To Have and Have Not (1944) Review

Director: Howard Hawks

Genre(s): Drama, Romance, War

Runtime: 100 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

IMDb Page

The World War II drama To Have and Have Not is perhaps best remembered for being the first movie that future-couple Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall would do together. Set on the Vichy French-occupied Caribbean island of Martinique during the Second World War, American boatman-for-hire Harry Morgan (Humphrey Bogart) finds himself increasingly drawn into the conflict, while falling in love with Marie “Slim” Browning (Lauren Bacall). This was the first of four flicks that the two would make.

To put it bluntly, To Have and Have Not is a Casablanca (1942)-wannabe. Both are romantic dramas set in Vichy French colonies during World War II starring Bogart as an isolationist character who tries to stay out of the fray, while falling in and out of love and being coaxed into the fighting by a non-American freedom fighter and his wife, while being menaced by Axis authority figures. The similarities are striking and consume one’s thought process while watching the 1944 film.

To Have and Have Not is certainly not as tight a movie as Casablanca, and its plot is not as propulsive. The tropical Caribbean setting doesn’t seem to be fully exploited, and the ending felt abrupt and unsatisfying to me (contrast it with the iconic finale of the 1942 picture that it bears a heavy overall resemblance to). The dialogue between Bogie and Bacall is celebrated, but can a film survive on witty banter alone?

In my opinion, To Have and Have Not is just okay. It’s not boring, but it’s no thrill ride either. It lacks the fiery, inspiring spirit of Casablanca and rips off of it too much. I suppose that it’s a perfectly acceptable war-time drama, but why settle for “perfectly acceptable” when you can settle for Casablanca? Maybe you should just play that one again.

My rating is 6 outta 10.

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