To Have and Have Not (1944): Bogart and Bacall First Film Together

As a follow-up to “Casablanca” (1943), which garnered him his first Oscar nomination, Howard Hawks’ “To Have and Have Not” represents another crucial phase in the evolution of Humphrey Bogart’s screen image–specifically, in this case, his romantic persona.

Our Grade: B+ (**** out of *****)

To Have and Have Not
To Have and Have Not (1944 film) poster.jpg

Theatrical release poster

Though vastly entertaining and popular with audiences, then and now, largely due to its star power–and the legendary chemistry between Bogey and Bacall–To Have and Have Not is not one of my favorite Bogart’s or Hawks’ films.

The film is set in the exotic location of Fort-de-France, Martinique, under the Vichy regime in the summer of 1940, after the fall of France.

Though nominally based on the novel of the same name by Ernest Hemingway, the story was substantially altered for the screen in accordance with the stars” screen images and special attributes.

The dialogue, by Jules Furthman and novelist William Faulkner (very loosely based on Ernst Hemingway’s novel) is occasionally sharp, and some one-liners became famous after the film was released. It’s worth noting that Hemingway’s novel (one of his weakest) is set in Cuba and Florida circa 1930s.

The picture is best known for the first on screen teaming of Bogart and Lauren Bacall, then just 18, and the seemingly “secret” but ultimately well-publicized off screen romance, which led to their marriage a year later. Significantly, in the picture, Bogart and Bacall refer to each other as Steve and Slim, which are the nicknames of Hawks and his then wife.

Bacall makes a grand, sexy entrance, uttering the line, “Anybody got a match” And later, just before granting him the first kiss, she says: “You know, Steve, you’re not very hard to figure. Only at times. Sometimes I know exactly what you’re going to say most of the time. The other times, the other times you’re just a stinker.” And before kissing him for the second time, she says, “It’s even better when you help,” a line similar to the one Angie Dickinson says after kissing John Wayne in “Rio Bravo.”

Bogart stars as Harry Morgan, a skipper-adventurer of a small fishing boat in a French territory of Martinique, attempting to remain neutral after the fall of France. He’s hired to smuggle a French underground leader and his wife into Martinique, and agrees reluctantly, because he needs the money (or so he says).

In “Casablanca,” Bogart’s Rick Blaine the cafe owner parried Conrad Viedt’s question about his nationality by calling himself a drunkard, whereas here he calls himself an Eskimo. He declines to become involved in what he considers “local politics,” just as he managed to ignore the underground in Casablanca. When asked what are his sympathies, he just said, “Minding my own business.

More has been written about the picture as a typical Bogart vehicle, but in many significant ways, it’s a quintessential Hawksian work, with thematic links to his other films (the best of which starring John Wayne, such as “Red River” and Rio Bravo”), centering on the tensions between broad political or personal-moral issues and their impact on identities and relationships.

Warner tried to repeat the commercial success of “Casablanca,” and the movie did well at the box-office. In hindsight, the film reconfirmed Bogart’s image: He initially has a flippant attitude toward Bacall whom he casts away but is obviously attracted to, showing greater loyalty and affection to Walter Brennan, who plays Eddie.

Bogart’s displays his own brand of justice, meted out to transgressors who do not play the game according to his set of rules and code of ethics, which always favor the underdog, here in the shape of the underground leader and his wife.

Detailed  Plot

World-weary fishing-boat captain Harry Morgan is urged to help the French Resistance smuggle people onto the island. He refuses, until the client, Johnson (Walter Sande), who has been hiring out his fishing boat (and owes him $825), is shot before paying him. The French police take him for intterogation, and they take his passport and money including what his Johnson had.

Gerard, the hotel owner known as Frenchy (Marcel Dalio), asks Harry to rent him his boat for one night to transport members of the resistance.  Harry, broke, smuggles Helene (Dolores Moran) and Paul de Bursac (Walter Surovy).

A romance develops between Harry and Marie (“Slim”) Browning, an American wanderer who has come to the island. She suspects that Harry changed his mind on smuggling the resistance to help her. Harry is surprised when Marie stays in Martinique to be with him.

During the mission, Harry is spotted by a patrol boat, and Paul is wounded. At Frenchy’s request, Harry removes the bullet from Bursac’s shoulder and learns that the Bursacs have been assigned to help a man escape from Devil’s Island. Bursac asks for Harry’s assistance, but Harry turns him down.

The police reveal that they have Harry’s alcoholic buddy, Eddie (Walter Brennan), and will coerce him to inform about the boat’s cargo. With Slim’s help, at gunpoint, Harry forces Police Captain Renard (Dan Seymour) to arrange for Eddie’s release and sign harbor passes, so that he can take the Bursacs to Devil’s Island. Eddie, Harry and Marie then leave Martinique.

Critically, To Have and Have Not received mixed-to-positive notices, partly due to the inevitable comparisons to the superior Casablanca, which preceded this picture, and partly because of the studio’s overkill promotion of Lauren Bacall (“The Look”) as Hollywood’s new hot star (the couple became known as “Bogey and Baby”).

Made on a budget of $1.7 million, the film was hugely popular, earning over $5 million at the global box-office, thus coming close to the success of “Casablanca.”

Lines to Remember

Bogart’s Harry to Bacall’s Marie, after she gets slapped by a Vichy henchman: “That slap in the face you took. Well, you hardly blinked an eye. It takes a lot of practice to be able to do that.”

Marie says to Harry Morgan, “I’m hard to get, Steve. All you have to do is ask me.” Hawks “stole” this line from his popular 1939 adventure, “Only Angels Have Wings, in which Jean Arthur says to Cary Grant in her inimitable voice, “I’m hard to get, Geoff. All you have to do is ask me.”


Harry Morgan (Humphrey Bogart)
Eddie (Walter Brennan)
Marie Browning (Lauren Bacall)
Helene De Bursac (Dolores Moran)
Paul De Borsac (Walter Molnar)
Cricket (Hoagy Carmichael)
Lt. Coyo (Sheldon Leonard)
Gerard (Marcel Dalio)
Johnson (Walter Sandle)
Capt. M. Renard (Dan Seymour)


Produced and directed by Howard Hawks
Screenplay: Jules Furthman and William Faulkner, based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway.
Camera: Sidney Hickox.
Editor: Christian Nyby.
Music: Franz Waxman.
Art direction: Charles Novi
F/X: Roy Davidson
Costume: Milo Anderson

Release date: October 11, 1944

Running time: 100 minutes

Distributed by Warner Bros.