When this particular film came in the mail from Netflix, my first reaction was “Finally, a Bogie picture!” I don’t really think Humphrey Bogart is one of the most talented actors of all time, but there’s something about him that simply exudes awesome. He’s the man that every woman ever wanted to be with and every man wanted to be. He’s got the kind of natural stage presence and charisma that only comes once a generation. To add to my level of excitement, To Have and Have Not was his first movie he ever made with his future muse and soul mate, Lauren Bacall, and as legend has it, it was on the set of this film that they fell madly in love. And to top it all off, the script was written by literary great William Faulkner and based off a Hemingway story. Unfortunately, while certain aspects of the film had the potential for greatness, poor pacing and certain scenes that felt like they dragged on for eternity keep this film from achieving the level of other Bogie classics.
To Have and Have Not is the story of American fishing boat captain, Harry Morgan (Humphrey Bogart), living in French Martinique after the fall of free France during WW II and during the control of the Nazi-backed Vichy. Harry’s life is turned upside down when he becomes caught in the middle of the fight between French patriots and the Vichy regime. Since he’s a rebellious old curmudgeon and doesn’t like being pushed around, he throws his hat in with the patriots despite not having any real stake in the matter. Further complications arrive with the presence of Marie Browning (Lauren Bacall), a thief who catches Morgan’s eye and heart.
Before I delve too deeply into the parts of the film that didn’t work, let me at least hit on the things that were entertaining and kept me engrossed. The chemistry between Bogie and Bacall is absolutely sizzling. If you watch this film and don’t think to yourself “I’m pretty sure those two were getting it on during production” at least four or five times, you either think they’re the best actors on the planet or are blind to simple human attraction. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen two stars with such natural chemistry with one another. It’s no wonder they’re such a beloved Hollywood couple. And Lauren Bacall was a knock-out. She was just dripping with elegance and sexuality. Her “You know how to whistle?” line has become a classic movie quote. Bogie is Bogie and that’s really all I need to say there. Also, in the supporting role of Morgan’s drunken friend Eddy, Walter Brennan was an absolute delight.
However, as entertaining as the film could be in parts, it really dragged in others and there wasn’t enough happening to keep me engaged during prolonged stretches of the film. I actually started to fall asleep around 2/3 of the way through the film and had to take a break and come back and finish it later. I’m glad I finished it because I was able to wrench some value from the film, but I can’t really imagine myself watching this again in the near future. If you’re a Bogie fan, you need to watch the movie for that reason. It’s another step in the evolution of his career. Otherwise, you can leave this one alone.
Final Score: B-