The Breaking Point (1950 film)

The Breaking Point is a 1950 American film noir crime drama directed by Michael Curtiz and the second film adaptation of the Ernest Hemingway novel To Have and Have Not.[1] It stars John Garfield (in his second-to-last film role before his death) and Patricia Neal. The earlier 1944 film starred Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.

The Breaking Point
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMichael Curtiz
Produced byJerry Wald
Screenplay byRanald MacDougall
Based onTo Have and Have Not
1937 novel
by Ernest Hemingway
StarringJohn Garfield
Patricia Neal
Phyllis Thaxter
Juano Hernandez
Music byHoward Jackson
Max Steiner
CinematographyTed D. McCord
Edited byAlan Crosland Jr.
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • September 30, 1950 (1950-09-30) (United States)
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited States


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. Harry also begins a flirtation with 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.

As Harry waits for Duncan and the crooks on his boat, Harry's partner, Wesley Park (Juano Hernandez), arrives. Not wanting Wesley around when the crooks arrive, Harry tries to send him on an errand. The crooks arrive before Wesley leaves, though, and kill him. Harry is horrified, but is forced at gunpoint to transport the crooks out to open sea without drawing the attention of the Coast Guard. Harry also learns that Duncan was killed during the escape from the heist. Wesley's body is dumped overboard. Harry uses a ploy to get his hands on two guns he had hidden away prior to the journey and kills all the crooks in a dramatic shootout.

Harry, however, is critically wounded. Authorities find his boat the next day and tow it to port. Lucy rushes to Harry's side and tries to convince Harry to allow his arm to be amputated to save his life. Speaking with difficulty, Harry reaffirms his love for Lucy and then closes his eyes. Paramedics arrive and carry Harry's motionless body into an ambulance. As they walk away from the wharf, Lucy pleads with the Coast Guard officer for assurance that Harry will live. The officer says nothing, as sorrowful music plays on the soundtrack. In the final scene, Wesley's son, who was briefly introduced earlier in the film, stands alone on the dock looking around for his father.



Critical response

Bosley Crowther, the film critic at The New York Times, lauded the film when it was first released. He wrote, "Warner Brothers, which already has taken one feeble swing and a cut at Ernest Hemingway's memorable story of a tough guy, To Have and Have Not, finally has got hold of that fable and socked it for a four-base hit in a film called The Breaking Point, which came to the Strand yesterday. All of the character, color and cynicism of Mr. Hemingway's lean and hungry tale are wrapped up in this realistic picture, and John Garfield is tops in the principal role ... Some solid production and photography along the coast and in actual harbors for small boats round out a film which is gripping and pictorially genuine."[2]

Third film

The Gun Runners (1958) directed by Don Siegel, is the third film based on the novel To Have and Have Not and stars Audie Murphy in the Bogart/Garfield role and Everett Sloane in Walter Brennan's part as the alcoholic sidekick, although Sloane's interpretation was less overtly comedic than Brennan's.[3]


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