With an eye to the lucrative box-office of its Casablanca, the brothers Warner turned out another epic of similar genre in a none-too-literal adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s novel To Have and Have Not. There are enough similarities in both films to warrant more than cursory attention, even to the fact that Humphrey Bogart is starred in each, though this story of Vichy France collaborationism is not up to Warners’ melodramatic story standards.
Though Have Not was one of Hemingway’s inferior novels – whose theme of rum-running was certainly antithetical to the film’s story of French collaboration – it affords considerable picture interest because of some neat characterizations. And it introduces Lauren Bacall, in her first picture. She’s an arresting personality. She can slink, brother, and no fooling!
Yarn deals with the intrigue centering around the Caribbean island of Martinique, owned by France, and the plotting that ensued there prior to its ultimate capitulation to Allied pressure. Bogart is an American pressure. skipper there who hires out his boat to anyone who has the price. When he becomes involved in the local Free French movement, the story’s pattern becomes woven around him, at times in cops-and-robbers fashion.
Warners give the pic its usually nifty productional accoutrements, and that includes casting, musical scoring and Howard Hawks’ direction but the basic story is too unsteady.
Bogart is in his usual metier, a tough guy who, no less, has the facility of making a dame go for him, instead of he for her. That’s where Bacall comes in. Walter Brennan, as Bogart’s drunken sidekick; Dolores Moran, as the film’s second looker; and songwriter Hoagy Carmichael have lesser roles that they handle to advantage.