Bogart & Bacall made a few films together, today…we’re going to check them out.
To Have and Have Not is more than the acting debut of Lauren Bacall. It is a fascinating look at how an early literary adaptation got altered by the Roosevelt Administration. FDR didn’t care for how the original novel showed how easy it was to smuggle goods between Florida and Cuba. So, the affair was reworked into a Wartime effort about how much the Nazis suck. Suddenly, the French Resistance were heroes and every American needed to do their part to help.
Many have brought up how similar the film plays to “Casablanca”. Well, “Casablanca” was the monster hit of that decade and there are 100s of similar era films that strike a resemblance. The American Studio System had an even investment in making Wartime Propaganda look appealing. Daring men and mysterious women work together to make sure that the evils of the Axis never spread to American shores. Bit character actors could killed left and right, it didn’t matter. What mattered was that we got a jaunty song and people came together for the American dream. It’s also the film that made Bogey realize he likes ’em young.
The Big Sleep has been adapted several times. While this isn’t the version I prefer, it’s nice to see the Howard Hawks touches.
“Dark Passage” is best remembered for hiding Bogart’s face for nearly the entire film. Bogart’s character has recently had major surgery to change his face, after he escaped from prison. It’s OK, as Bogart was framed for murder. Now on the lam, Bogart teams up with Bacall to clear his name. Delmar Daves is an insanely talented Noir director, but the film is structurally unsound. Bacall disappears for a chunk of the movie, Bogart is hidden and the final reveal feels like it belonged in a TV show. Comic fans will pick up on a few tidbits that Frank Miller would later reuse in his Sin City comics with Dwight. But, what about what doesn’t get used?
So much of what worked centered around the few times we got Bacall and Bogart together unfiltered. But, there’s a reason why this is considered the least of their team-ups. The film lacks any real direction and it feels like a prolonged gimmick to tell a lackluster story. Film nerds would do well to read up on Jack Warner’s angry attempts to try and “fix” the film. But, sometimes…a studio mogul moves to late. It’s a pretty average Film Noir, but the complicated history makes it that much more interesting.
Key Largo makes Florida look tolerable…years ago in the past.