Frank Sinatra Called Lauren Bacall a "Pushy Female" After Ending Engagement
The stars had a tumultuous relationship after Humphrey Bogart died.
When it comes to the love lives of Frank Sinatra and Lauren Bacall, they're both better remembered for their relationships with other people than they are for dating each other. Sinatra was married four times, including to actors Ava Gardner and Mia Farrow, and Bacall was famously married to co-star Humphrey Bogart before going on to wed actor Jason Robards. But, for a brief time, Sinatra and Bacall were together, and they even got engaged. However, their engagement was extremely short-lived. As soon as the news got out that they were planning to tie the knot, Sinatra dumped Bacall, and they went their separate ways.
Bacall wrote about her tumultuous relationship with Sinatra in her 1978 memoir By Myself. A new biography claims to have more insight into how Sinatra reacted to the end of their romance, including how he insulted her after they split. Read on to find out more.
Bacall and Sinatra got together after Bogart died.
Prior to Bogart dying of esophageal cancer in 1957, the actor, Bacall, and Sinatra were all friends and were part of a group known as the Holmby Hills Rat Pack, which also included Judy Garland and Spencer Tracy. While some people who knew Sinatra and Bacall have claimed that they began an affair before Bogart died, Bacall maintained that their relationship didn't become romantic until after the Maltese Falcon star passed away.
In her memoir, Bacall wrote (via the Daily Mail), "During the last few months of that terrible illness, I guess I began to depend on Frank's presence. He represented physical health and vitality, and I needed that. Part of me just needed a man to talk to, and Frank turned out to be that man. It wasn't planned. It simply happened."
Bacall said their relationship was "combustable."
Once Bacall and Sinatra were officially an item, their relationship was a rollercoaster ride. "I felt rather girlish and giddy," she wrote. "But I didn't really know where I stood with Frank and I never understood the love games he played, adoring one day and remote the next."
The 2023 biography Bogie & Bacall: The Surprising True Story of Hollywood's Greatest Love Affair by William J. Mann also describes Sinatra becoming cold toward Bacall. In one instance, they threw a New Year's Eve party together at his Palm Springs home, but he asked her to leave on New Year's Day while the other guests would be allowed to stay. Bacall refused. "For the rest of the weekend, she endured the cold shoulder and silent treatment from the man with whom she had fallen in love and who she had thought loved her," Mann wrote (via the Daily Mail).
"As a couple we were combustible," Bacall said in her memoir. "Always when we entered a room the feeling was: Are they OK tonight? You could almost hear a sigh of relief when we were both smiling and relaxed."
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Sinatra was angry when news of their engagement got out.
Even though they had their ups and downs, Sinatra proposed to Bacall in 1958, and she said yes. But this didn't fix things in their relationship—far from it, actually.
According to Bacall, it was her agent, Swifty Lazar, who leaked the news of their engagement to the press. This upset Sinatra, who Bacall said complained to her that he couldn't leave his hotel room due to all of the reporters who wanted to talk to him. She also said that the singer wouldn't believe her when she said she wasn't the one who spread the news.
"I didn't know that this was to be my last phone call from Frank," Bacall wrote. "I saw him at a party a month later, and he didn't acknowledge my existence."
According to Mann's book, gossip columnist Louella Parsons claimed that Bacall had confirmed the engagement news to her along with Lazar, but Bacall maintained that she had not spoken to the press.
He reportedly called her a "pushy female."
Bogie & Bacall explains that a story circulated that after Sinatra and Bacall broke up, Sinatra's ex-wife, Gardner, called him and asked why the marriage wasn't going forward.
"'What marriage?' Frank reportedly replied. 'The marriage to Betty Bacall,' Ava said," the book reads. "Sinatra scoffed: 'I was never going to marry that pushy female.'"
Mann claims that Sinatra's "handlers" wanted the public to interpret the breakup a certain way. "Bacall was a scheming woman who had tried to ground Frank's high-flying ways and he'd managed to escape her clutches," he wrote. "Here we see the misogyny of a man blaming a woman for his misconduct."
They both moved on to new relationships.
Mann wrote in Bogie & Bacall that Bacall felt humiliated after the breakup, particularly when the press reported that Sinatra soon became interested in French actor Brigitte Bardot. But, both stars moved on and got married again—twice more in Sinatra's case.
Bacall married Robards in 1961 and they were together until 1969. Sinatra was married to Farrow from 1966 to 1968, and then to Barbara Marx from 1976 until his death in 1998.
Bacall said that when they were at a party together years later, Sinatra said that he knew it was Lazar who leaked the engagement news. "'You—you were responsible for what happened between her and me!'" she wrote that Sinatra said to Lazar (via Vanity Fair). "I almost laughed. It was Frank's way of admitting finally that he did know it was Swifty and not me who'd spilled the beans."