Wednesday, September 05, 2007

To Have and Have Not

(movie Review)

Another old Humphrey Bogart movie. And once again he stars opposite Lauren Bacall as in "The Big Sleep" and "Key Largo". But actually I'm watching these out of order. This was the first movie that paired Bogart and Bacall up against each other and started the trend.

Also like "The Big Sleep" the screenwriting credits to this film go to none other than William Faulkner himself. And since the original book on which this film was based was written by Ernest Hemingway, I read somewhere on the internet that this is the first and only time in film history where a Nobel prize winner adopted the work of another Nobel prize winner for the silver screen.

Humphrey Bogart is once again playing his usual shtick as the reluctant hero who doesn't want to get involved in any trouble but is eventually forced by circumstances to act. It is more or less the same character he played in "Key Largo" and "Casablanca". By the third time I'm finding this role is wearing a bit thin, but I suppose it is my own fault for watching all of these Bogart movies together. I should probably have spaced them out a bit more.

Also like "Casablanca" this film takes place in a French colony and revolves around the political vacuum left by the capitulation of Paris and the struggle between the Vichy regime and the Free French Forces. Finally add to that the fact that one of Bogart's co-stars, Marcel Dalio, is the same from both movies, and it is easy to see why this film is often compared to "Casablanca". Which is unfortunate because "To Have and Have Not" suffers by the comparison. It is a good movie, but it is not in the same league as "Casablanca".

A few random thoughts about this movie
1)Like most people my image of Faulkner's screenwriting years is based off the movie "Barton Fink" (which, while I'm throwing movie recommendations around, is another movie worth watching, but that's a different subject for a different post). And although I know I shouldn't use satire as my primary source of information, I do remember a line from that movie when the mistress said the studio usually insisted Faulkner's screenplays include someone for the hero to protect, either a child or a mentally impaired man. (Or something like that, it's been a few years since I saw the movie. Does anyone out there remember the exact quote?)

Whether that line is based on fact or not I don't know, but there is a character in this movie, Eddie, who fits the bill exactly. He is referred to as a "rummy" by the other characters, but portrayed more like someone with autism. For one reason or another, Bogart's character has taken Eddie under his wing, and is constantly having to get him out of trouble or protect him from others.

I have nothing against autistics, but I always cringe a bit when they're played for comic relief in movies. Not only is it embarrassing to watch, it's just plain not funny. The character of Eddie functions similarly to Jar Jar Binks. He's not quite as bad as Jar Jar, but it's the same principle. There will be a dramatic scene, and Eddie will come in and just take it over with his child-like ramblings.

2). According the DVD extras "Making of" segment, the original Hemingway book dealt not with the conflict between Vichy and Free France but with the Cuban rebels. President Roosevelt was horrified about the studios making a film about rebellion in our ally Cuba, and so the Studio was threatened with having its export license revoked until they changed the setting of the movie.

I don't think artistically the movie suffers at all from this change, but it is disturbing to see these examples of government censorship. One wonders how many movies never got made because of this kind of pressure on the studios. One also can't help wondering how much of this is going on today.

3). According to Wikipedia (and every other review of this movie on the Internet) this movie is the source of one of the most famous lines in film history:
"You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and... blow."

...Hmmm, when I heard it I thought it sounded vaguely familiar, but I really can't think of any instance where I've encountered this line outside of the movie. Maybe I'm just a little out of it.

It was certainly nowhere as near familiar as "Badges? We don't need no stinkin' Badges!"

Link of the Day
Via this modern world
If you didn’t catch this in the NY Times over the weekend, author Robert Draper recently received unprecedented access to Bush, six full hours of private interviews
(Rest of blog posting and some excerpts here)

Also via Crooks and Liars is a clip of Keith Olbermann taking Bush to task for some of the things he said in the book. "Keith absolutely lays waste to President Bush’s lies and rhetoric about the surge"


Jon Trott said...

Okay, now you've gone and done it. I am nuts on Bogie, and wonder only one thing here. Where's "The Big Sleep?" Did I miss that review, or (horror of horrors) have you not seen it yet. Faulkner also did some of the writing for that one, esp. detectable in the early portion of the flick where Bogie and a frail male client (with a wicked past) are talking. Just talking, but the dialogue is wonderful. As is the movie. So... add it to your blog, could you? I wanna see what you think.

ジョエル said...

Thanks for the comment. Actually I think you might have just missed the review, because I put up a review of "The big sleep" a couple weeks ago. (In fact that was the film that got me started on this Bogart kick I've been working through). I think perhaps you missed it because I reviewed it last month, and so the link is now under the August archives instead of on the top of the blog archive.

Anyway, you can catch my review under the august archives, or follow this link here.