To Have and Have Not (1944) Directed by Howard Hawks
Today I am going to write about me, Bacall and my love relationships. Lets begin with fashion. My new clothes arrived from Paris today – yes, just before I ran out of money, I ordered skirts and pants through mail order and hoped for the best. The result: Perfect fit. This relates to the film under review, because I imagined Bacall's über-elegance to be of the French variety. It also relates because I made my choice for new garments with the hope of purchasing a little bit of sassiness. A boost of it.
Lauren Bacall is the queen of sassy. To Have and Have Not marks her entry into the world of cinema at the ripe age of 19, and what an impressive entry it is. She steals, barks, sings, and moves her hips to the music. She also smokes, lights matches and, importantly, delivers impeccable lines of abstract wit.
It is not surprising that Bogey acting opposite her, simply melted and fell in love (also in real life).
Bogart and Bacall had 16 years between them – it's the usual Hollywood age gap for a good healthy relationship! Having tested it myself, I can tell you it also works outside of Hollywood. Forget about Casablanca and the clean sweet mystery of Ingrid Bergman. Slim (Bacall) will talk dirty and still leave Martinique with you in the end.
Just so you can also be 'bitten by a dead bee': you need to watch and hear Hoagy Carmichael singing his song "Hong King Blues" in the middle of To Have and Have Not. Don't you think he adds yet another layer of cool to the film.
Anyway, here's my final word: I may be poor, but my French skirt fits.
What a woman Nancy 'Slim' Hawks (pictured below) must have been. An excellent article by David Thomson in this month's Sight and Sound tells us that Hawks' wife was the inspiration for Lauren Bacall's turn as ....you guessed it, Slim in To Have And Have Not. Not only this, but Bacall's clothes in the picture were like the real Slims' and some of the dialogue Bacall spoke came straight from Hawks' wife. Her marriage to Hawks sparked a new kind of woman character in Hawks' films: intelligent, independent and purring sexuality.
Casablanca. The plot is not so important, the sexual foreplay is everything.
Hawks' reputation is as one of the great directors of his time who could try his hand at anything. Gangsters in Scarface, romantic comedy in Bringing Up Baby, Noir in The Big Sleep and The Western in Red River to name but a few. The Bogart-Bacall love in would reach even higher sexual tension with The Big Sleep. But as I close my eyes and listen to Hoagy Charmichael's songs, I recall Bacall asking Bogart if he can whistle, my own love affair with the cinema is brought into clarifying euphoria.