We’re back for another Humphrey Bogart film as we continue celebrating him as the Star Of The Month for November! And, of course, a month on him wouldn’t be complete without a film featuring him and Lauren Bacall, so let’s get into their first film together, the 1944 movie To Have And Have Not!
Coming Up Shorts! with… Shiver My Timbers (1931)
(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 2 (1930-1931) from ClassicFlix)
(Length: 21 minutes, 2 seconds)
The kids all play hooky from school to listen to the tales of a sea captain (Billy Gilbert) and dream of being pirates themselves. When Miss Crabtree (June Marlowe) complains to the captain, he offers to help cure them of their dreams of going to sea. This one was absolutely hilarious! Amongst the kids, Stymie (Matthew Beard) continues to provide a lot of the humor with his wordplay jokes, but the captain’s attempts to scare the kids are equally hilarious! It’s considered one of the better shorts, and I for one completely agree with this assessment! I certainly look forward to revisiting this one again and again in the future!
Coming Up Shorts! with… Bacall To Arms (1946)
(Available as an extra on the To Have And Have Not Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)
(Length: 6 minutes, 13 seconds)
A group of animals are at the movie theatre, waiting for the new movie to start. This was quite a fun one, with its parodies not only of the MGM and Warner Brothers logos, but also of To Have And Have Not, with “Bogey Gocart” and “Laurie Bee Cool.” Of course, the movie characters have to interact with the audience a little, and we have a few gags around a wolf. Given the era, you know what his problem is. Still, the cartoon is a lot of fun, with the exception of the ending gag, where “Bogey” tries to smoke a cigarette that blows up in his face, thus leaving him with blackface and speaking in a manner reminiscent of Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, which is a joke in poor taste. Other than that, I had a few good laughs with this one!
And Now For The Main Feature…
It’s 1940 in Fort de France, Martinique, after France has fallen to the German army. A professional American fisherman named Harry “Steve” Morgan (Humphrey Bogart) has been taking a man named Johnson (Walter Sande) out fishing. After a number of trips out, Johnson is frustrated with his poor luck at catching fish, and decides to give up. However, he owes Harry a lot of money, and promises to pay him when the bank opens in the morning. At the hotel that they are staying at, Harry is met by the owner/bartender Gérard (Marcel Dalio), who wants to rent Harry’s boat, the Queen Conch, for smuggling in some members of the French underground. Harry, not wanting to be involved in the fight between the underground and the Germans, declines. Later on in the hotel bar, Harry sees Johnson spending time with Marie “Slim” Browning (Lauren Bacall), who is staying in the hotel room across from Harry. When he observes her pick Johnson’s pocket and leave, he follows her. When he catches up to her, he reveals that he saw her lift the wallet, and asks her to return it. He checks the wallet’s contents to make sure everything is there, and discovers that Johnson had enough money from traveler’s checks to pay him (but was planning to skip town early the next morning). Harry and Marie take Johnson’s wallet back to him, and try to force him to sign over his checks to Harry. However, while that is going on, some members of the French underground get into a shootout with the police, and Johnson is killed by a stray bullet before he can sign anything. The police round up a few people in the bar for questioning, including Harry, Marie and Gérard. At the police station, Captain Renard (Dan Seymour) takes the cash Harry had taken from Johnson’s wallet as evidence (along with Harry’s own money). Upon being released, Marie expresses a desire to go home, and Harry decides to take Gérard and the members of the French underground up on their offer. Upon being paid, he buys a ticket for Marie, and then, after getting his instructions from Gérard, goes off on his boat. He finds himself joined by his friend and shipmate Eddie (Walter Brennan), who had stowed away when Harry tried to convince him to stay behind. They follow the instructions, and pick up Paul de Bursac (Walter Surovy) and his wife, Hélène (Dolores Moran). On the return trip, they run into a patrol boat, which shoots at them (and hits Paul), but they are able to get away due to the fog. Harry successfully drops his two passengers off in a previously arranged spot, and returns to port. Upon returning to the hotel, Harry finds that Marie is still around, and working as a singer for the hotel band led by Cricket (Hoagy Carmichael). Gérard comes looking for Harry, and asks him to help remove the bullet from Paul de Bursac. Harry does so (with some help from Marie), and Paul starts to recover. The police start sniffing around (since they know it was Harry’s boat that was shot at), but Harry doesn’t tell them a thing. He starts making plans to leave the area (hoping to bring along Marie and Eddie), but then the police get ahold of Eddie. Will the police catch them all, or will Harry be able to make good on his escape plan?
The movie famously came about as the result of a fishing trip that Ernest Hemingway and Howard Hawks took together. Hawks was trying to convince Hemingway to try writing screenplays, which Hemingway felt he couldn’t do. Hawks boasted that he could make a good film out of Hemingway’s worst novel (which Hawks felt was Hemingway’s 1937 novel To Have And Have Not). So, Hawks bought the film rights from Howard Hughes, and then sold them to Warner Brothers. There were a number of changes made to the story at Hawks’ insistence, including focusing on one character (instead of two), and emphasizing the dialogue and character more than the plot. One change that was forced upon them was the change in location, as the original story was set in Cuba and, as this was still being made in the second World War, the Office of Inter-American Affairs objected due to the Roosevelt administration’s “Good Neighbor Policy.” Thus, they shifted the location to the German-controlled island of Martinique, once again making the Nazis the villains. Humphrey Bogart, who was still coming off of Casablanca, was cast in a similar role to his Rick from that film. Cast opposite him was Hollywood newcomer Betty “Lauren” Bacall, who was discovered for the part by Hawks’ wife. Bogart and Bacall famously began a romance during the making of this film, which would later lead to them getting married (after he divorced his third wife), with the two of them staying together until his death in 1957. The movie proved to be a hit with audiences, and would later be remade in 1950 (The Breaking Point, again with Warner Brothers) and 1958 (The Gun Runners with United Artists).
To Have And Have Not is a movie that I have had opportunity to see a number of times over the years, and it’s one that I always enjoy watching! Of course, I should admit right off that I’ve never had the opportunity to read the Ernest Hemingway story, so I have no idea whatsoever how close the movie is to the original tale, nor have I seen either of the later remakes (but they’re certainly on my list of movies to see). I’ve definitely heard this film compared to the classic Casablanca, and that does seem an apt comparison, what with Bogie’s Harry staying neutral between the French underground and the German authorities (at least, until he’s pushed into action). When all is said and done, this film definitely pales in comparison to Casablanca, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a bad film, either! Quite frankly, where this film has Casablanca beat is the chemistry between its two leads. Seriously, the Warner Brothers cartoon Bacall To Arms (included on the Blu-ray as an extra) wasn’t kidding when they spoofed Lauren Bacall bringing the heat as she walks into the room. You can feel the sexual tension between the two so vividly here, and that makes it worth watching (and I’m glad it was made during the Code, where they had to be creative in showing that, as opposed to now, where they would for certain be shown having a romp in the bedroom, which would be completely unnecessary). The police (under German influence) make for quite the villains to cheer against, and Walter Brennan makes for a fun sidekick. Seriously, this film is a good way to enjoy the Bogie/Bacall partnership, and is one well worth recommending!
This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection.
Film Length: 1 hour, 40 minutes
My Rating: 10/10
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