Made while World War II was still going on, To Have and Have Not, based on the Hemingway novel, was great wartime escapist entertainment. That it holds up as well as it does fifty years later is a tribute to the skilled writing, acting, and directing talents involved. We are talking entertainment here, not art. In Hollywood back then film was seen as product, box office receipts were the goal. Nothing wrong with that. What they made then is head and shoulders over most films with similar criteria made today. They didn’t need to bowl us over with special effects, they didn’t feel it necessary to condescend to the audience’s intelligence, and they knew how to edit a movie down to a tight hour and a half or so, unpadded with director’s egos.
William Faulkner is listed as one of the screenwriters. Same guy who wrote great American novels. But Faulkner was in Hollywood for money, not literature. And his less known co-writer, Jules Furthman, had a history that went back to silent film and included such classics as Morocco, the original version of Mutiny on the Bounty with Charles Laughton and Clark Gable, and The Way of All Flesh. This is a writer who knew how to write for the screen. He gives us colorful, believable, varied characters, a story that moves right along, enough anti-Vichy politics to keep the wartime emotions engaged, and dialogue that snaps right off the screen.
Producer/director Howard Hawks brings together the steamy chemistry of Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart, along with good character acting from Walter Brennan and some terrific musical relief from Hoagy Carmichael.
"You won’t have to sing much in that outfit," Bogart says admiringly to Bacall when she enters the cafe to perform wearing a gown with a deep decollete. She doesn’t. According to IMDB, Bacall’s singing was dubbed by Andy Williams! Well….it would have made a good tag here, but Hawks decided to go with Bacall and they used her husky voice in the soundtrack.