November 19, 2010

15.11: TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (Catch-Up Classic)

Bogart. Bacall. Classic.
I was certain this screening of the film at the Wellington Film Society was going to be a print (I have a thing about going to the movies and watching DVDs - I could do that at home thankyouverymuch) but, alas, this was not to be. Apparently the print available was in such a state as to be nigh-unwatchable. So, not my preferred viewing option but in the circumstances, I can understand. 

The film itself is based on Ernest Hemingway's worst book apparently. I wouldn't really know - I haven't read it and don't intend to. Well, it's his worst book isn't it? Why would you? From what I understand though, it doesn't hew too tightly to Hemingway's novel and director Howard Hawks instead makes something that could easily be considered Casablanca-lite (indeed, that is how someone described it walking out afterwards). There's the World War II setting in a French colony port, French resistance fighters, collaborators and in the middle of it all, Humphrey Bogart; a taciturn but kind man just wanting to mind his own business. 

And, frankly, there's nothing wrong with that. Not when it's as well-made as To Have and Have Not. Hawks is an acknowledged master of the form and all scenes back in port are soaked in glorious shadows with a sense of....oh, wait. I'm forgetting someone aren't I?

Lauren Bacall. This is her film debut, and of course, the beginning of her relationship with Bogart. She's 18 here, a little rough around the edges, a little like her character: a young woman out on her own, not entirely sure of herself but damn if she's going to let anyone see that. Bacall is electric, swapping pithy dialogue with Bogart like a pro. The interplay between these two is what this film is really all about. I immediatly want to track down the three other films they made together (I've been lucky enough to see The Big Sleep on the big screen before though) becuase I just want to watch more of them together. Bacall has more class, intelligence, wit and fire than any dozen modern actresses.

Managing to shine when Bacall and Bogart aren't on screen together, there's also the friendly drunk, Eddie who provides a few light comic moments of his own, and the positively slimy Capt. Renard, head of the Vichy police. He's, well, he's pretty downright gross actually - the way he slowly strokes himself, high up on his bloated chest as he deilvers his threats veiled in an oily tone... *shudder*. 

Everything ticks along at a fast, but unhurried pace, with moments of danger and peril. But Bogart's characters is one of those guys who knows the angles; knows how to work them. Until you see him thrown by Bacall's "Slim". I am sorry for going on about the two of them together but it really, honestly, is the best thing about the film. Do yourself a favour: if you haven't seen it, get it out. Pour yourself a drink, settle back and enjoy a slice of fine classic filmmaking and cinema history all in one.


  1. I enjoyed the film and your review.:) Lauren Bacall is just great to watch. Downright gross is a bit hard on poor old Renard tho - he had a sort of charm, I thought -a bit like Herr Flick on 'Allo 'Allo.

  2. I was already annoyed at myself for missing this one. Now you made me even more annoyed - darn it Andy!

    I will get this out from Aro Street sometime soon.

    Loved Casablanca.

  3. Thanks Anne! But I'm going to have to stick with my view on Renard... ya can't trust a man who strokes his chest...

    Parkes! Good to see ya!