Key Largo (1948)
December 11, 2020 10:23 AM - Subscribe

A hurricane swells outside, but it's nothing compared to the storm within the hotel at Key Largo. There, sadistic mobster Johnny Rocco holes up - and holds at gunpoint hotel owner James Temple, his widowed daughter-in-law Nora, and ex-GI Frank McCloud. (McCloud!)

Key Largo is a 1948 American film noir crime drama directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and Lauren Bacall. The supporting cast features Lionel Barrymore and Claire Trevor. The film was adapted by Richard Brooks and Huston from Maxwell Anderson's 1939 play of the same name, starring Paul Muni in his return to the stage. It opened on November 27 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway for 105 performances in 1939 and 1940.

Key Largo was the fourth and final film pairing of actors Bogart and Bacall, after To Have and Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), and Dark Passage (1947), although they also appeared together in a 1955 episode of the anthology series Producer's Showcase—a live television version with Henry Fonda of Robert E. Sherwood's 1935 Broadway drama The Petrified Forest. -- wikipedia

Amongst the famed Bogart-Bacall period from the late forties, that vivid, sublimely erotic set of quasi-noirs that have all become classics, Key Largo is relatively the least impressive (emphasis on the “relatively”) and familiar. This is because it is far less concerned with the frothy interplay between the two magnetic stars, being more concerned with the man-to-man confrontation between Bogart’s familiar rasping loner, an ex-GI, and Edward G. Robinson’s salty lowlife gangster. It is less sexy than The Big Sleep or To Have And Have Not, a more heady thriller built around a crackling conflict.

Based on a Broadway flop written by Maxwell Anderson, John Huston updates the story to a post-war America, a land battle-toughened and awash with illicit opportunity. It is a fork in the road for the nascent superpower marked by the slimy opportunism of Rocco or the tough deep-seated moralism of McCloud. Bacall, naturally, plays his love interest, but she is less of a sparky rival, and their relationship has none of the electricity of before.

Huston, though, is at home with the material, coating the lurid throes of his tale in the sweaty atmosphere of the high tropics, under the impending menace of a hurricane. There’s great work with a storm-lashed hotel where the family are held hostage. It feels more formulaic than its fellow entries in the Bogart canon, but with its redoubtable performances and tightly-structured storytelling remains just as gripping. -- Empire

A high point of the film comes when Robinson's alcoholic former moll Gaye Dawn (Claire Trevor) is forced to sing a song a cappella before he will allow her to have a drink. Trevor was nervous about the scene and assumed that she would be lip-syncing to someone else's voice. She kept after director Huston to rehearse the song, but he put her off and said "there's plenty of time". One afternoon, he told her that they would shoot the scene right then, without any rehearsal. She was given her starting note from a piano, and then sang in front of the rest of the cast and the crew. It was this raw take that was used in the film. The song was "Moanin' Low", composed by Ralph Rainger with lyrics by Howard Dietz, introduced on Broadway in the 1929 revue The Little Show by Libby Holman. It became a hit and was Holman's signature song.

Author Philip Furia, whose books focus on the lyricists of the Tin Pan Alley era, writes that the song is about a woman who is trapped in a relationship with a cruel man, and Gaye slowly realizes as she is singing that she is in that very situation herself. He suggests that Trevor's performance in the role slowly breaks down during the song; "her voice falters and she sings off key." After the song, Bogart pours her a drink, saying "you deserve this". "It's a wonderful use of a song in a non-musical picture," according to Furia. He also suggests that Trevor won the Academy Award "based purely, I think, on that performance." -- wikipedia

Just a trivial note, but the ending of this film was stolen by the writers of Mitchell.

Key Largo Official Trailer #1 - Humphrey Bogart Movie (1948)
posted by valkane (1 comment total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Love this film, one of the great “weather-as-a-character” movies.
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:26 AM on December 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

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