Hollywood's second version of Hemingway's minor novel To Have and Have Not turns out to be a spanking good adventure story, ranging from California to Mexico and exploiting the coastal locations to the limit. Garfield is the ill-starred owner of a charter boat trying to support his wife,
Thaxter, and two daughters, but business is abysmally bad. Dumke, a flashy sports fisherman, and his live-in lady friend, Neal, hire Garfield to take them to Mexico, where Dumke skips out without paying for the ride, leaving Garfield stranded with Neal and a docking fee he cannot pay. A seedy
lawyer, Ford, induces him to smuggle Chinese people into the United States for $200 a head, but Garfield is double-crossed by the Chinese leader who is killed, leaving Garfield no choice but to dump the remaining Chinese into shallow Mexican waters. The Coast Guard gets wind of the smuggling
attempt and impounds Garfield's boat, so he returns home despondent and has a brief sexual fling with the willing Neal. Ford meanwhile gets a court order freeing the boat and blackmails Garfield into taking a bunch of hoodlums to an island in international waters to deliver stolen racetrack
receipts. En route, Garfield's alcoholic first mate and best friend, Hernandez, is killed by the crooks and Garfield in turn kills the hoods one by one in a brilliant action sequence on a moving fishing boat, with a complex arrangement of angles, setups, and cuttings. A Coast Guard cutter finds
the wounded Garfield and brings him to home port, where he is reunited with his wife and kids. The final scene is the most eloquent in the film: the crowd on the dock drifts away as an ambulance takes Garfield to the hospital. The scene is empty except for a little black boy, Hernandez's son. The
boy stands motionless, looking for his father along the dock, and the camera pulls away. In his last film for Warner Brothers, under Curtiz, a director who always brought out the best in his acting style, Garfield turns in a first-class performance as the strong man worn down by his failure.
MacDougall's screenplay is admirably true to Hemingway's novel (its California setting in no way violates the book's intentions), and he keeps it a very realistic story, the kind Garfield worked best at, allowing the actor to drop some of his bad habits for a performance totally under control.
Neal, as the whore, and Thaxter, whose secret is the fact that she knows all of her husband's faults and loves him just the same, are both excellent in their roles. (Remake of TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT; remade as THE GUN RUNNERS.)
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Hollywood's second version of Hemingway's minor novel To Have and Have Not turns out to be a spanking good adventure story, ranging from California to Mexico and exploiting the coastal locations to the limit. Garfield is the ill-starred owner of a charter… (more)