The dialogue is sharp, the direction first-rate, and the acting superb, but TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT is undoubtedly best remembered for the on- and offscreen romance between Bogart and Bacall. Warner Bros. wanted another CASABLANCA, and in many ways Bogart's character here resembles his
classic portrait of Rick Blaine.
It is WWII and France has just fallen to the Nazi occupation. Bogart, living on the island of Martinique, is the owner of a cabin cruiser, the Queen Conch, on which he takes wealthy customers on fishing trips. Working with him is Brennan, a not-too-bright alcoholic with an amiable demeanor.
Bogart is approached by Dalio, a member of the French resistance, who asks Bogart to help smuggle one of the underground movement's top leaders (Molnar) into Martinique. Bogart, who cares little for politics, turns him down. Bacall appears, asking Bogart for help in getting off the island. Now
Bogart agrees to make the dangerous run for Dalio.
Stylish and loaded with humor, this immensely entertaining film was the result of a argument between director Hawks and novelist Ernest Hemingway. On a fishing trip in Florida with the author, Hawks tried to convince Hemingway that he should come to Hollywood to work on a screenplay. When
Hemingway indicated no interest in Hawks's proposal, the filmmaker reportedly responded by boasting that he could make a film out of Hemingway's worst book, which Hawks felt was To Have and Have Not. Hemingway's novel is set in Cuba and the Florida Keys in the 1930s. In it, the character Bogart
plays is less heroic, a married man with children, who is forced to run booze and men on his boat when his financial situation becomes desperate. Hawks kept the title and the character, then threw out the Hemingway story. The next task for Hawks was casting. Bogart seemed perfect for the part of
Harry Morgan, but who was fiery enough to play opposite him? Hawks took a chance on an unknown talent named Betty Bacall, a beautiful 18-year-old New York model who was virtually unknown in Hollywood. Hawks had become interested in Bacall after his wife spotted her on the cover of Harper's Bazaar. The electricity between the two stars was always intended to be the heart of the film, but Bogart and Bacall's onscreen romance had a steamy verisimilitude that went way beyond anybody's expectations. As it became obvious the two were becoming involved, Hawks reportedly warned Bacall that the 45-year-old Bogart was just using his young costar to escape from a bad marriage and that when the filming was over, Bogart would forget about her. Worried that Bacall's infatuation with Bogart would cause the young actress to blow her big chance, Hawks is said to have threatened to sell her contract to Monogram. Of course, this was an empty threat, and some have even suggested that Hawks used the offscreen affair to heighten the on-screen romance. (Tellingly, in the film Bogart and Bacall refer to each other as "Steve" and "Slim," the pet names Hawks and his wife had for each another.) leave a comment