Harry Morgan (John Garfield) is a sport-fishing boat captain whose business is on the skids and whose family is feeling the economic pinch. He begins to work with a shady lawyer, Duncan (Wallace Ford), who persuades him to smuggle eight Chinese men from Mexico into California in his boat, the Sea Queen. Harry also meets a tramp by the name of Leona Charles (Patricia Neal). When his plan with Duncan goes wrong, Harry comes even more under the influence of the lawyer, who blackmails him into helping the escape of a gang of crooks, who pull a racetrack heist, by using his fishing boat to get them away from authorities. Harry convinces himself that his illegal activities will financially help his family. His wife, Lucy (Phyllis Thaxter), suspects Harry is breaking the law and urges him to stop for the sake of the family. Harry refuses and walks out.
Whatever reason this movie has been buried in classic Hollywood canon, be it John Garfield's ruination at the hands of HUAC, rights SNAFUs with the Hemingway estate, or the existence of another great adaptation of the same novel, it's time to dig it out. Heartbreaking and humane.
The cast includes Juano Hernandez as his shipmate Wesley Park, a serious version of the character Walter Brennan plays in the earlier film with Bogie and Bacall. It is refreshing to see a Black man who isn't a Stepin Fetchit caricature for comic relief, but a regular working man who just happens to be Black. His performance is heart-breaking, and one that stays with you long after the film ends. (Hernandez played a similar serious role in \"Young Man With a Horn,\" also from 1950.)
After a patriotic rewrite for wartime audiences, Ernest Hemingway's novel To Have and Have Not became the classic 1944 Howard Hawks movie with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. It was also later revisited in the weak adaptation The Gun Runners, with Audie Murphy. But the technically most faithful version of Hemingway's original seagoing adventure is Michael Curtiz' 1950 The Breaking Point. One of the last films John Garfield made while under attack by the political predators of the House Un-American Activities Committee, The Breaking Point is a hard-edged film noir with a slight subversive streak. Its cash-strapped hero feels compelled to commit criminal acts by an unforgiving economic situation, until he reaches his 'breaking point'. Hemingway's Depression-Era tale adapts well to the boom year of 1950, where the illusion of nationwide prosperity isn't being felt at the lower levels of the working class. Star Patricia Neal said that of all his works, Ernest Hemingway liked this film adaptation the best. 59ce067264