Genre: Romantic Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 40 min.
Release Date: October 11th, 1944 MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: Howard Hawks Actors: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Walter Brennan, Dolores Moran, Hoagy Carmichael, Sheldon Leonard, Walter Molnar, Marcel Dalio, Walter Sande, Dan Seymour
n Fort De France in Martinique, during the summer of 1940 (shortly after the fall of France), Captain Harry “Steve” Morgan (Humphrey Bogart) requests a temporary exit from the port to do some fishing. His boat, the Queen Conch, has been under the employ of the unskilled, unlucky Mr. Johnson (Walter Sande), who wishes to continue trying his luck at sea despite struggling for sixteen days straight without a big catch. Morgan’s assistants, the dependable Horatio and the debilitatingly soused Eddie (Walter Brennan) don’t seem to be necessary, but the captain nevertheless views them as essential crew members.
At the Hotel Marquis, manager Frenchy (Marcel Dalio) attempts to hire Harry for some political business ferrying anti-Vichy forces, but the American doesn’t want to get mixed up in local affairs. He does, however, wish to learn more about new guest Marie “Slim” Browning (Lauren Bacall), who shoots him a glare or two, which is all it takes to hook him. It turns out that she’s a bit of a singer and quite the thief, though her target happens to be Johnson, who was planning to skip out on monies owed to the captain. A shootout between the corrupt authorities and resistance fighters breaks out, hampering Morgan’s ability to collect his debt, while also thrusting Slim into an unpleasant interrogation by the magnificently slimy inspector Renard (Dan Seymour, who also happened to be in “Casablanca” with Bogart).
Like in “Casablanca” a couple of years earlier, World War II (and a bar full of patrons with varying allegiances) serves as a backdrop for romance and choosing sides, even as Bogie and Bacall strive to remain neutral. Yet in the face of injustice, the protagonists will find great difficulty in not doing the right thing. In the meantime, the stars trade amusing flirtations based almost exclusively around even-tempered bickering or playing hard-to-get, which may not involve smiles and laughs but still pose fitting Hollywood close-ups and embraces (this would be the first of several theatrical collaborations as well as a real-life marriage for the couple). “You know how to whistle, don’t you Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.”
Based on Ernest Hemingway’s novel, the eventual transportation gig doesn’t go as smoothly as anticipated, dragging Harry just that much deeper into the cause. Although his motivations are initially centered on payment, it’s not long before ethical considerations curb his greed. And it certainly helps that Slim sticks around to keep him grounded. Bogie and Bacall make an engaging onscreen duo, delivering their lines with just the right amount of cynicism and coyness, though the supplementary conversations – primarily with Brennan’s drunken prattling – and the musical asides (yet another comparable element from “Casablanca,” here with crooner Hoagy Carmichael as the piano-man) decrease the tension (sexual and otherwise). The love story isn’t as affecting and the drama isn’t as significant as many of its peers, but “To Have and Have Not” still boasts an exciting climax and a satisfying conclusion.
– Mike Massie