"You know how to whistle don't you Steve..."
There are movie watching experiences and then there are TRANSFORMATIVE movie watching experiences. These are the kind that forever shift your viewpoint a bit. In the case of TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT, it came along at just the right moment in my budding cinephile period. I took a college film course, one of my first and it completely changed my life. That was where I was introduced to Howard Hawks and John Wayne. It was in that class, that things started to click into place for me in terms of what I wanted to focus on. I was already into classic films and so forth because of Danny Peary's Cult Movies books, so I had run across masterpieces like DOUBLE INDEMNITY and SUNSET BOULEVARD and they had impacted me greatly. I actually got to the point where I would see these films and then I'd buy them on VHS (yes, this was a long time ago) and then bring them home during my winter breaks to show my family. It became a regular thing that I would sit the family down and make them watch classic films and they actually tended to go over pretty well. TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT was one of those movies. After I saw it in class, I became obsessed with it. How could you not be drawn in by the chemistry between Bogie and Bacall? I hadn't seen very much Bacall at that time, but she captivated me immediately (as she has for so many folks over the years). She was this different kind of woman for a classic movie - much more individualistic and not just a stock character meant for the inevitable romantic subplot. She had a fire and a vibrance that made her impossible to take your eyes off of. Those eyes and that voice were simply mesmerizing as well. She truly gave me a sense of what it was to be a movie star. She just had that special something that made her stand out and whenever she was on screen, she literally pulled your eyes towards her. She had a presence that was like few other actresses I'd seen. She was part of the reason that my passion for classic films grew and grew when I was in college. I was convinced that if there were actors like her that were totally and utterly compelling to watch, I must seek out more of them. I really think that's all it takes to get someone addicted to classic cinema. You just need those one or two actors to draw you in and then you watch more movies and you come to know other actors from the period and suddenly you're hooked. It's really not much different than keeping up with all the "hot" actors of today, but you can do it at your own pace and you don't have any publicity machines shoving people down your throat so you can take your time find the folks that you really appreciate. The amazing thing about Bacall in TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT is that it was Bacall's first film and she's only nineteen years old! It's a fascinating thing to see Bogart falling for her as you watch the movie. She is really a special lady.
Now TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT came out a few years after CASABLANCA and thus it's hard not to draw some comparisons between the two films. And while Ingrid Bergman is one of the loveliest and most talented actresses of the time, she just doesn't have the same smoldering sensuality that Bacall has. Bacall almost makes Bergman feel stuffy by comparison and that's really saying something. Beyond the remarkable leading ladies that Bogart played opposite in both films, TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT and CASABLANCA also have some plot similarities. The "I stick my neck out for nobody"attitude that Bogart personified as Rick Blane carries right over to his turn as Harry Morgan. Bogart is also dealing with the Free French and helping out one of their leaders as he did in CASABLANCA. Also, both movies have a piano playing sidekick (Hoagy Carmichael in the case of TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT). The two films make great companion pieces to each other, but it seems to me that TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT gets much less love these days. Case in point, it is only now getting a Blu-ray release now in 2016 whereas CASABLANCA got the HD treatment years ago. Granted, it's a lovely looking Blu-ray and I am more than grateful that it has finally come out, but it seems like a movie that should have hit Blu-ray a while ago. That said, I hope (as I always do) that more folks will be drawn to the movie now that it is available this way. It is a true classic and worthy of the Cadillac treatment. This Blu-ray looks great and is an essential for any fan of great cinema.
-BACALL TO MY ARMS (1946) (Vintage Merrie Melodies Short w/ animated versions of Bacall and Bogie).
-"A Love Story: The Story of TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT".
-Lux Radio Broadcast of TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT starring Bogart and Bacall.