…to Hemingway’s novel. At least the movie and the novel were both set on Caribbean Islands…though not the same one. The novel was set mainly in Cuba; the movie was entirely set in Martinique, which has a special spot in my heart. The decades are different. The novel was set in the ‘30’s; the movie in the ‘40’s. The novel has nothing to do with the conflict between the Vichy and Free French. In the movie, this conflict is a central theme. In many ways, including the many bar scenes and the piano player, the movie seemed to be a re-tread of “Casablanca.” The movie was made during the Second World War, and many changes were made for “political considerations.” In reading about the background on the movie, the direct hand of censorship was heavy. Hence the change of islands. Even the hint that a man and a woman might enjoy the pleasures of the flesh was absolutely verboten, to borrow a word from our one-time wartime adversaries. A kiss was as far as one could go. And not a “French” one, despite the locale. The Director, Howard Hawks even put a much more optimistic spin on the fate of Harry Morgan, the American boat captain. The movie was released in 1945.
Humphrey Bogart seems to have been stereotyped to play the role of the tough cynical American abroad, only trying to make a buck, and absolutely will not get involved in “local” conflicts, but ultimately will come through as the idealistic do-gooder, fighting the “good fight.” Often a woman is involved. In “African Queen,” he is in East Africa, during World War I, and Katherine Hepburn convinces him to fight the Germans. In “Casablanca,” he is Rick Blane, running “Rick’s Café, and the film features Ingrid Bergman. Rick eventually joins the cause and helps the Free French. And in “To Have and Have Not,” he joins the Free French out of economic necessity, and yes, a bit of idealism. Lauren Bacall plays Marie “Slim” Browning, a 22-year old American who has stumbled onto the scene, also apparently out of economic necessity.
Even with the heavy hand of censorship, she slips through the fingers as most provocative. Comme DAB, the eyes have it. What a wonderful line: “I’m hard to get, Steve. All you have to do is ask me.” She clearly marks her territory vis-à-vis Dolores Moran, the wife of the chief French resistance fighter. Bogart at one point asks her to walk around him. The point being that he has no strings attached to him. Bacall replies: “YET.”
And real life would imitate art. Bogart and Bacall would marry not long after the release of the film. They would remain married until his death in 1957. (She would subsequently marry Jason Robards, staying married to him during the ‘60’s).
The chemistry between Bogart and Bacall is most palatable and enjoyable to watch. Much of the rest is a so-so fantasy and re-tread of “Casablanca.” Hopefully Ernest got a cut of the royalties, for the use of his title, without the book’s content. 3-stars.