Sunday, February 24, 2013
(July 1948, U.S.)
John Huston's KEY LARGO was the fourth, and perhaps the best film that paired real life Hollywood couple Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall on screen together. It was a July release and by today's movie standards, it might even have qualified as a summer blockbuster, given it's star power and its seaside locale. Who knows.
Like many of the films of Bogart's career, he's up to his typical performance forms and standards in KEY LARGO as in many other films. As Frank McCloud, a former World War II major who's just passing through Key Largo, Florida, he's charming and brave, but not stupid in that he knows when to properly restrain himself against the wrath and physical power of the bad guy, in this case a notorious, has-been gangster named Johnny Rocco (played by Edward G. Robinson). Rocco and his gang of thugs have taken over the Key Largo hotel in question until they can make their escape to Cuba by sea later in the evening. However, an oncoming hurricane threatens not only their plans, but makes matters a whole lot more tense and terrifying for the hostages in the hotel, including Bacall's character. The hurricane is practically another character in the fear it instills in a rough gangster who's clearly not afraid of anything or anyone. Watch closely Robinson's face of fear during the deadliest part of the hurricane as he slowly realizes it's a threat he cannot physically control simply by brandishing his gun in retalliation.
Like traditional film noir, KEY LARGO is hardly dependent on dark shadows, dangerous alleys or overly-excessive violence. The danger of the story and the situation is perfectly laid out, though, through not only the movie stars of the time and their performances, but of also the physical threat of mother nature's wrath and the obvious inability of human beings to control the events surrounding them. It's pure classic black and white cinema as only the great Humphrey Bogart could be expected to deliver to those who appreciate his work.
Favorite line or dialogue:
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."