Saturday, January 16, 2021

"Time for the story of my life": The absence of backstory in "To Have and Have Not"

In Howard Hawks's "To Have and Have Not" (1944), neither Harry "Steve" Morgan (Humphrey Bogart) nor Marie "Slim" Browning (Lauren Bacall) has a backstory explaining their personalities and motivations. Morgan asks Slim how she ended up in Martinique, but she only comments on narrative expectations: "This is about the time for [...] the story of my life." She doesn't go on to tell it; instead, Morgan draws conclusions from her behavior: "That slap in the face you took. [...] You hardly blinked an eye. It takes a lot of practice to be able to do that. Yeah, I know a lot about you, Slim." A character's actions, then, make backstory superfluous. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 16 January 2021)

To Have and Have Not

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