Key Largo (1948)

Key Largo is a movie I have seen many times with my father. I think it is one of his favorite Bogart movies. Yesterday it was on our Flemish channel called Canvas at an impossible hour!

Directed by John Huston (Maltese Falcon, African Queen– also with Bogart!).

The cast includes: Humphry Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Edward G. Robinson (very good here) and Lionel Barrymore (yeah makes you think about Drew, no?)
Bogart stops by a hotel in Key Largo to visit his friend Barrymore (crippled and in a wheelchair) who runs it with his daughter Bacall. But Bogey finds they are being held hostage by a gangster, Robinson, and his henchmen. The storm that was brewing outside had turned into a hurricane and they all find themselves trapped inside the hotel with this madman of a gangster, who gradually is becoming more and more paranoid and dangerous. After several killings, of which police officers, Bogey decides to take action when the opportunity presents itself…
Picture to the right: sitting: Lionel Barrymore, Lauren Bacall, Humphry Bogart
I’ve always loved this movie for its suspence and how it was shot. Needless to say I am fond of black and white movies, mainly for how the camera’s play with light and shadow. Here, with the hurricane and the slowly ‘losing it’ of Robinson, they were creative with the interplay of light.
Edward G. Robinson (on foreground in pic to this left) was the gangster actor by preference. Always in control, no mercy, fierce. In Key Largo he is also all those things, but he loses control. He can’t seem to control his reaction, his wife, the hurricane, his henchmen and his hostages. It was different to see him in that kind of situation. He is brilliant to the end – and the end is very exiting (on the boat with Bogart – the final battle of wits).

Bogart’s character is very indifferent in the beginning. He wants nothing to do with the situation. He is stuck but willing to sit it out. Only when things are progressing badly and he sees how Robinson treats his woman and kills innocent people, he takes action. So you see Bogey’s character struggle and progress during the movie.

Bogart and Bacall were already married while shooting this movie. It is said that this was their last movie in which they played together. I’m not sure, it can be, but I have to check that. I just love knowing certain things. Like in an interview I saw with Bogart’s and Bacall’s son Stephen: he said that his father helped his mother understand how to approach scenes. Like a silly simple scene where she had to walk from one room to the next with some towels. Because scene’s aren’t shot successively, she didn’t reflect on what the character went through before and just walk in her usual way in the scene. Apparently, according to Stephen, Bogey remarked that her character just had been threatened by the gangster and was feeling scared and concerned. Even that little walk, that little scene should say that. I found that interesting, the way they learned from each other.
Categorizing a movie I don’t always find easy: is it crime, thriller, drama, …? It is classified as a film noir. (a genre I have a weakness for)
Categories classics of cinema, moviesTags

4 thoughts on “Key Largo (1948)

  1. Key Largo is a super film. I love this one.Fab, you mentioned in my comments that you had discovered Facebook. I’m on that. If you would like to e mail me (look under ‘secure channel’, you can tell me what your name is on there or I’ll reply with mine, and we can be on our Friends List.

  2. I know – 70 days! They did a tremendous job. Yeah I catch myself looking at the cinematography a lot. I don’t know why that is, I have no training or experience with it – but I like noticing stuff…

  3. Stewart Sternberg September 28, 2009 — 9:28 PM

    One thing that people give nods to but rarely focus on is the cinematography of “Key Largo”. The lighting and use of shadow to create a sense of clautrophobia is magnificent. And of course it must have been a pleasure filming someone as photogenic as Lauren Bacall.One thing that is especially impressive is that they shot this thing in about seventy days.

  4. I’m glad you like this movie as well. More people should know about it – I’m pulling my weight here to get it accross…

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