Here’s a looong beat sheet I wrote up for Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not. It actually was made into a movie, sort of. I’ve never seen it, but it was the first film Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall starred in together.
I read Bacall’s biography when I was about 13 and my grandmother said I reminded her of the actress. I was fascinated by the whole “Golden Age of motion pictures” she— Bacall, not my grandmother— managed to break into.
Anyway, it’d be fun to see the film, although according to a few blurbs online, they changed so many things in the movie, it has almost nothing to do with Hemingway’s original story. So if anyone in Hollywood is reading, here’s a ‘new’ screenplay for ya.
This gives away the entire plot. Future To Have and Have Not readers beware!
1. Opening Image (1): p. 1 A guy walks into a bar. Havana, early morning, Pearl of SF Café. Harry Morgan narrating.
2. Theme Stated (5): The title “says what it is” – the haves and the have nots. But more than just money, it’s about what Harry has instead of it (integrity, smarts, a boat) and what the rich lack (happiness, sobriety, marital fidelity). There’s the irony.
3. Set-Up (1-10): First thing Harry says to 3 men waiting for him inside the café: “I can’t do it,” referring to smuggling Cubans to the US. It would mean a lot of money, but it’s illegal. P. 3: the 3 Cuban smugglers are shot in the street upon leaving the café, and Harry and his mate Eddy are ducking for cover behind the bar. By p. 4 Harry is back on his boat where his rich client, Wallace Johnson, is waiting to be taken swordfishing. By p. 5 he’s talking money with Johnson and getting the feeling he won’t be paid.
4. Catalyst (12): P. 11: Johnson, who has refused to follow Harry’s instructions on how to fish, loses Harry’s rod, reel and tackle. His livelihood. They haggle over Johnson’s responsibility to pay for it. Harry tries to be fair, but he has to get paid. Johnson finally agrees and they have a drink, but by p. 15, Harry learns the sickening truth. Johnson has skipped town.
5. Debate (12-25): Not much debate. Harry has a family to feed. He tells his mate, “I’ve got to carry something, Frankie. I’ve got to make some money.”
“You carry anything?”
“I can’t choose now.”
Frankie arranges a meeting with Mr. Sing, a Chinese smuggler, and Harry agrees. He’s spooked by a communique from the Cubans, but he’s made up his mind to do the Chinese job. When Harry takes 12 Chinese illegals onto his boat at midnight, he kills Mr. Sing, dumps the refugees in the middle of nowhere, and heads home to Key West. P. 41: Part Two, Fall. Harry’s running liquor, he’s been shot at, has to dump the stuff, gets caught.
6. Break into Two (25) P. 57: Part Three, Winter. Harry has lost an arm and his boat. He takes a job smuggling some Cuban revolutionaries from an unlikable lawyer, Bee-lips Robert Simmons. Steals his own boat, but it’s found by the Coast Guard.
7. B Story (30): p. 85. Chapter 15 introduces several tourists, three of whom are the B story key players: Richard and Helen Gordon and Professor MacWalsey. (This is a little late, maybe, for a screenplay.)
8. Fun and Games (30-55): A little of this came before the B story, with a love scene between Harry and his wife Marie. Another scene with Marie and their 3 girls.
9. Midpoint (55): Harry convinces Freddy, the bar own, to rent him his boat.
10. Bad Guys Close In (55-75): P. 98: The four Cuban radicals (from Break into Two) unexpectedly rob a bank and jump in the boat, pointing guns at Harry and his mate, Albert. Albert gets killed. Harry starts plotting how to get out of this mess. There’s a shoot-out. Harry is the only survivor, but he’s shot in the belly.
The story shifts back to the Gordons’ marriage issues. They’ve got money, but they’re both unhappy and unfaithful. They split, he goes to the bar to get drunk. It’s a rowdy scene with a bunch of Vets there. Professor MacWalsey, whom Helen Gordon has left Richard for, is there and the two men end up leaving together.
11. All Is Lost (75): P. 115 Harry is floating further out to sea. It appears no one will spot him, even though the boat is bright (“Frolic” !) green and white. He’s in and out of consciousness.
12. Dark Night of the Soul (75-85): Chapter 24 (p. 146) is interesting. It’s a catalogue of those on board several yachts in the yacht basin, including Wallace Johnston from way back in chapter 1. He verbally abuses his friend Henry, who is a mooch but a valuable and entertaining friend who “postponed [Johnston’s] suicide by a matter of weeks if not months.”
Another yacht owner is a wealthy businessman who goes to bed in silk pyjamas but can’t sleep. He hasn’t paid his taxes and the IRS are onto him. He feels old. “He used to say that only suckers worried.” Now he’s worried and sleepless. This foreshadowing of Hemingway’s own suicide chilled me:
Some made the long drop from the apartment or the office window; some took it quietly in two-car garages with the motor running; some used the native tradition of the Colt or the Smith and Wesson; those well-constructed implements that end insomnia, terminate remorse, cure cancer, avoid bankruptcy, and blast an exit from intolerable positions by the pressure of a finger; those admirable American instruments so easily carried, so sure of effect, so well designed to end the American dream when it becomes a nightmare, their only drawback the mess they leave for relatives to clean up.
“A pleasant, dull and upright family” are on the next yacht. Hemingway is kind of sarcastic, presenting them as wholesome and wonderful and so pathetically boring. It’s kind of awesome how boring his writing is, illustrating how boring he finds this clean, upright way of life. “They are a happy family and all love each other.”
“So anyhow, they all sleep well and where did the money come from that they’re all so happy with and use so well and gracefully? …from selling something everybody uses by the millions…and the product’s really good. There are no suicides when money’s made that way.” No suicides, but no compelling stories either.
Another boat contains two poorly paid yet happy, adventurous Estonians writing “Sagas of Our Intrepid Voyagers” for the papers back home.
The final yacht houses “a professional son-in-law of the very rich and his mistress, the wife of that highly paid Hollywood director, John Hollis.” Talk about boring. Three and a half tedious pages of her looking at herself in the mirror, brushing her hair, trying to decide who’s sweeter, John or Eddie, deciding she is in fact the sweetest, and talking herself into taking a sleeping pill before finally lying down in such a way so as to not mar her face by resting it on the pillow.
And into this yacht basin the Coast Guard tows Harry Morgan.
13. Break into Three (85): (P. 143: This is actually before the dark night of the soul, and in fact may itself be the dark night of the soul if that whole thing is the finale. But I think the action is what makes the finale final.)
Harry’s boat is picked up. He’s barely alive, trying to speak.
“A man,” said Harry Morgan, very slowly. “Ain’t got no hasn’t got any can’t really isn’t any way out.”
To have or have not. It’s all the same.
14. Finale (85-110): Boat confiscated, sheriff taking stock of money and guns on board, Albert’s wife mourning, screaming at the dock, falls in the water.
Harry dies, Marie sees him at the hospital. Mourning, reminiscing.
15. Final Image (110):
Outside it was a lovely, cool, sub-tropical winter day and the palm branches were sawing in the light north wind. Some winter people rode by the house on bicycles. They were laughing. In the big yard of the house across the street a peacock squawked.
Through the window you could see the sea looking hard and new and blue in the winter light.
A large white yacht was coming into the harbor and seven miles out on the horizon you could see a tanker, small and neat in profile against the blue sea, hugging the reef as she made to the westward to keep from wasting fuel against the stream.
The hero dies!?! No happy Hollywood endings from Hemingway.
related: Beat Sheet for a novel