all, she delighted in the outdoors of Central Park, just as we all do with our dogs.  Most who encountered her will agree she embraced her moxie, a mantra of sorts:  “And you know what you learn if you’re a New Yorker? The world doesn’t owe you a damn thing.”

One thing I really love about social media analysis is it’s ability to capture so many of the vignettes and anecdotes of peoples lives that not only teach and inspire in the moment, but also become part of our collective conscience, enduring as touchstones for all generations. Or, as role model, as Bacall reminded us: "Your whole life shows in your face, you should be proud of that."

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