Humphrey Bogart plays Captain Morgan (like the rum) who, with the help of his drunken assistant Eddie (Walter Brennan), takes rich people out to fish for marlins. Trouble starts when he meets a pretty thin lady named Marie (Lauren Bacall) and it all gets worse from here, as he reluctantly agrees to help a group of French patriots to smuggle them out of the island. This, of course, brings on the wrath of the Gestapo, and this couldn’t have been at the worst time, since he’s got something for this pretty young girl.
Based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway, this movie has a plot that’s very common during the wartime years of the early 1940’s, with an American in a faraway place (this being Martinique) getting involved, reluctantly, with the good side and getting into trouble with the Nazis. Bogart himself also appeared in the similarly-plotted (and previously reviewed) Casablanca. However, what differentiates this one from most is the tone given by Howard Hawks. Here it’s a bit more light-hearted, and erotic, without the typically suppressing atmosphere the kinds of films invoke. A lot of that has to do with Hawks’ famous talent for comedy, and his great way of directing actors. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall first met during this film, and it sparked the legendary Hollywood romance they would be known for. They play very well off each other, being very funny and likeable but at the same time being able to take charge if they have to. A lot has been written about Hawks’ women characters, and this is no different. She’s sexy, confident, and intelligent without being some sort of raging feminist. Also good in the film is Walter Brennan, the famous character actor of the golden age of Hollywood, playing his typical loyal-but-hysterically-flawed everyman, a role that he would continue to play for Hawks in other films like Rio Bravo and Red River. Although he does get annoying after the fifth time he talks about “Ever stepped on a dead bee?”
Sadly this film is very dated, not just in it’s politics, but in it’s style. I can imagine a lot of younger people having trouble getting introduced into this film, especially when Hawks has made such better classics as The Big Sleep, Bringing Up Baby and Red River. But still, it’s a classic, it’s clever and has a very well-written screenplay, and as a time-capsule, it’s pretty damn good.