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USA 1948
Directed by
John Huston
101 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Key Largo

Key Largo was the last of the four film films in which Bogart and Bacall appeared together (the others being To Have and Have Not, 1944, The Big Sleep, 1946, and Dark Passage,1947) and it has an extra fillip for film buffs with the presence Edward G. Robinson in his last major gangster role.

Bogart plays Frank McCloud who was the commanding officer of war widow Nora Temple (Lauren Bacall). He drops into see her in Key Largo where she runs a small hotel for her wheel-chair bound father-in-law (Lionel Barrymore). Turns out that the place is being used as a hideaway by a once big-time gangster named Johnny Rocco (Robinson) who is holed-up with his moll Gaye Dawn (Claire Trevor) and gang waiting to bring down a deal with another mobster before fleeing to Cuba.

Adapted for the screen by Richard Brooks and Huston from a 1939 Broadway play by Maxwell Anderson that starred Paul Muni, for the most part the film works well, only losing traction in the final lap when Huston moves away from the close character interaction and lapses into an inevitable but routine besting of the villains before the inevitable resolution.

The strength of the film is in the portrayal of the tension in and between the characters  - Bogey’s cynical but essentially noble warrior knight, Bacall’s winsome, yearning romantic interest, Robinson’s swaggering bully-boy, Trevor’s good-hearted lush, Barrymore’s feisty old trooper  - as a storm rages around them. It’s a set-up which perhaps has lost some of its resonance, the post-war context of reception being long gone, but it remains an engaging example of 40s noir style.

Trevor won an Oscar for Supporting Actress, presumably in recognition of her long career playing dames and broads of every stripe since the 1930s.

 

 

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