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To Have and Have Not

Warner Bros./Warner Home Video . R4 . B&W . 96 mins . G . PAL

  Feature
Contract

To Have and Have Not was made just two years after Bogart's greatest movie, Casablanca, and there are strong resemblances between the two films.

As in Casablanca, we find Bogart playing a character named Steve (his real name's Harry, but that's another story) who is just trying to run his business - he's a charter fisherman pandering to wealthy businessmen - and attempting to stay out of the war which has divided the world.

Although the original Hemingway novel was set in Cuba, the film is set in Martinique. And the French Resistance is active there. Slowly but inexorably, Harry is inveigled and cajoled into taking his part in the war against tyranny.

The drama is pretty threadbare. What the film is most notable for is that it marked the screen debut of teenager Lauren Bacall. She became Bogie's love-interest on and off the screen, in a tempestuous affair which just about melted the celluloid. There are scenes when you know that what they're hinting at is exactly what they'll be doing a little bit later, when the camera stops rolling. It's heavy stuff.

Bacall couldn't act. But she could sure smoulder well. Hers was a sultry, seductive smoulder which still sizzles today. And she could certainly deliver a double-meaning with sexy allure - as witness this immortal pick-up line:

"You know how to whsitle, don't you Steve? YOU JUST PUT YOUR LIPS TOGETHER AND BLOW."

The film has its drawbacks, most notably Walter Brennan's character Ernie, a DT-ridden drunk who is Bogie's best pal. He does his best to destroy the movie, but Bogart and Bacall keep pulling it back from the brink.

However, besides the screen chemistry of Bogie and Bacall, there's another special ingredient which makes this movie memorable. There's a cafe in which must of the action takes place. Where Sam played at Rick's in Casablanca, this cafe features America's songwriting legend Hoagy Carmichael, creator of Stardust. While Sam only pretended to play the piano, this is the real thing - and we get plenty of opportunity to enjoy his laconic, laid-back style.

One thing however isn't real. At one stage Lauren's character Slim duets with Hoagy. And later, she takes centre-stage for a solo. But in real life, Bacall couldn't sing.

Her sultry couldn't hold a tune. Warner searched around for a voice-double - and found the very young Andy Williams, whose prepubescent voice had just the husky timbre Bacall needed. But this is irrelevant. On screen she looks and sounds great. It's a pity she couldn't act, but the role doesn't really call for acting - just for outright seductiveness. The same was true in her later more famous movie The Big Sleep; Bacall was truly great as long as she didn't really have to do anything.

To Have and Have Not isn't anywhere near the greatest Bogie movie. But the pairing of him with Bacall, and the appearance of Hoagy Carmichael, makes it an indispensable part of the Bogart legend.

  Video
Contract

This is not the most brilliant transfer, but it's quite acceptable for a 60-year-old movie. It's on a par with The Maltese Falcon in terms of overall quality, but below the overall transfer quality of the two earlier movies in this collection.

Tonal values are fair, with good but not outstanding clarity, and with the print just falling short of the absolute best shadow and contrast subtleties. There's a fair bit of grain, but not enough to really disturb.

There are enough artefacts to suggest that more extensive restoration of the source material might have to be undertaken eventually. But it is, overall, a pretty decent viewing experience.

  Audio
Contract

The mono sound is clear and adequate for the dramatic purpose, without noticeable hiss or distortion. The only problem for some is that the PAL-induced lift in pitch does become noticeable in the important musical numbers with Hoagy Carmichael and Andy Williams (as mimed by Lauren Bacall). I've played this for contrast against an NTSC tranfer and the pitch increase is very noticeable.

  Extras
Contract

There's an 11-minute documentary, A Love Story: The Story of To Have and Have Not, which concentrates mostly on the love-affair between Bogie and Bacall. It's a reasonably entertaining effort, though too much time is spent on that relationship rather than on the making of the film itself.

Then there's a six-minute vintage colour Merrie Melodies cartoon Bacall to Arms, presented in reasonable condition, though showing some wear. It's tolerably amusing as we watch the cartoon characters act out some of the scenes from the movie - but it's a pretty lame effort compared to the best cartoons of this period.

The final extra feature is the original theatrical trailer, which of course focuses more on the pairing of Bogart and Bacall than on the movie itself. It's in reasonable condition, though poorer than the movie itself.

  Overall  
Contract

This is, overall, a pretty lame movie with a feeble plot-line. But I find it intensely viewable just to see the arrival of Bacall on the scene, and to watch the chemistry which develops so strongly between 19-year-old Betty Perske (her real name) and 44-year-old Bogart. And the scenes with Hoagy Carmichael deserve viewing again and again - this is vintage music-making at its best. It's certainly the only time I have ever enjoyed listening to Andy Williams!


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      And I quote...
    "When Bogart meets Bacall, the screen sizzles and the celluloid starts to melt, as the two lead players slowly fuse together..."
    - Anthony Clarke
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          Loewe Profil Plus 3272 68cm
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