Today, I'm writing about the legendary romance between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall that began on the set of To Have and Have Not (1944).
This article is part of the You Must Remember This . . . A Kiss Is Just a Kiss Blogathon hosted by Second Sight Cinema.
A kiss was more than just a kiss for Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. The romance between Bogie and his "Baby" is one of old Hollywood's great love stories, but the couple might never have met without several twists of fate that involved Harper's Bazaar, a director who was looking for the next big thing, and two of the 20th century's greatest writers.
Bogie and Bacall met on the set of To Have and Have Not, a World War II thriller about deep-sea fishing captain, Harry "Steve" Morgan (Bogart), who, through a series of twists and turns, becomes involved in the French Resistance on the Caribbean island of Martinique. Harry also becomes involved with a mysterious blonde beauty, Marie "Slim" Browning (Bacall), who makes her living by filching wallets from wealthy tourists. Despite Harry's misgivings, he is irresistibly attracted to Slim, especially after this smoldering scene, which is one of the most iconic kisses in movie history (clip below).
To Have and Have Not's path to the screen began as a playful bet between director Howard Hawks and writer Ernest Hemingway. The pair often fished and hunted together, and Hawks told Hemingway that he was going to make a good movie from the "worst piece of junk you ever wrote," which in Hawks' estimation was Hemingway's 1937 novel about a Key West rum-runner who gets mixed up in revolutionary activities in Cuba.
Hawks hired veteran screenwriter Jules Furthman to work on the script. He turned in a screenplay that was very faithful to the novel, but this displeased President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration, who did not want any negative depictions of Cuba onscreen -- at that time, the island nation was an important US ally in the fight against the axis powers -- so William Faulkner was hired for a rewrite. It was Faulkner's idea to move the setting to Martinique, and he changed the plot structure to be more like Bogart's 1942 blockbuster, Casablanca.
Meanwhile, Hawks was getting into the star-making business. Bogart was always slated to play Harry, but Hawks wanted to find a promising newcomer for the role of Slim. Hawks' wife spotted Bacall on the cover of Harper's Bazaar, and the director was immediately taken by 18-year-old Bronx native's striking beauty and slim figure. Hawks brought her to Hollywood, where he put her under a seven-year personal contract (he would eventually sell the contract to Warner Bros.), and set about making Bacall into a movie star. Hawks, who had a rather odd fascination with husky voiced women, particularly focused on Bacall's voice: He required her to read aloud for several hours per day to deepen her already naturally low speaking voice.
Although Bogart is undoubtedly the star of To Have and Have Not, Bacall is sensational in her part, stealing every scene she's in with her sassy charm and idiosyncratic mannerisms that became known as "The Look." Hawks, and especially Bogart, who by now had fallen hard for his attractive co-star, coached Bacall extensively throughout the production. In fact, Hawks expected Bogart to be jealous of Bacall; instead, Bogie was delighted with Bacall's performance and freely allowed her to walk off with the movie, especially in the "whistle" scene, which Hawks had written as a showcase for the Slim character.
|Lauren Bacall, Marcel Dalio, and Humphrey Bogart in To Have and Have Not (1944).|
That scene, which features one of the most famous kisses in Hollywood history, was actually used for Bacall's screen test. It impressed Warner's studio executives when Bacall played the scene with an unknown actor, but when she and Bogart were together, their powerful chemistry made Hollywood history. As Leonard Maltin says in the documentary "Love Story: The Story of To Have and Have Not" there was always an "extra kick" when Bogart and Bacall were together onscreen. "Bogart was smitten with his leading lady, and I don't thinks it's unfair to say that it shows on camera," he said. "We are eyewitnesses to an actress and actor falling in love."
When To Have and Have Not was released in October 1944 it was a huge hit and Bacall became an overnight sensation. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times raved that Bacall was "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," while the critic at Variety wrote "she's an arresting personality in whom Warners has what the scouts would call a find. She can slink, brother, and no fooling!"
Bogart, Bacall, and Hawks were immediately re-teamed for the classic film noir, The Big Sleep (1946), and the couple made two more films together (Dark Passage and Key Largo) without Hawks.. Bogie and Bacall were married on May 21, 1945, in a simple ceremony at a farmhouse in Lucas, Ohio, owned by Bogart's good friend, Louis Bromfield. They became the parents of two children and remained happily married until Bogart's death in 1957.
To Have and Have Not is available on DVD and video on demand.