Video: When Lauren Bacall Serenaded Leonard Bernstein

Friday, August 15, 2014 - 10:33 AM

Leonard Bernstein laughs as Lauren Bacall serenades him in 1988 Leonard Bernstein laughs as Lauren Bacall serenades him in 1988 (YouTube)

In 1988, Lauren Bacall made a memorable appearance at Leonard Bernstein's 70th birthday gala at Tanglewood, serenading him with "The Saga of Lenny." Stephen Sondheim's witty parody of "The Saga of Jenny" by Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin poked fun at Bernstein's extravagant personal and professional behavior.

The video recently resurfaced on YouTube, and has been making the rounds since Bacall's death on Tuesday at the age of 89.

The friendship between Bacall and Bernstein – who were neighbors in the Dakota on Central Park West – went back decades. The recently published Leonard Bernstein Letters includes a telegram from the actress to the conductor, sent on the opening night of West Side Story on September 25, 1957. It reads: "It was worth all the Dexamyl. It's a smash, you're a smash and I'm thrilled for you. Blessings and love, Betty."

When Bacall's husband Humphrey Bogart became ill in 1956, she wrote a letter to Bernstein. "So sweet of you to take the time out to write, and so lovely to hear from you as always. Bogie is coming along," the letter read in part.

Bacall also delivered a tribute at a memorial service for the conductor in 1990, and narrated a documentary film on his life.


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Comments [7]

sheila from minnesota from minnesota

I have watched this video repeatedly; marvelous!
Only Ms. Bacall could pull it off.
Too bad Bogie couldn't have been there.

Mar. 08 2015 01:04 AM

@Mr. von Bernewitz: if you click on the play "arrow" in the center of the video on this page, it should automatically start playing for you. But just in case, here's the separate link:


Aug. 17 2014 08:18 AM
Howard from Florida

Apropos the Tanglewood 70th birthday celebration, the song sung by the family is titled "The 7 - O (pronounced oh) Stomp."

Aug. 17 2014 06:07 AM
Fred von Bernewitz from NYC

How can I view this "gem"?

Aug. 16 2014 09:14 PM
Les from Miami, Florida

I say this is brilliant times three: for Maestro Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and Lauren Bacall. As I remember, the Maestro's children serenaded him with a number called "The Bernstein Beat"(a capella) on this occasion. Here's hoping this makes it to YouTube (if not there already). 25 August is his birthday; and "Candide" is being performed at Tanglewood the night of 16 August and the Leonard Bernstein Memorial Concert will take place the afternoon of 17 August 2014 at Tanglewood. To my thinking, he's still unique in the annals of music as evidenced by his excellence in teaching, conducting, piano-playing, composing, authoring and festival-organizing.

Aug. 16 2014 09:07 AM
Julie from Hastings-on-Hudson

Bravo indeed! Bacall and Sondheim and Bernstein: better than Mt. Rushmore.

Aug. 15 2014 10:39 PM
mimi stern-wolfe from lower east side, NY

The song does indeed understand the man.

Thank you to two human artists
whom we shall miss until we too will leave the life stage.


mimi stern-wolfe

Aug. 15 2014 06:14 PM

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