Sunday, March 4, 2018

Don't Make a Scene: To Have and Have Not

The Story: Howard Hawks called it "three-corner dialog" (according to Frank Capra, who used the director's advice to write a similar scene in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington), after the pool-shot that caroms the cue-ball off three banks to get around the obstacles and reach the point. In this intimate, though epic-length scene, the conversation spills into three rooms. Revolving around a drink that these two wharf-rats can't afford, it's just an excuse for them to get closer and find out a little more about each other--things like sensitive subjects and perfume and independence and bad women. Then there are the histories: hers is indeterminate, but it involves some abuse and manipulation issues; him, he's been down a road like this before. He thinks he might be just another of her marks, and she thinks he's one of those bitter men-who-hate-women.

But, what it really is, is an exploration of the Rules of Engagement. When you're a man and a woman you can do all the dancing you want, but at some point the music stops and you have to talk about whether you're going to separate corners, or be a-man-and-a-woman. And you can talk until you're blue in the face, but it all comes down to a little action. And who's going to fire the first shot. Hawks would do variations of this scene again and again, but with Bogart and Bacall, it seems fresh because she was new to the movies and he was falling head over heels for her. It was like one of those pool shots where two balls collide to hit a third and they stay together, fixed.

The story goes (and there's always a story with Hawks), the project started when the director made a bet with Ernest Hemingway that he could make a good movie out of Papa's worst story--which they agreed was "To Have and Have Not." It was Hawks' first time directing Bogart and the director knew that he was going to have to find a love interest that Bogart wouldn't over-shadow. "You're the most insolent man in the movies," Hawks told Bogart. "But I'm going to find you a girl more insolent than you are!" Hawks' pick for the role was Betty Joan Perske, a 19 year-old model that the director's wife, Slim, had mentioned seeing on the cover of Harper's Bazaar, and her audition piece was this scene, which so wowed the Warner brass that Hawks asked William Faulkner to put it in his script.

You know the legend. Betty Joan, who used her mother's maiden name--"Bacall"--for the basis of her screen name, worried she'd lose the part over her high voice, went up to the Hollywood Hills and screamed repeatedly scarring her larynx, giving her a husky, sultry voice (there's even a medical condition called "Bogart-Bacall Syndrome"). And that the two (he, at 45, she, at 19) fell in love on set, and were married until Bogie's death in 1957.

At his funeral, she put in his coffin a token.

A gold whistle.

The Set-up: Steve Morgan (Humphrey Bogart), runs a fishing charter business out of Martinique, and he's just stopped Marie (though everyone knows her as "Slim") Browning (Lauren Bacall) from lifting his current client's wallet. Things get complicated with some bullets, and they end up together at the police department, a little roughed up and a lot broke. So that the two can enjoy a night-cap after the evening's festivities, "Slim" spies a pigeon in a bar and starts the process of fleecing him. Steve, smiling, decides he'd rather go back to his room than watch. Later, there's a knock on the door.

Marie Browning: Hello.
Steve Morgan: Come on in.
Marie (She smiles): You're sore, aren't you?
Steve: Why should I be?
Marie: I didn't behave very well, did I?
Steve: You did all right. You got the bottle, didn't you?
Marie: You are sore, aren't you?
Steve: Get this straight. I don't give...
Marie: I know. You don't give a whoop what I do. But when I do it you get sore. After all, you told me to, you know.
Steve: I told you?
Marie: You said go ahead, didn't you?
Steve: That's right. I guess I did. You were pretty good at it, too.
Marie: Thanks. Would you rather I wouldn't?
Steve: Wouldn't what?
Marie: Do things like that.
Steve: Why ask me?
Marie: I'd like to know.
Steve: Of all the screwy...
Marie: All right. I won't do it anymore.
Steve: I didn't ask...
Marie: I know you didn't. Don't worry. I'm not giving up anything I care about. It's like shooting fish in a barrel, anyway.
Marie: Men like that. They're all a bunch of... I'm a fine one to talk. The pot calling the kettle.
Steve: How long have you been away from home?
Marie: This is about the time for it, isn't it?
Steve: Time for what?
Marie: The story of my life. Where do you want me to begin?
Steve: I got a pretty fair idea already.
Marie: Who told you?
Steve: You did. That slap in the face you took.
Marie: What about it?
Steve: You hardly blinked an eye. It takes a lot of practice to do that. Steve: Yeah, I know a lot about you, Slim.
Marie: The next time I get slapped I better do something about it. (Irritated, she gets up off the couch, and heads for the door)
Steve: You forgot your drink.
Marie: I don't want it!
Steve: Who's sore now?
Marie: I am!
(Slim slams the door on her way out, and Morgan jumps at the sound.)
(Feeling bad about it, he takes the bottle and crosses the hallway to her room and gently knocks on the door)
Marie: Who is it?
Steve: It's me.
Marie: The door's unlocked.
Steve: You forgot your bottle.
Marie: I said I didn't want it.
Steve: You are sore, aren't you? I asked you a question. You didn't answer me. I said you're sore, aren't you?
Marie: Look, I'm tired and I want to get some sleep.
Steve: That's not a bad idea. What made you so mad?
Marie: I've been mad ever since I met you.
Steve: Most people are.
Marie: One look and you decided just what you wanted to think about me. You were... What's the use?
Steve: Go ahead. Keep on going.
Marie: You don't know me, Steve. It doesn't work. I brought that bottle up here to make you feel cheap. That didn't work either.
Marie: Instead, I'm the one who feels cheap. I've never felt that way before. I wanted...
Marie: I thought that maybe... Go on. Get out of here before I make a complete fool of myself.
Steve: How long have you been away from home?
Marie: It's none of y... About six months.
Steve: Going back?
Marie: How?
Steve: What are you gonna do here?
Marie: I don't know. Get a job, maybe.
Steve: Jobs are hard to get. I don't think you'd like it here anyway.
(Morgan sniffs her perfume bottle)
Marie: Remind you of somebody, Steve?
Steve: This is brand new to me. I like it. Would you go back if you could?
Marie: I'd walk... if it wasn't for all that water.
(Morgan puts his hand on her chin, about to kiss her. There's a moment, and he pulls away, thinking the better of it. He hands her the perfume bottle and clasps her hand instead)
Steve: Quit worrying, kid. You'll get back all right. (He exits)
(DISSOLVE to later in the evening. Morgan, screwdriver in hand, is working on a reel. There's a knock on the door. He crosses to open it. It's Slim.)
Steve: What the...?
Marie: Here's that bottle again.
Steve (smiling): It's getting to be quite a problem, isn't it? You want a drink?
Marie: No.
Steve: I thought you were tired and going to bed.
Marie: I know. I thought so, too. You gave me something to think about. You said you might be able to help me.
Steve: That's right.
Marie: But how can you do that if... Are you gonna take that job with those men that were up here with Frenchy?
Steve: Yeah, if I can find what's left of them.
Marie: I flew over Devil's Island. It doesn't look like a high-class resort.
Steve: That's what I heard.
Marie: I don't want to be the cause...
Steve: Don't get the idea I'm doing this just to help you. I need money, too.
Marie: Won't Frenchy help you out without you having to do that?
Steve: I don't want his help.
Marie: Don't do it, will you, Steve?
Steve: Look, didn't you ask me...
Marie: Don't do it.
Steve: Why don't you take this bottle and go to bed?
Marie: Here. Can you can use this? (She pulls some bills out of her robe)
Steve: I thought you said you were broke.
Steve: You're good. You're awful good.
Steve: "I'd walk home if it wasn't for all that water." (He goes back to work)
Marie: Who was the girl, Steve?
Steve: Who was what girl?
Marie: The one who left you with such a high opinion of women. She must have been quite a gal. You think I lied to you about this, don't you? It just happens there's about $30 here. Not enough for boat fare or any other kind of fare. Just enough to be able to say "no" if I feel like it. And you can have it if you want it.
Steve: I'm sorry, Slim. But I still say you're awful good and I wouldn't...
Marie: I forgot. You wouldn't take anything from anybody, would you?
Steve: That's right.
Marie: You know, Steve, you're not very hard to figure. Only at times. Sometimes I know exactly what you're going to say. Most of the time.
Marie: The other times...The other times you're just a stinker.
(She sits on his lap and kisses him)
Steve: What did you do that for?
Marie: I've been wondering whether I'd like it.
Steve: What's the decision?
Marie: I don't know yet.
(They kiss again. This time, his hands reach up to her neck, steadying her)
Marie: It's even better when you help.
Marie: Sure you won't change your mind about this? This belongs to me, and so do my lips. I don't see any difference.
Steve: I do.
Marie: O-kay.
Marie: You know you don't have to act with me, Steve. You don't have to say anything and you don't have to do anything. Not a thing.
Marie: Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow. (She exits)
(Morgan looks after her, slightly stunned. He puts his lips together and blows...a two-note whistle "Woo-hoo." He laughs and goes back to his work)

To Have and Have Not

Words by: William Faulkner and Jules Furthman (and Howard Hawks, but probably not Ernest Hemingway)

Pictures by: Sidney Hickox and Howard Hawks

To Have and Have Not
is available on DVD from Warner Brothers Home Video.

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