The Breaking Point (1950)

“The smugglers … the blood-money chiselers … and the danger-dame … they all owned a piece of the guy they called ‘Trouble’ …” A great and somewhat overlooked film-noirish adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s 1937 novel, To Have and Have Not, The Breaking Point is more faithful to the original material and, in my opinion, better than the 1944 film, which dealt with World War II issues and starred Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. In The Breaking Point, John Garfield (in another superb “brooding anti-hero” role) stars as financially strapped fishing boat captain Harry Morgan, who reluctantly agrees to work with a sleazy lawyer Duncan (Wallace Ford) to help smuggle a group of illegal Chinese immigrants from Mexico to the United States. When that plan falls apart disastrously, Morgan is enlisted to help some thugs escape via boat after a racetrack heist. The film was directed by Michael Curtiz (Casablanca). The excellent cast includes Patricia Neal as blonde femme fatale Leona Charles; Phyllis Thaxter as Morgan’s wife Lucy; Juano Hernandez as Morgan’s partner Wesley Park; Ralph Dumke as wealthy drunk Hannagan; and Victor Sen Yung as the evil Mr. Sing. The film’s final shot is truly powerful and haunting. Highly recommended! A third adaptation of To Have and Have Not, The Gun Runners (1958), was directed by Don Siegel (Dirty Harry) and started Audie Murphy and Everett Sloane.

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