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Key Largo

Bogie and Bacall shine in this 1948 noir set in Key Largo, but Edward G. Robinson steals the spotlight.

Frank McCloud (Bogart), a brooding army vet, arrives at the Hotel Largo, owned by the family of a friend who died fighting with him in the war. Nora Temple (Bacall), who's the widow of that friend, and her father have a few guests when Frank gets there, even though it's off season and the place is more or less closed. There's also a massive hurricane about to hit, so the six visitors and now Frank must hole up together while the weather rages. A couple cops are around too, popping in to check if anyone has spotted the Osceola brothers, a pair of Seminoles on the run and trying to join their own family before the "big blow" comes through.

Edward G. Robinson plays Johnny Rocco, a gangster who's been exiled to Cuba and, for some reason I must've missed, is now in Florida and wants to get back to Cuba after collecting a bagful of counterfeit dough from his associates in Miami. (I suppose he was there only to pick up the cash and that no one told him or his crew about the storm.) Robinson gives the standout performance, while the characters played by Bogie and Bacall as well as the others sort of form a circle around Rocco in the hotel lobby/lounge and follow his lead. There's also the former showgirl-turned-lush Gaye Dawn (Claire Trevor). Rocco brought her along on the trip but decides to ditch her because he sees her as washed-up baggage and an all-round pain in the ass. (Trevor won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for the film.) As the storm intensifies and windows and boats get smashed, trigger fingers get fidgety and we're drawn to the edge of our seats.

The tension builds in Key Largo and keeps building until the end. John Huston wrote the script, based on a 1939 play (same name) by Maxwell Anderson. The film flows like a play, with lots of quippy dialogue and most of the story unfolding in one room, and then on the boat Santana. I liked it particularly for its play-like feel mixed with hurricane footage (apparently reused from a film with Ronald Reagan) and lighting and sound effects to give the storm characterominous and noir. Not one to remember Bogart by especially, or Bacall for that matter, but a solid thriller with a forceful performance by Robinson (and Trevor to a lesser extent).


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