Frank McCloud travels to a run-down hotel on Key Largo to honor the memory of a friend who died bravely in his unit during WW II. His friend's widow, Nora Temple, and wheelchair bound father, James Temple manage the hotel and receive him warmly, but the three of them soon find themselves virtual prisoners when the hotel is taken over by a mob of gangsters led by Johnny Rocco who hole up there to await the passing of a hurricane. Mr. Temple strongly reviles Rocco but due to his infirmities can only confront him verbally. Having become disillusioned by the violence of war, Frank is reluctant to act, but Rocco's demeaning treatment of his alcoholic moll, Gaye Dawn, and his complicity in the deaths of the Osceola Brothers and a deputy sheriff start to motivate McCloud to overcome his Hamlet-like inaction.Written by
The film version of "Key Largo" has very little to do with Maxwell Anderson's original play. For example, all the characters in the play had their names changed in the film version. This was very unusual for a play written by Anderson, who was then one of the most highly regarded American playwrights and whose best-known plays had, on the whole, been filmed faithfully. See more »
The length of Johnny Rocco's tie is constantly changing from one scene to the next, and on and on. See more »
Sheriff Ben Wade:
[to the driver after pulling over a bus]
Hi, Ben. What gives?
Sheriff Ben Wade:
We're lookin' for a couple Indians broke out of jail. Young bucks in fancy shirts. If you see anything of 'em, telephone my office at Palm Grove.
[after the sheriff and deputy leave, he turns to Frank McCloud in the first passenger seat]
Those Indians they're lookin' for must be from around here. They always head for home.
Home being Key Largo.
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At the southernmost point of the United States are the Florida Keys, a string of small islands held together by a concrete causeway. Largest of these remote coral islands is Key Largo. See more »
Also available in a computer colorized version. See more »
John Huston's 'Key Largo' is set in a Post World War II America and the film is unapologetic about showcasing the pessimism that had enveloped America and Americans after the war. It's about the loss of a self-respecting identity. This is epitomised by the character of Frank McCloud played by Humphrey Bogart. This is not a very characteristic role for Bogart. McCloud is a war veteran who has now become a homeless drifter due to his lack of interest in a settled life. He is a sane version of Travis Bickle, he might have been a vibrant, hopeful man in his pre-service days, but after coming back from the war and watching an America that has further collapsed into corruption, mob activity and evil, he has slipped into a state of depression and deliberate indifference. Bogart gives a subdued performance with moments of tenderness reminiscent of the tenderness of Rick Blaine in 'Casablanca'. But McCloud also shows signs of selfishness and cowardly reluctance which are a consequence of his pessimism towards life after war. There is an ambiguity to his character that makes him interesting.
Lauren Bacall doesn't give us the quintessential 'Lauren Bacall' performance either. Instead of being the 'Femme fatale' with the seductive allure and the sharp tongue, her character Nora is a sweet, kind-hearted widow taking care of her father-in-law. There are genuinely sweet and charming moments between Bogart and Bacall. Nora's presence and her innocent sweetness has an undeniable effect on McCloud which makes him reconsider his moral stance and contemplate the idea doing something instead of continuing his reluctance about standing up to the gangsters.
Edward G. Robinson is a dynamite in every scene he is in. Johnny Rocco oozes charisma and a sense of control. It takes a lot to be in the same scene with Bogart and go toe to toe with him in terms of exuding authoritativeness, but Robinson does it effortlessly.
Although Huston doesn't use too many attention seeking shots or too much fancy camera work, one can easily see the noir-ish elements in the lighting and prominent shadows in the film. There are some carefully used tracking shots and extreme close-ups for artistic purposes that work perfectly and the film on Blu-Ray looks very pleasing to the eye. Huston's biggest achievement is maintaining a tone of suspense throughout the running time. The staging of 90 percent of the film in the confines of the interiors of Hotel Largo adds to the claustrophobia which the viewer feels along with McCloud, Nora and Temple. The only flaw is that the shootout scenes are very clumsily directed and almost look comical now after all these years.
'Key Largo' is thematically a film which wrestles the idea of whether someone should or shouldn't give a damn even if he/she feels an assertive action doesn't mean much in the bigger picture. A thematically potent core along with good direction and acting make 'Key Largo' an easy recommendation.
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