To Have and Have Not
- Humphrey Bogart as Harry Morgan
- Lauren Bacall as Marie ‘Slim’ Browning
- Walter Brennan as Eddie
- Hoagy Carmichael as Cricket
- Marcel Dalio as Gerard
An exciting romantic adventure thriller from the Golden Age of Hollywood and loosely based on(but heavily rewritten here) the novel by Ernest Hemingway, To Have and Have Not still has a whole lot to enjoy within it. Chief among these is the excellent direction from the legendary Howard Hawks and the sizzling chemistry between Humphrey Bogart and a debuting Lauren Bacall, that would lead to sparks flying off the screen as well as on.
The year is 1940 and it is wartime. In the island of Martinique, which is now controlled by Vichy, cynical Harry Morgan is the owner of a fishing boat which he charters to tourists in return for money. Along with his right-hand man Eddie, a bumbling, alcohol-guzzling but genial man, Harry has no interest in politics or the tense situation that is occurring around him. That is until he is approached by Gerard who is one of the Free French and comes to him with a proposition. He asks that Harry help secretly transport two members of the French Resistance onto the island. In the beginning and thinking more of his own neck, Harry refuses to help because of the implications it could have. Yet while mulling it over, he encounters the sultry Marie Browning, who he refers to as Slim. An attractive traveler and pickpocket, Slim wants to return to America but doesn’t have the sufficient funds. Quickly attracted to the sensual young woman, tired of seeing people pushed around and in need of money himself after being owed a large sum, Harry accepts the offer of Gerard in helping the Resistance members get on the island. What follows is a dangerous adventure, tinged with romance and thrills as Harry knows that him being caught could end in very dire circumstances as the authorities on the island are investigating everywhere.
Iconic director Howard Hawks is at the peak of his powers here, directing To Have and Have Not with brilliant flourishes of excitement and tense adventure. The movie itself crosses genres, but with Hawks behind the camera, all the elements slip together nicely and compliment each other. He keeps your attention and there may be the odd lull here and there, but due to his sterling handling of the film, and in particular the undeniably sexy romance, To Have and Have Not is nothing short of a success. Which brings me on to the script that emphasizes the growing attraction between Slim and Harry and peppers it with memorable moments of sparky dialogue. Double entendres and sly innuendo form the core of their courtship and the chemistry between Bogart and Bacall is palpable from the very first moment they meet and Slim inquires “Anybody got a match?” It’s such a classy but sensual side that it adds to the film and not forgetting probably the most iconic scene in the movie. In it Slim seductively tells Harry( who she playfully refers to as Steve), that if he needs anything he just needs to whistle. This is followed by the classic line “You know how to whistle, don’t you Steve? You just put your lips together and blow”. And it’s not hard to see why the line has become so iconic, because of its playful sexual undertones and husky delivery. Even today with more sexually explicit movies about, the sizzling chemistry and passion between both the characters and the actors is still hot stuff. A suitably jazzy score has the right amount of adventure to it and features some wonderful songs too, sung with charm and deep-voiced sensuality by Lauren Bacall.
The talented cast is what really brings life and character to this already exceptional movie. Humphrey Bogart is excellent with his portrayal of the initially reluctant Harry, who is more concerned about himself in the beginning, but eventually joins the fight. Bogart invests Harry with a wise guy charm, tough strength and resourcefulness that you can’t imagine anyone else in the part. And in her movie debut, a 19-year-old Lauren Bacall announces herself as a major talent. With her large eyes, curled hair and husky voice, Bacall is a marvel to watch. Playing Slim with a smart but sensual core, she exudes star quality and threatens to set the screen a flame with her stunning presence. As previously mentioned, she has genuine sparks with Bogart that really add to the experience of the movie. Walter Brennan exhibits kind-hearted but none too bright antics as the character of frequent drinking partner Eddie, who is the main sidekick of Harry. Singer Hoagy Carmichael shows of his immense talent as the main man in the band of the hotel that Harry and Slim frequent. Marcel Dalio does a good job as a member of the Resistance who asks the cynical Harry for help thus drawing him into a dangerous plot.
Brimming with wit, romance and adventure of the highest, To Have and Have Not is a classic picture that is iconic for a lot of many excellent reasons.