Pros:Bogart, Bacall, Direction, Production Values
Cons:Bacall cannot sing
The Bottom Line: To Have and Have Not made a star out of 19 year-old Lauren Bacall in her first movie. Fans of Casablanca and The Big Sleep must see!
Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.
"You know how to whistle, don't you? You just put your lips together and blow." Lauren Bacall
Warner Bros. was known for the best stories during the Golden Age of Hollywood, the decades surrounding World War II. To put the stories across, Warners had a stable of actors like Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Paul Muni, James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, and Humphrey Bogart.
In 1944, talented Director Howard Hawks (Scarface, Sergeant York, The Big Sleep, Red River) made a formula film and created a star by casting Lauren Bacall opposite the highest paid actor of the time Humphrey Bogart.
To Have and Have Not is loosely based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway (For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Killers) who bet Hawks he could not make a film out it. As it concerned rum running and insurrection in Cuba, much of the story was changed to comply with objections from the government who denied an export license, based on the "Good Neighbor Policy."
To get a workable script, Hawks employed the efforts of William Faulkner, among others. The resulting script follows closely along the lines of Michael Curtiz' Casablanca with Bogart playing a hard boiled businessman, this time a fishing boat skipper, with a soft heart for the right cause. It is set on Vichy-controlled Martinique, there is a cafe, and a piano player, this time played by Hoagy Carmichael. For conflict, there is the Vichy French vs. the Free French. As an added bonus, Hawks cast Walter Brennan (Rio Bravo) as Bogart's sidekick, the alcoholic Eddie.
The story is fairly routine, with the usual intrigue about smuggling persons through the net of police, episodes in the cafe, and the comical continuing requests for a drink from Eddie. What causes the film to rise in value is the entrance of Lauren Bacall, (The Big Sleep , The Shootist) a pickpocket who lifts the wallet of a customer trying to stiff Bogart. Bogart notices the theft and privately apprehends her. When he notices the wallet holds more than enough to pay his fee he makes Bacall give it back to the customer. Unfortunately, a shootout occurs and the customer is killed leaving the unsigned traveller's checks worthless and Bogart stiffed. Bogart now needs money and he agrees to take a job smuggling Free French. On a strictly cash basis, you understand...
Bacall is stunning in a form-fitting checked suit that emphasizes her considerable attributes. Her legendary sexy banter with Bogart would be reprised in 1946's The Big Sleep.
Bogart: "What'd you kiss me for?"
Bacall: "I wanted to see if I liked it?"
Bogart: "What's the decision?"
Bacall: "I don't know yet." - they kiss again
Bacall: "It's even better when you help."
Much to the chagrin of Howard Hawks, who wanted an affair with Bacall, she fell for Bogart who was 25 years her senior. Wisely, Hawks kept to his directing and looked for conquests elsewhere. The result is magical with the relaxed but tight performances from Bogart and Bacall. Unfortunately, Bacall could not sing. Nonetheless, Hawks featured her in a number just as he did in The Big Sleep.
Like all Warner Bros. movies of the era, the production values are sterling, with cinematography by Sid Hickox; editing by Christian Nyby; set design and decoration by Casey Roberts; and score by Franz Waxman. The DVD contains the movie in pristine 1.33:1 theatrical format, the Lux Radio Theater broadcast of To Have and Have Not, a making-of documentary, subtitles, and a classic Merrie Melodies cartoon.
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening