Key Largo (1948)

It had been a while since I saw Key Largo. A friend had us for dinner recently, and had this movie from Netflix. So he asked if we wanted to see it. I could think of some other movies I would rather have watched, but we live by a simple rule: Feed us, you get to pick the movie. Unfortunately, because of that rule, over the years we have watched the following movies: Courage Mountain (1990), Little Heroes (1992), and Explorers (1985). The latter involving aliens that looked like boogers wearing high heels. I would say they are the three worst movies ever made, but I haven’t seen every movie. Still, they might be.

But, this night, I am so happy with that rule. I had forgotten how good Key Largo is. Director John Huston handles his camera like a master fabric weaver. He’s not afraid to follow the actors around the room like an eavesdropper, or zoom in close like a nosey-parker (nosey-parker? Who AM I?)

That reminds me, recently I was watching a news story of two teenagers who were rescued from the edge of a waterfall. Afterwards, one of the teens was interviewed, and said if they had gone over the falls, ‘it would have been curtains for them’. CURTAINS? Really? How does he know how to use that word? What gives?

But I digress. Humphrey Bogart is visiting the father (Lionel Barrymore) and wife (Lauren Bacall) of a fellow soldier killed in the war. He visits at the same time the hotel (owned by the father) is being commandeered  by a gang of hoodlums (led by Edward G. Robinson) for nefarious ends. A hurricane adds claustrophobia and a wrinkle in the mobsters plans. A battle of wits ensues.

(Wow! Digress. Commandeered. Nefarious. Ensues. All in the same paragraph. I guess that makes up for nosey-parker).

All the actors are perfect. Edward G. Robinson’s portrayal of Johnny Rocco (great name!) is more than just tough-guy bluster. Humphrey Bogart’s character can’t decide if being a hero makes sense in a post-war world. The scene of Lionel Barrymore struggling to get out of his wheelchair takes on even greater force when we realize that at the time he was actually suffering from crippling arthritis and WAS confined to a wheelchair. And pay special attention to the silent looks Lauren Bacall gives to Humphrey Bogart in the scene when they walk out to check on a boat. Amazing.

Try not to watch Key Largo with commercials. The pacing starts off leisurely, then builds and builds to a suspenseful climax. Commercials will kill that. And if you want to watch it with someone who really would appreciate it, remember, Jenny is allergic to nuts. And I don’t like okra. I might eat some if my body were commandeered by a nefarious sociopath. Invariably, a fight would ensue. But I digress.


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