The Critics' Corner: TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT
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"The best of the picture has no plot at all, but is a leisurely series of mating duels between Humphrey Bogart at his most proficient and the very entertaining, nervy, adolescent new blonde, Lauren Bacall. Whether or not you like the film will depend I believe almost entirely on whether you like Miss Bacall...about all that Howard Hawks and his writers - and Bogart try to do is to set this arrogant neophyte off to the best possible advantage, to cover up her weaknesses - or turn them into assets - and to toss campstools under her whenever she wobbles. This in itself is a pleasure to watch; so is the way she rewards them; still more, I enjoyed watching something that obviously involved relaxed, improvising fun for those who worked on it." - James Agee, The Nation, November 1944.
"There is much more character than story in the telling of this tough and tight-lipped tale, and much more atmosphere than action of the usual muscular sort. And that¿is generally just as well. For Mr. Bogart is best when his nature is permitted to smolder in the gloom and his impulse to movement is restricted by a caution bred of cynical doubt...Lauren Bacall, a blondish newcomer, is plainly a girl with whom to cope. Slumberous of eye and softly reedy along the lines of Veronica Lake, she acts in the quiet way of catnip and sings a song from deep down in her throat." - Bosley Crowther, New York Times, October 1944.
To Have and Have Not affords considerable picture interest because of some neat characterizations. And it introduces a newcomer, Lauren Bacall, in her first picture. She's an arresting personality in whom Warners has what the scouts would call a find. She can slink, brother, and no fooling! Warners has given the pic its usual nifty productional accoutrements, and that includes casting, musical scoring and Howard Hawks' direction, but the basic story is too unsteady. Carmichael as an actor is somewhat of a surprise: he's actually playing himself, a pianist-songwriter in the Martinique cafe that affords the story's background. He and Johnny Mercer have collabbed on one tune that merits more than passing attention, "How Little We Know." - Kahn, Variety, 1944.
"Don't be misled: it's the Warners mixture as before - sex and politics - but better this time...This film belongs to the movie era in which characters were clearly defined, and if a man was perverse, you knew he was a Nazi. The refreshingly, daringly sexy Bacall burst through the conventions of the era. A writer said of her that her "husky, underslung voice, which is ideal for the double-entendre, makes even her simplest remarks sound like jungle mating cries." - Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies.
"An unassuming masterpiece...this is Hawks' toughest statement of the necessity of accepting responsibility for others or forfeiting one's self-respect - the sum total of morality for Hawks - and the perfect bridge from the free and open world of Only Angels Have Wings  to the claustrophobic one of Rio Bravo ." - Phil Hardy, TimeOut Film Guide.
"The film itself becomes confusing and klutzy, the ending is weak, and the secondary characters are poor substitutes for Casablanca's (1942) memorable cast of heroes and villains. But every time Bogie and Bacall have a scene together, we feel the romance that was building on and off camera." - Danny Peary Guide For the Film Fanatic.
Compiled by John Miller