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  To Have and Have Not

rating: (out of 4 stars)

United States; 1944
Directed by Howard Hawks; produced by Howard Hawks; screenplay by Jules Furthman, William Faulkner
Starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Walter Brennan, Dolores Moran, Hoagy Carmichael, Sheldon Leaonard

If nothing else, 'To Have and Have Not' is the film that teamed up Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, probably the most talked about couple in film history. Although Bacall was not a star yet, the film seems to drive on starpower delivered by both her and Bogart. Walter Brennan, almost annoying as a drunk, stars too in this Ernest Hemingway adaptation. 'To Have and Have Not' plays a little like part two of 'Casablanca' and, as it goes with most sequels, it does not come close to the real thing.

As in 'Casablanca' Bogart has a strong love interest, creating most of the interesting sequences. The exotic location has changed from Marocco to the island of Martinique, but of course we have a café as the main set and of course a piano player plays a big inside. Again he has interaction with the female lead and this time Bacall even sings along with him. World War II is once again the backdrop, and the Bogart character, Harry Morgan, again doesn't want anything to do with it. It comes as no surprise when he turns out to have the most important role in the climax.

I almost make all this sound as an objection, but that has more to do with my love for 'Casablanca' than my disapproval of 'To Have and Have Not'. As a matter of fact, I don't disapprove. It may not be the greatest classic ever made, but like the other Bogart/Bacall films, it is solid entertainment. I count only 'The Big Sleep' as a real masterpiece. That film showed how much starpower, sexually charged dialogue and a mystery plot nobody understands can do for film noir. Here we have the first two, but the story is just not satisfying enough. Actually, it is not even a mystery.

To be honest, it is not that important. Director Howard Hawks uses the elements he has (he thought Hemingway's novel was the author's worst) and uses them to the fullest. When you bring this much talent out of different areas together (William Faulkner co-wrote the screenplay) the result often turns out to be a big disappointment. Here, somehow the best parts push the lesser parts to the background and we are left with a flawed but very entertaining film.


  Review by Reinier Verhoef