movie review of the classic film Key Largo, where a gangster (Edward G. Robinson) breaks into a hotel during a storm, taking the innkeeper (Lionel Barrymore) and his daughter-in-law (Lauren Bacall) – who’s only hope is the returned G.I. (Humphrey Bogart) who can stand up to the gangster; if he can find his courage again.
Editorial review of Key Largo, starring Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore courtesy of Amazon.com
John Huston (The Maltese Falcon) directed this smart thriller about a gangster (Edward G. Robinson) who holds a number of people hostage in a hotel in the Florida Keys during a tropical storm. Humphrey Bogart is the returning war veteran who takes on the villains, and Lauren Bacall is on hand as one of the people on the wrong end of Robinson’s gun. Somewhat similar in tone to Howard Hawks’s To Have and Have Not (which also featured Bogart and Bacall), this moody movie captures a certain despair offset by the bond between individuals united by common purpose. Claire Trevor won an Academy Award for her part as Robinson’s alcoholic girlfriend. —Tom Keogh
Product description of Key Largo
A hurricane swells outside, but it’s nothing compared to the storm within the hotel at Key Largo. There, sadistic mobster Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson) holes up – and holds at gunpoint hotel owner Nora Temple (Lauren Bacall), her invalid father-in-law (Lionel Barrymore) and ex-GI Frank McCloud (Humphrey Bogart). McCloud’s the one man capable of standing up against the belligerent Rocco. But the postwar world’s realities may have taken all the fight out of him. John Huston co-wrote and compellingly directs this film of Maxwell Anderson’s 1939 play with a searing Academy Award-winning* performance by Claire Trevor as Rocco’s gold-hearted, boozy moll. In Huston’s hands, it becomes a powerful, sweltering classic.
Movie quotes from Key Largo
[Rocco is showing strain at the height of the hurricane’s force]
Frank McCloud (Humphrey Bogart): 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.
Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson): 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!
Frank McCloud (Humphrey Bogart): One Rocco more or less isn’t worth dying for!
James Temple (Lionel Barrymore): Are you thieves or what? You want money, is this a robbery?
Toots: Yeah, Pop, we’re gonna steal all your towels.
Toots: I say smack her and let it go at that.
Deputy Clyde Sawyer: Down in the lobby, I ran up against these two. [indicates Toots and Curly] Well, they didn’t look right to me, so I asked them a few questions. By the way they answered me, I knew there was something fishy. So I put in a call to Ben Wade, but before I could get through, the lights went out on me. I woke up in there. Rocco was standing over me. I recognized him right away from the pictures. I made a break for the door, and the lights went out again.
Toots: I’m the electrician.
Gaye Dawn (Claire Trevor): [finishes her song and goes over to the bar] Give me that drink now, Johnny.
Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson): No.
Gaye Dawn (Claire Trevor): Johnny!
Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson): [louder] No.
Gaye Dawn (Claire Trevor): But you promised!
Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson): So what?
Gaye Dawn (Claire Trevor): You said that…
Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson): But you were rotten.
Cast of characters
- Humphrey Bogart (All Through the Night; Sabrina) … Frank McCloud
- Edward G. Robinson (The Stranger; House of Strangers) … Johnny Rocco
- Lauren Bacall (Murder on the Orient Express ; Woman’s World) … Nora Temple
- Lionel Barrymore (You Can’t Take It With You; It’s a Wonderful Life) … James Temple
- Claire Trevor (The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse; How to Murder Your Wife) … Gaye Dawn
- Thomas Gomez (Come to the Stable; Sorrowful Jones) … Richard ‘Curly’ Hoff
- Harry Lewis … Edward ‘Toots’ Bass
- John Rodney … Deputy Clyde Sawyer
- Marc Lawrence (The Monster and the Girl; The Princess and the Pirate) … Ziggy
- Dan Seymour (To Have and Have Not) … Angel Garcia
- Monte Blue (Life with Father; The Grim Game) … Sheriff Ben Wade
- William Haade … Ralph Feeney
Trivia for Key Largo
- The character of Gaye Dawn (Claire Trevor) was based on real-life moll Gay Orlova (gangster Lucky Luciano’s girlfriend). She was believed at the time to have been executed by a German firing squad. Orlova survived, however, and was known to be living in Paris as late as 1954, trying to join Luciano in Italy.
- The ramshackle hotel where most of the drama unfolds was constructed on the Warner Bros. lot along with the beach area. Exterior shots of the hurricane were actually taken from stock footage used in Night Unto Night (1949).
- Fourth and final film pairing of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. A fifth film was planned several years later, but Bogart died before it could be made.
- The final confrontation on a boat is actually the ending to the book “To Have and Have Not” which wasn’t used in the film version.
- The main character, Frank McCloud, describes having served with Nora’s late husband in the WWII battle at San Pietro, Italy. Director/co-screenwriter John Huston had been involved in that battle as the creator of the documentary film San Pietro (1945) while he was in the U.S. Army’s motion picture unit.
- Claire Trevor sings “Moanin’ Low” acapella.
- Lionel Barrymore was severely disabled by arthritis (clearly visible in his hands) and was confined to a wheelchair, making the scene in which his Mr. Temple character gets up and falls taking a swing at Toots more than a dramatic moment.
- SPOILER: When John Huston didn’t have a conclusive ending to his script, Howard Hawks gave him the shootout on a boat that finishes the film, as he had been unable to include it in To Have and Have Not(1944).