Saturday, March 5, 2011

"Hey, Mister, was you ever stung by a dead bee?"

He and I were fishing down in Key West, and I was trying to get him to write for movies. He said, "No, I'm top where I am. I don't want to go out to Hollywood." I said, "You don't have to come to Hollywood. We can go fishing or hunting. We can meet here, Sun Valley, Africa, any place you want, and write a story. Look, you're broke all the time. Why don't you make some money? I can make a movie out of the worst thing you ever wrote." He said, "What's the worst thing I ever wrote?" I said, "That piece of junk called To Have and Have Not." He said, "You can't make a picture out of that." So, just for fun for two weeks, while we were
hunting dove and quail and duck, and fishing, we worked on it and tried to figure out what kind of a picture we could make. He'd sold the rights [to Howard Hughes] for 10,000, and I paid the guy 80 for the story. I sold it to Warner for half the profit and got well paid besides. I saw Ernest in Paris later. 

I said, "Ernest, you got ten thousand, the other guy got eighty. I got about a million, two out of it." He got so mad he wouldn't talk to me for six months.

Once, I went down to Jamaica with only one book; this was it. The movie and the book don't resemble each other in the slightest, and both are far better than these guys let on. But we are dealing with pretty cool guys here, a social network that knew things without having to look them up. There's a way of life in this; and today, their heirs don't even know their names. They are enabled to believe they don't need to. Is it possible, this is the first generation ever bred to regard taste as an encum-brance? For that is what this means.

Ernest Hemingway
To Have and Have Not
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1937©

Howard Hawks, director
To Have and Have Not
Jules Furthman and William Faulkner, script
  Humphrey Bogart
  Lauren Bacall
  Walter Brennan
  Hoagy Carmichael
Warner Brothers, 1945©

Joseph McBride
Hawks on Hawks
  Interviews, 1970-77
University of California Press, 1982©


  1. Kind of you to encourage the reflection offered here, which can make no one happy. Still, while the zest for celebration and a delight in a jeu d'esprit exists in any of us, there will be more, not less to be said of this kind.