William Faulkner helped adapt Hemingway's novel about a boat owner who helps the Free French in the Caribbean while falling for a young American.
In the summer of 1940 the Vichy regime has taken over Martinique, where Harry Morgan (Humphrey Bogart) buys a permit daily for fishing. He douses drunk Eddie (Walter Brennan) to wake him up and takes Johnson (Walter Sande) fishing. He hooks two marlins but loses one and then the rod and reel. Johnson owes Harry $825 and promises to pay him in the morning.
Frenchy (Marcel Dalio) tells Harry that people want to rent his boat for one night. Cricket (Hoagy Carmichael) sings "Am I Blue," and Marie (Lauren Bacall) joins in. Harry calls her Slim and asks her for Johnson's wallet. He finds it has $60 and $1400 in travelers checks with a dawn plane reservation. Five men come in about the boat, but Harry says no. Harry with Slim asks Johnson to sign travelers checks when shooting starts. Johnson is killed, and the Gestapo arrive. Frenchy, Slim, and Harry are told to stay for questioning. Captain Renard (Dan Seymour) orders Harry to hand over the $60 he took from Johnson and his own money and passport. Harry explains to Slim that the Free French are fighting the Vichy regime. She finds someone to buy her a bottle and takes it to Harry's room. Harry follows her to her room. Slim says she has been away from home six months and wants to go back. She offers Harry $30. He declines, and she kisses him.
Harry offers to pick up two men for money and is paid by a wounded man. Harry gives Slim a plane ticket so she can leave. Harry tells Eddie to get off his boat, but Eddie stows away. Harry gets a gun ready and gives it to Eddie. They see a light and pick up Paul de Bursac (Walter Szurovy) and his wife Hellene (Dolores Moran). Harry shoots at a patrol boat, and Paul is wounded. Harry transfers them to another boat. Harry and Eddie find Slim singing; she offers Harry a refund, but he doesn't take it. Frenchy asks Harry to remove the bullet from Paul's arm. His wife objects, but Harry persuades her. She handles the chloroform and is knocked out. Harry removes the spent bullet. Hellene tells Harry she came because the Germans kill wives who stay in France.
Slim brings breakfast. Harry goes to his room to sleep, but Slim offers him food or a bath. He kisses her. Frenchy tells him that Renard is questioning Eddie, who says they were fishing. Harry says it was a German sub. Renard offers Harry $500, and Harry asks for the $825 too. Renard leaves. Cricket sings "I Need Someone." Harry is asking where Eddie is and checks on Paul, who says he came to get a man from Devil's Island. Harry says he is being followed. Harry tells Slim they are leaving with Eddie at midnight. Slim sings "How Little We Know." Hellene gives Harry her jewelry. Slim warns Harry that Renard is coming. Hellene and Slim hide, and Harry has Slim come out. Renard has Eddie and won't pay Harry, who grabs a gun, allowing Frenchy to handcuff Renard and his bodyguard. Harry orders Renard to use a phone to release Eddie, and he gets him to sign harbor passes. Frenchy thanks Harry for being on their side. Slim is happy to be leaving with Harry and Eddie.
Original dialog highlights this drama of an American
who finds himself involved with the French resistance because
he does not like tyrants and needs money.