Friday, August 29, 2014

Classic Movie Review: To Have and Have Not

Warer Bros. struck gold with Casablanca in 1942 and their blatant attempt to recapitalize on that success came in the form of To Have and Have Not in 1944. It was very loosely based on the Hemingway novel of the same name and bears far more resemblance to the tale of a defiantly neutral anti-hero eking out a loving in Vichy Morocco during WWII than it does to Hemingway’s tale of a tough fisherman in Cuba running contraband to Key West. The Howard Hawks film transplants the story to Vichy Martinique and has Bogart’s Harry Morgan frequent a nightclub with a friendly piano player (played by Hoagy Carmichael) and then brings in a dame, Maria Browning, played by Lauren Bacall in her first screen appearance and first of four alongside her future husband.

Like Bogart’s Rick in Casablanca, Harry tries not to take sides for or against the Vichy government. He’s a man trying to make a living until he is pulled into a deal that has him actively aiding rebels fighting against Vichy. The parallels to Casablanca are so remarkable I can’t believe it’s considered an adaptation of Hemingway’s work rather than Curtiz’s film. There’s a Captain Renard, a police inspector played by Dan Seymour, whom you can almost hear announcing, “Round up the usual suspects.”

One significant, though unnecessary, addition is Harry’s fishing boat partner, a comically bumbling alcoholic played wonderfully by Walter Brennan. Were it not for the history-making pairing of two legendary movie stars who generate some fiery on screen chemistry with the aid of fantastic and sizzling line penned by William Faulkner and Jules Furthman, there wouldn’t be much left here to call classic. To Have and Have Not should have been relegated to Hollywood’s dustbin except that Bacall made such a huge impact on the film’s director and star. Together they impacted the world and became forever solidified in the public consciousness as one of the great Hollywood couples.

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