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This is a remake of TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT that supposedly from what I've
read sticks closer to the Hemingway story. Garfield could play the
strong but tormented guy like nobody's business, here however we have
most of the information needed in understanding just what's eating at
this guy, wearing him down and making him afraid. "A man alone hasn't
got a chance," he keeps repeating. But Harry isn't alone. He's got a
family that loves him, a plain but good woman he adores, and who adores
him. A best friend who is his shipping mate, yet he still can't shake
the feeling that somehow the universe is against him, working overtime.
He's like a man that needs some spiritual guidance. Something is
missing. On first viewing this plays like a well done yarn. On
subsequent viewings however, this film begins to haunt. The characters
and scenes play on a deeper, more meaningful level. The domestic
scenes, usually the throwaway, boring parts of a story like this,
become the rock and Garfield and Phylis Thaxter emit genuine emotion
and affection for one another that is unusually realistic. Patricia
Neal is the temptress here, and in an unusual move, we're not supposed
to fall in love with her or maybe even like her, which is evident in
how she's physically presented. Her haircut is really bad and she's
basically unflatteringly lit and photographed. She too looks realistic:
like a once beautiful creature who's been around the block too many
times and is starting to look all used up.
Juano Hernandez rounds out the main players as Garfield's friend and
shipmate. It was Garfield who insisted the character be a black man and
had the relationship between the two beefed up. According to Garfield's
daughter, the studio didn't like the idea and tried to talk him out of
it, eventually giving up. This casting led to someone (director Michael
Curtiz?)coming up with that final shot in the film that hits like a
sucker punch to the gut, unexpected and unforgettable.
Watch this one a second time and see if you agree.
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