Key Largo (1948) / Drama-Thriller

MPAA rated: Not rated, but probably PG for some violence
Length: 100 min.

Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore, Claire Trevor, Thomas Gomez, Harry Lewis, John Rodney, Marc Lawrence
Director: John Huston
Screenplay: Richard Brooks, John Huston (based ont he play by Maxwell Anderson)

Humphrey Bogart (Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon) stars as retired Army Major Frank McCloud, a drifter who has traveled to Key Largo in southern Florida for a new life path and stops on the way to give condolences to the father, James Temple (Barrymore, It's a Wonderful Life), and his widow, Nora (Bacall, Birth), of a friend who died during the Second World War. Temple runs a hotel on the island, though he is greeted most inhospitably by the hotel's only residents, a gangster named Johnny Rocco (Robinson, Double Indemnity) and his entourage of thugs, plus his aging alcoholic girlfriend, Gaye Dawn (Trevor, Stagecoach). Though he doesn't exactly like the company, McCloud decides to not get involved, as he is just passing though. In the aftermath of the end of prohibition, Rocco has been doing his thing in Cuba, making his way to the keys in a counterfeit money operation he is looking to make the drop-off on. However, once a hurricane threatens the island, they all find themselves at the mercy of the amoral gangster, and when Rocco proves himself too nasty in disposition not to stand up to.

Directed and co-written by John Huston (Fat City, Prizzi's Honor), very loosely based on a play by Maxwell Anderson, changing the period and characters to fit in with a more modern telling, with post-war commentary. It would come to be known as the final film that Bogart and Bacall made together, their fourth. It is an interesting exploration of heroism, and in some ways a commentary on the United States' position in the world, with its isolationist tendencies, but in reality, it is hard to sit idly by and see thugs try to cause so much trouble in the world without opposition. it's also a story of knowing when to fight, as we see a deputy go down for not being able to control his reactions, and indeed, the dead soldier that Frank honors throughout didn't manage to survive, always volunteering for the toughest duties. Sometimes doing the right thing at the wrong time only ends up getting you killed.

Bogie fans will likely get the most mileage out of Key Largo, particularly those who like when he collaborates with one of his favorite cronies, like John Huston, Lauren Bacall, or Edward G. Robinson. It doesn't rank among the best works for any one of them, but it is skillfully made nonetheless, if a bit stagy. The performances are all in fine form, and they may be the predominant reason why most would choose to watch the film today. Claire Trevor, who plays the gangster's once beautiful moll who has seen better days, Gaye Dawn, would go on to receive the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
Qwipster's rating:  

©2013 Vince Leo