Hemingway's novel is far grittier than the film version. The story revolves around a series of vignettes centred around the character of Harry Morgan, and the contrast between the 'haves' and the 'have nots'. Set in during the American depression the novel presents the 'have nots' as being forced into numerous illegal activities in order to survive, the 'haves' on the other hand are wealthy people who come to the Keys for holidays. Harry and his friends face a daily life and death struggle, not only to provide food for their families, but also against armed gangsters. Hemingway is scathing of the 'haves' who's problems, usually romantic, seem petty in comparison to the struggles going on all around them.
The Harry Morgan of the novel is a ruthless, complicated man. On the one hand he kills without hesitation whenever he feels threatened, and on the other he is a dedicated family man with a wife and three children.The novel is a grim world filled with violence, racism and alcoholism. It's every man for himself in a world that gives nothing and forgives no one.
In contrast the film, though set during the second world war, presents a world of casual glamour. The bar is far more appealing than the one in Hemingway's novel, and Lauren Bacall's sensuality and Humphrey Bogart's tough guy image make the film one of romantic escapism.
The film is best remembered for being the screen debut of Lauren Bacall, and the beginning of her legendary romance with Humphrey Bogart. The film is sensuous and suspenseful, but only the first ten minutes or so bear any resemblance to the original novel. Howard Hawks apparently did not like stories about losers, so consequently the Harry Morgan of the film ends as a hero. In some ways Hemingway's novel is more realistic, but both film and book should be enjoyed for their own merits, and should really be viewed as seperate entities.
This also marks my final entry for the Summer Reading Challenge! I have thoroughly enjoyed taking part, and am pleased I have completed all six books. Thanks to Raquel at Out of the Past for hosting such a great challenge.
"Above the roar of the motors and the high, slapping rush of the boat through the water he felt a strange, hollow singing in his heart. He always felt this way coming home at the end of a trip." p. 72
"Since he was a boy he never had no pity for nobody. But he never had no pity for himself either." p. 79
"He shut his eyes. It had taken him a long time to get it out and it had taken him all of his life to learn it." p. 178
"I'm afraid if I think about him on purpose I'll get so I can't remember how he looks. That was when I got that awful panic when I couldn't remember his face." p. 203