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  • Writer's pictureThomas Duncan

Key Largo (1948)


Cast:

  • John Huston, Writer/Director

  • Richard Brooks, Co-Writer

  • Max Steiner, Music

  • Humphrey Bogart as Maj. Frank McCloud

  • Edward G. Robinson as Johnny Rocco/Howard Brown

  • Lauren Bacall as Nora Temple

  • Lionel Barrymore as James Temple

  • Claire Trevor as Gaye Dawn

  • Thomas Gomez as Richard "Curly" Hoff

  • Harry Lewis as Edward "Toots" Bass

  • John Rodney as Deputy Sheriff Clyde Sawyer

  • Marc Lawrence as Ziggy

  • Dan Seymour as Angel Garcia

  • Monte Blue as Sheriff Ben Wade

  • William Haade as Ralph Feeney

*Recognition:

  • Key Largo was released on July 16, 1948.

  • On a rough budget of $1.8 million, it is estimated to have grossed over $4.4 million worldwide. It was the #3 grossing movie of 1948 behind only The Snake Pit and Red River.

  • 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).

  • The film was awarded one Academy Award for Claire Trevor as Best Supporting Actress.

  • It was also nominated by the WGA for Best Written American Drama and for AFI's Top 10 Gangster Films list.

  • Key Largo currently holds a 97% among critics on RT, and a 3.8/5 on Letterboxd.

What is this movie is about?/Elevator Pitch: Doing what is right despite the sacrifices you might be forced to make.


Plot Summary: "Key Largo," directed by the legendary John Huston, is a taut and atmospheric crime thriller that takes place in the aftermath of World War II. Set against the backdrop of a hurricane on the eponymous island, this film weaves together elements of suspense, moral dilemma, and simmering tension to create a compelling cinematic experience.

The story follows Frank McCloud (Humphrey Bogart), a disillusioned war veteran who arrives at a run-down hotel in Key Largo to pay his respects to the family of a fallen comrade. The hotel is run by the widowed Nora Temple (Lauren Bacall) and her father-in-law James Temple (Lionel Barrymore), who is struggling to maintain the business. As Frank becomes acquainted with the Temples, he quickly realizes that something is amiss. The plot thickens when a group of shady characters arrives at the hotel, led by the enigmatic Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson), a notorious gangster on the run. Tensions rise as the hurricane intensifies outside, trapping everyone inside the hotel. Frank finds himself caught in a dangerous web of circumstances, forced to confront his own past and make difficult choices.

"Key Largo" stands as a testament to the timeless appeal of film noir and the enduring talents of its cast and crew. It's a suspenseful and thought-provoking classic that showcases the depths of human character when faced with dire circumstances. As the hurricane rages outside and the tension escalates within the hotel, "Key Largo" is a film that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats until the very end, ultimately leaving them with much to ponder about the choices people make when confronted with the darkness within and without.


Did You Know:

  • Although they played on-screen enemies, off-screen Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson treated each other with great respect. Bogart insisted Robinson be treated like a major star, and he would not come to the set until Robinson was ready. Often, he would go to Robinson's trailer to personally escort him to the set.

  • In a classic case of a director being emotionally manipulative, John Huston did not inform Claire Trevor about when she was to perform her song solo until the very day it was shot. Trevor was not a trained singer, and she had not even rehearsed the song yet. She also felt very intimidated that she had to perform the song for the A-list actors seated directly in front of her. The result was a hesitant, nervous, uncomfortable rendition--exactly the feeling Huston was hoping to get.

  • Apart from the opening shots, the movie was filmed entirely at Warner Bros. Studio head Jack L. Warner was still reeling from the on-location cost of shooting John Huston's previous film, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948). Warner refused to approve any more location filming for the director. The pier scenes were filmed using the studio tank--with miniature boats in the background to give an illusion of depth. The shipboard shots at the end were also filmed using the studio tank, with fog used to mask the artifice.

  • Santana was the name of Humphrey Bogart's yacht, which he purchased from June Allyson and Dick Powell. Before that it had belonged to George Raft and Ray Milland. He loved the Santana so much he named his production company after it.

  • In honor of this film, the real Key Largo hosts a Humphrey Bogart film festival every year.

Best Performance: Edward G. Robinson (Rocco)/John Huston (Writer/Director)

Best Secondary Performance: Humphrey Bogart (Frank)/Lionel Barrymore (Temple)

Most Charismatic Award: Lionel Barrymore (Temple)/Humphrey Bogart (Frank)

Best Scene:

  • Horse Racing

  • False Duel

  • Karaoke

  • Rocco and the Storm

  • Sheriff Wade Returns

  • Final Shootout

Favorite Scene: False Duel

Most Indelible Moment: Rocco and the Storm/Final Shootout


In Memorium:

  • David McCallum, 90, British Actor and Musician (The Man from U.N.C.L.E., NCIS, The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Great Escape), 3x Emmy Nominee

Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

Frank McCloud: "But we aren't making all this sacrifice of human effort and lives to return to the kind of a world we had after the last world war. We're fighting to cleanse the world of ancient evils, ancient ills." - Quoted from FDR's 1942 State of the Union


Frank McCloud: You don't like it, do you Rocco, the storm? Show it your gun, why don't you? If it doesn't stop, shoot it.


Frank McCloud: One Rocco more or less isn't worth dying for!


Frank McCloud: When your head says one thing and your whole life says another, your head always loses.


Johnny Rocco: After living in the USA for more than thirty-five years they called me an undesirable alien. Me. Johnny Rocco. Like I was a dirty Red or something!


Johnny Rocco: I'll be back pulling strings to get guys elected mayor before you ever get a ten-buck raise! Yeah, how many of those guys in office owe everything to me? I made them. Yeah, I made them just like a... Like a tailor makes a suit of clothes. I'd take a nobody, see, teach him what to say, get his name in the papers. Then I'd pay for his campaign expenses. Dish out a lot of groceries and coal. Get my boys to bring the voters out. And then count the votes over and over again 'til they added up right, and he was elected.


The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 4

Impact/Significance: 7.75

Novelty: 4.75

Classic-ness: 7.25

Rewatchability: 5.75

Audience Score: 8.4 (80% Google, 88% RT)

Total: 37.9


Remaining Questions:

  • Don't hurricanes normally last longer than a few hours?

  • If Sawyer recognized Rocco, why didn't Sheriff Wade?

  • Does Frank stay with the Temples?

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