DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (director: Howard Hawks; screenwriters: Jules Furthman/William Faulkner/based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway; cinematographer: Sidney Hickox; editor: Christian Nyby; music: William Lava/Franz Waxman; cast: Humphrey Bogart (Harry 'Steve' Morgan), Lauren Bacall (Marie 'Slim' Browning), Walter Brennan (Eddie), Dolores Moran (Hellene de Bursac), Hoagy Carmichael (Cricket), Sheldon Leonard (Lt. Coyo), Walter Szurovy (Paul de Bursac), Marcel Dalio (Gerard /Frenchy), Walter Sande (Johnson), Dan Seymour (Captain Renard); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Howard Hawks; Warner Bros.; 1944)

 
"It owes more to Casablanca than it does to Hemingway."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Best remembered for the auspicious screen debut of the 19-year-old Lauren Bacall and her sizzling onscreen and offscreen romance with her 42-year-old costar Humphrey Bogart, and also the great one-liner of Bacall asking Bogie "You know how to whistle, don't you?" It owes more to Casablanca than it does to Hemingway. The film was the result of filmmaker Howard Hawks ("Bringing Up Baby"/"Red River"/"His Girl Friday") boasting on a fishing trip to author Ernest Hemingway that he could make a film out of Hemingway's worst book, which he said was To Have and Have Not. Hemingway's novel is set in Cuba and the Florida Keys in the 1930s, but Hawks changed just about everything in the novel (a more faithful version of the Hemingway novel was The Breaking Point in 1950). It was written by Jules Furthman and William Faulkner, but this is undoubtedly a signature Hawks film. It makes a macho statement that 'a man has to do what a man has to do' and that a real man honors someone who respects personal loyalties as something that's paramount in importance. The film's cynical romantic hero is played by Bogie, who goes from being a bloke who looks out only for Number 1 to someone who shows he really cares about others as he takes responsibility for helping those in need who are deserving by offering them his services without any strings. The Bogie character also does some male bonding with his deadbeat rummy fishing boat sidekick (superbly played by Walter Brennan, whose garrulous slightly retarded character takes delight in queries to others if they also got 'stung by a dead bee').

It's set in 1940, in the French island of Martinique, just fallen into the hands of the Nazi-loving Vichy regime and just after France fell to the Germans. Struggling American charter fish boat captain Harry Morgan (Humphrey Bogart) catches an attractive bar hustler drifter Marie Browning, whom he names Slim (Lauren Bacall), stealing the wallet of his unpleasant American client Johnson (Walter Sande) and makes her return it, while realizing Johnson intended to stiff him for the $825 he owes him for the 16 days of fishing when he finds an airplane ticket in the wallet for a plane ready to depart before the scheduled tomorrow morning payoff time. When gunfire breaks out in the barroom of the hotel, just before Johnson can sign over some traveler's checks to pay off his tab, a stray bullet fired by Vichy agents at Free France agents accidentally kills Harry's paycheck. When the local Gestapo, led by Captain Renard (Dan Seymour), confiscate Harry's passport and take his money, the non-political Harry in need of money to help send Slim back to America decides at last to help, for a price, the resistance member hotel owner Frenchy (Marcel Dalio) pickup two Gaullist agents (Walter Molnar & Dolores Moran) in a nearby island and bring them to Martinique for a secret mission. This trip gets him more involved in the dangerous political intrigue, and also Harry begins to fall hard for the slinky Slim who decided to stay in Martinque with Harry. While Harry calls her Slim, she calls him Steve (Slim and Steve happen to be the nicknames Hawks and his wife had for one another). 

It's an entertaining fantasy romantic adventure film more concerned with snappy dialogue, being smart and giving space for its colorful characters to shine than it was in coming up with a convincing plot. There's not a dull moment in its four acts, and it ably shows the ability of Hawks as a storyteller to turn a bad novel into a great film.

REVIEWED ON 7/10/2008        GRADE: A

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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