Kirk Douglas on the Kindness of Lauren Bacall

The year was 1943. And as Kirk Douglas touchingly recalls in this week’s issue of The Hollywood Reporter, the simple gesture of fellow aspiring actor Lauren Bacall made a profound difference to his early Big Apple experiences:

I met Betty when she was 17 and I was 24. We were both studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. I was on my own in New York with meager funds. That winter, Betty saw me shivering in my thin overcoat. She didn’t say anything, but she talked her uncle into giving me one of his two thick coats.

I wore it for three years. That sort of unassuming kindness was one of her most endearing characteristics. When I had the honor of presenting Betty with her honorary Oscar in 2009, I told the audience: “People said Bacall was ‘tough.’ She’s a pussycat with a heart of gold.”

After completing his World War II service, Douglas reconnected with Bacall in LA on his way to New York. He made a prophetic pronouncement about the script she brought with her to dinner (To Have and Have Not) and later got a crucial career assist from Bacall.

Read the Douglas essay in full here. The formidable author is set to celebrate his 98th birthday on December 9.