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Looking at this survey of 25 of the best photos of BFFs from LIFE Magazine’s archive of iconic 20th-century photography, one fact is immediately clear: whether you’re the biggest star in the world or just an average kid, a true friendship is easy to recognize. And if there’s any lesson from the pictures of headline-worthy individuals with their friends, it’s that there’s nothing like a day with a friend to make you let down your guard.
For Rita Hayworth in 1940, that meant packing up jelly sandwiches for a bicycle picnic. For Lauren Bacall, it meant pictured gabbing with girlfriends in her hotel suite at the Gotham in Manhattan — a meaningful location, as LIFE explained in 1945, because she and her friends had gone there as teens to gawk at celebrities. They had once followed Bette Davis into an elevator and had also been thrown out for trying to sneak into a party, which drove Bacall to announced that when she was famous, she would stay there. (“She not only did that when she and Bogart came to New York in February,” the article noted, “but brought along her dog Droopy, an elderly spaniel, despite a house rule prohibiting dogs in the hotel.”) And for Jimmy Stewart, it meant returning to his roots, bass fishing with a friend in for a 1945 series on the entertainer coming home to Indiana, Penn., after four years as an Army bomber pilot during World War II. Jimmy “did not catch any fish but enjoyed himself anyway,” LIFE reported.
And for renowned jazz musicians Dizzy Gillespie and Benny Carter, recognizing their friendship was even easier, thanks to a signature handshake, LIFE noted in 1948 was often imitated by the devotees of their music. Here are the steps, in case you want to practice with any of your close pals for the U.N.-designated International Day of Friendship on Sunday: