Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Key Largo

I hit my public library last night in hopes of finding a book or movie to chase away the Monday duldrums, and booyah, I hit the jackpot with a classic from Bogey and Bacall, 1948's John Huston directed "Key Largo" also starring Edward G. Robinson.

In "Key Largo" Bogart stars as Frank McCloud, a disillusioned ex-Major who served in Italy during World War II, who has come to the Largo Hotel in Key Largo, FL to pay his respects to the father, James Temple (played by Lionel Barrymore), of his deceased army buddy. Mr. Temple runs the hotel along side his daughter-in-law Nora (Lauren Bacall).

Upon his arrival at the hotel, Frank is confronted by a number of sketchy individuals of dubious character, loitering in the hotel lobby and bar who state the hotel is closed. After reassuring them that he's just passing through and actually there to visit James Temple, he's directed to the boathouse where he meets the wheelchair bound elder Temple, and the strikingly beautiful Nora. Mr. Temple is still coming to grips with the loss of his son and desperate for any information McCloud can share about his son's final days on the battle field. Frank shares a story which paints his friend as a war hero, though later Nora confronts Frank with the information that in fact the last letter she had received from her husband set the scene the complete opposite, and the one on the hill and in the line of fire had in fact been Frank.

After being invited to stay overnight, the Temple's and Frank begin preparations for a violent hurricane which is about to hit the Keys. As the storm's furor grows, the other hotel guests are revealed to be the infamous gangster Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson) and his goons. Rocco has been a fugitive exiled in Cuba, but he's crossed to the Keys by boat to make a drop to a like-minded business associate. Also at the hotel is Rocco's boozy mistress, Gaye Dawn (Claire Trevor), an ex-singer who never made it good. After an unexpected run in with local law enforcement, events begin to spiral out of control for Rocco, and Frank is placed in the situation of once again being the hero.

While I'd seen Bogart before in the classic "African Queen", "Key Largo" was my first Bogey and Bacall movie, and I loved it. Bogart and Bacall each gave wonderful performances and shared a palpable chemistry on screen, not surprising given that they had been married to each other for three years when the film was shot. "Key Largo" was the fourth and final film pairing for the two actors. Despite not having acted in another movie together, Bogart and Bacall remained married until 1957 when Bogey died of esophageal cancer. While Bogart and Bacall might have taken top billing for "Key Largo", in my opinion the two standout stars of the movie were Lionel Barrymore and Claire Trevor. I had never heard of Ms. Trevor prior to this performance, but she played the part of heartbroken lush brilliantly. It's no wonder she went on to win the Oscar for Supporting Actress for this role.

A great movie from when movies were movies. No CGI, no chase scenes, no sex scenes, just great acting from great actors.