There's a legendary tale, where producer/director Howard Hawks bet Ernest Hemingway he could make a great movie out of the author's worst novel. A more colourful variation adds an expletive, and sets the location of the proposal to a sedate fishing trip – a more amusing spin, presaging changes made to the screenplay to extract a good movie from a reportedly bad book.
Coming off the success of “Casablanca,” the transposition of locale and period to another Vichy-controlled community, isolated from the world, with its own colourful group of characters, makes “To Have and Have Not” an informal sequel to Bogart's Moroccan-flavoured classic; after getting dumped by Ilsa, he took his money, bought a boat, and sailed for a more tropical climate with excellent rum.
As with other Warner Bros / Bogart films, the label has assembled some good extras, together gelling into another chapter of the actor's long association with the studio; this time highlighting his co-star, newcomer Lauren Bacall. As the featurette, “A Love Story,” makes clear, the romance between the veteran and fresh-faced actors blossomed on-screen. Critic & historian Leonard Maltin admits part of the film's attraction is witnessing the camera capturing their emotional foreplay (with Bacall's ‘whistle' speech, and the subsequent cutaway to a grinning Bogart, creating one of film's funniest moments).
Historian Robert Osborne and Bogart biographer Eric Lax also discuss the filming of “To Have,” as director Howard Hawks, while playing Svengali, realized he had a new star in Bacall. With her screen time boosted, a romantic and adventurous screen team was formalized which led to several subsequent pairings. A vintage radio play (archived on the DVD) also brought the on-screen/off-screen couple to reprise of their film roles (supervised by director William Keighley) for the Lux Radio Theater, in 1946.
The studio's cartoon department went even farther that same year with “Bacall To Arms,” rotoscoping footage from the ‘whistle' scene in “To Have and Have Not” for a mini-spoof, called “To Have… To Have… To Have….” Trapped in the theatre, a sex-mad wolf can't sit still for a second, and the animators use every conceivable method to imply the drooling bachelor's mounting pressure until things go kaboom, and the cartoon finishes with a now politically incorrect gag. Annoying babies, a wandering theatergoer (“Pardon… Pardon”), and an over-confident son-in-law (Don't-you-believe-it!”) round off the lunacy, standard to the studio's cartoon output that decade.
This DVD is available separately or as part of “The Bogart Collection” boxed set, which includes “Casablanca,” “The Big Sleep,” “The Maltese Falcon,” “To Have And Have Not,” and "Treasure of the Sierra Madre."
© 2003 Mark R. Hasan