Director: Howard Hawks
Humphrey Bogart, Walter Brennan, Lauren Bacall, Dolores Moran, Hoagy Carmichael,
It's kind of like "Sex and the Single Girl" or "What You've Always Wanted to Know About Sex." The titles are familiar or engaging enough to justify building a complete story from scratch. (See also, "The Best of Sex and Violence," which is the greatest title ever dreamed up, far superior to, say, "Henry IV, Part Two.") The novel opens and closes with slam bang action scenes and there isn't much in between to draw us to the characters. One-armed guys can be good heroes or villains, but not heroes who lose.
The story is that Howard Hawks and Hemingway were having drinks and that Hawks claimed he could take even Hemingway's lousiest novel and make a successful movie out of it. They agreed that "To Have And Have Not" was about the lousiest and the bet was made. Evidently Furthman threw the contents of the novel out of the window except for the general Caribbean setting, Harry Morgan's occupation as skipper, and the names of some of the characters.
It's doubtful that Hawks truly enjoyed himself during the shooting. He had a habit of hiring delicious young women for his movies and then, well, then bonding with them. In this case, he had his eye on Bacall, who was 18 years old, but she bonded with Bogart instead. Hawks also had a habit of avoiding actors who stole his women and punishing the women too, so it was Bogart's next-to-last film with Hawks. It wasn't the first time. In Kirk Douglas's movie with Hawks, the actor stole Elizabeth Threatt, a major masochist, who came like water and like the wind she went. And it was good-bye to both John Ireland and Joanne Dru after "Red River." Poor Hawks.
The writers, which evidently included Jules Furthman and William Faulkner, built up a story that sizzled with sexuality at the time of its release but seems like of loose-limbed, gangly, and amusing today. (The oft-parodied scene in which Bacall tells Bogart how to whistle -- "You just put your lips together -- and blow.") Hawks had an affinity for boy's adventure book values. You know, a man rediscovers his pride or sobriety and overcomes his demons and whatnot. It's pretty lowbrow stuff unless you want to get into conjectural homoerotic themes. But Hawks had a solid sense of humor too. He had a tendency to rework scenes so that they had gag lines in them or amusing bits of business. This one has its funny moments too, as well as a bit of action.
None of it is either gripping or believable but it's fun to watch. Bogart and Bacall really hit it off on screen. Her movements are so languorous. She hunches over a bit when she walks, like some tall women do. And her voice -- it's down there in the subwoofer range. At the end, when she and Bogie and Walter Brennan walk out of the bar, Hoagy Carmichael plays a lively little tune and Bacall does a sort of shimmy that must have sent shivers up the male spines of 1944.
While I think of it, I'll give an example of what I meant by "amusing bits of business." The scene -- a French patriot must have a bullet extracted from his shoulder by Bogart. Several people stand around watching tensely. As Bogart probes the bullet hole, another beautiful woman, who Bacall is jealous of, faints to the floor. Bacall is administering ether from a spray can and Bogart tells her to fan the fumes away from the bed or they'll all be out. When Bacall notices that no one is watching her, she hastily fans the gas down towards the body of her unconscious rival. It isn't much, just a second or two, but it adds to our understanding of what's going on and is meanly funny.
Not Hawks' best but enjoyable viewing.