Down on his luck boat captain Harry Morgan (Garfield) has a family to support and creditors to pay. When a chartered trip to Mexico goes awry, Morgan is forced to take up work with some shady characters. He also catches the eye of a good-time girl (Neal) who takes a shine to the strong silent skipper, much to the concern of his loyal wife Lucy (Thaxter). When Lucy starts taking in sewing jobs to pay the bills, Morgan's pride takes a hit. With his moral compass in ruins, he is drawn into a dangerous, desperate gambit to save his boat and family.
This second retelling of "To Have and Have Not" comes six years after the infamous Bogart/Bacall iteration and offers none of that classic's Hollywood gloss on Hemingway's prose. Instead, Garfield, as a gruff, working-class Everyman embodies the existential struggle between right and wrong, delivers a performance that rings with authenticity and potency. Thaxter imbues her character with latent sexuality, even as Neal shines as the more glamorous other woman. Director Curtiz (who famously helmed "Casablanca") keeps the action tight and raw, with a poignant wind-up. Watching this, we're again reminded that Garfield deserves a place right alongside the likes of Bogart and Jean Gabin. Sadly, he died just two years after this film was released. This ferocious talent left us far too soon.