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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 ’40s 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 macguffin 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 comparison to Key Largo’s more famous ‘cousin’, The Big Sleep. Gone is the ultra-stylised, noirish tinge of that film. Here, Bogart and Bacall play relatively unvarnished 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 telegraphed performance as the drunken dame with a heart of gold. (April 2014)

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