Saturday, December 4, 2010

Howard Hawks - To Have and Have Not (1944)

Having once cornered Humphrey Bogart in a Casablanca café and beheld his tremendous potential in that sultry and colorful spot, it was logical that the Warners should have wanted to get him there again—or in some place of similar nature, where the currents would flow much the same. A fellow like Mr. Bogart needs a well-coupled circuit, you know. Well, the desire has been accomplished with surprisingly comparable effect in Howard Hawks's production for that studio, To Have and Have Not, which came to the Hollywood yesterday.

Maybe they say that the story is based on Ernest Hemingway's tale of the same name, and maybe the locale is visually French Martinique four years ago. But there's no use dodging around it: To Have and Have Not is Casablanca moved west into the somewhat less hectic Caribbean but along the same basic parallel. And, although there are surface alterations in some of the characters, you will meet here substantially the same people as in that other geo-political romance.

For what Mr. Hawks and his scriptwriters have done to Mr. Hemingway's tale is to shape it out of all recognition into a pattern of worldly intrigue. Now the professional sports fisherman, who was a brute in the original, is a much more tractable fellow where human destinies are involved and especially is he open to persuasion when a fascinating female waves in. And thus, while pursuing his profession in the region of Martinique, he is coerced to fish in the deep waters of pro- and anti-Vichy lawlessness by the push of his own moral suasion and the lure of a very fetching girl.

There is much more character than story in the telling of this tough and tight-lipped tale, and much more atmosphere than action of the usual muscular sort. And that—as was true with Casablanca—is generally just as well. For Mr. Bogart is best when his nature is permitted to smoulder in the gloom and his impulse to movement is restricted by a caution bred of cynical doubt. And those are his dispositions which Mr. Hawks has chiefly worked on in this film. As the hard-boiled professional fisherman who gives his ample ingenuity to a cause, Mr. Bogart is almost as impressive as he was as Rick, the Casablanca host.

And as the wistful bird of passage who moves dauntlessly into his life, Lauren Bacall, a blondish newcomer, is plainly a girl with whom to cope. Slumberous of eye and softly reedy along the lines of Veronica Lake, she acts in the quiet way of catnip and sings a song from deep down in her throat. Accompanied by Hoagy Carmichael, who plays a sweetly sleazy pianist in this film, she mumbles a song of his composing, "How Little We Know," in perfect low-down barroom style. Mr. Carmichael himself also does grandly by a sort of calypso song, which is strictly in keeping with the rambling and melancholy atmosphere.

Dan Seymour is powerfully sinister as a hyperthyroid gunman for Vichy and Walter Brennan gives an affecting performance (albeit pointless) as a drunk. A good many other ratty characters move in and out of the film—apparently the ones who kept on going when they passed through Casablanca some time back. have and have not 1944.DVDrip.avi