|Anybody got a match?|
Despite its similarities to other Warner Brothers' pictures of the era, To Have and Have Not actually has an extensive literary pedigree. The concept for the film was first conceived when director Howard Hawks boasted to famed writer Ernest Hemingway that he could make any book into a hit film. Hawks then called his own bluff and made a bet with Hemingway that he could make a smash hit out of Hemingway’s ‘worst novel’; To Have and Have Not. Hawks then enlisted the help of screenwriter Jules Furthman and literary icon William Faulkner to adapt the novel into a workable script. Although Hawks technically won the bet, he was only able to do so by drastically changing the plot to capitalize on war time patriotism, and extensively borrowing from Warner Brothers’ earlier hit, Casablanca. The combination of plot devices, international locales, and cast members carried over from Casablanca initially make To Have and Have Not appear to be Casablanca-lite. Upon closer observation, however, it becomes apparent that the film has its own unique flavor and is capable of standing upon its own merits.
|Who's taking care of who?!|
The interaction between Bogart’s cool cynic and the colorful characters that he encounters are almost as engaging as those between him and Bacall. Walter Brennan’s performance as Morgan’s alcoholic first mate, Eddy, is by turns both humorous and heartfelt. Throughout the film, Eddy tags along on Morgan’s adventures in an effort to look out for his friend, all the while unaware that he’s the one who requires looking after. Brennan’s portrayal of the bumbling Eddy helps make the friendship between Eddy and Morgan believable, which in turn highlights Morgan’s hidden softer side. Similarly, Dolores Moran’s performance as the willful resistance member Madame De Bursac provides an excellent counterpoint to Morgan and Slim’s world weary skepticism. In keeping with the Casablanca tradition, Hoagey Carmichael’s bluesy piano player provides extra zest with musical and comic relief. Even the villains have their moments to shine, particularly Dan Seymour in his sarcastic portrayal of Vichy official Captain Renard.
To Have and Have Not was a crucial turning point in the lives of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Prior to being cast as Slim, Bacall had worked as a model and actress in minor theatrical roles. When one of Bacall’s modeling photos appeared in an issue of Harper’s Bazaar, Hawks’ wife took notice and convinced him to arrange a screen test. Despite her lack of film experience, Bacall won the role which would become the defining moment of her career. She soon attracted the attentions of both her director and co-star, despite the fact that both men were already married. Tensions rose on the set as Bacall spurned Hawks’ advances and eventually began a romance with Bogart, who was separated from his third wife, actress Mayo Methot. Hawks retaliated by embarking upon an affair with Moran, while Bogart and Bacall pursued what would become one of the most storied relationships in Hollywood. The two were married in 1945, and the marriage lasted until his death of esophageal cancer in 1957. The pair would go on to star in three more pictures together including Hawks’ classic detective noir The Big Sleep.
To Have and Have Not is a film that remains as entertaining today as on the day of its release in 1944. The film’s combination of excellent performances, interesting characters, and razor sharp dialogue make it a must see for fans of intrigue and old fashioned adventure. For many, there never was and never will be an on screen pairing quite as steamy as that of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, regardless of production code restrictions. To top it all off, the film even includes an unforgettable lesson in how to whistle.
|The usual suspects|