The legend is that Howard Hawks wagered William Faulkner that he could make a good film out of Hemingway’s worst novel (or some such wager), and this was the chosen project. Hawks lets himself be guided in his task by the tested formula of Casablanca. There’s Bogart; there’s some dutiful wartime patriotism; and there’s a boxed-in, stage-bound look to the re-creation of exotic Martinique. However, there’s also some fresh and spontaneous — albeit adolescent — mischief, melodrama, and prurient interest (Lauren Bacall, straight from the pages of Vogue, shows in her movie debut a sophisticated understanding of the angles and planes of her face, shoulders, hips). And there are some eccentric secondary characters: Dan Seymour’s obese, effeminate policeman and Walter Brennan’s toothless, slap-happy lunatic (his acid test for anybody he meets is the question, “Was you ever bit by a dead bee?”). Screenplay by Faulkner and Jules Furthman. (1944) — Duncan Shepherd
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