To Have and Have Not, 1944, Warner Bros. Starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall. Directed by Howard Hawks. B&W, 100 minutes.
Harry Morgan (Humphrey Bogart) is an American expatriate making a humble living in Martinique, not long after the fall of France to Nazi Germany. He owns a small fishing boat and wryly caters to tourists looking to catch “the big one,” all the while doing his best to stay out of any political intrigue. For the most part, he’s left alone, even ignored, by locals.
Not much gets past him, and when he sees the sultry new girl in town (Lauren Bacall) artfully lift the wallet of the bombastic man who has been sidestepping his way out of paying the substantial sum he owes Harry, he steps in to control the situation. But this isn’t a woman who’s easily controlled.
This was the film that launched the romance between Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart. In later interviews director Howard Hawks frequently recounted how he’d warned Bogart he’d found a woman who could match his insolence—and thereby his power—onscreen. Bogart affably laughed at the idea. Any tension that might have come from playing opposite a strong woman was no doubt helped when he found himself falling in love with his co-star.
In her autobiography, By Myself, Bacall tells of the subtle yet powerful start to her romance with Bogart. Initially helpful primarily on a professional level with the young actress, after a few weeks Bogart made the first quiet move. Gradually the two began a discreet, then increasingly open, romance. Hawks was opposed to any sort of relationship between them, although he didn’t hesitate to use the intense emotions in his movie.
Bacall also recalled that when shooting scenes with Bogart, she began to shake with nervousness, well aware of her novice standing with the on-camera and behind-the-scenes movie greats who were creating the film. She learned to calm her nerves by tucking her chin down and peering up at Bogart during her scenes with him, a move that soon became known as “The Look.”
Hawks told of a bet he’d made with his friend Ernest Hemingway, claiming he could make a movie out of any of the author’s books, even the worst. Without reservation he said that was undoubtedly To Have and Have Not. From there Hawks worked with Hemingway to create a rough draft of a script, focusing on how the main characters met, but using little of else from the book. Screenwriters Jules Furthman and William Faulkner wrote the final screenplay.
Despite her character’s sophistication, it is easy to see the girl in 19-year-old Bacall. To Have and Have Not introduced her as an actress, and was also the first major role for Dolores Moran, who was 20 at the time. Moran’s career was short-lived; she appeared in several more films over the next few years, but retired as an actress in 1954.
The film had elements of Casablanca in its supporting characters and secondary story lines, with the trusted piano player, the difficult political situation, and the characters bearing a strong resemblance to those played by Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre. It also shares a moodiness with that film, but To Have and Have Not is not a cheap imitation of other great movies. It is a classic for its own reasons.