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Lauren Bacall Had Affair With Frank Sinatra When Humphrey Bogart Was on His Death Bed

According to one of the singer's biographers.

Thanks to their marriage and the movies they made together, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall became known simply as Bogie and Bacall. And since their names are often mentioned in the same breath to this day, you may not know that Bacall was romantically involved with another huge star after Bogart's death: Frank Sinatra. Bacall and Sinatra were open about their relationship, which supposedly began soon after Bogart died. But according to one biographer, the coupling actually began as an affair when the Casablanca actor was still alive.

Bacall opened up about her relationship with Sinatra in her 1978 memoir By Myself. (The book was republished with more content as By Myself and Then Some in 2005.) The two even got engaged, but Sinatra broke things off immediately after, which the To Have and Have Not star ended up seeing as a blessing in disguise. Read on to find out more about their relationship and its disputed timeline.

READ THIS NEXT: Tab Hunter Revealed How Secret Affair With Anthony Perkins Ended: "I Felt Betrayed."

The stars were all friends.

Humphrey Bogart, Frank Sinatra, and Anita Ekberg at Romanoff's Restaurant in 1955
Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Bogart, Bacall, Sinatra, and others were part of a group known as the Holmby Hills Rat Pack, named after a Los Angeles neighborhood. Other members included Judy Garland, her third husband Sidney Luft, Spencer Tracy, and talent agent Swifty Lazar.

Sinatra and Bogart remained close until Bogart's death in January 1957 following a diagnosis of esophageal cancer the previous year. In her book, Bacall wrote of Sinatra coming to visit her husband, and the ill actor questioning the singer's true motive.

"Frank started coming by the house almost nightly, and I remember my husband saying: 'You don't think he comes to see me, do you?' Bogie was sure I was the attraction," Bacall wrote (via the Daily Mail).

In 2005, Bacall told The Guardian that it really was Bogart Sinatra wanted to see. "[I]t was Bogie he was mad about. Frank couldn't understand—of course he couldn't—how a man like Bogie, who was attractive, funny, a big star, could be faithful to one woman." (Though that loyalty has been disputed.)

Bacall said their relationship started after Bogart's death.

Lauren Bacall and Frank Sinatra at the after party for the 1955 Oscars
Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

In her book, Bacall recognized that she began to depend on Sinatra emotionally as Bogart was dying. But she does not indicate that their romantic relationship began when her husband was still alive.

"During the last few months of that terrible illness, I guess I began to depend on Frank's presence," she wrote. "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."

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Some sources claimed otherwise.

Kim Novak, Frank Sinatra, Lauren Bacall, and Humphrey Bogart at the premiere of "The Desperate Hours" in 1955
Earl leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Kitty Kelley, who wrote the 1986 book His Way: The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra, claimed that Sinatra and Bacall had an affair prior to Bogart's death.

"He was somewhat jealous of Frank," Kelley wrote that Bacall said of Bogart (via the Daily Mail). "Partly because he knew I loved being with him, partly because he thought Frank was in love with me, and partly because our physical life together, which had always ranked high, had less than flourished with his illness." The biographer also wrote, "This was the closest Bacall ever came to admitting her passion for Frank during the time that her husband was dying."

According to the Daily Mail, the playwright Ketti Frings once said of Bacall—who she referred to as "Betty"—and Sinatra, "It was no secret to any of us. Everybody knew about Betty and Frank. We just hoped Bogie wouldn't find out. That would have been more killing than throat cancer."

Sinatra proposed to her.

Frank Sinatra and Lauren Bacall at a party in 1957
earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Whenever it began, Sinatra and Bacall's relationship was a tumultuous one. Describing it in her book, Bacall wrote, "I felt rather girlish and giddy. 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." She added that with Bogart she was "married to a grown-up. Bogie knew what he wanted; if a woman loved him, he felt stronger rather than threatened." (When Bacall married Bogart, she was 20 and he was 45. When the Sinatra relationship began, Bacall was 32 and Sinatra was 41.)

Bacall continued, "As a couple we were combustible. 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."

Sinatra proposed to Bacall in 1958. "I must have hesitated for at least 30 seconds. I was ecstatic," Bacall wrote. "A young girl came over for autographs. Frank handed me the paper napkin and pen, and as I started to write, he said, 'Put down your new name.' So 'Lauren Bacall' was followed by 'Betty Sinatra' (because my real first names were Betty Joan)."

The engagement ended quickly.

Lauren Bacall and Frank Sinatra circa 1958
Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Sinatra and Bacall's engagement was short-lived, because the news of it got out. Bacall said she didn't tell anyone, despite wanting to, but soon found out that her agent, Lazar, told the press. This upset Sinatra, who told Bacall that he wasn't able to leave his hotel room due to all the reporters trying to catch a glimpse of him.

"I called Frank, and I must have sounded contrite though I had no cause to be. I was so insecure it was pathetic," she wrote. She said that Sinatra still accused her of telling the press even though it wasn't her. He told her that they'd have to lay low for a few days, but it ended up being the end of the relationship. "I didn't know that this was to be my last phone call from Frank. I saw him at a party a month later, and he didn't acknowledge my existence," Bacall shared.

She realized their marriage would have been a "disaster."

Jason Robards and Lauren Bacall at the airport in New York circa 1962
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Bacall later came to believe that the relationship ending was a good thing. "Frank did me a great favor," she wrote in By Myself. "He saved me from the disaster our marriage would have been. He behaved like a complete [expletive], but I'll always have a special feeling for him. The good times we had were awfully good."

In 2011, Bacall spoke to Vanity Fair about her book, and said, "There's no point doing it if you're not going to tell the truth.' I was very upset, for example, about having to say something about Frank Sinatra that was not very nice, but [my editor] said, 'You have to.' Well, I said he behaved like a [expletive], which he did."

Bacall later got recognition from Sinatra that he knew it was Lazar who leaked the engagement news. "'You—you were responsible for what happened between her and me!'" she wrote Sinatra shouted at him at a party years later (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."

After her relationship with Sinatra blew up, Bacall went on to marry her second husband, Jason Robards. They were married from 1961 to 1969. Sinatra had already been married twice—to Nancy Barbato and Ava Gardner. He was later married to Mia Farrow from 1966 to 1968 and then to Barbara Marx from 1976 until his death in 1998. Bacall died 16 years later, in 2014.

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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