Most romantic film #39: To Have and Have Not (1944)

A film probably most famous for the reason Bogie met Bacall.

Romance on and off-screen. If you want the deets, read Bacall’s autobiography By Myself. She was an 19-year old model (and virgin) when she met Bogie, 45 and still married to his “Battling Bogart” wife Mayo. The story of their courtship and marriage is lovely and worth the read.

Here, however, is a really romantic and sexy film. Sexy in the way films were sexy before people got naked and hooked up at the drop of a hat. Or… a whistle.

The film is loosely based on a Hemingway story. It stars Bogart, Bacall, Walter Brennan (in the signature character role he would inhabit for the rest of his career), Hoagy Carmichael, and a few other folks. It could be considered, I suppose, a sort of poor man’s Casablanca or rip-off of same, but that would be to miss the unique features of this story.

Bogart plays Harry Morgan, a fishing boat captain working out of Martinique–which is part of Vichy France (y’know, the Nazi-friendly part). Brennan plays his sidekick, the rummy Eddie. Together they pick up charter clients and scrape a living while avoiding commitment to the war or politics.

Then Harry agrees to pick up some French Resistance folks trying to escape. Harry needs the money, because he’s been stiffed by a rich client. Complications ensue.

Meanwhile, the beautiful Slim (Bacall) finds herself stranded on Martinique and singing in the cafe where Harry and Eddie hang out (a French Resistance front). The bandleader is Cricket (Carmichael) who provides some of his signature great songs. Harry and Slim meet and the rest is history.

Best scene: “You know how to whistle, Steve.”

Other fun facts: Howard Hawks, the director, apparently didn’t much like Bacall. The screenplay was written in part by a broke and drunk William Faulkner (still brilliant!). Howard Hughes sold the rights to the story to Hawks–how he got them, no notion. There are 3 other film versions–all inferior. This doesn’t much follow Hemingway’s story, which Hawkes disliked anyway.

See it for the witty dialogue (I know that was Faulkner!), the romance between Harry and Slim/Bogart and Bacall, and the great Carmichael tunes.

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