“You save France; I’m going to save my boat.”
After the untimely death of his highest-paying customer (Walter Sande), a charter boat owner (Humphrey Bogart) in WWII-era Martinique agrees to help the patriotic owner of a hotel-cafe (Marcel Dalio) by transporting a resistance fighter (Walter Szurovy) and his wife (Dolores Moran) to safety; meanwhile, Bogart’s alcoholic shipmate (Walter Brennan) remains a liability, but a sexy young singer (Lauren Bacall) promises romantic adventure.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Howard Hawks Films
- Humphrey Bogart Films
- Lauren Bacall Films
- Resistance Fighters
- Walter Brennan Films
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary suggests that viewers “forget the Hemingway novel on which William Faulkner and Jules Furthman supposedly based their script” for Howard Hawks’ “reworking of Casablanca,” and points out the many parallels between the two films, noting that once again “Bogart’s an American expatriate… who’s trying to ignore the political situation” but “eventually… becomes inspired by [some resistance fighters] and intolerant of the fascists in power and joins their cause”. In this flick, however, Bogart is less enamored with the beautiful wife (Dolores Moran) of the resistance fighter (Walter Molnar) — i.e., Ingrid Bergman’s role in Casablanca — and is instead smitten by Lauren Bacall’s ‘Slim’, “the husky-voiced singer [who] has no part in the political-action story” but “makes the most of… [her] limited screen time in her movie debut”, “slinking around a room, in control of her sexual impulses but making it obvious what’s on her mind”. Peary argues that while “the film itself becomes confusing and klutzy, the ending is weak, and the secondary characters are poor substitutes for Casablanca‘s memorable cast of heroes and villains”, “every time Bogie and Bacall have a scene together, we feel the romance that was building on and off camera”.
Indeed, Bogart and Bacall’s romantic tension drives the film: it’s impossible to imagine this movie being nearly so memorable without Bacall in her breakthrough role, or the genuine sparks that went flying between the two. With her peekaboo hair and sultry voice, Bacall is simply dynamite. (Click here to see an edited section from the animated “Merrie Melodies” spoof “Bacall to Arms”, re-enacting some of Bogie and Bacall’s most memorable onscreen moments.) Walter Brennan turns in yet another solid supporting performance as Bogie’s “rummy” shipmate, whose extreme drinking problem is played for laughs at times, but also acknowledged for the deadly serious gamble is presents (what will or won’t Brennan do or say for another drink?). Also notable is Hoagy Carmichael’s presence as “Cricket”, a piano-songwriter who accompanies Bacall on several memorable ditties. Thankfully, the film’s more-faithful-to-the-novel remake The Breaking Point (1950) — co-starring John Garfield and Patricia Neal — is differently excellent, and also well worth a look.
Note: See this TCM article for fascinating insights into how and why the locale was shifted from the original Cuban setting in Hemingway’s novel.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Lauren Bacall as “Slim” (nominated as one of the Best Actresses of the Year in Peary’s Alternate Oscars)
- Humphrey Bogart as Harry Morgan (nominated as one of the Best Actors of the Year in Alternate Oscars)
- Walter Brennan as Eddie
- Hoagy Carmichael’s songs
- Sidney Hickox’s atmospheric cinematography
- A sassy, hard-boiled script: “I’m hard to get, Steve. All you have to do is ask me.”
Yes, as an enduring classic.
- Genuine Classic
- Noteworthy Performance(s)
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)