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Key Largo

April 4, 2014

Key Largo (1948)
Director: John Huston
Actors: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Edward G. Robinson

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Synopsis: Dissolute war veteran, Frank McCloud (Humphrey Bogart), pitches up at Hotel Largo in the Florida Keys, ostensibly to pay his respects to the family of a colleague who died in Italy. He chances upon a group of gangsters hiding out, and when a hurricane hits the Key, all personnel inside the hotel are thrust into a war of nerves….

Review: This is a classy little Forties’ chamber piece that is competently handled by writer-director John Huston and supremely well acted by its starry cast. It offers all the quality of really good theatrical cinema: there’s the conceit of having the characters holed up in one central, memorable location, there’s a maguffin crime mystery, and all the characters get their own little ‘moment in the sun’ where their backstory is recounted, they deliver a choice monologue, and all receive their respective instances of epiphany or just desserts by the film’s end.

It’s interesting to reflect on the Bogart/Bacall ‘legend’ in relation to Key Largo‘s more famous cousin, The Big Sleep. Gone is the ultra-stylised, glamorous, laconic edge of that film, and here, Bogart and Bacall play relatively unvarnished, ‘normal’ characters whose blossoming affection has a genuinely touching edge. Sadly, some other elements of the film are a touch ‘dated’ – from the ridiculously over-egged music score to Claire Trevor’s ‘obvious’, telegraphed performance as the drunken dame with a heart of gold. (April 2014)

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