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To Have and Have Not

Screening on Film
Directed by Howard Hawks.
With Humphrey Bogart, Walter Brennan, Lauren Bacall.
US, 1944, 35mm, black & white, 100 min.
Print source: Warner Bros.

Rarely has Hollywood produced a male-female duo with more chemistry than Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, and To Have and Have Not, their first collaboration and Bacall’s onscreen debut, ranks among their most electric. The film, based on an undistinguished Ernest Hemingway novel whose complicated black-market plotting is thoroughly streamlined by Hawks in favor of character exploration, is defined by long, simmering sequences of flirtation between its two stars, who command a series of cramped two shots with an ongoing dynamic of physical intimacy, innuendo and battles of wit. Bogart is a charter ship owner in Vichy-occupied Martinique and Bacall is the singing American tourist who catches his eye from across the boat’s swarming cabaret. Both become embroiled in a fiasco involving French Resistance money and pesky Vichy policemen, but all of this is window dressing. To Have and Have Not is first and foremost one of Hawks’ most atmospherically distinctive films, conjuring in a studio backlot a dance of delicate and exotic energies, from Bacall’s sensuous whisper and Bogart’s wafting cigarette smoke to the humid island breezes and clammy air of secrecy.

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