5 August 2011 | Doylenf
Taut, terrific remake of "To Have and Have Not" more faithful to the original tale...
Ernest Hemingway is said to have liked THE BREAKING POINT more than any other film made from one of his stories and it's easy to see why--especially if you compare this to the earlier version, TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT, starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. While that film sizzled with their chemistry in the leading roles, the story here is much more compelling and has much more urgency in the telling.
Of course, it's always a shame that Hemingway's anti-heroes fail to understand that playing around with crooked gangsters can be detrimental to the health of all concerned, but THE BREAKING POINT makes you sympathize with the character of Harry Morgan that Garfield plays so well. The shady lady in this case is smoothly played by PATRICIA NEAL, whose patrician presence made Garfield inform her (or so we're told by Miss Neal herself): "You know, don't you, you're playing a whore." She tells this amusing anecdote in a documentary called THE JOHN GARFIELD STORY.
PHYLLIS THAXTER is the plain wife of boat captain Garfield, who lightens her hair when she gets a load of the woman (Patricia Neal) she suspects her husband is having an affair with. Thaxter gives one of her best performances as the loyal wife struggling to keep her husband straight, away from the gangsters she knows will ruin the lives of their small family. WALLACE FORD is excellent as the shady lawyer willing to take abusive treatment from Garfield as long as he goes along with the crooked schemes he has in mind.
The film has a stark film noir quality to the excellent B&W photography and builds to a quietly effective ending after the long shootout that ends the story, an ending that makes the viewer more aware of the consequences of Garfield's stupid decision to conspire with gangsters who shoot his best friend. Michael Curtiz does a superior job of directing.