By Scott Ross
When I consider the Hollywood movies that have entertained me the most, Howard Hawks is the name that — aside from Billy Wilder’s — most often recurs. This is arguably his most sheerly enjoyable movie, and manifestly more pleasurable than Casablanca, which enjoys the greater popularity. It’s the one that introduced Bogie to Bacall, and you can actually see them falling in love as the picture unreels.
The plot has little to do with the much darker Hemingway novel, treated more seriously later as The Breaking Point (1950). It’s more about Hawks working through his favored themes of camaraderie under fire and sharp male/female banter. The screenplay was credited to Jules Furthman and William Faulkner, but it has Hawks all over it, and includes a classic bit for Bacall: “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.” Part intrigue, part action flick, part comedy, it’s perfectly integrated into one blissful package.
With Hoagy Carmichael, Marcel Dalio and the peerless Walter Brennan, who asks the immortal question, “Was you ever bit by a dead bee?” and one terrific Carmichael/Johnny Mercer song, “How Little We Know,” memorably purred by Bacall (and not, as movie legend had it, a teenage Andy Williams.)
Text copyright 2013 by Scott Ross