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Vintage Videos: Bacall, Bogart's chemistry ignites

POSTED: August 21, 2014 1:00 a.m.
/Associated Press

Lauren Bacall portrays Slim and Humphrey Bogart portrays Steve in the 1944 film "To Have and To Have Not."

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Last week was a sad one in Hollywood. One day after comedian Robin Williams was found dead, legendary actress Lauren Bacall died.

I remember the first Lauren Bacall movie I ever saw was “How To Marry A Millionaire.” And I remember thinking how sharp she was. I loved her presence, intelligence and the powerful air she brought to the movie. She was never behind, always two steps ahead.

Though she made many films, the raspy voiced, sultry and quick-witted actress quickly made a name for herself at age 19 in the film “To Have and Have Not.” She starred in the film opposite her future husband, Humphrey Bogart.

So what better movie to watch than her golden debut and the film where one of Hollywood’s greatest romances, on and off screen, started?

Directed by Howard Hawks, “To Have and Have Not” is based on the Ernest Hemingway novel of the same title, though the book’s story line was changed for the film in 1944.

Set on the island of Martinique at short time after the fall of France during World War II, fishing boat captain Harry “Steve” Morgan (Bogart) is helping the French Resistance smuggle people onto the island as all options for other financial income fail.

Marie Browning (Bacall), better known as “Slim,” is an American traveler who visiting the island. She spends much of her day as a singer in the club where Steve spends his time.

As with most war-romance-related films, the film strikes a balance between love and politics. The relationship between Steve and Slim heats up throughout the movie, especially in one legendary scene between Bacall and Bogart. Slim teaches Steve how to whistle by saying her now famous line: “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and ... blow.”

But when the movie isn’t on fire from the chemistry between Bacall and Bogart, we follow Steve through his struggles of illegally smuggling people into Martinique for the French Resistance and the consequences that ultimately come from those decisions. Sigh.

Politics aside, what really makes “To Have and Have Not” shine is the pairing of Bogart and Bacall. It becomes even more profound knowing they married in real life shortly after, which lasted until Bogart’s death in 1957.

“To Have and Have Not” immortalized Bacall in a debut unlike many others Hollywood has ever seen. Full of wit and confidence, she has always been a favorite actress of mine and one who certainly made her mark in cinematic history.

Chelsea Tench is a columnist for The Times. She can be reached at


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