[box cover]

To Have and Have Not

Bogie & Bacall: The Signature Collection

"Anybody got a match?" All it took was four words and Betty Perske made movie history. However, she didn't get her start in Hollywood thanks to her inimitably smoky voice, but rather her doe-eyes and full lips — a fashion model, she was noticed by Howard Hawks' wife on the cover of Harper's Bazaar and before long was given a screen-test. Hawks was suitably impressed, and 19-year-old Betty immediately was re-fashioned as a movie star. She was expected to look and sound many years older than she actually was. She was asked to hold her own against seasoned actors. Her first role was to play a willful, feisty romantic interest for Humphrey Bogart in To Have and Have Not (1944). And Warner Brothers wasn't interested in a starlet named Betty Perske. In short, Betty became "Lauren Bacall." Her charm was so great that — in what is now Hollywood legend — Bogart found her completely irresistible, and their budding romance caused the much older man to end his current marriage. Bogart and Bacall would do three more films together in the '40s, after which they would not appear onscreen together again. Their love for each other appeared profound, although if Howard Hawks was right, it was because Bogart actually fell in love with the character Bacall played in To Have and Have Not; since that debut, she would play the part for the duration of her marriage. True? Perhaps… or perhaps Hawks himself was a little jealous. After all, this was a woman who — in the same mold as Mae West's "come up sometime and see me" and Jean Harlow's "slip into something more comfortable" — smoldered the screen when she asked Humphrey Bogart "You know how to whistle, don't you? You just put your lips together and blow."

Bogart headlines To Have and Have Not as Steve Morgan, an American who operates a small commercial fishing operation on the tiny Caribbean island of Martinique during World War II. His only regular crew member is Eddie (Walter Brennan), a sailor who's succumbed to chronic alcoholism and thus fallen under Steve's wing. Normally, the most Steve has to worry about on a regular basis is getting the proper fishing permits from the local French officials, or getting some deadbeat sport-fishing clients to pay up. But when local hotelier Gerard (Marcel Dalio) comes into contact with some elements of the French Resistance, they approach Steve with the idea of a daring nighttime mission that will require a boat. At first Steve refuses, easily distracted by a mysterious young woman who's turned up at the hotel, Marie "Slim" Browning (Bacall). But when the local Vichy authorities start playing hardball, Steve signs on with the freedom fighters, aware that he'll be finished if he's caught by the French authorities on Martinique or any of the German U-boats patrolling the Atlantic Ocean.

*          *          *

Howard Hawks was enough of a Hemingway admirer that he claimed he could make a movie out of the author's worst book. When Hemingway wanted to know what book that was, Hawks replied "That bunch of junk To Have and Have Not." Hemingway and Hawks then entered into a wager over the matter, but Hawks would win, primarily by assigning the source material to one of his favorite writers, Jules Furthman. Both men then eliminated whole sections of the novel altogether, and Furthman brought in one of his favorite screenwriters, William Faulkner, who would work on both tightening the film's locale and crafting some of the steamy, noir-esque dialogue (as legend has it, Hawks or Faulkner wrote the "whistle" line merely for Bacall's screen-test, and then Faulkner later found a way to work it into the final script). With cast and crew in place, To Have and Have Not would boast one of the most impressive collections of talent for the decade and beyond, with the veterans Hawks and Furthman, future Nobel Prize-winners Hemingway and Faulkner, and the utterly iconic Bogart and Bacall. To Have and Have Not has been compared to Casablanca, and while it may seem ungenerous to compare a great film to a cinematic masterpiece, the parallels are somewhat transparent — the drama takes place during World War II at an inconsequential French foreign outpost controlled by the Vichy administration; Bogart plays the businessman who refuses to get involved in politics, and is especially wary of patriots; Bacall is the mysterious woman who gets under Bogart's skin; and the activity centers around a public establishment. But To Have and Have Not is no mere Casablanca knock-off. Where the earlier film plays out like a game of chess, Hawks prefers to place his characters in imminent danger for the sake of action. And while nobody could replace Ingrid Bergman, Lauren Bacall introduced a screen-sensuality that was all her own.

Warner's DVD release of To Have and Have Not features a solid full-frame transfer (1.33:1 OAR) with monaural Dolby Digital 2.0 audio — the source-print appears in very good shape with strong low-contrast detail and a minimum of collateral wear. The supplements are particularly attractive, starting with the featurette "A Love Story: The Story of To Have and Have Not" (11 min.), a brief retrospective on the genesis of this famous Tinseltown love story. Also included is the Looney Tunes short "Bacall to Arms" (6 min.), which takes playful jabs at the moviehouses of the day, and specifically the legendary Bogart-Bacall chemistry ("Anybody got a light?" she asks, which prompts him to throw her a blowtorch). And perhaps best of all is the Oct. 14, 1946 "Lux Radio Theater" broadcast of To Have and Have Not, pared down to one hour with Bogart and Bacall reprising their original roles. It's clearly taken from a phonograph source and the first few minutes contain some scratching, but after that it's very listenable. Especially charming is the end of the broadcast, when Bogart and Bacall answer a few questions from the host. Bogie disarmingly introduces his wife as "Betty," and she blows a note on a gold-plated whistle her husband gave her as a gift. Snap-case (reissued in keep-case in July 2006).
—JJB



Back to Quick Reviews Index: [A-F] [G-L] [M-R] [S-Z]

Back to Main Page