Movie Critique - To Have and Have Not

For review of all movies starring Humphrey Bogart, go here.

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: With hardly anything to do with the novel, the film presented a version of it's own with some talented star cast; memorable dialogues; magnificent direction; and above all a very entertaining one that is a must watch.

To Have and Have Not is a 1944 American romantic-war film loosely based on Ernst Hemingway's 1937 novel of the same name. Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Walter Brennan were in the lead cast. Directed by Howard Hawks and Produced by Hawks and Jack L. Warner; screenplay was written by Jules Furthman and William Faulkner with inputs from Hemingway - two Nobel Prize winners being part of the film. 

The plot is set in Martinique, a French island, in the summer of 1940. Harry Morgan (portrayed by Humphrey Bogart) owns a small fishing boat, the Queen Conch, that he charters to tourists; along with his mate, Eddie (portrayed by Walter Brennan). He meets Marie "Slim" Browning (portrayed by Lauren Bacall), a young American wanderer. at the hotel he resides in. Romance develops between Harry and Slim; but war between the Resistance and police happens, and from there their efforts to escape from the island.

Hemingway and Hawks were very good friends, and Hawks had mentioned that he could make one of his worst books into the best film; and his choice was the 1937 novel To Have and Have Not. He did make it a successful movie with a relatively unknown heroine; got one of the greatest love story of Hollywood out of it.

The script continually changed every day with lot of improvisation to the plot. Yet it felt a lot of like being a "rinse-recycle-repeat" type plot-line. By the time the film finished, there was very little of it's resemblance to the original book. 

The plot felt an amalgamation of few of the films of that time - 1942 classic American romantic drama, Casablanca, which incidentally stars Bogart; 1930 American pre-Code drama Morocco; and 1942 American spy film Across the Pacific. The primary similarity being the protagonist changes his views in being involved with the war - reluctantly though he gets involved to simply survive. 

Lauren Bacall, the then 18-year old, made her film debut. She was found on Harpers Bazaar magazine by Hawks wife Nancy "Slim" Keith. Incidentally Bogart's Harry calls Bacall as "Slim" and Bacall's Marie calls him "Steve"; the names that Hawks and Nancy called each other in real-life.

This was the first film pairing of Bogart and Bacall together. They made three more movies together - 1946 The Big Sleep; 1947 Dark Passage; and 1948 Key Largo - each of them being successful. Bacall changed her name to Lauren Bacall after the release of the movie. She was born Betty Joan Perske. 

Real-life romance built between Bogart and Bacall during the filming; even though Bogart was married with his third wife then and was more than twice Bacall's age. And that clearly seeped into on-screen romance as well. 

Film has several quotes filled with double entendre, such as this one below, which went on to become the most famous scene from the film.

"You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and ... blow …"

And other known dialogues such as:

"I'd walk home, if it wasn't for all that water"
"You save France - I want to save my boat!"

Soundtrack of the film is very melodious. Hoagy Carmichael, a singer-songwriter, performs 5 songs and provides music for one song. Carmichael sings two of the five with Lauren Bacall. First one being "Am I Blue" with music composed by Carmichael and Lyrics by Grant Clarke. This song has such a familiar tune for me and I am sure it has been copied to one of the Indian languages. But I couldn’t figure it out at all. If anyone can identify please let me know. 

There is romance in the middle of the war; humor in the middle of chaos; and the thrill of chase and escape. With hardly anything to do with the novel, the film presented a version of it's own with some talented star cast; memorable dialogues; magnificent direction; and above all a very entertaining one that is a must watch.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. French actor Marcel Dalio who portrays the role of Gerard aka Frenchy in this film, also was in the 1942 Casablanca as Emil, the croupier. And so did Dan Seymour who portrayed as  a rather very fat Capitaine Renard in this film was in Casablanca as Abdul. 

b. Hoagy Carmichael, a prominent songwriter, also got his debut role in this film as Cricket, playing the piano in the hotel bar. 

c. 1950 American film noir The Breaking Point released 6 years later is also a remake of the book To Have and Have Not. 

d. In 1958, a remake was released as The Gun Runners, directed by Don Siegel.

e. From 1951 to 1952, Bacall and Bogart were part of a weekly adventure radio program Bold Venture, as a spinoff to this film.

f. A 1946 Looney Tunes cartoon Bacall to Arms was a spoof of this film with Bogey Gocart and Laurie BeCool in the lead cast.

g. A 60 minute radio adaptation was broadcasted by Lux Radio Theater in 1946 with Bogart and Bacall reprising their roles.

2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

a. The bucket is obviously empty as you can see, yet in the next shot we see water being dumped on Eddie.

b. This bottle on Harry's table moves position from right to left between shots.

c. Slim is wearing black heels before she goes into Harry's room to talk about the wallet she lifted from Johnson; then she is wearing white flat shoes when they are going to Johnson to hand over the wallet; and again black heels after the shooting.

d. The position of the angle of the hat on Mrs. de Bursac's head changes between scenes.

e. Harry strikes Renard on his right temple, but the mark appears on his left temple.


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