Bogie and Bacall in ‘To Have and Have Not’.
In ‘To Have and Have Not’, we watch Bogie and Bacall fall in love before our very eyes! Bogie and Bacall had the most iconic romance in film history. And the audience was there from the very first kiss! This is perhaps why the romance is so beloved.
The film is directed by Howard Hawks and loosely based on Ernest Hemingway’s novel. It premiered in the U.S. on 11th October, 1944. Walter Brennan, Hoagy Carmichael, Dolores Moran and Dan Seymour co-star.
Lauren Bacall plays Marie ‘Slim’ Browning, a mysterious young American who lands on Martinique after running out of money. Humphrey Bogart plays Captain Harry Morgan, an expat American who runs a business chartering his fishing-boat to tourists. Walter Brennan plays Eddie, Harry’s alcoholic side kick. Hoagy Carmichael plays Cricket, a friendly piano player.
Lauren Bacall, born Betty Joan Perske, was a New York drama student turned model who was star-spotted by Slim Hawks on the cover of ‘Harper’s Bazaar’. Slim Hawks was so taken by the image of Bacall she showed the magazine to her husband, director Howard Hawks. Howard Hawks was also captivated by the young model’s unique beauty and organised for Bacall to come to Hollywood for a screen test. The rest as they say is history!
Lauren Bacall had one of film’s greatest debuts. Ms Bacall burst onto the scene, her name emblazed in bright lights. From her very first scene she was a star. The world is introduced to Lauren Bacall as a sultry young woman leaning against a door, smouldering, purring the immortal words, ‘Anybody got a match?’ At the age of 19 she is able to hold her own against one of greatest leading men in cinema, Humphrey Bogart.
Although the ingénue actress was lauded by the studio’s publicity department and by the press as the next Garbo, Katharine Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich…she was none of these things. She was Lauren Bacall, a totally unique and unforgettable woman. Bacall would go on to be one of the brightest stars in the Hollywood heavens.
‘To Have and Have Not’s’ storyline is similar to ‘Casablanca’. Bogie once again plays a world-weary character who doesn’t want to get involved with the French resistance, this time on the island of Martinque… but ends up getting involved because of a girl (Bacall) and his better angels. However the film is light-hearted in tone because of Bogie and Bacall’s romantic repartee. Walter Brennan provides comic relief as Eddie, Harry’s alcoholic but charming sidekick whilst Hoagy Carmichael and Bacall provide musical interludes.
‘To Have and Have Not’ is referenced in another classic slice of Americana. In ‘Tangled Up in Blue’, Bob Dylan sings, ‘I must admit I felt a little uneasy, When she bent down to tie the laces of my shoe’ referencing one of the most famous scenes in the film.
The most iconic moment in the film is also the moment iconic moment of Lauren Bacall’s career. In her whiskey-soaked voice Bacall seductively tells Bogart, ‘You know you don’t have to act with me, Steve. You don’t have to say anything, and you don’t have to do anything. Not a thing. Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and… blow.’ With that one line – Lauren Bacall sealed her place in the public consciousness and film history!
The line had deep personal resonance for Bogie and Bacall. They fell in love on the set and began a romance for the ages. Bogie gifted Bacall with a gold i.d. bracelet with her name on one side and a whistle charm on the other. The whistle was inscribed, ‘If you want anything, just whistle.’ The whistle was such a poignant symbol of their love Bogie was buried with it. In honor of the film’s role in their romance, Bogie and Bacall named their first child, a son, Stephen Humphrey Bogart.
I’d highly recommend ‘To Have and Have Not’ as crucial viewing for any classic film fan as you get to see where it all began for Bogie and Bacall’s celebrated union and you get to see Lauren Bacall make one of the most powerful movie debuts in film history.