For Lauren Bacall, in The Big Sleep

The distant temptress: siren without song,

The silent sphinx. How many helpless men

Have lost themselves to it; how many a long

Uncaring stare has brought them back again?

Alone and without heart you give the very

Look of love; yet keep that love at bay,

At one arm’s languorous length, the poetry

Of such unspoken, and unmoving ways.

Invite, without one lost, invited stare;

Draw in, without so much as drawing breath.

Raise one exquisite brow, to silent questions,

And bring the questioner unquestioned death.

The chase is on, the mystery is all:

The question, though, is your device to keep

In silent screens. Define the femme fatale,

And bring us unresisting to our sleep.

In its own way this is really a poem for all classic actors, and all classic film. It is sometimes tempting to allege that all “class” has been lost in cinema. Nobody lights a cigarette with quite the same grace and elegance, anymore. Nuance and seductive, insinuating dialogue seem absent, at times. Although this is of course exaggeration, I do still admire the “Golden Age” for its focus on writing, casting, its allure and its suggestiveness. The actors were not all entirely perfect in their art, and it is too easy to glamorise and romanticise such things to excess; but in all honesty, I melt every time I so much as look at a still of Lauren Bacall. She is just dreamy. Fact. 


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