“To Have and Have Not,” directed by Howard Hawks, is loosely based on his friend Ernest Hemingway’s 1937 novel of the same title.
According to legend, “Hawks boasted that he could make a movie out of the worst thing Hemingway ever wrote. 'What’s that?’ Hemingway asked.”
Hawks replied, “that bunch of junk ‘To Have and Have Not.’” Hawks eventually made good on his claim. However, due to the early-1940s political climate, making the film turned out to be more difficult than Hawks had thought.
Jules Furthman’s screenplay was a close adaptation of the book and retained its setting in Cuba and depiction of illegal activities. These details caught the government’s attention. Threatened with not being able to export the film, Hawks’s solution was to change the setting to Martinique. Author William Faulkner, working as a script doctor, made this location change and many other substantial alterations to the original script. The result was a great film, but not one that closely resembled the book. It was, however, a film that resembled another film in terms of its plot, character types, and setting. That film was “Casablanca.”
“To Have and Have Not” stars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Born Betty Joan Perske, Bacall was only 19 when she made her film debut in “To Have and Have Not.” The film also marked the beginning of the legendary romance between Bogart and Bacall.
Before moving to Hollywood and meeting Bogart, Bacall had seen him in “Casablanca” and may have been impressed by his acting, but not by his appearance. In a later interview, she admitted that when her friend with whom she saw the movie said Bogart was sexy, Bacall “thought she was crazy.” In spite of this inauspicious start, Bogart and Bacall fell in love while filming “To Have and Have Not.”
Their budding romance translated into a wonderful on-screen flirtation. As film critic Leonard Maltin describes, the film represented “one of these instances where it’s quite possible that we are eyewitnesses to an actor or actress falling in love, and while good actors make us believe that all the time, there has to be some extra kick when it’s real.”
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Bogart and Bacall married the following year and remained married until Bogart’s death in 1957. Bacall has written of their life together: “No one has ever written a romance better than we lived it.”
In “To Have and Have Not,” the couple’s chemistry is unmistakable. For example, there is a clear attraction when Marie (Bacall) first kisses Harry (Bogart). He asks: “What’d you do that for?”
“I’d been wondering whether I’d like it,” she replies. “What’s the decision?”
“I don’t know yet,” she says and kisses him again. This time, he puts his hand on her neck and draws her closer. After this kiss, she coolly concludes: “It’s even better when you help.”
This scene precedes the well-known whistle scene in which Marie says to Harry (who she has nicknamed Steve), “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? Put your lips together and... blow.”
Harry listens carefully, and after she leaves the room, he whistles admiringly. Capitalizing on this chemistry, Bogart and Bacall made several more movies together, including “The Big Sleep,” “Dark Passage,” and “Key Largo.”