Thursday, August 4, 2011

Key Largo (1948)

A Great John Huston Effort

- The largest island in the Florida Keys, Key Largo is the setting for this exceedingly entertaining character-centered drama. Suspense-filled and star-studded - Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Lauren Bacall, Claire Trevor, Lionel Barrymore - Key Largo (1948) is one of John Huston's best films.

The story features big characters and high danger boiling under the confines of a small space. Visiting his World War II buddy's father and widow (Barrymore & Bacall) at their Hotel Largo, Frank McCloud (Bogart) finds himself in between a dangerous gangster hold-up (lead by Robinson), cutting scrutiny, and a mighty hurricane....

Huston gets nothing but excellent performances from all his actors. The cast consists of a menacing Edward G. Robinson giving one his most memorable performances as gangster Johnny Rocco, a virtuous Lauren Bacall as the widow Temple, a feisty Lionel Barrymore as hotel owner James Temple, and a superb Oscar-winning performance from Claire Trevor as Rocco's mistreated alcoholic trophy girlfriend Gaye. Humphrey Bogart is not-so-surprisingly in top form and then some, giving the most interesting and dimensional performance in the film as the mysterious and guarded Frank McCloud.

John Huston directs Key Largo to perfection. Huston not only does he get impressive performances from the cast, but creates a stunning look for the film and (with Richard Brooks) adapts Maxwell Anderson's play wonderfully with great character development and crackling dialogue. The entire film feels like a storm: you have a deep feeling in your gut the moment the film begins that something terrible is afoot and each scene keeps building and building upon that feeling to a thrilling conclusion.

CBC Rating: 9/10

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