Monday, July 06, 2009

Monday Movie Review Rerun: To Have and Have Not

I just got back from Kentucky and I haven't got time to write a new review, so here's a review I wrote over three years ago, for one of my favorite films:

To Have and Have Not (1944 ) 9/10
Fishing boat captain Harry Morgan (Humphrey Bogart) and pickpocket Marie (Lauren Bacall) are reluctantly involved in helping the French Resistance. Directed by Howard Hawks.

When people say “They don’t make ‘em like that anymore" they mean To Have and Have Not. More... This movie has everything that distinguishes “classic" movies from the ordinary kind. It has enormous star power (including Walter Brennan, Hoagy Carmichael, and Dan Seymour), smouldering chemistry between the stars, hot sexual innuendo (“You know how to whistle, don’t you Steve?"), adventure, humor, and music. Also guns, drunkenness, hustling, and Nazis. So it’s pretty much perfect. Not for nuthin’, this is the movie that changed me from someone who watched movies when they were on TV, to someone who was a real movie buff.

This is the film where Bogie met Bacall. This is the one that put all the sex into the dialogue, the voices, the low-lid looks, and yes, the whistling. Early into filming, Bacall, 19, and Bogie, 45, were an item; they were married within a year. Bacall’s screen presence in this, her first film, is like a slap across the face. I can’t think of many modern actresses who can capture the screen and hold it in the way that forties stars like Bacall, Rita Hayworth, and Ava Gardner could. It’s a complex role; she is by turns dignified, playful, desperate, sad, and hopelessly in love.

Humphrey Bogart is wonderful as always, and lays back and lets his costars steal every scene. And steal it they do; not just Bacall, but the wonderful Walter Brennan, the villainous Dan Seymour, and Hoagy Carmichael as Cricket, the piano player who helps Bacall find legitimate work.

Okay, it’s completely and totally an imitation of Casablanca, but just let it go. Okay, the Resistance is made to seem the most singularly uninteresting Good Cause in the history of causes, but run with it. Just let the wonderfulness wash over you.

(To Cross-post and Not Cross-post)