1944’s “To Have or Have Not” was released two years after “Casablanca” and might as well be a prequel. Set just before the events of its famous predecessor, all the elements are there: World War II, the French, a mysterious lady, a swanky bar with a pianist taking the controls, and Bogart, who runs a local business while trying desperate to appear. neutral in the face of the Nazi scourge.
It’s also Lauren Bacall’s first film, but she doesn’t act like it. Here she succeeds Ingrid Bergman as Bogart’s lover. The two started a real love affair behind the scenes, and were married a little over a year later.
Based on an Ernest Hemingway novel, Howard Hawks’ “To Have or Have Not” was made when the “Warner Brothers”, as Variety called them in 1943, still ran the studio. The film was derided as a “Casablanca” copy, but still became a big hit. Visually, it’s a film noir, but that’s not all. There is a touching relationship between Bogart and his sidekick “rami”, an alcoholic but avuncular figure who commands Bogart’s loyalty for no selfish reason.
Bogart’s classic role is the American anti-hero who is so presumably corrupt that he convinces his often European interlocutors that the new world is the same as the old. “Casablanca” and this film are allegories of the United States’ involvement in World War II and reflect the optimism of the time about the ruthless virtue of the American character.