Tag Archives: Howard Hawks

The Second Lauren Bacall Blogathon: To Have And Have Not (1944)

Lauren bacall

Crystal over at In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood is hosting this second annual blogathon celebrating Lauren Bacall. Be sure to visit Crystal’s site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

For this blogathon I’ve decided to write about To Have and Have Not, which is my favourite Lauren Bacall film.

Whenever I watch this film, I always find it so hard to believe that Lauren’s performance in this was actually her film debut. Lauren is so natural and confident in this film, that I for one really can’t tell that she is a beginner actor. Lauren steals every single scene she is in, and it is her performance as the feisty Slim that I always remember the most when the film is over. 

Lauren was nineteen years old when she was cast by director Howard Hawks in this film. Up to this point in her life she had been working as a model. Lauren’s photo had been spotted on the front cover of a magazine by Nancy “Slim” Keith, who was the wife of Howard Hawks. Slim showed Lauren’s photo to her husband. Howard sought Lauren out and signed her up for his upcoming film To Have And Have Not

To Have And Have Not

Lauren in a publicity photo for the film. Image source IMDb.

The film was based upon the 1937 novel of the same name, which had been written by Ernest Hemingway. Howard Hawks changed the story location from Key West to WW2 era Martinique. Hawks kept the main plot of the novel, but he focused more intently on the relationship that develops between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall’s characters. The 1950 film The Breaking Point is a much more faithful screen adaptation of Hemingway’s novel. 

I don’t think that Lauren Bacall could have possibly envisaged how much this film would end up changing her life. Not only did this film help to make her a star, but working in this film also changed her personal life forever.

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Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart as Slim and Harry. Screenshot by me.

During the making of this film, Lauren and her co-star, Humphrey Bogart, fell in love with each other and began an affair. Their affair led to Bogie divorcing his wife, the actress Mayo Methot, and marrying Lauren in 1945. Bogie and Bacall’s marriage lasted until Bogie’s death from cancer in 1957. 

The chemistry between Bogie and Bacall is evident on screen in all four of the films they made together. In To Have and Have Not, I think that their chemistry is absolutely electric. Most of their scenes ooze with sexual tension and a genuine affection for one another.

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An intimate moment for Slim and Harry. Screenshot by me.

I love that we are not watching two actors pretending to be in love in this film, we are actually witnessing the actors real feelings and longing for one another. As the characters of Slim and Harry fall in love with one another in the film, so to do Bogie and Bacall. 

                 Harry and Slim set eyes on each other for the first time. Screenshot by me.

When we watch this film, we are literally watching the mutual real life attraction between Bogie and Bacall develop and grow before our very eyes. The fact that the attraction between them is real helps the film immensely in my opinion. Their chemistry helps us to believe the growing bond and attraction developing between Slim and Harry. 

Bogie and Bacall’s characters affectionately call one another by the nicknames of Steve and Slim, those nicknames were what Howard Hawks and his wife Nancy called one another. Bogart and Bacall would later name their own son Steve.  

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Harry and Slim. Equal partners. Screenshot by me.

The relationship between Slim and Harry is one of my favourites from all of the equal romantic partnerships found in Howard Hawks films. Both characters are fiercely independent and strong. Both characters also find something in the other that has been missing from their lives up until their point of meeting.

In Harry’s case he finds in Slim a woman who can live with him as an equal, a woman who can accept him for how he is, and a woman who isn’t afraid of risk or of hard times.

In Slim’s case she finds in Harry someone who she feels safe with, she also finds him to be someone who gives her a reason to finally stop drifting. When Slim and Harry are together they can have fun together, they can let their guard down, and they can be intimate and vulnerable with one another. 

Slim is one of the best of the Hawksian women in my opinion. She is strong, confident, sassy, sexy, tough, and very intelligentSlim has clearly been hurt in the past and is quite vulnerable, but she covers her pain with a tough and confident veneer. Slim is also very forward in conveying her attraction to Harry. He loves how forward she is and he loves how confident she is around him. Their relationship is a mix of emotional connection, friendship and sexual attraction. They really are the perfect fit for one another. 

The film takes place on the French island of Martinique as WW2 rages. Martinique is under the control of the Vichy government, who are working with the Nazis.  Harry Morgan(Humphrey Bogart)is a sardonic American fisherman. Harry makes a fairly good living chartering his boat out to tourists. He is helped by his alcoholic and loveable friend Eddie(Walter Brennan).

Eddie is the films comic relief and is always randomly asking people if they were ever stung by a dead bee. Many people laugh at Eddie and dismiss him as a drunk, but Harry looks after Eddie, gives him a job, and doesn’t take kindly to any nasty talk about him.

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Frenchy. Screenshot by me.

Harry is approached by Frenchy(Marcel Dalio)who is a member of the growing resistance movement. Frenchy asks Harry to use his boat to smuggle people off the island. Harry initially refuses(perhaps his refusal represents the neutrality of America during the early years of WW2?) to help out because he fears the consequences if he does.

Harry meets a young pickpocket called Marie Browning(Lauren Bacall). He nicknames her Slim, and she nicknames him Steve. The pair develop an instant attraction and like each other very much. Harry changes his mind and agrees to help the resistance out. 

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Harry treating an injured resistance member. Screenshot by me.

Slim also gets involved with Harry and the resistance and helps them out however she can. Harry and his friends must try and evade the notice of the watchful officials.

The film highlights the dangers that the members of the resistance were always in. The film also reminds us how much the brave men and women who were a part of that risked their lives.

I like that Harry changes his mind and lends the resistance a helping hand. As the film goes on he also becomes less sardonic and stops thinking of his own self interest. The film highlights the moral need in times such as WW2 for us all to pull together,overcome differences, stop thinking solely of ourselves, and bravely stand up and fight the enemy.

The film has lots of thrills, action and suspense. As is always the case in a Howard Hawks film, there is also a great deal of character development and focus, this makes the characters come across to us as being real people. 

While the resistance story is very good, I would have liked to have seen more of that storyline and a bit more of the risks the characters involved are taking. I think it is fair to say that what makes this film so memorable is the relationship between Harry and Slim, rather than the resistance storyline. I’m quite sure that this film would not be as much of a classic today if Bogie and Bacall had not been cast in the roles of Harry and Slim. 

My favourite scenes are the following. The opening sequences on Harry’s boat with the tourist fisherman. The “you do know how to whistle”? scene. Slim and Harry being questioned by the authorities. Harry protecting Slim in the shootout, and in the middle of all that she totally keeps her cool and jokes that she has sat on a cigarette.   

All the cast are very good here, but Lauren steals every single scene she is in. It was quite an achievement for Lauren to manage to hold her own opposite all the experienced actors she was working with in this. A new classic film star twinkled into existence in this film. The name of that star was Lauren Bacall.   

I recently discovered a radio series on YouTube which stars Bogie and Bacall. I’m really enjoying working my way through it. The series is called Bold Venture. It aired between 1951 and 1952. The series is clearly influenced by To Have And Have Not. It’s all about the adventures of Shannon(Bogie)and his sidekick/love interest nicknamed Sailor(Lauren). It’s well worth a listen to if you’ve never heard it before. Perhaps we could imagine the radio series to be the continuing adventures of Slim and Steve?

What do you think of this film? What do you think of Lauren’s debut performance here?

 

Hawksian Women

Howard Hawks is one of my favourite classic era American film directors. I love how the main focus of his films is always the characters. He really lets us see his characters personalities, and he lets us get a good sense of what they are enduring as the film goes along.

Howard shows us his characters strengths, their flaws, and their quirks. In his films he makes his characters come across to us as very real people, and we find that we can connect to them in some way. I especially love that in his films men and women are depicted as being equals. This screen depiction is very refreshing to see.

His films also show us that men can have moments where they are vulnerable, and more importantly, that it is perfectly fine for them to be vulnerable. Howard Hawks shows us that men don’t have to be tough guys every second of every day. He also shows us that women are not delicate and fragile beings to be protected. Hawks shows us what we women know already, that we can be as tough, daring and capable as any man can be. 

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Ann Sheridan in I Married A Male War Bride. Screenshot by me.

I especially love the female characters found in Howard Hawks films. Known as Hawksian Women, these female characters can match the male characters every step of the way.

Howards’s female characters are strong, tough, witty, determined, sexy and opinionated gals.

They can verbally spar with men with great ease. They are also very confident and can easily become one of the boys as and when required. 

I also like that the Hawksian women retain their femininity and that they do not become overly masculine, this is in sharp contrast to some of the strong female characters found in James Cameron’s films. In Cameron’s films women such as Vasquez in Aliens and Sarah Connor in Terminator 2, often become more masculine in order to appear tougher.

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Jean Arthur in Only Angels Have Wings. Screenshot by me.

Hawksian women carry both female and male qualities within them, but they never have to grow big muscles and act all macho to prove that they can be one of the boys. Hawksian women are accepted and admired by the men they know. The men admire their courage, and also love their sense of adventure and boldness.

Hawk’s films also gave some of the finest actresses of the classic film era a chance to deliver performances which rank amongst their greatest and most unforgettable film work. These performances are also usually the first  that spring to mind when thinking of these actresses. 

Although there were many other tough and smart female characters found in other films in the classic era, such female characters were always a regular feature in Howard Hawks films.

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Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday. Screenshot by me.

Who can forget Jean Arthur being one of the lads in Only Angels Have Wings? Lauren Bacall as the tough and vulnerable Slim in To Have and Have Not? Rosalind Russell as the fast talking newspaper reporter in His Girl Friday? Charlene Holt and Michele Carey as two very different women in terms of how they dress and make a living, but both being Hawksian women in El Dorado? Barbara Stanwyck as the saucy and wisecracking dancer in Ball Of Fire? Ann Sheridan as the wisecracking Army Lieutenant in I Was A Male War Bride?

I love that in Howard’s films even very minor female characters make quite an impact. Two of of my favourite minor Hawksian women can be found in The Big Sleep(1946).

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Dorothy Malone in The Big Sleep. Screenshot by me.

The first is Dorothy Malone as the woman who works in the bookshop.

She steals every second of the scene she is in with Bogie.We see right away that she is intelligent, observant, focused, sexy, and that she is more than up for something to break up the ordinary rhythm of her working day.

The banter between her and Bogie is first rate and very risque. Their banter, coupled with the way they eye each other up and down, really makes you wonder how this scene ever made it past the censors.

I also love how Bogie calls her pal. In so many cases the Hawksian woman is accepted as a friend by men. Hawksian Women become one of the gang, and there is often an emotional connection that develops between men and a Hawksian Woman long before a relationship turns even remotely sexual. I think that Hawksian women represent what marriage and relationships are ideally meant to be all about; friendship, equality, intimacy and sexual desire. 

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Joy Barlow and Bogie in the Taxi driver scene in The Big Sleep. Screenshot by me.

My other favourite minor character in this film is the taxi driver played by Joy Barlow.  I love the way she delivers her lines during the back and forth banter between her character and Marlowe’s.

The taxi driver also stands out because she is a woman doing a job traditionally done by a man. I think that she represents the millions of women who found their independence during WW2, and who wouldn’t give up working after the men arrived back home. 

Undoubtedly the quintessential Hawksian woman is Lauren Bacall. Lauren was discovered by Howard’s second wife, Nancy “Slim” Keith, who saw Lauren’s photo in a magazine and showed it to Howard. He then cast Lauren alongside Humphrey Bogart in To Have and Have Not.

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Lauren Bacall as Slim in To Have and Have Not. Screenshot by me.

Lauren’s character in this is called Slim, and Bogie’s is called Steve. In real life those names were the nicknames that Howard and Nancy called one another by.

Nancy was the Hawksian woman for Howard in real life, and Lauren was the perfect Hawksian woman in his films. 

Lauren conveys all of the necessary Hawksian qualities in her performances as Slim in To Have and Have Not and as Vivian in The Big Sleep. It is really hard for me to imagine any other actress playing those characters in way that Lauren did. 

Sadly the appearance of the Hawksian Woman on screen declined in the late 50’s and early 60’s. In the 80’s and 90’s some female characters emerged who did have all of those Hawksian qualities. Characters like Marion Ravenwood in Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Melanie in One Fine Day, Laura Holt in Remington Steele(TV series) and Jennifer Hart in Hart To Hart(TV series) helped keep the Hawksian Woman alive in film. Going further back in time, I would also class Nora Charles in The Thin Man films, and Tess Harding in Woman Of The Year to be Hawksian Women.  

I love watching Howard Hawks films and seeing all of those smart, strong, inspirational, sexy, funny and fiercely independent women. So many of these characters could serve as role models, as they are women who go after what they want and won’t be held back in the process, women who can work alongside men and fit in with them, without sacrificing their femininity in the process, and women who are smart and determined.  

My favourite Hawksian women are the following. 

Bonnie Lee in Only Angels Have Wings. I love how fun loving and bubbly she is. I also love how she overcomes her shock and anger at how the men in this film deal with grief. It isn’t easy for her to change to their way of dealing with grief and loss, but she gives it a go and she becomes a valued and beloved member of the group of pilots and ground crew.

Slim in To Have and Have Not. I love how she is a survivor, she has been on her own for so long and hasn’t had the best life, but she takes care of herself just fine. She is certainly tough, but she is also deeply vulnerable and can be easily hurt. When she meets Steve she can let her guard down, he knows she is tough, smart and tough talking, but he also sees what is beneath all that and knows what she has been through and tries to help her see she isn’t alone any more. 

The bookshop lady in The Big Sleep. Smart, observant, and sexy.  I also really love that she is a character who wears glasses, as there are so few female characters I’ve come across in films of this time period who wear them. I always get so mad when things get physical between them and Bogie makes her take them off! I’m like, dude what’s wrong if she has to wear glasses?  LOL

What are your thoughts on Hawksian Women? Who are your favourite female characters in Howard Hawks films?