Review: To Have and Have Not (1944)

To Have and Have Not (1944)

Directed by: Howard Hawks | 100 minutes | thriller, war, adventure, romance | Actors: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Walter Brennan, Dolores Moran, Sheldon Leonard, Walter Szurovy, Marcel Dalio, Walter Sande, Dan Seymour, Aldo Nadi, Audrey Armstrong, Joy Barlow, Eugene Borden, James Burross, Jack Chefe, Louise Clark, Adrienne D’Ambricourt, Jean De Briac, Marcel De La Brosse, Fred Dosch, Alphonse Du Bois, Elzie Emanuel, Fred Farrell, Lance Fuller, Harold Garrison, Janette Grae, Suzette Harbin, Margaret Hathaway, Frank Johnson, Hal Kelly

They became the most legendary Hollywood couple in cinema history: Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. It was director Howard Hawks who brought the two together, to star together in the film ‘To Have and Have Not’ (1944). Hawks wanted to use this production as the launch of his newest star Bacall, who incidentally was discovered by his wife (Nancy ‘Slim’ Gross) when she was on the cover of ‘Harper’s Bazaar’ magazine. Bogart was 45 and Bacall only 19, but that doesn’t matter in love. Sparks flew during the shooting and not much later, on May 21, 1945, they got married. “She’s a real Joe. You’ll fall in love with her like everybody else”, said Bogart about his fourth (!) wife. Bogart and Bacall stayed together until his death in 1957. They made four films together, the first of which was ‘To Have and Have Not’. This brooding classic is loosely based on the novel of the same name by author Ernest Hemingway and adapted into a thrilling screenplay by Jules Furthman and Nobel Prize winner William Faulkner.

The story of ‘To Have and Have Not’ begins in 1940, at the beginning of the Second World War, on the French Caribbean island of Martinique, which is under the fascist Vichy rule. The American Harry Morgan (Humphrey Bogart) rents out his boat there for lucrative fishing trips in the Caribbean Sea. He is determined not to meddle in sensitive political matters and to think only of his own skin. However, things take a different turn when he meets the mysterious American girl Marie “Slim” Browning (Lauren Bacall) at the hotel where he is staying. The flame is quite in the pan when she asks him for a fire. Things get even more complicated when he unwittingly becomes involved in the resistance against the Vichy rule so hated by the free French.

The idea for the film arose from a silly bet between director Howard Hawks and writer Ernest Hemingway. Hawks claimed he could turn even Hemingway’s worst book—according to the director, ‘To Have and Have Not’ was a dragon of a book—a good movie. No sooner said than done. The shooting was mainly improvised by Hawks and his fantastic actors. This film, made after the Bogart success ‘Casablanca’ (1942), was even more romantic than its predecessor and revolved around a love that the war threatened to make pale. Dressmaker Hawks, who had discovered Lauren Bacall before Bogart and would have preferred her to himself, felt betrayed by their marriage, but largely created the characters that Bogart and Bacall would continue to portray in real life.

‘To Have and Have Not’ is set in Martinique, unlike the novel where Cuba is the scene. Just like in ‘Casablanca’ (1942), Bogart is an American who has ended up between the ‘free’ French and ultimately chooses the Allies. The sparks that jump between Bogart and the debuting Bacall provide a hopeful ending that gives the viewer even more satisfaction than that of ‘Casablanca’. Unlike Rick and Ilsa from that film, who put their social commitment above their love, Harry and Slim can keep their relationship alive because they are willing to work together for a good cause. Hawks saw nothing in a woman who could only give his hero a happy home life, so Bacalls Slim became as intrepid as Bogarts Harry—a partner who was equal to him in every way. The two were surrounded by a fine cast with a particularly memorable portrayal of Walter Brennan as the alcoholic Eddie, Bogart’s sidekick. There is the beautiful black and white photography of cinematographer Sid Hickox, accompanied by the thrilling score by Franz Waxman. The hoarse Lauren Bacall sings the song ‘How Little We Know’ herself. Hoagy Carmichael sings the song ‘Hong Kong Blues’ behind his inseparable piano.

Hawks put something tasty in almost every scene in this film, for example the hilarious, but for the time extraordinarily licentious amorous talk of the protagonists. Legendary is the quote “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and… blow”. What also lingers is Bogart, who sneers at little officials and fascists with the tone of a man who will not let himself be sold totalitarian nonsense. Enough memorable scenes in this beautiful film that really does not have to be inferior to its much legendary predecessor ‘Casablanca’. “To Have and Have Not” has gone down in history as the film that brought Bogart and Bacall together, but is definitely much more than that. Definitely a must for fans of classics!

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