Sunday, September 04, 2016

Tonight's Movie: To Have and Have Not (1944) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

The legendary team of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall costarred for the first time in Howard Hawks' TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (1944), now available on Blu-ray from the Warner Archive.

As a very young film fan my first loves were musicals and romantic comedies, especially those starring Cary Grant. TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (1944), along with THE BIG SLEEP (1946), is one of the films which was key to expanding my horizons and leading me to become interested in a wider variety of classic movies. In my mind's eye I can still see myself watching the film for the first time at my grandmother's house, completely entranced by Bogart and Bacall's sizzling chemistry.

The movie is supposedly based on a novel by Ernest Hemingway, though apparently they don't have much in common but the title. In this "WWII on the Warner Bros. lot" film, Bogart plays Harry Morgan, captain of a fishing boat based in Martinique.

Morgan has various problems, such as his American fishing client (Walter Sande) attempting to skip out without paying his bill, or the French Vichy types (including Dan Seymour and Sheldon Leonard) who harass the locals while hunting for Resistance fighters (including Marcel Dalio).

Morgan has it made, however, when it comes to Marie (Bacall), the new gal in town, and soon they are flirting, fighting, and kissing whenever Morgan's not busy keeping tabs on his alcoholic friend (Walter Brennan) or helping a Resistance leader (Walter Szurovy) and his wife (Dolores Moran).

TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT strikes me as a bit like Hawks' later classic RIO BRAVO (1959) in that when it comes down to it, there's not a whole lot of action in its 100 minutes except for a couple key moments. What makes the film great are the colorful characters hanging around the Hotel Marquis, spouting terrific dialogue by the likes of William Faulkner, who cowrote the script with Jules Furthman.

While RIO BRAVO has Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson, TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT has the great Hoagy Carmichael performing several of his tunes, including "How Little We Know," with Bacall occasionally singing along. (Despite the long-running rumors that she was dubbed by Andy Williams, it's apparently actually Bacall singing; it sounds like her.) A couple of non-Carmichael songs such as "Am I Blue?" are also heard, and for good measure the movie also has some memorable opening credits music by Franz Waxman.

Best of all, of course, there are Bogart and Bacall. The stories of their falling in love while making the film doubtless need no repeating here; the chemistry of over seven decades ago still sizzles today.

It's also a bit poignant having heard stories in recent years that the reason behind the 19-year-old Bacall's famous "look," chin down and looking up or to the side, was because she was so nervous she was working to keep her head from shaking. From such unexpected things stars are born.

TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT was filmed by Sid Hickox. While the movie was made entirely on soundstages or the backlot, that's part of the movie's charm. It has a great Warner Bros. visual style, particularly in the scenes where Carmichael and Bacall perform.

The extras from the original TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT DVD release are included on the Blu-ray, including a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast with Bogart and Bacall, a documentary, a cartoon, and the trailer. The Blu-ray is an excellent print.

Previous reviews of Bogart & Bacall Blu-rays from the Warner Archive: THE BIG SLEEP (1946) and KEY LARGO (1948). Still to come at a future date: A review of the Warner Archive release of DARK PASSAGE (1947) on Blu-ray.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop.


OpenID livius1 said...

Super write-up there, Laura. I also count this film as one which had a big impact on me first time I saw it and played a significant role in the way I came to view Bogart and a lot of classic movies. I think it's one of those magical productions which represent the studio system at its well-oiled best, class, entertainment and cleverness all rolled together.

I'd heard about Bacall adopting those now famous mannerisms as a result of nervousness before, and I can well believe it's true - I think she said as much herself in interviews anyway. The point is it worked for her and actually appeared completely natural!

The film is, I'd say, the loosest adaptation of Hemingway's book. The novel is a harsh and quite depressing tale - the Curtiz/Garfield version comes closest to the mood of the story, while the Siegel/Murphy take feels like something of a compromise between the Hawks and the Curtiz films.


1:02 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Colin!

Thanks so much for your note. I loved knowing that this film also played a significant role in your movie viewing life. Makes me wonder how many others can say the same?

I completely agree that it represents the studio system (and specifically Warner Bros.) at its best.

I haven't seen the other versions yet but have a copy of the Garfield version which intrigues me. I'll be watching it at some point down the road!

Best wishes,

5:15 PM  

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