Eight Reasons to Watch To Have and Have Not

On Sunday, January 29, KCET gives you a piece of Hollywood history: 1944's To Have and Have Not. It's not only a famous movie, but it's also the project that made a supercouple out of two of Hollywood's greatest screen legends: Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Now, a Casablanca-ish adventure caper about smuggling people to Martinique in Vichy-era France should be an easy sell, but in case you think you have something better to do on Sunday night, here are eight reasons why To Have and Have Not is well worth your time.

Bogey and Bacall: the sanitized version. Yes, this is how Humphrey Bogart met an ingenue named Lauren Bacall and began on of the most famous romances in Hollywood history. When filming for To Have and Have Not began in 1945, Bacall was 19 -- and 26 years younger than Bogart -- but sparks flew despite the age difference, and Bacall's role was expanded to play on the pair's natural chemistry.

Bogey and Bacall: the inside story. On the other hand, the romance between these two stars wasn't the glittering Hollywood fairytale some would have you believe. Allegedly, sparks weren't flying just between Bogart and Bacall. A 1997 biography on Humphrey Bogart alleges that To Have and Have Not director Howard Hawks also fell in love with Bacall, and her subsequent romance with Bogart nearly got her tossed from the cast. If it's true, Hawks changed his mind, because immediately after this film he directed Bogart and Bacall together in the noir classic The Big Sleep. To complicate matters further, Wikipedia alleges that Bogart also had an affair with the film's other female lead, Dolores Moran. (No source is offered for this small scandal, so make of that what you will.)

One hell of a literary pedigree. Get excited, English majors. To Have and Have Not is based on an Ernest Hemingway novel of the same name. Hollywood just took more liberties than you'd expect from a work by a revered author. (Among many changes, the setting moved from Cuba to Martinique because, according to IMDb, the Office of Inter-American Affairs "would not have allowed export of a film showing smuggling and insurrection in Cuba.") No matter, really, because Hemingway allegedly never cared for this particular book: In a 1977 interview, Hawks said that Hemingway called To Have and Have Not "a bunch of junk." Papa's feelings notwithstanding, the adaptation benefited from the work of another celebrated author, William Faulkner.

That line about whistling. Pop culture has a strange way of working itself into you brain even when you haven't experienced it firsthand. To Have and Have Not features a famous line from Bacall's character, Marie "Slim" Browning."

Now you know where it comes from, in case you didn't already, and you can think of this scene when you encounter one of those hundreds of movies and TV shows that have riffed on this line about the mechanics of whistling.

Casablanca Lite. If you feel a sense of déjà vu while watching To Have and Have Not, you're not the only one. The script was restructured specifically to play off the success of Bogart's 1942 hit, even down to the addition of Hoagy Carmichael as Cricket, a piano-playing buddy for Bogart's character who is more than a little reminiscent of Casablanca's Sam. Bogey and Hoagy -- now there's a pair.

Bacall, singing? Given Bacall's distinctively deep voice, it may surprise you to hear that she sings in To Have and Have Not. Check her pipes in action:

She's not bad, even if it's clear why Bacall didn't go on to be known as a vocalist. And yes, that's really her singing, despite rumors that it's actually Andy Williams. Weirdly, Williams -- then only 14 and an unknown in Hollywood -- was tested to fill in for Bacall.

The Hawksian woman. Pay attention to Bacall's dress and mannerisms in this film, because she epitomizes a character type known today as the "Hawksian woman". It's that poised, unflusterable, mannish-in-a-sexy-way dame that you might also associate with performances by Rosalind Russell (His Girl Friday), Katharine Hepburn (Bringing Up Baby) or Barbara Stanwyck (as the amazingly named Sugarpuss O'Shea in Balls of Fire. Similar female characters in later works -- such as even
Adrienne Barbeau in Escape from New York -- are also considered Hawksian women.

The sad end of Mayo Methot. Let's jump back in the suds for a moment and remember a now-obscure actress who may not appear in To Have and Have Not but whose life was irrevocably changed by it. When Bogey first met Bacall on the set of this film, he was married to Mayo Methot. ("Oh, how they had names back then!") Shortly after filming completed, Bogart divorced Methot, driving her to depression compounded by alcoholism. She died alone in a Multnomah, Oregon, hotel room in 1951. Sort of puts a grim spin on the the title To Have and Have Not, doesn't it?


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