Released: October 11, 1944 Running time 100 minutes
World War II dominated the news in the early months of 1943. From victory at Guadalcanal to defeat at the Kasserine Pass, American attention was focused on the war effort.
Although the March 1943 edition of Harper’s Bazaar magazine featured spring fashions, the cover was an appeal to donate blood for the cause. An attractive young woman holding a red pocketbook is shown standing in front of the door of an American Red Cross Blood Donor Services window. Her look is serious yet sultry.
In California, Slim Hawks was captivated by the look of this cover girl. She felt that this young woman had “a bit of the panther about her.” Knowing that her husband Howard was always searching for young girls to mold into actresses, she showed him the picture.
Whether Howard Hawks immediately recognized how much this model resembled his wife is uncertain but we do know that he immediately contacted agent Charlie Feldman and asked him to find this young model and bring her to California for a screen test.
On April 7, 1943, 18-year old Betty Jean Perske met the famous director at a lunch with Charlie Feldman at the Brown Derby in Beverly Hills. A little over thirteen months later, the film universe was startled by her performance as Slim in the Howard Hawks masterpiece “To Have and Have Not.” Betty Jean Perske was now known as Lauren Bacall and as she captured the heart of America, she also captured the heart of her co-star, Humphrey Bogart.
The sizzling on-screen chemistry of Bogart and Bacall is just part of what makes this picture such an important part of movie history.
Hawks biographer Todd McCarthy describes “To Have and Have Not” as the litmus test of the Howard Hawks body of work; “if one isn’t turned on by ‘To Have and Have Not,’ if it doesn’t make a viewer ‘see the light,’ as it were, then it is doubtful if any of his films will.”
Based quite loosely on the Ernest Hemingway novel of the same title with a major screenwriting contribution by William Faulkner, this might be the only Hollywood film to employ the talents of two Nobel Prize winning authors. In addition to the electrical performances of Bogart and Bacall, the movie features the ever-reliable Walter Brennan as Bogie’s rummy friend Eddie, songwriter Hoagy Carmichael in his first major screen role as a musician named Cricket, popular pinup girl Dolores Moran as the wife of a French resistance fighter, and future television producer Sheldon Leonard as Lt. Coyo. When talented actors are given a strong script with numerous memorable lines and are guided by the sure hand of a talented director, you have the makings of movie magic.“
To Have and Have Not” is sometimes called the Howard Hawks “Casablanca.” Despite the similarities, this Hawks creation stands on its own as a romantic adventure, true film classic and a full realization of his unique vision of how a man should interact with the world and how men and women in love should interact with each other.
Director: Howard Hawks
Producer: Howard Hawks and Jack L. Warner (executive producer)
Screenplay: Jules Furthman, William Faulkner, Cleve F. Adams (uncredited) and Whitman Chambers (uncredited) Ernest Hemingway (based on novel)
By following the life and art of Howard Hawks one can capture the true essence of the Golden Age of Hollywood, as if slipping on special lenses that suddenly pull away the grain and glare to reveal an unforgettable time of Movie Magic.